Alumni boost university's community initiatives
July 15, 2012
The vehicle had gone out to ferry volunteers and goods for the needy almost as soon as it reached the premises of the University of the Cordilleras (UC).
The vehicle served the purpose of being the workhorse of UC's community arm, Project HELEN. If the practical purpose is to use this as utility vehicle, this role has been amplified to include a representation of UC's presence in the community.
It is perhaps symbolic that this innocuous item should come from a group that best symbolizes UC's presence in the community: the university's alumni. Pooling together resources coming from UC graduates, the UC-BCF Alumni Association finally saved enough funds to acquire a multipurpose van in use since the last quarter of 2011.
The formal turnover rite was held Tuesday July 10. Councilor Erdolfo V. Balajadia, Alumni Association president turned over the keys to the van to UC president Dr. Ricardo P. Pama in ceremonies timed with a regular Alumni Board meeting.
Councilor Balajadia who has been perennially elected president of the association for the last 15 years explained that the community is among the priority concerns of the association. Project HELEN which has been the conduit for UC's "give-back" initiatives was the springboard for the alumni's community advocacy. A transport system could answer for Project HELEN's need for quick response and for expansion of reach, Balajadia said.
UC's director for Community Extension and Services Office (CESO) and Vice President for Administration Dr. Leonarda R. Aguinalde said over the years, Project HELEN has implemented over 500 projects in the aspect of health, education, livelihood, environment and nurturance (thus, HELEN). She said the benefit of a dedicated transport means that UC's community extension activities can now be far-reaching and with stepped up pace.
Recent Project HELEN activities included book distribution programs in Tabuk, Kalinga and in Bacnotan, La Union.
The formal turnover of the Project HELEN vehicle was timed with the birth anniversary of UC's co-founder Evangelina Domingo-Salvosa who would have been 102 years old last July 12.
UC named its flagship community project after the co-founder whose short name was Helen. She took up Nursing as a profession and graduated from the University of the Philippines in 1932. "Project HELEN reflects the personality of the co-founder," UC Executive Trustee Nene Salvosa-Bowman said. "She was the silent partner (of UC's founder Atty. Benjamin Romero-Salvosa) who acquiesced to the founder's dreams of a university community in Baguio City."
She recalls that pivotal moment when the Founder relinquished ownership of family-owned properties to donate these to the Baguio Colleges Foundation: it was also a quiet transition, without fanfare, without bells and whistles.
UC went on to exemplify Atty. Salvosa's conviction that "education is a birthright." Councilor Balajadia who is on his third term as Baguio City councilor is an enduring product of the university who attended UC since high school.
"We had no means to send ourselves to school so I had to work in my aunt's meat store then attend school afterwards. Fortunately UC had a high school night class," Balajadia who also worked as a room boy at the former St. Francis Hotel said. "That time, I only owned one pair of pants so I wash this after school to wear the next day."
Balajadia who went on to become City Prosecutor of Baguio sent himself to UC law school by working as a laborer at the Bureau of Public Highways, a property custodian then tollgate clerk.
After passing the Bar in 1960, he went back to the highways bureau to work as a road right of way officer then legal officer. He became special attorney for the Commission on Elections and City Election Registrar before joining the Baguio City Prosecutor's Office until his retirement as City Prosecutor.
His civic commitments include leadership of the Baguio Regreening Movement (BRM) where UC alumni are actively involved, he said. BRM is in active partnership with Project HELEN in environmental initiatives, he said.
He explains that it is in the widespread commitments of Project HELEN that prompted them to strengthen its capabilities through a mobile transport. "After all charity begins at home," Balajadia said.
Through his office, Balajadia has however committed the amount of P200,000 from his countrywide development fund (CDF) for the construction of additional classrooms at Springhills Elementary School (SES) in barangay Loakan-Apugan, Project HELEN's adopted school.
Councilor Betty Lourdes F. Tabanda, also a UC alumna also released P100,000 from her CDF for the concreting of the SES quadrangle.