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18 June 2006

meaning and purpose

having attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (adhd) since birth has certain disadvantages. to make up for this deficiency, i realized that i have subconsciously acquired photographic memory. i am capable of remembering many incidents dating back to the time i was about 3 years old. more incredibly, i have this strange way of putting together unrelated people, places, events and pieces of trivia. during the late 1980s college friends from engineering courses would call me “database.” among younger colleagues from u.p. diliman's national institute of physics, my penchant for connecting distant relations was a “theory of relativity.” by the 1990s, this strange condition had turned into “1.5 degrees of separation.” for paolo manalo in more recent times, i have become “…metonymy personified in my book, he who is friendster before there ever was friendster.”

though friends meant well, i felt small and insignificant from everybody else. it took a long time for me to accept that i can’t help it. my brain really works oddly. it takes ages for me to make coherence out of the things i want to do. but instinctively, i always get somewhere.

i was initially reluctant when u.p. arts and letters dean (2000-2003) rosario torres yu appointed me to be her associate dean for administration and development in 2000. i had been designated to raise funds for and supervise the construction of the new arts and letters building. the problem was, i didn't have any marketing or business background. but dean yu trusted my intuitive ways. working on the project, i knew the government had slashed u.p.'s budget by heaps. money for capital outlay was the first to go. engineering, law, medicine, sciences, business and economics have huge endowments from alumni groups and private corporations. meanwhile, arts and social sciences are traditionally poor colleges. i reckoned, all u.p. students take 2 years of general education courses (g.e.) from my college. many u.p. alumni met their friends, acquaintances, boyfriends, girlfriends, crushes, lovers, secret loves and flings out of these classes. given my gazillion e-groups worldwide, i embarked on a campaign to raise funds by way of emails. i emailed everyone i knew in the philippines and elsewhere. i argued that english and literature, foreign languages, humanities, philippine studies, rizal course, theater, speech communication and art studies should have good classrooms too. i complained that u.p. is losing its edge because g.e. classes are being taught in dilapidated rooms. some of us were actually teaching under the shade of trees. not surprisingly, our best students and teachers end up working elsewhere.

i was uncertain whether i can pull it through. but there’s absolutely no corruption throughout the fund-raising campaign. not a signle cent had gone to anybody's pocket. i sought former students from my 18 years of teaching to vouch for my integrity. i also sent emails to my alumni and writers’ e-groups in the philippines, america, japan and the u.k. the emails were passed on to other friends, acquaintances and their friends. and the friends of their friends. soon, the college was able to raise money for professorial chairs, scholarships, building equipment and the construction of the new college library. while receiving donations from individuals, companies, institutions and groups, encouragement and support had come especially from u.p. president francisco nemenzo and u.p. diliman chancellor (now u.p. president) emerlinda roman. they both allocated millions of pesos from u.p.'s diminishing funds to revitalize the state of arts and letters and general education in the university.

it’s been 3 years since the new u.p. arts and letters building had been inaugurated. the hoopla over the fundraising campaign has been forgotten. hardly anyone remembers it now. but I remain happy and fulfilled. i do not wish to claim any credit for the building's existence. after all, the building’s concept had evolved from deans pablo botor (1986-1988), vivencio jose (1988-1991), rogelio sicat (1991-1994) and josefina agravante (1994-1997; 1997-2000). dean rosario torres-yu and national artist/dean virgilio almario's (2003-2006; 2006-2009) foresight and visual sense directed me ably towards the building’s completion in 2003.

having a.d.h.d. didn't stop me from becoming an instrument to do something worthwhile. i can only hope that people will always persist in finding meaning and purpose in spite of their limitations.

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the new u.p. college of arts and letters building (dec.2001)
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the new u.p. college of arts and letters building (dec. 2003)
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with dean rosario torres-yu, makati city mayor and u.p. alumnus jejomar binay, u.p. diliman chancellor (now u.p. president) emerlinda roman and professor apo chua; mayor binay wanted to donate professorial chairs in philippine studies anonymously but we didn't allow him to do so
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the family and estate of carlos palanca jr. donated creative writing scholarships for u.p. arts and letters students. sylvia palanca-quirino (1st row, 2nd from left) represented her family during the formal ceremonies
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u.p. college of arts and letters building inauguration last december 2003; l-r: dean and national artist virgilio almario, dean vivencio jose, dean josefina agravante, u.p. president francisco nemenzo, college secretary teodoro maranan, quezon city mayor feliciano belmonte jr. and u.p. diliman chancellor (now u.p. president) emerlinda roman
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the university of the philippines (1908) in diliman, quezon city


Blogger paolomanalo said...

Yours will always be a gift not an abnormality. :)

Sun Jun 18, 11:57:00 PM 2006  
Blogger wendell said...

thanks paolo. you've always been an angel. happy birthday!

Mon Jun 19, 12:02:00 AM 2006  
Blogger subrosa said...

don't dwell on the adhd as a weakness, coz. you've come a long way, arguably, exploiting the "weakness" to your advantage. ;-) anyhow, being able to fundraise for higher education is an extremely marketable skill, especially in higher ed in the u.s. these days, especially for the state universities that are relatively new to the work as our government continues to strip funding for higher education.

speaking of higher ed, i'm making plans to stop by the u.p., u of santo tomas, and mapua institute of technology (my dad's alma mater) while i'm in the philippines. any tips? i hear the u.p. has a school of social work, and i was thinking about checking in for some professional networking.

Mon Jun 19, 01:42:00 AM 2006  
Blogger wendell said...

cousin anne! thanks for dropping by! btw, u.p. has a strong social work and community development program. do send me an email (todai_mitaka@yahoo.com) about your proposed itinerary and i'll give you a long list of contacts--people and telephone numbers. will be in touch. take care!

Mon Jun 19, 11:55:00 AM 2006  
Blogger quietstream said...

These are great pix, Wendell! Yes, I remember you telling me stories about the difficulty of raising funds for that building. We saw the irony of it: how a Thomasian was raising funds for UP. :-) But you've done such a great job!

ADHD is a challenge, indeed, but never a bad thing. All of us have our own quirks. Yours just has a label. :-) We love you just the way you are. (sing it a la Billy Joel)

See ya when you get back!

Tue Jun 20, 10:34:00 AM 2006  
Blogger wendell said...

karen! great to hear from you! say hi 2 our amihan friends should you see them. hope to be back in a year. will be keeping in touch. take care. w.

Tue Jun 20, 12:00:00 PM 2006  

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