Saturday, October 20, 2007

TOWNS 2007 Awardees Acceptance Speech By Maria Ressa

For two decades now, my friends and I have had an ongoing debate: why isn’t our country doing better? First, it was because we didn’t have democracy. Then it was because we had too much democracy. Now it’s because our democracy is too mangled and torn by vested interests – often distorting truth and shattering certainty. What can we believe in? Where do we find hope?I’ve only known my co-awardees and the Towns women a week, but when I met them, I nearly broke down and cried. And I don’t do that. I’ve reported on death, destruction, radical change – but that day I was affected by this gathering of powerful women full of joy and hope for our future. This is an award given by women for women – who through their work – try to give the world back a piece of its lost heart.

Over the past week, we wrote each other about what really matters to find what we have in common.

I want to share five traits with you.First, we are fighters. All of us like to beat the odds. If you tell us it’s not possible, we’ll fight even harder to make it happen. We chose our fields and wanted to stretch the limits. We developed our own visions – not of things as they are – but of how we think they should be. We envisioned an ideal, and we worked hard to reach that.When I joined CNN nearly two decades ago, my goal was to change western media from within. Instead of complaining of how western journalists were reporting on Asian nations, I decided to do something about it. Now with ABS-CBN, I hope to help shape journalism at a pivotal time in our history.Cora, the head of the DNA Analysis Laboratory at UP, is instrumental in having DNA evidence accepted in court cases today. Eva, one of only 5 medical geneticists in the Philippines today is looking at the genetic root of birth defects, cancer and heart diseases. She is a pioneer in her field. Second, we are all teachers. We believe one idea, one person can make a difference and that the key is education. 7 of us have taught at universities here and in the United States. Cathy, a professor at Ateneo, has helped standardize and raise the quality of mathematics teaching. Glecy, a professor at UP, uses theater and arts to push for social change. A teacher builds for the future. The challenge is to take the vision you have and convince others to come along. That’s how you become a force-multiplier. Third, we believe deeply in integrity and values – and we are not afraid to stand up for them. Sandy led the Inquirer against an ad boycott by then President Joseph Estrada. Beth, the first woman president of two all-male groups - CAMPI (Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines) and the Truck Manufacturers Association – campaigned against smuggled vehicles. Fourth, we are obsessive about what we do. That word came from Dina, who admitted although she is being asked to guest on ANC for TOWNS, she planned to really talk about her obsession – which is her work teaching children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Hilly discovered a new species of giant clam found only in the Red Sea. How did she outscoop the other marine biologists in Jordan? Well, 7 of the 9 known varieties of clams are in Mindanao – which is where she’s from. We gain strength from being Filipino and use that to compete globally.

Finally, we all decided to stay. All of us – to varying degrees – were trained overseas. It’s human technology transfer. In order to be competitive, you need knowledge. But we all chose to come back and to put that knowledge to work in our society.Alyssa, a geologist-teacher at UP, gave up her US permanent residence status to come home under the Balik Scientist program of DOST.So what hope do we have as a nation? It comes from each of us. Hope is not something other people give you. We take responsibility for our patch, our areas of influence. That is our individual commitment and our contribution to nation-building.From all of us to all of you, thank you for this award!

Maria A. Ressa

October 18, 2007


Friday, October 12, 2007

2007 Outstanding Women In The Nation's Service - TOWNS 2007 Winners

An awesome harvest of women were chosen as this year's awardees for The Outstanding Women In The Nation's Service (TOWNS). Ten winners were chosen after a rigorous screening process done in mid-September, whittled the group down to 16 from a group of 72 nominees from all over the country. From the sixteen finalists, ten outstanding, amazing women were chosen for their strength of character and the excellence shown in their chosen field of profession or advocacy.

The press conference, held at the Museo Pambata this morning was well-attended by representatives from the Metrobank Foundation, who partnered and threw in their support to TOWNS this year, other TOWNS winners from the different batches and members of the media who came in full force :) It seemed like only yesterday when I, together with my sisses - forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun, then PSE Chair Alicia Morales, now Assistant Dean of the U.P. College of Engineering Aura Matias, broadcast journalist Ces Drilon, educators Deanie Lynn Ocampo and Blessie Raposa, environmental advocate and filmand stage actress Chinchin Gutierrez, U.P. professor and stage actress and poet Joi Barrios, agriculture specialist Madonna Casimero and lawyer __________ (my midlife brain forgets the name of this particular sister!) made up the TOWNS 2004 batch. As Tati Fortun joked when we were asked to address the crowd earlier today, "Today we relinquish our crown..." It was, a Miss Universe moment :)

Earlier in the week, my other TOWNS sister, an icon of mine, Paulynn Paredes and I were hard at work writing the bios of the winners and the citations to be written on their plaques. As I was going through each candidate's history and achievements I could not help but be humbled and awe at the body of work that these ten outstanding women had done so far. Get to know the bright and fascinating women who make up TOWNS 2007 --

For EDUCATION, Dina S. Ocampo, 42 is Associate Professor at the College of Education at the U.P. Diliman. She is also President of the Board of Trustees of Wordlab School, Inc. a non-stock, non-profit corporation which provides elementary education for children with dyslexia and related learning disabilities which she co-founded in 1995. Dina has advocated the use of child's language as the beginning language of education for over two decades. She has articulated the roadmap for achieving language and literacy competence for all Filipino children in schools.

Maria Corazon De Ungria, 40, for SCIENCE, is the Head of the DNA Analysis Laboratory at the U.P. Diliman. Her continuing and untiring efforts in spearheading the research and development activities of the UP NSRI DNA Analysis Laboratory have contributed to the recognition and acceptance of DNA evidences in court cases and other forensic applications. She developed a sexual assault investigation kit that is expected to assist investigations of sexual assault (particularly in children). The Child Protection Unit Network has distributed over 200 of these kits to its Metro Manila and regional units. She has met with members of the House Committee on Science and Technology to discuss the need for DNA legislation. Because of these discussions, House Resolution no. 659 was filed on March 14, 2005 calling on Congress to institutionalize and maximize the value of forensic DNA technology by establishing the DNA Technology Center that will maintain and manage the National DNA Database through appropriate legislation and appropriation.

For the field of MEDICINE, Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco De la Paz, 45 stands out as one of only five medical geneticists in the Philippines today. Dra. De la Paz was awarded the TOWNS for outstanding work and pioneering scientific research in the field of genetics that has aided in the proper diagnosis, management, prevention and identification of birth defects in the country and continuing efforts to help ease the burden of families with children born with significant disabilities.

Sandy and sonAlexandra Prieto Romualdez, 40 for the field of PRINT MEDIA was awarded the TOWN for her exemplary leadership in successfully steering one of the country’s largest media organizations, by being simultaneously responsive to the needs of her employees and the community which she serves through the creation of programs and reforms that seek to improve the quality of newspaper publishing in the country. Sandy is my boss and of course we are all so proud and happy that she won the TOWNS. In her speech today she gave thanks to all her teachers and mentors and to the men and women of Inquirer. Sandy joins our esteemed editor in chief Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, columnist Rina David and myself in the TOWNS sisterhood. Congratulations Sandy!

Alyssa Peleo AlampayAlyssa M. Peleo Alampay, 43 is an Associate Professor at the National Institute of Geological Sciences at the U.P. Diliman. Driven by a commitment to make a difference in the Philippines, she gave up her US permanent residence status and decided to return to the Philippines under the Balik Scientist program of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Alyssa was awarded the TOWNS for her dedication in making earth science education in the country more accessible to a greater number of students and her outstanding scientific accomplishments into climate research that aid in the fight against global warming both here and overseas. As a female geologist in the Philippines she says that she has had many experiences wherein she has been singled out primarily because of her gender. It is also a field, she says that does not get a lot of funding and that there is a constant struggle to attract bright, young minds to engage in the field of geology. More than ever, she is inspired to do even more to push further and make a difference in promoting earth science education among teachers and the youth.

Hilly Ann Roa QuiaoitHilly Ann Maria Roa Quiaoit, 38 is the Director of the McKeough Marine Center at the Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro. Hilly is known locally and globally as an avid conservationist particularly of the endangered giant clams, she has been dubbed as the "mother of giant clams" in the Philippines. For her tireless efforts in helping conserve the endangered giant clams both here and around the world through community involvement and the creation of programs and institutions that highlight her dedication to the preservation and rehabilitation of marine life in various parts of the country she recieves the TOWNS Award for ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION.

Maria RessaMaria A. Ressa, 44 graduated with a BA English Literature degree from Princeton University. She is the Senior Vice President for the ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs Division. In 2001, Maria filed a report that followed up on the discovery of the terrorist cells of the Jemaah Islamiyah, Al Qaeda's arm in Southeast Asia. This report helped highlight the existence of terrorist cells in the region. She also reported on East Timor's struggle for independence and risked her life to continue the report even after diplomats and journalists were driver out of East Timor - making CNN the first international news organization to begin reporting again days after the arrival of the multi-national forces. In her speech today, Maria thanked her icon and mentor Cheche Lazaro whom she said was the reason for her coming back to the Philippines. Cheche and The Probe Team, she said, "Made me believe how one person, one small organization can make a huge difference in the lives of others."

Cathy Vistro-Yu
Cathy Vistro Yu, 43
is a Mathematics Professor at the Ateneo de Manila University. Cathy helped in the formation of the professional organization, MATHED which has 600 members from all over the country, and getting it recognized as the national organization of mathematics teacher educators. Over a span of five years, it is now acknowledged as the professional organization of mathematics educators and teachers. Together with other recognized mathematics educators, and in cooperation with the DOST-SEI, she has been a prime mover, initiator, advocate and implementer for the adoption of Mathematics Framework for Basic School Mathematics Curriculum as well as a Framework for Mathematics Teacher Education.

Beth LeeElizabeth H. Lee, 39 is the Executive Vice President of Universal Motors Corporation. In 1998, she joined Universal Motors Corporation as Senior Vice President for Marketing and was promoted to Executive Vice President, Marketing & Sales Group in 2007, in charge of developing primary goals, short and long-term objectives, implementing operational plans and overseeing all marketing activities for Nissan Light Commercial Vehicle products and services. She was elected the first woman president of the Truck Manufacturers Association for three years (2002-2004) and became the youngest and first woman president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) where she has been president since 2005.Beth is the 2007 TOWNS Awardee for BUSINESS For her unwavering dedication to clean-up and save the Philippine automotive industry of illegal imports and for her creative foresight into developing programs that aim to help OFW’s and their families invest their money wisely by helping them become entrepreneurs and for raising the bar on Philippine-made vehicles not only in the country but world-wide as well.

Glecy AtienzaGlecy Cruz Atienza, 45 is a Full Professor at the College of Arts and Letters at the U.P. Diliman, a Sr. Artist-Teacher at the Philippine Education Theater Association and is Chair of ALYANSA, Inc (Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Pangkultura sa Kamaynilaan at Karatig Pook). is an artist, educator, civil servant and public intellectual. Her life and career are an example of artistic and academic excellence and selfless commitment and dedication in the use of the arts in the service of the country.Glecy is the TOWNS awardee for ARTS & CULTURE for turning theater into a pedagogical force in shaping lives by helping people realize their potentials and encouraging government and non-government agencies to use the arts as a means to involve the community in realizing their vision of a better life.
Glecy considers it a continuing challenge to engage communities in various venues of education and community action through art and cultural work, “given the slack in the support for cultural activities”. She intends to write and publish educational manuals and teaching materials while she supports her only son through medical school and takes care of her 81-year old mother.

Congratulations to all the awesome women of TOWNS 2007! May we be of even greater service to the nation in the years to come. Welcome to our sisterhood!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Desperate Discrimination - Why Didn't Terri Hatcher Speak Up?

In the midst of all the hoopla about that highly insensitive remark made on the Desperate Housewives show, one question continues to nag me... Why didn't Teri Hatcher refuse to mouth those objective lines?

I don't know how it works in the U.S. but over here, if an actor or actress finds the dialogue questionable, he or she can always argue with the scriptwriter or director. I've seen it happen personally several times. My mom who is a film and television actress has told me of many instances when she revised the dialogue because it did not seem right.

Teri Hatcher obviously has some sort of clout on the show. Hindi kaya niya nasisip na nakakasakit siya ng kapwa? Didn't she stop and think for one moment what the repercussions of that insensitive line would be? Doesn't she have at least one single Filipino-American friend? Or, wala lang? That to her, and the rest of the cast and crew is was really, no big deal at all?

In the U.S.State department, and the United States, over-all, discrimination is such a huge issue. In U.S. government offices, memos are regularly issued reminding employees about the issues regarding racial discrimination and always pointing out that these will not be tolerated under any circumstances and that if and when it takes place, the necessary sanctions will be issued. Hindi ba sila nga ang nagpa uso ng "WE are an equal-opportunity employer with no bias towards age, sex, race or religion." Obviously, on U.S. primetime television that doesn't hold any water and it becomes a free for all. Okay, which race do we pick on this week?

Lat year, Terri Hatcher had the courage to stand up for and against child abuse and she won my admiration for it. Parang hindi ata siya nag-isip this time around. Because of this incident, unofrtunately, the actress now lives up to her onscreen persona - apparently, she is as dizty off-screen as she is on-screen.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Reinventing Sharon In METRO October 2007

I had to do a doubletake when I passed the magazine shop display window the other day.

Whoa! Si Sharon nga ba yan? Yes, si Sharon nga!

There is she was, weighing much less than when I last saw her on television or on the huge billboards that dot EDSA. Hooray for her! Sharon joined the league of 40something women last year. This year she appears to be on the threshold of a serious re-invention of the self by being more authentic. For the first time, in this month's issue, she reveals to Palanca award-winning writer Ramil Gulle, that for many years she was a chain-smoker (blech) but that she has finally kicked the habit. Yet, she is human enough to admit that she still struggles with it once in a while. This is a true story folks. Sharon is a childhood friend. As a child, I grew up and lived on the same street where her Tita Helen Sotto lived. We would see each other during children's parties and hang out way before "Mr DJ" became a hit.

I would watch Sharon from the sidelines for many, many years. Keeping track of her joys and woes and once in a while we would bump into each other during showbiz functions. In spite of her Megastar status, she would always be the first to yell my name from across a room - "Catheeeee!" and I have always known her to be warm and accomodating.

Thus, when I saw her looking fab on the cover of Metro, my heart was warmed. She's clearly in a new phase in her life now, with a lot of things going on simultaneously - an adult daughter who is wonderfully gorgeous and very much successful, a new movie with the Aga Muhlach (another sweetheart of a man), going back to school and earning a degree, and a lovelier physique. Sharon's battles have always mirrored the battles of my generation of women. Her re-invention, once again echoes, the phase that many of us younger 40somethings find ourselves in. Congrats Shawie on your latest laurels.

I've been reading METRO now regularly, for many, many months. In fact, it is the only magazine that I buy and read from cover to cover. There are a lot of interesting, relevant and well-written stories, new things and places to try out,and its lay-out is crisp and clean - easy on a 40something's myopic eyes. In fact, I would venture to say that from among the magazines available today, METRO is the only one that addresses a lot of the issues that run through a midlifer's mind :) Congratulations to Mel, Joy, Alya and the rest of the METRO team for a job always well-done! METRO is Thelma Sioson - San Juan's legacy to legions of women like myself who are always in search of a good magazine to read. Having recetly retired from ABS-CBN publishing, I am quite confident that she will "ressurect" again somewhere, soon :)