April 21, 2013

Pushing beyond limits

It’s just today that I realized how busy I had been for the past two weeks when I visited my blogs. I made it a point to update my blogs at least once a week to raise my Alexa rank. Alexa is a quick and easy way to estimate how popular your site is compared to other sites. Ratings start from 1 to 20,000,000 and even beyond. The lower the number, the better your rating is.That  has become my self imposed challenge  to test my reflexes without necessarily stressing myself.  Assessing the backlog vis-à-vis  my limits, I decided to repost my previous blogs according to their value and relevance. The following article, first published April 16, 2012 on Lariza Website, qualifies in my Faith Journey blog.

Elsie E. Malabon, cum laude, leads the BSSW 2012
graduates of the Department of Social Work
The 84th Commencement Exercises of Central Philippine University on April 15 has been inspiring. The Department has produced 12 graduates in the Bachelor of Science in Social Work, one with academic honor, cum laude. Together with 3 others, the honoree was not even expecting to graduate this semester, as some of her subjects were supposed to be offered in the 1st semester classes , a sort of lapses in advising.

But, as it were, I took time to study the complex condition of irregular students upon resuming my position as head of the Department. Thereafter, arranging their load in unconventional manner and semestral offerings so as to minimize the period of their stay. This skill was honed from those unlikely experiences in past life – my exposure in gambling during my youth. Like risk taking and the skills in arranging/organizing cards, mahjong tiles to win despite their weak/losing state. Yes, maximizing all the chances, even pushing beyond limit.

Equally inspiring is the fate of our Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) graduates. There are four of them who made it completing the Magic 10 to mark the 10th year of the revival of University’s MSSW program. It was in 2002 when we reactivated the program, a couple of years after I finished my Master of Social Work from the University of the Philippines- Diliman. With the strong support of Dr. Fely David, Dean of Graduate Studies, we succeeded to achieve it during the University’s historic Centennial Year in 2005.

The Magic Four with their thesis adviser. (L-R) Kareen Jay Diesto-Lozada, Sr. Aubrey Casimiro DC,
 Araceli Tondo, the author, and Carol Kay Cortuna-Blando
One of our MSSW pioneering students succeeded to complete the academic requirements and passed the final defense. Subsequently, Mrs. Lolita Camarig, municipal social welfare and development officer of Leganes had joined the commencement march of the Centennial graduates. Thereafter, we produced graduates with non BSSW degrees who subsequently hurdled the board exam, namely: Aujun Labrador, Lunnie Lasquite, and Melody Arandela-Ambangan. Ruby Plagata, another graduate, will soon take the social work licensure examination. Our other graduate is Prof. Maribel Gonzales, former head of the Department of Social Work, University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos.

Pose for posterity after the graduation ceremony.
The author, flanked by Kareen Jay (L) and Carol Kay (R)
Completing the Magic 10 are this year’s four MSSW graduates. Of the four, two are faculty of the Department of Social Work, CPU, namely: Carol Kay Cortuna-Blando and Kareen Kay Diesto. Both are close to my heart being my students during their undergraduate years; colleagues when they joined the teaching force of the Department; partners in volunteerism and development endeavors.

But organizational changes separated us for awhile until we have the opportunity to work together again. Having something in common both as victims and victors of experts in manipulating people and circumstances, we developed the biblical slogan “overcome evil by doing good.” Renewing our relationship, we committed to resume the interrupted partnership and development including their MSSW degree. Thereafter, I served as their thesis adviser struggling with them through thick and thin until they were conferred with their hard earned degree yesterday.

The other two are personnel of the Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus,namely: Sr. Aubrey Casimiro and Araceli Tondo. The bonding we have may not be comparable to the previous ones. Yet, it is also interesting and equally significant. Adverse circumstances did not hinder their desire to finish studies according to their schedule. Even my serious sickness and subsequent health limitation could not withstand their earnestness to complete the course.

We have experienced pushing beyond limits just to continue our classes. At times, holding reportorial sessions at home due to my limited mobility. In some instances, conducting classes at the University gazebo because I could not make it to the 3rd floor where Graduate School classrooms are located. There was even a time we had classes under the acacia tree beside the Department of Social Work, having no access to the office which used to be an alternate venue for my masteral classes.

But tougher times were just waiting ahead, making their presence felt during thesis writing stage. Aware of my health limitation, we tried to organize their respective schedule to avoid overlapping that would put unnecessary pressures on us both. Despite this, however, unavoidable circumstances compelled us to confront realities that push us beyond our limits.

A delay in the data gathering of one advisee had  a domino effect on our overall schedule.  With the scrambled schedule, we were compelled to confront the pressures we wanted to avoid. More so, that another advisee was affected by the changes of schedule of the accreditation involving our own department.

It was trying moments for us all. Especially, that I was still in the process of recuperating from critical illness which dramatically changed my lifestyle. While in the past, I could work effectively under pressures, I have learned to avoid such situation after my ailment. Previously, I loved doing homework; especially rush paper work until early morning. However, since my sickness, I have disciplined myself to sleep early with strict resolve not to bring home any school or office assignment.

Faced with the dilemma vis-à-vis the aforementioned limitations, we braved the tough times with faith in God and team work. I encouraged them to share with one another the development of their work to challenge each other. Similarly, the under development to make each one aware that she is not alone in such situation.  By God’s grace, our faith journey did bear fruits – they graduated even when we were pushed beyond limits.

April 4, 2013

"Resurrected" MSPM? Thanks to NETS!

My lenten blog and the invitation for the 3rd Graduation Ceremony of the Negros Theological Seminary have inspired me to repost this blog which was first published April 9, 2012 on PADAYON: Our Life Journey.
Congratulations to the Batch 2012 of the Negros TheologicalSeminary (NETS). Special mentioned to  Pastor Teofilo Boy Mahilum and Pastor Stephen Gallenero for being the pioneer graduates, as far as the Master of Socio Pastoral Ministries (MSPM) is concerned. With your graduation, the sustainability of MSPM program is already assured in Negros or even in Panay. More so, that the guest speaker in your 2nd Commencement Exercises   is one of the pioneer faculty of the MSPM, Dr. Melvin M. Mangana.

Pastor  Mahilum, Seminary President, welcomes
graduates and gusts to the NETS First Commencement
Exercises held in 2011 in Sagay, Negros Occidental.
When we started the program in 2007, some downgraded  our voluntary effort while others already expressed skepticism of its sustainability, even before it is tested. Worse, there were those who consistently campaign against it when the program was well accepted by pastors, even to the extent of recruiting those already participating in the MSPM program to join the program they promote.

Some students  even experienced  “harassment” from  an on- and- off  personnel who intimated to monitor the program as it is suspected  to be used against the CPBC leadership. A ridiculous claim as the program was approved by the Board of Trustees of the referred institution. Of course,  the reactions mostly came from  people who have been conditioned to believe that  they are the  center if not the sole reservoirs  of  learning or power. Apart from them or their blessings, no other initiatives will ever prosper.

However, like the unknown kid in the Bible, whose small initiatives resulted  to the feeding of  5,000+,  we were not disturbed by overwhelming discrepancies and limitations, even criticisms. Such voluntary spirit made a difference. Amidst reservations, if not downgrading of the modest offering, Jesus made use of what was available and another miracle happened.
MSPM pioneer students during the Semestral Joint Class in North Negros Baptist Bible College

The MSPM stands as witness to the unprecedented unity in the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA) and Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) five years ago. It is one of the   two breakthroughs  undertaken when the  CPBC Unified Theological Education System(UNITES) was conceived, approved by the CPBC Board of Trustees and gradually implemented by the Theological Education and Ministerial Concerns Committee. Those were the days, my friends, we thought would never end, when theological institutions affiliated with the Convention  were so united to formulate a Standardized Curriculum.

A combination of Master of Social Work and Master of Ministry, the mission of the Master of Socio-Pastoral Ministries program is to prepare pastors for leadership roles in  church, church-related institutions  and community. Specifically, it is geared towards a healthy and balanced  pastoral leadership in church and community services. For we have a holistic mission and ministry  exemplified by  our Lord and Master  Teacher, Jesus, the Christ as he  put into action the avowed mission in Luke4:18-19.

Three years after  the program was implemented, it has produced  23  pioneering graduates from Panay and Negros, despite some attempts to sabotage the program . The Conferral Ceremony  was held  on May 1, 2010 at  Ajuy Christian Development Academy, Ajuy, Iloilo with the approval of the General  Secretary of the CPBC, Rev. Job Santiago, who served as speaker on said event. Pastor Stephen could have joined that Batch, but without his knowing it,  he opted to graduate in NETS together with Pastor Boy today.

MSPM program  is unique as it democratizes the center of  learning and power. The program  exemplifies a sharing, self-reliant , self sustaining and  empowering community. Faculty are volunteers.  Students in respective centers shoulder the transportation expenses  and accommodation. Classes are conducted in provincial centers  offered by  churches and institutions who subscribe to the idea.  Participating theological institutions conferred the degree to graduates.

Baptist Pastor united in prayer of thanksgiving for the learning  opportunity
through the MSPM during the  Semestral Joint Class held at North Negros
Baptist Bible College in 2008
As such, the program serves as good news  to  pastors who dream for an alternative continuing pastoral education, affordable but qualitative, without necessarily   leaving their pastorate and families. Its message to the whole CPBC constituents is clear. Nothing is impossible if we only share. Our pastors can earn masteral degrees if we pool our resources together.  The CPBC, with the help of our theological institutions and volunteer faculty – our pastors and lay leaders  can liberalize the educational opportunities and improve the plight of the pastors.

Prof. DZ P. Lariza together with the
Pioneer graduates of NETS
But  such beauty and uniqueness of the program  are not attractive to people who do not believe in empowerment and sharing of resources for the benefit of the many. Changes in leadership in our Convention and respective bible schools  have curtailed the development of the program. Politics and personal  interests  caused  some  to scamper for the opportunity to push for their respective agenda  when  in the leadership position.  Some opted to  put a new label to the same product.  With  my complex  health condition, the more the program was sidetracked.

However, as the saying of old contends “you cannot put a good  person or product down.” By God’s own timetable, NETS  was organized. Subsequently,  a new center of learning and empowerment has been established.  I am glad that the school administration included  in their course  offerings  the MSPM.   With this development, coupled with  the graduation of Pastor Boy and Pastor Stephen, today, we are assured  of the "resurrection" of the MSPM . Those who have started the program in Negros and in Panay  can  now earn their respective degrees in NETS.   Let us spread this good news ! God bless.
*Statement of Support, read by Prof. DZ Patriarca-Lariza on my behalf,  for the 2nd Commencement Exercises of the Negros Theological Seminary (NETS) in Escalante City on April 9, 2012 as requested by the  Seminary administration.