September 24 this year marks what would have been the 89th birthday of my father, former Senate President Edgardo Angara. It has been five years since he passed away and our entire family still misses him badly. We are constantly reminded of his countless accomplishments and the impact he has made on the lives of Filipinos through the landmark laws that he introduced and the numerous programs that he spearheaded for the benefit of our country and its people.
One such program is the University of the Philippines President Edgardo J. Angara (UPPEJA) Fellowship awards that was revived this year after a hiatus of several years. UPPEJA was established by the UP Board of Regents on September 29, 2008 and was named after my father, who served as the State University’s president from 1981 to 1987 and as concurrent Chancellor of UP Diliman from 1982 to 1983.
The initial batch of fellows was named in 2011 and they are among the most distinguished individuals in the country: Professors Raul Fabella, Raul Pangalangan, Ramon Pedro Paterno, and Gerardo Sicat. Other notable fellows that came after the first batch include Herman Joseph Kraft (2013), Clarissa David (2015), Stella Luz Quimbo (2015), Caesar A. Saloma (2015), Lucia P. Tangi (2015), and Aileen San Pablo Baviera (2015)—some of the brightest minds of our country.
Last September 26, 2023, we witnessed the announcement of the latest batch of 23 UPPEJA fellows, who will be tasked to conduct research studies on 10 priority areas on education reform as identified by the Second Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM 2). The 2023 UPPEJA fellows are as follows: National Scientist Dr. Carmencita Padilla; Commission on Population and Development Executive Director Dr. Lisa Grace Bersales; Dr. Michael Alba, immediate past president of the Far Eastern University; Dr. Luis Rey Velasco, former chancellor of UP Los Baños; Dr. Elizabeth King; Dr. Rosario Manasan; Dr. Dina Ocampo; Kenneth Isaiah Abante, Riza Supreme Comia; Dr. Cleve Arguelles; Joel Mendoza; Dr. Krista Danielle Yu; Dr. Michael Cabalfin; Dr. Assunta Cuyegkeng; Dr. Geoffrey Ducanes; Dr. Ma. Regina Hechanova-Alampay; Dr. Enrique Niño Leviste; Dr. Ma. Glenda Lopez Wui; Carolyn Medel-Añonuevo; Dr. Maria Mercedes Rodrigo; Dr. Luis Sison; Dr. John Paul Vergara; and Dr. Felicia Yeban.
Dr. Cynthia Rose Bautista, who serves as a member of EDCOM 2’s advisory council and the UPPEJA Fellowship Committee, recalled how my father envisioned the program as a way for fellows to deliberate on policy issues on education. Prior to his passing, my father, who was co-chairman of the first EDCOM in 1990, manifested his desire for the fellowship to shift towards education reform in response to the needs of the present times. Plans were already drawn up to implement this shift but according to Dr. Bautista, this was disrupted by the pandemic, just as it did every aspect of our daily lives for over two years.
Fast forward to July 2022, Republic Act 11899 was enacted, paving the way for the creation of EDCOM 2, whose mandate is to conduct a comprehensive national assessment and evaluation of the performance of the education sector for the purpose of recommending transformative, concrete and targeted reforms in the sector with the end in view of making the Philippines globally competitive in both education and labor markets in the next three years, from 2023 to 2025. The timing of the revival of the UPPEJA Fellowship awards now is perfect because the results of the research of the new batch of fellows will help the EDCOM 2 in the performance of its mandate on education reform.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who serves as one of our co-chairpersons in EDCOM 2, noted that the UPPEJA Fellowship awards “carries forth the spirit of EDCOM 1.” EDCOM 2 Executive Director Karol Mark Yee sees the partnership between UP and EDCOM as a way to succeed in the challenges that have long prevented the Filipino youth from reaching a brighter future. In his own remarks, UP President Angelo Jimenez said the work of the UPPEJA fellows will focus on what ails the Philippine education system and finding solutions with the help of best practices here and abroad.
It was a very special day for our family. In my brief remarks at the event, I noted that the torch has been passed to all of us and it is up to us to carry that torch, to keep the flame burning because we live in a time when pragmatism sometimes overcomes idealism. I believe there is room for both.
Senator Sonny Angara has been in public service for 19 years—9 years as Representative of the Lone District of Aurora, and 10 as Senator. He has authored, co-authored, and sponsored more than 330 laws. He is currently serving his second term in the Senate.
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