Chancellor Digal, the faculty, administrative staff, students, alumni, and friends, I am happy to join you on this wonderful occasion, the 26th Anniversary celebration of UP Mindanao.
I hope everybody is doing well amid our observance of basic health protocols like physical distancing, wearing of face masks, and regular sanitation of hands. By now we have become accustomed to these health practices along with distance education and our especially customized work from home arrangements. We recognize this as part of our new normal to help us cope with the global crisis.
It has been more than a year since the world frantically searched for ways to prevent the spread of what was then a new and dreaded coronavirus. Now we all know it today as the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know how it spreads and how we can best protect ourselves. More importantly, we know that it can be beaten.
Our health frontliners, scientists, and educators here and abroad have bravely spearheaded the fight to test, isolate and treat those who have been afflicted by the virus and all the illnesses associated with it. These frontliners continue to heal and save lives with the help of everyone else, no doubt including many of us who are from UP. From north to south, our constituent universities have linked with national and local government units and governmental organizations, business groups, and other organizations with the shared goal of healing as one nation and rising up again. We regularly publish information and resources on COVID-19 in our online COVID portal.
While most of UP's accomplishments and advisories can be read via our main website, UP Mindanao no doubt plays a crucial role in our fight against COVID-19, with members of the UP Mindanao community stepping up to lead in teaching, research and extension efforts in southern Philippines. Allow me to mention and commend some of your most recent accomplishments.
I am pleased and inspired by the Philippine Genome Center Mindanao for assisting the Department of Health in training frontliners from the Ramiro Medical Center in Ozamiz City, the frontliners from the Philippine Red Cross Misamis Oriental Cagayan De Oro chapter and the frontliners from the Adela Ty Memorial Medical Center in Tandag City. I understand that personnel from the new Police Regional Office COVID 19 testing laboratory will also be trained by PGC Mindanao in biosafety and molecular diagnostics. The lab can be an extension laboratory by the UP PGC for research and development collaboration to study and mitigate the spread of infectious diseases in the southern Philippines. This is the newest addition to the network of COVID-19 Labs in Tagum City and Davao de Oro province.
To communicate life-saving information and inspiring stories, various departments and several professors have been hosting webinars and radio documentaries such as the Radyo Iskolar to raise public awareness about dealing with COVID-19, about effects of vaccination, and how to access psychosocial support programs.
In cooperation with the revived Pahinungod, the UP Mindanao Pahinungod organized volunteers for psychological first aid and delivered a psychological first aid webinar last December 2020. Our faculty members helped strengthen linkages with LGUs, secondary schools, and corporations through joint projects and forums.
They were also able to publish peer-reviewed researches in reputable international journals while promoting international linkages and internationalization.
The virtual Kasadya 2020, UP Mindanao’s Christmas celebration for students and staff pushed through with a very appropriate theme on service and compassion.
UP Mindanao also beefed up efforts in information dissemination, capability-building, and initiatives for livelihood training for their constituents.
It is true that difficulties also bring us valuable lessons and opportunities for growth. While each one of us is doing his or her best, we should keep an open mind for others who might be having difficulty in adjusting to the new normal. Reaching out gives us a sense of unity and hope that can help us get through the uncertainties.
It is encouraging to hear from the Chancellor that despite the disruptions, you have persevered and have accomplished even more compared to what you did the previous year. Let me commend you for developing the Mindanao Health Initiative program that will give birth to the Davao City-UP hospital, the Mindanao Center for Infectious Diseases, and most of all, the UP Mindanao College of Medicine.
Another pleasant surprise is UP Mindanao’s higher enrollment this year. Your undergraduate enrollment increased by 33% while your graduate enrollment went up by about 23%. I am equally pleased to hear from Chancellor Digal that you have hurdled the challenges in migrating to remote learning. This means more students will receive the Tatak-UP quality of education. On top of this, I am happy to learn that you have started implementing our plans to establish three new colleges, namely the College of Human Kinetics, the College of Engineering, and the College of Medicine.
Let me also commend you for engaging in policy discussions and in assisting micro-, small, and medium enterprises in their efforts to recover. I appreciate your hard work and optimism in fulfilling the mandate of our University by using the best available scientific knowledge in responding to a crisis of this magnitude. Right now, some economists believe that the level of economic contraction is approximating the post-World War II years. If true, this means a huge part of our nation’s growth and human resources has suffered a big setback, and we have to work hard together to put our economic trajectory back on track as a developing nation.
We shall continue to overcome the challenges, such as the devastating effects on many of our finances, work and social lives, and even on our mental and physical health. Every sector of UP community exemplifies remarkable courage, resourcefulness, intelligence, resilience, and compassion. We continue to highlight the fact that UP scientists and health practitioners are our nation’s best resources to deliver the best results in the fight against COVID-19.
Our faculty continue to come up with innovative platforms for teaching. Even though campuses remain closed, our administrators and staff are keeping our University running. Even our students, alumni and campus residents are doing what they can to help ease peoples burdens.
We need to adopt the principle of Disaster Risk Reduction, not to equate resilience with merely surviving or expecting vulnerable sectors to be able to cope with crisis after crisis all by themselves. Borrowing this concept from the UP Resilience Institute, we need all stakeholders to collaborate. Government, academe, businesses, civil society, and media, to utilize the best available interdisciplinary science in forming and guiding efforts in the fight against COVID-19. Creating or arriving at the new normal is no longer enough. We need to think about a better new normal that can present solutions to old problems as well as new ones. Information must be made accessible, accurate, reliable, and relevant for the scientific, academic, and health sectors to provide them the best guidance in steering the nation to recovery from the impact of this crisis.
With the accomplishments of UP Mindanao, we can proudly say “tunay kayong maaasahan.” You are indeed an inspiration. It is in this spirit that we will continue to harness the expertise of the country’s premier community of scholars to make timely and relevant recommendations and decisions. These outputs will serve as a springboard to help us recover from the hardships, adapt to the changing times, and regain the momentum to move our University into a resilient university of the future. Maraming salamat sa inyong matapat na paglilingkod! Happy anniversary, UP Mindanao! Mabuhay!