Double the Success: A Father-Son Journey in Pursuing Higher Learning Together

Written by Pinky Halos ♦ Edited by Myra C. Almodiel and Anna Cañas-Llamas

Photo credit: UP Open University

Ronald Hilaria and his son Ron David Hilaria share their positive experiences with the University of the Philippines Open University’s (UPOU) Open and Distance eLearning (ODeL) program.

Ronald, the head of his company’s human resources department, enrolled in UPOU’s Graduate Certificate in Distance Education program to better understand e-learning and implement it in his company’s corporate university. The knowledge he gained from the program helped him spearhead the establishment of an e-learning portal, which proved to be very useful during the pandemic. Ronald’s UPOU education also helped him advance his career and create opportunities for him and his son to bond over school requirements.

On the other hand, his son, Ron David Hilaria, was a student at UP Diliman who struggled to fit into the culture of a traditional university and found UPOU’s ODeL program to match his learning style better. He appreciated the flexibility of being able to control his schedule and do advanced study or fast-track the completion of his requirements. In 2019, Ron David enrolled in the Associate in Arts program at UPOU. He also appreciated that his father could better relate to him regarding school requirements. They could talk about their modules, the discussion forums they attended, and all the other things they were going through in their respective studies. His UPOU experience was an eye-opener for him and he was glad that he studied at UPOU for the past two years. Ron would continue with his distance education by taking up BAMS next.

Both father and son highly recommend UPOU’s ODeL program to people who are working and still want to pursue higher or advanced learning, as well as those who want to try something different from traditional university education.

UP Open University utilizes ODeL as its mode of teaching and learning, and its mission is to provide access to quality higher education to Filipinos everywhere. UPOU is open to students who are not able to join traditional and physical clases, since all teaching and learning is done online.


Compassion and care amidst crisis: Dr. Bryan Lim shares his greatest learnings

Christian Gil D. Tugonon

Dr. Bryan Albert T. Lim, M.D. FPCP, FPSMID is currently the Chief Medical Officer of Keralty Prime Cebu, Inc.
During the pandemic, Dr. Lim continued to serve relentlessly at the frontline, serving countless patients and offering his expertise to both the public and private sector in forming systems and models that benefited the greater community. (Contributed photo)
Dr. Bryan Albert Lim received the 2023 Distinguished Health Care Advocate Award at the Philippine College of Physicians National Convention on May 8, 2023, at the Philippine International Convention Center. (Contributed photo)

When the unprecedented health crisis struck in 2020, the world came to a standstill. Lives were abruptly disrupted and the bustling energy of “business as usual” gave way to global pause as societies confronted the harsh realities of the pandemic.

Defining the “new normal” was a by-line often used arbitrarily as communities scrambled to get back on track. It was amidst all this confusion that a few good men stood out, driven by an unwavering commitment and selfless compassion to continuously serve, despite the mounting fear and anxiety.

One of them is Dr. Bryan Albert T. Lim, an Infectious Disease specialist from Cebu who made bold strides in the healthcare industry. He offered different perspectives in approaching the pandemic and helped form policies that married both Science and systems with human compassion—all while continuing his medical practice, serving at the forefront during the pandemic.

With his distinguished academic background, having graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree from the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu and a Doctor of Medicine from the UP College of Medicine, Dr. Lim has consistently displayed a commitment to excellence in his career.

With a subspecialty in Infectious Diseases from the Philippine General Hospital, Dr. Lim’s contributions have been widely acknowledged by various sectors. His groundbreaking efforts in helping establish systems and models in addressing the pandemic with both the private and public sector earned him various recognitions from various local and national institutions.

And as the newly installed chief medical officer of Keralty Prime Cebu, Dr. Lim has been instrumental in pioneering transformative initiatives in primary healthcare, shaping the way primary care patient-centered services are delivered to the community.

Most recently, the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), an affiliate society of the Philippine Medical Association and a member-society of the International Society of Internal Medicine, recognized Dr. Lim asthe PCP’s Distinguished Health Care Advocate for 2023, chosen from among 9,111 members.

Being among one of the youngest doctors to have received this award, Dr. Lim’s dedication to his patients and the community is rooted in his personal experiences and core values. Reflecting on the transformative power of compassion, kindness, and scientific excellence, he shared: “I have learned firsthand the immense impact that dedicated healthcare professionals can have. It is this profound realization that has fueled my commitment to serve and offer compassion to those in need.”

Throughout his career, Dr. Lim has encountered significant challenges that have shaped his perspective and reinforced the importance of collaboration and empathy. Recognizing the role of healthcare professionals as collaborators and partners during the pandemic, he emphasizes the value of humility and the need to listen attentively and to work collaboratively.

“We don’t have all the answers. It’s tempting at times to believe that we, doctors, are the experts in all health issues, but solutions can come from the unlikeliest of places. The pandemic wasn’t only a health crisis, it was also a social crisis. As doctors and health advocates, our role goes beyond our medical expertise; it is to guide, collaborate, and most importantly, to listen.”

He continued: “Being a health advocate means embracing the responsibility of considering multiple perspectives and designing solutions that benefit everyone. It is about understanding that healthcare goes beyond the confines of a hospital or clinic—it is about making a positive impact on the lives of individuals and communities as a whole.”

When asked about what struck him most as his greatest lesson during the pandemic, Dr. Lim shared a personal story: “Be kind; everyone is struggling. It is important that we offer our help and assist with humility, patience, and always with compassion. When my father died from Covid early in the pandemic, I almost lost my will to work. My heart was drained, there was nothing left to give, and I had planned to quit. But I found sincere, silent compassion in the unlikeliest of places and that fueled my desire to serve even more. The most difficult times taught me that it is possible to transform pain to passion, grief to gratitude, suffering to grace. “

Dr. Lim continues to spearhead transformative patient-centered healthcare initiatives. His journey serves as an inspiration to his colleagues and the wider healthcare community. His relentless pursuit of excellence and dedication to improving the well-being of others make him a true healthcare trailblazer.

With his heart in the right place, Dr. Lim inspires hope, healing, and a brighter future for all. (SunStar Specials)


Proving Age is Just a Number: Senior Citizen Fulfills Lifelong Dream

Written by Pinky Halos
Edited by Myra C. Almodiel and Anna Cañas-Llamas

Edwin C. Tan’s inspiring story of pursuing higher education at an older age proves that it’s never too late to fulfill one’s dreams. A loving husband and a cool dad, Edwin decided to take the leap, enroll at the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU), and complete a Diploma in Environment and Natural Resources Management degree.

UP Open University utilizes open and distance elearning (ODeL) as its mode of teaching and learning, and its mission is to provide access to quality higher education to Filipinos everywhere, even to senior citiizens like Edwin. At the University of the Philippines, including UPOU, no student shall be denied admission to the University System by reason of age, sex, nationality, religious belief, or political affiliations [from Art. 332 of the UP System Code]. In addition, UPOU is open to students who are not able to join traditional and physical clases, since all teaching and learning is done online.

For Edwin, education is an essential part of life, regardless of age, and he believes that finishing a degree at one of the top schools in the country is an advantage. And although Edwin faced many challenges while completing his requirements, he persevered and was ultimately rewarded with a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

Through his experience at UPOU, Edwin developed a greater sense of belongingness, it developed his character and confidence, which has impacted his life in significant ways.

Today, Edwin is a proud UPOU alumni and he encourages others to follow in his footsteps. His advice to anyone considering pursuing higher education at UPOU is to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way and not wait any longer. Edwin’s inspiring journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and serves as a reminder that it’s never too late to chase your dreams.


#KwentongUPCAT elicits nostalgia as well as test tips from UP community

Written by KIM G Quilinguing

Mongol pencils, drinks and snacks were some of the things that quickly came to mind when alumni, students and staff of the University of the Philippines (UP) were asked to share their memories, under the hashtag #KwentongUPCAT, of the day they took the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT).

Launched by the UP Media and Public Relations Office (UP MPRO) on the UP System’s social media accounts on Tiktok, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, the #KwentongUPCAT videos are a mix of interviews and other contributions from alumni, students, and staff from different constituent units of the University all over the country.

Among those who shared their experience in taking the UPCAT were ABS-CBN Meteorologist and a UP alumnus Ariel Rojas, who recalled taking a tricycle from his home to the test venue. “I bought chips since my exam was scheduled in the afternoon. I also brought four newly sharpened Mongol #2 pencils,” he added. Rojas earned his Bachelor of Science in Food Technology and his Master of Science in Meteorology degrees from UP Diliman.

Ang #KwentongUPCAT sa araw na ito ay mula kay ABS-CBN Meteorologist Ariel Rojas ☄️ Ikaw, may #KwentongUPCAT ka ba? Share mo na yan sa comments sa ibaba para mas ma-excite at ma-inspire ang mga UPCAT takers ngayong taon! #fyp #foryoupage #UniversityofthePhilippines #UPFight

♬ original sound – University of the Philippines – University of the Philippines

A television personality, Jervi Li, more famously known as KaladKaren, who has built a following by impersonating journalist and fellow UP alumna Karen Davila, also shared her experience taking the UPCAT. She recalled that it was a rainy day when she left Bulacan to take the test in UP Diliman. She remembered arriving at Melchor Hall drenched, and how the proctor offered her a face towel to dry herself off. “The only thing that I was carrying during that time was a plastic envelope containing ballpens, paper and other requirements,” she said. Li earned her degree in Broadcast Communication, magna cum laude, also from UP Diliman.

Umula’t bumagyo, ayos lang ☔️ Pakinggan ang #KwentongUPCAT ni KaladKaren at iwasang maging isang basang sisiw sa araw ng #UPCAT2024 🥲 #fyp #foryoupage #UniversityofthePhilippines #UPFight

♬ original sound – University of the Philippines – University of the Philippines

For the student, JLO Garferio, who is in his senior year taking up Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in UP Diliman, there was a shortage of pencils at the time he was about to take the UPCAT. Hailing from Pigcawayan, Cotabato, he had to travel to Davao City to take the test in UP Mindanao. “I remember we went around Davao City to look for Mongol pencils. Good thing I was able to find three,” he recalled.

Magdala ng grocery sa UPCAT? Why not! 🥖 Pakinggan ang tips at #KwentongUPCAT ni JLO, fourth year MBB student pero fresh na fresh pa rin 😌 Ikaw, ano kaya magiging kwento mo sa darating na #UPCAT2024 ngayong June 3-4? #fyp #foryoupage #UniversityofthePhilippines #UPFight

♬ original sound – University of the Philippines – University of the Philippines

Aside from the videos, alumni of the University also shared some memories, as well as tips to this year’s test-takers, particularly in the comments sections of the UP System’s social media accounts.

On Instagram, an alumna Patricia Tan-Tirados recalled wearing red on the day of her test. And as brain boosters, she brought with her one tablespoon of peanuts, one tablespoon of anchovies, and one small chocolate bar. She also had a lucky coin inside her shoe. “All these were from the advice of my parents. Masunuring bata eh (I was an obedient child),” she added. Tan-Tirados earned her degree in Chemical Engineering from UP Diliman.

On Facebook, an ,alumna Ardythe Santos, shared how she and her fellow test-takers were brought to the UP Diliman campus by her neighbor’s dad. They had also missed lunch, as the afternoon session of her test date started at 12:30 PM. “I brought Eng Bee Tin hopia with me. And once we were done (with the test), we bought meals at Jollibee’s drive-thru service so that we could immediately go home,” she added. Santos earned her degree in Nutrition from UP Los Baños.

Meanwhile on LinkedIn, an alumnus, Raymond Sebastian shared how he lost his test permit the week before the UPCAT and how he was advised to bring instead an identification card and a couple of photos. He was issued a temporary test permit at the testing center. “My parents took it as a sign that I wasn’t meant to take the exam,” he wrote. He was the first graduate of his high school to study in UP. He eventually earned a Bachelor of Secondary Education degree from UP Diliman.

Several more alumni shared their stories and tips to this year’s test-takers, as excitement fills the UP community, which is once again seeing the administration of the UPCAT to applicants after a hiatus of almost three years.

At the height of the pandemic, applications for admission to the University were undertaken online by the UP College Admissions or UPCA, which assessed the students’ application according to their high school grades. No general test was conducted in compliance with health regulations intended to limit the spread of COVID 19 and its variants.

With most of the general population having been vaccinated in recent years, and the number of COVID 19 cases relatively under control, the University is once again conducting the UPCAT on June 3 and June 4 in 102 testing centers nationwide.

Watch the whole #KwentongUPCAT video series for stories and tips via the playlist below.


‘Empire of Light’

Empire of Light

Within the Expressionist landscape, emotions unfurl in a vibrant symphony of colors, brushwork, and texture. Vibrant hues, bold and unapologetic, embody the spectrum of human sentiment. From the fiery reds of passion to the melancholic blues of longing, each stroke is a whispered confession, each texture a testament to the intricacies of our shared humanity. It is in this realm where the expressionistic fervor of Rafaelle Louise’s literary prowess intertwines with her vivid imagination. The canvas becomes a stage, upon which the luminescent performers–the seemingly teardrop-shaped flames, ignite a captivating drama of existence.

In her newest iteration, Rafaelle Louise’s “Empire of Light” explores the profound interplay between colors, textures, and Zen iconographies by employing nuanced compositions and narratives–tapping the fragile nature of the human psyche. Through a tapestry of poetic imagery and visceral intent, Louise masterfully captures the enigmatic essence of flickering candles latticed across and over the canvas, inviting viewers into a realm of momentary introspection and vulnerability.

“I was interested in depicting a simple yet poetic representation of light: as a natural beacon of hope whether during the night or day, in sleep or in every waking moment, literally and figuratively, the light has always been there. This show is an invitation to look deeper for the light and uphold it for others to see.”

“Empire of Light” embodies the spirit of Rafaelle Louise’s artistic ethos—a profound exploration of the human condition, encapsulated in a canvas that intends to transcend its message beyond the physical realm. It’s in its quiet pleas that beckon us to embrace the impermanence of existence, to find solace in the interplay of light and dark, to awaken the dormant embers within ourselves. It is an invitation to participate in the symphony of life, to let the artistry of the flames’ glow kindles the fires of our own expression, embracing the profound beauty that lies within the depths of our souls.

Meditation | Manta XIII

Rafaelle Louise’s works for this show are a testament to the artist’s emotional journey–capturing the ebb and flow of existence, creating a visual symphony that resonates with the viewer’s emotional landscape. And as she lays bare the depths of human connection, so too do these artworks unveil the unspoken truths of the human condition. They challenge the viewer to confront the complexities of their own existence, to let the layers of artifice fall away, and bask in the transformative power of authentic expression, bright and delicate enough for everyone to feel its warmth.

Rafaelle Louise (b.1990) studied Visual Communication at the College of Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Rafaelle describes her oeuvre as “modern interplay between action painting and minimalism, where the end product stands somewhere between painting and sculpture”.

“Empire of Light” by Rafaelle Louise will be on view at Galerie Raphael U.P. Town Center from May 10 to 24, 2023. Galerie Raphael U.P. Town Center is located at the 2/F Phase 2, U.P. Town Center, Katipunan Ave., Diliman, Quezon City.


Filipina CEO Circle fetes lone PH Magsaysay Awardee

By Arlo Custodio

A FILIPINO pediatrician who has been championing the Filipino child’s right to protection by creating safe spaces for abused children nationwide, and the lone 2022 Ramon Magsaysay awardee from the Philippines, was the guest and keynote speaker at the Filipina CEO Circle (FCC) general membership meeting on May 11, 2023 held at the Ramon Magsaysay Center in Malate, Manila.

FCC co-founder Marife Zamora introduced host Cathy Yang, who in turn introduced pediatrician Bernadette Madrid. The doctor spoke on her advocacy that earned her Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now on its 65th year, Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation’s citation of Madrid reads in part: “Born to a family of professionals in Iloilo, Philippines, she studied medicine and pediatrics at the University of the Philippines Manila (UP Manila) and did a post-residency fellowship in ambulatory pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. The center’s Child Abuse Program opened her eyes to a problem that she and fellow Filipino doctors did not quite discern, though this was very much a part of daily reality in her home country, with its conditions of poverty, child labor, trafficking, and violence.

(From left) US Embassy Deputy Economic Counselor Alaina Magnotta, USAid Agreement Officer’s Representative Consuelo Lacson-Anonuevo, Valerie Pama, Susan Afan, The Manila Times President and COO Blanca Mercado, Kat Luna-Abelarde, Bernadette Madrid, Cathy Yang, Karen de Venecia, Margie Moran-Floirendo, Marife Zamora, Esther Santos and Ginia Domingo.

(From left) US Embassy Deputy Economic Counselor Alaina Magnotta, USAid Agreement Officer’s Representative Consuelo Lacson-Anonuevo, Valerie Pama, Susan Afan, The Manila Times President and COO Blanca Mercado, Kat Luna-Abelarde, Bernadette Madrid, Cathy Yang, Karen de Venecia, Margie Moran-Floirendo, Marife Zamora, Esther Santos and Ginia Domingo.

“Upon her return to the Philippines, she tried to establish a Child Abuse Program in the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila, the country’s premier public hospital, but the program was short-lived for lack of support. Madrid returned to Iloilo, started a private practice, and seemed headed for a quiet, provincial career until she was called back to Manila in 1996 to head an emergency unit for abused children in PGH, at the insistence of UP Manila and American child protection crusader David Bradley and the Advisory Board Foundation (now CityBridge Foundation). In 1997, Madrid assumed office as head of the PGH Child Protection Unit (PGH-CPU), the first such facility in the country. She would in the next 25 years pursue an active, multifaceted career that would put her at the helm of what has been praised as ‘the best medical system for abused children in Southeast Asia.’

“A one-stop health facility, PGH-CPU provides a coordinated program of medical, legal, social, and mental health services for abused children and their families. As of 2021, it has served 27,639 children. It became the axis of a national network of child protection units when the Child Protection Network Foundation Inc. (CPN), a partnership of civil society, academe, and government, was established in 2002. As CPN executive director, Madrid has designed programs and engaged with family courts, schools, hospitals, local government units, community organizations, and policymakers in advancing the cause of child protection.

“The board of trustees recognizes her unassuming and steadfast commitment to a noble and demanding advocacy; her leadership in running a multisectoral, multidisciplinary effort in child protection that is admired in Asia; and her competence and compassion in devoting herself to seeing that every abused child lives in a healing, safe, and nurturing society.”

Cathy Yang (center) being interviewed by The Manila Times and Asian TV Heritage Network together with (from left) Karen de Venecia, Marife Zamora, Susan Afan and The Manila Times President and COO Blanca Mercado.

Madrid said she was overwhelmed with gratitude to have been selected to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award, so honored to have her work recognized by Asia’s most prestigious award.

“I was asking, ‘Why me?’ I found more reasons as to why I am undeserving of this award. It is like the violin player receiving recognition on behalf of the whole orchestra. I am just one violin player. I am just a representation of the organizations in this crusade,” she said in her speech and interview at the FCC event.

Philippine Ballet Theater dancers perform excerpts from the Bicolano epic ‘Ibalon (The Love of Handyong and Oryol)’ which opens the 37th season of PBT in July at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Makati City,

She went on to say that in the last 25 years, she learned that there are no quick fixes, “that we cannot do this alone, that we need the system to work and that we need ordinary people to do their job with purpose, compassion, and skill. Unfortunately, I also found out that ending violence against children will not happen on its own. We need to fight for it. It needs planning, commitment, resources, persistence, and leadership. With it comes accountability.”

Pediatrician Bernadette Madrid PHOTOS BY ARLO CUSTODIO

There is no other cause where everyone in the country has a responsibility – starting with parents, schools, and communities. Universal parenting programs, safe schools, access to justice seem like common sense but they are not, she said.

“The Ramon Magsaysay Award has made me realize how much people care and that I am not alone. I am humbled and appreciative [of this recognition],” she said.

Yang also moderated the question-and-answer portion.

Philippine Ballet Theater (PBT) performed excerpts from the Bicolano epic “Ibalon (The Love of Handyong and Oryol),” which opens the 37th season of the dance the company at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Makati City in July – with shows on July 28 and 29 at 8 p.m.

Sponsored by Diamond Hotel Philippines, PLDT Smart, Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation and PBT, the event was also graced by Miss Universe 1973 and Cultural Center of the Philippines President Margie Moran.


Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr.: Fearless by no other name

By Jojo G. Silvestre


A few fortnights ago, Brig. General Gregorio Catapang Jr. hogged the limelight when he was named Director General of the Bureau of Corrections.

Prior to its new head’s assumption to office, this government agency, crucial to the success of the justice system in our country, had been the subject of controversial talk and writing that allude to mismanagement, graft and corruption, dangerous drugs trade, among other organizational ills and flaws in the institution’ leadership.

That Catapang’s appointment had been met with praise and great expectations merely affirms his sterling record as a bemedaled military officer. Among his 28 awards and badges are the Philippine Legion of Honor with the Degree of Chief Commander and Officer, Distinguished Service Star and the Distinguished Conduct Star.

His story as a public servant is worth telling, as it shows the rise of a man who, at an early age, had seen turmoil and chaos in his own country, all these in a political regime headed by an astute and brilliant man, Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr., whom the young Catapang admired. This same young man would choose to pursue a career in the military and distinguish himself as a principled commander.

Catapang’s recent guesting in a Daily Tribune online show allowed us a face-to-face encounter with the gentleman and officer who, by his appointment to the top post at the Bureau of Correction, replacing a controversial and crime-implicated head, had become the man of the hour.

Adding to the buzz is the gentleman’s interesting family name, Catapang, which roughly translates to “How Brave” in English. Thus has it been surmised, even if spoken with one’s tongue in cheek, that here is one public servant who will boldly and fiercely face a challenge, no matter how daunting.

Undoubtedly, It is this family name connoting valor and bravery that precedes the reputation of retired general Gregorio Pio Punzalan Catapang Jr., who also served as the 45th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

But if the gentleman officer is fearless, he is, at the same time, judicious and cautious.

Need for reform

When Catapang was appointed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to his current post, he saw that he was in for a big challenge.

“I pondered about many questions because I saw a lot of paradoxes in the way the agency was being run. For starters, why are they called ‘persons deprived of liberty’ when many of them are enjoying their life in prison? On the other hand, instead of being prepared for a new life after they have served their sentence, these people end up dying, their bodies left to disintegrate inside the morgue. So, I had some 140 cadavers buried,” he recounted.

“There is a need for these inmates to be reformed. We should make sure they don’t get involved in crimes. They should not end up being drug addicts. Drugs were rampant. That was how I was brought there. I was really determined to help the Secretary of Justice, my fraternity brother, Boying Remulla.”

A commander through and through

Of course, he had always believed in the incumbent president. “From the time he was running for Vice President, he was always for unity, and that was very impressive to me. He has always wanted to unite the country. It is, to me, the best battlecry a leader could have, especially at a time when the superpowers are fighting over us. If we don’t have unity, they’ll divide and rule.”

Catapang brings to the BuCor his exceptional record as a leader. He affirmed, “I am a meticulous commander through and through. I have never occupied a deputy position. I have always been the boss. Right from the start as platoon leader to company commander and battalion commander. Never a deputy. I have since decided my personal management style is to be meticulous. I always have meetings with my men.”

Of his many assignments, he remembered his Northern Luzon stint as challenging.
“I was the NOLCOM Commander. I was based in Tarlac, which was north of Metro Manila. As Northern Luzon Commander, one was in charge of the Army, Air Force, and Navy assigned to the area. That included Fuga Island in the northernmost part of the country. And Batanes, too. It was like going home because when I was still a lieutenant, I was assigned in Central Luzon. It was a most challenging time because the National People’s Army was at the height of its insurgency activities. People were dying, including servicemen, American retirees and the police. Even those who were manning the traffic were being gunned down by dissidents. It was the time of the Sparrow Unit. We had encounters with the NPA everyday.”

Protected by his guardian angel

That he has survived through the years, claiming he had had to face death nine times, he attributes to his guardian angel. “I almost died as a kid. I loved to move around and so, after I received the Holy Communion one Sunday, I fell off our staircase. Our house was being built then. I would run up and down and around, and once, I accidentally jumped from the roof and would have hit the ground but my shirt hit upon a branch of the tree and I got stuck in mid-air, giving the witnesses a chance to catch me as I eventually fell down.

“My mother said, ‘Your guardian angel took care of you because you had just received your first communion so you better behave. I could count the number of times I could have died or been killed. It was nine times.”

Catapang claimed, “It was really my destiny to be a military man.”

He said, “My parents were dedicated and honest government employees. My father, Gregorio Senior, was a lawyer with the Securities and Exchange Commission. My mother, Lourdes, was an accountant with the Department of Finance.

“I grew up in a simple home in Quezon City. My parents’ priority was the education of their children and they worked hard to send me to Claret School which had a reputation for giving its students a strong grounding in academics, thus producing graduates who mostly went to college at the University of the Philippines.”

While theirs was not a hand-to-mouth existence, the family scrimped on their resources. “As enrolment neared, my parents would borrow money using their only piece of property as collateral. They would pay for its amortization in the next 12 months and, when it was fully paid, the next enrolment had come,” he recalled.

Named after heroes

His baptismal name predicted his future. “I was named after Gregorio del Pilar. And also Pio del Pilar. My younger brother was named Jose Protacio.

“You should be careful when you name your children because their name leads them to the lives they will live,” he half-jested.

Evident from his youth was his interest in academics. “I was a homebody and did not maintain a set of friends or barkada. To cope with the demands of the stringent academic requirements, I spent most of my time reading and studying.”

THIS no-nonsense general was named after Filipino patriots Gregorio del Pilar and Pio del Pilar.

An early idol “from my youth was President Ferdinand Ferdinand E. Marcos. I always followed his career. He was a genius. The country was under martial rule and everything revolved around him. He changed the political landscape. Marcos was a great leader and wanted his name etched in the annals history. The many projects that have been implemented later were conceptualized during his time like the C5 Road.

“I think there was only one problem about his leadership. He did not provide for a smooth leadership turnover. Of the 12 laws of leadership that he followed, he failed in only one, which was to train a successor. What happened was a power struggle ensued as the leaders under him expected him to be gone.”

Growing up in Project 6, Catapang witnessed “a tumultuous phase in our country’s history when rallies would reach as far as our community in Project 6. It was the time of the Diliman commune and people were running.”

Catapang’s journey as a leader began in high school when he represented Claret School in the national convention of the Children’s Museum and Library, Inc. He was elected at the top of the board of directors by the 1,000-plus delegates. “I followed my adviser’s instruction that I stand firm and tall,” he shared. It was the stance of a confident young man and that attracted the attention of fellow delegates. When it came time for the elected board to elect the officers, he got one that was at the bottom of the rung, which was auditor.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOEY SANCHEZ MENDOZA FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE | (FROM left) Dennis Gelacio, Manny Angeles, Daily Tribune publisher Willie Fernandez, General Gregorio Pio Punzalan Catapang Jr. and Noel Cruz.

From PMA to UP

Since he was aware of his parents’ financial standing, Catapang aimed for UP and the Philippine Military Academy, knowing that the students in both schools were state scholars.

After his high school graduation in 1977, “the PMA results came out first, and so I took the first bus that went up to Baguio and presented myself. I knew I could not be late because I might be classified as ‘AWOL’ and my slot would be given to those in the waiting list. I did not wait anymore for the UP exam results.”

He was already a first lieutenant when he participated in the faculty recruitment program of the PMA. One was allowed to go on study leave for two years, after which he would be given a faculty position in the academy. He originally applied for a study leave to pursue law at UP. Instead, he was given a scholarship grant to pursue Master of Arts in Political Science.

UP would give him a progressive outlook. “I was recruited to the Upsilon fraternity. My initiation was quite challenging. Later I found out that they suspected me to be a military infiltrator and when my brods who would be conducting the initiation sought the advice of the fraternity’s elders, they were told to make the initiation doubly hard for me just to make sure I was not there just to spy.”

Later, while still at the University of the Philippines, he would join the Reform the Armed Forces of the Philippines Movement. It was Catapang who gave their group the name RAM. He points out that there were three kinds of RAM, He was part of the reformist group which began in 1983. They were the junior officers that included Vic Batac, Flores and Gringo Honasan.

The following years would see his continuous promotion, aided by his zeal for the service and loyalty to his country.

When he became the Chief of Staff, Catapang exhorted the troops “to strictly adhere to the AFP’s slogan of “Kawal DISIPLINADO, bawal ABUSADO, dapat ASINTADO.” Roughly translated, he demanded of his men discipline and keenness not only with their mark but in their duty, while condemning military abuse of their authority.

These three key words, according to him, “should be followed by every AFP personnel for them to become proficient in fire and maneuver and be able to avoid collateral damage; be respectful of human rights, adhere to international humanitarian law and rule of law, as well as the rules of engagement of the IPSP Bayanihan.”

Early on in his career, his prayer to “marry my first girlfriend,” was granted by the Almighty. Catapang would sire children and name them according to the family tradition of choosing lofty nationalistic terms, namely: Rally (“rally”), born in 1984; Rev (“revolution”), born in 1986 when the People Power Revolution took place; Coup’dy (“coup d’état”), born in 1987, at the height of coup attempts against President Cory Aquino; Ysa (pagkakaisa, Tagalog for “unity”), born in 1993 when the president was Fidel V. Ramos whom Catapang admired “for uniting the Armed Forces.”; and Best General, the superlative in allusion to giving his best in his various positions all the way to being Chief of Staff.

GENERAL Catapang with the Daily Tribune family.

The following are excerpts from the Daily Tribune Interview with the author:

Daily Tribune (DT): Your leadership has always been recognized for your success in civil relations. How did this come about?

Gregorio Catapang Jr (GCJ): I learned this from UP. According to the Art of War by Sun Tzu, the greatest strategy was to win over your enemy without firing a single shot. I have read Sun Tzu several times, and I read that the only way to win over one’s enemy is to build alliances. If we were all friends, we would have only one single enemy. And the enemy would be overwhelmed by the fact that we are all friends and allies.

DT: How do you brush up on your leadership skills?

GCJ: From my younger days, I always loved to read. I had the advantage of taking my graduate studies at the University of the Philippines. We had the biggest library and so I learned everything I could. I learned about such matters as the coup de etat. I would stay in the library the whole day when I did not have classes.

DT: What is your stand on compulsory military training?

GCJ: I advocate compulsory military training because we need it. We are in the middle of a superpower rivalry. Anytime there can be war. Any of the superpowers could declare it. And if they miscalculate each other, there will be war. Miscalculation can lead to war.

DT: What’s in your bucket list?

GCJ: Hopefully to finish my reform agenda in BuCor. And then, I hope I can catch up with my readings in Non-Fiction. Especially about understanding what’s happening around the world.

DT: What are your favorite books?

GCJ: Books about world’s statesmen like Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton. Especially leaders who write their own autobiographies. I like inspirational books. And books that contain advice on leadership like those written by management guru Johyn Maxwell. I love his 48 Laws of Leadership.

DT: What else do you want to achieve?

GCJ: I want to finish my mission at BuCor. It’s what’s keeping keeping me busy.

DT: What’s your prayer for this country?

GCJ: A: My prayer is for unity. If your country is not united, you will be destroyed. You will be destroyed from the outside.

DT: What do you want to do after you retire?

GCJ: Go back to farming. It’s really part of me because when I was the Chief of Staff, I would often say that in the 21st century, all the wars we’ll be facing will be global. Global climate change, global transnational crime, global territorial claims, transnational crime, drug smuggling, human trafficking, cybercrime, all these did not come from us. Going back to farming is basic. It is being in touch with your roots and realizing the gift of home and of being Filipino. The best form of gratitude is to go back to your roots and the land that has nourished you and your loved ones.


Meet Filipino percussionist Zara Rivera

By Irene de Jesus Obligacion

Zara Rivera has been a professional percussion player since 2012. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Zara Rivera earned her Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) andcompleted her Education course from the University of the Philippines (UP) Open University Faculty of Education. Zara is also a Google Certified Educator.

Zara has been playing concert percussion professionally since 2012. She was a member of the Manila Symphony Orchestra and a program musician for the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) and the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra.

She is an officer of the Percussive Arts Society of the Philippines, which was awarded as PAS outstanding Chapter in 2021.

Currently, Zara is a Music teacher at the Everest International Academy. She provides percussion/drum lessons to several students from the International School Manila and British School Manila.

We had a short chat with Zara online, and here is that conversation.

What motivates you in your career?

Love of learning, with others, through others. I always get excited when new opportunities come, whether it’s teaching a class or individual lesson. Preparing for an audition, studying parts and learning/relearning percussion instruments for an upcoming performance. It is a continuous adventure that gives me inspiration and enables me to discover new challenges which cultivates both my personal and professional growth.

What is the most important thing a musician should practice in order to be a successful member of an orchestra?

A sense of professionalism. Every orchestra has its ups and downs, and a true professional musician focuses his or her energy in a positive way. When a player sees that something is not working well, he or she needs to take action and seek solutions. Punctuality and preparedness are key in building professional relationships and making a great impression. Being able to cooperate and collaborate with any of the members of the orchestra is one of the expected behaviors. Ultimately, a musician should be depended on to do what they are committed to do.

What are you most thankful for?

I am beyond grateful for the support and encouragement from family, friends, and colleagues. Most importantly, I am fortunate to be able to perform two different roles as an educator and percussionist which enables me to share my knowledge and skills and connect with others through music.


A woman of Science: Marieta Baňez-Sumagaysay

DoST’s Marieta Baňez-Sumagaysay with one of the recipients of the many trainings conducted by the agency. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MARIETA Baňez-Sumagaysay or MBS to the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) staff all these years had proven time and again that gender is and should not be an issue in the science profession.

“There can be no sex discrimination in an environment where merits count and where skills outweigh any sex-related factors, and this gave me the resolve to contribute to making this kind of environment happen for more women in science,” MBS, former director of the DoST-National Research Council of the Philippines (DoST-NRCP) and currently Professor 12 of Economics at UP Visayas Tacloban College, said of her early work experience in the field of sciences.

When MBS became the executive director of the DoST-NRCP in November 2015, she knew that her task was to promote basic research, and she did that exactly.

“The challenge in 2016 was so great — how to produce impactful results given the very low research budget. NRCP was then funding projects of less than P1 million; even as low as P300,000 if only to fund more of its more than 3,000 NRCP members. What impact can we expect?” MBS honestly depicted the basic research situation when she joined the council.

Under MBS’ leadership, together with the secretariat and with the approval of the Governing Board, NRCP came up with issue-based National Integrated Basic Research Agenda 2017-2022, and this served as NRCP’s guide for prioritizing research proposals for funding, as ably implemented by the Research and Development Management Division. NRCP’s Grants-In-Aid amounted to P12 million in 2016, which jumped to P117 million in 2022. And from having 3,927 members in 2015, the NRCP’s membership now stands at 5,111.

MBS’ advice to young Filipinos is this: “Stay focused. Seek for and be keen on opportunities that are for the taking.”

She cautioned them that, “You cannot have your cake and eat it, too. There will be trade-offs and opportunity costs while building a career. Remember to make conscious decisions by choosing options that will maximize your gains given the constraints and the limitations.”

Lastly, MBS invites the young to remember that “Women and girls hold half of the sky and half of the seas. Claim it!”


Meet the designer behind the scene-stealing furniture in ‘Dirty Linen’


Yabut hopes to someday have boutique showrooms in Singapore, Tokyo, New York and Milan. “That’s part of my 10- to 20-year plan,” he says. Photo courtesy of Yabut

The Pabo chair of Cielo Fiero was originally commissioned by celebrity hairstylist Jing Monis.

If you’ve been watching the revenge drama “Dirty Linen,” chances are you may have caught the powerful-looking Pabo chair in Doña Cielo Fiero’s (Tessie Tomas) room. Some people thought it was inspired by the adventure fantasy series “Game of Thrones” but the chair’s designer, the architect Jed Yabut, says it’s a contemporary reimagination of the Peacock Chair which was popularized by PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) in Bilibid back in the 1900s.

The powerful-looking Pabo Chair befits the character of Doña Cielo on Dirty Linen.
The Pabo chair, which appeared on the show Dirty Linen, is Yabut’s modern rendition of the Peacock Chair.

The Pabo chair was actually commissioned work for celebrity hairstylist Jing Monis. “[Jing] wanted a Peacock Chair, but not the traditional one,” Yabut recalls. So what the architect-turned-furniture designer did was make the Peacock more masculine. “But it still has the feel of a throne,” he offers.

Meanwhile, Dreamscape Entertainment head Deo Endrinal, a fan of Yabut’s work, instructed the show’s production designer Nancy Arcega to check out some of the designer’s pieces for “Dirty Linen.” And that’s how the Pabo chair made it to local TV’s most talked about series.

The shapes and designs of Yabut’s furniture pieces are inspired by Filipino icons.

Like the original Peacock Chair, the Pabo is also made of rattan. In fact, Yabut, who started his furniture business during the pandemic, specializes in making contemporary rattan furniture. “I chose a material that has a lot of nostalgia in it,” he tells us. “Back in the 1980s, sobrang nag-boom ang rattan furniture in the Philippines and globally.”

Over time, however, furniture made from different materials came in, including plastics from China, and these eclipsed the popularity of rattan. “I chose to specialize in rattan because I want to also bring it back in fashion,” he tells ANCX. But Yabut wanted to make his works more modern and edgy, conversation pieces that emphasize “random patterns and varied textures as an homage to the Filipino sensibilities of ‘beautiful chaos’ and resourcefulness…I didn’t want to make it look like it’s the traditional rattan furniture that we are all familiar with, so I added twists and lots of geometric shapes.”

“I chose to specialize in rattan because I want to also bring it back in fashion,” says Yabut.

To highlight the Filipino-ness of his creations, he named his pieces alon, ati-atihan, bakawan, bunot, pugad, salbabida, tinikling, trumpo, and so on. “Apart from the nostalgia that I want to bring into the minds of users and lookers, gusto ko rin makita nila na yung mga shapes ng mga designs natin are based from Filipino icons,” he says, adding that the “exoticism of the word may also spark interest in the global furniture scene.”

To reinforce the durability of his pieces, Yabut uses metal framing, which are covered with rattan skin and rattan peel. The Pabo chair, for instance, has metal frames at the back and bottom. He also uses only locally supplied wood and raw materials. “We make sure that our pieces are 100% Philippine produced,” he says.

Yabut says the “random patterns and varied textures” of his creations are “an homage to the Filipino sensibilities of ‘beautiful chaos’ and resourcefulness.”

Yabut earned a degree in Architecture at the University of the Philippines. After graduating from college, he worked for eight years at Architect 61, one of the big architectural firms in Singapore involved in building skyscraper projects.

The Manila-born Yabut later worked at Nikken Sekkei, the largest architectural firm in Japan and believed to be third largest in the world. There, he worked mostly on hospitality projects like the Four Seasons Hotel and a ski resort in Hanazono, Hokkaido. While in Japan, he completed his Master of Business Administration, already entertaining thoughts of switching to business consultancy.

To reinforce the durability of his pieces, Yabut uses metal framing.

Fate, however, had other plans. Just as he was hired to work for Japanese real estate company Mitsubishi Estate in Singapore, the pandemic hit. He went home to the Philippines thinking the situation would normalize in two or three months but it didn’t. That’s when he thought of creating a furniture line in the Philippines.

“It was not in my wildest dreams, not in a three- or five-year horizon, that I planned on becoming a furniture designer,” the 37-year-old architect tells us.

Thru the advice of his Chinese classmate in MBA, Yabut started his furniture business at the height of the pandemic. “We have a saying in Chinese that, ‘thriving and successful businesses are born during years of crisis,’” he recalls his friend saying. He designed his first collection in July of 2020 and launched it December the same year.

“We make sure that our pieces are 100% Philippine produced,” he says.

Yabut’s company has been doing well since. “I don’t have the numbers but I felt like nag-spike ang demand for rattan furniture during the pandemic,” he says. “That’s because I think people wanted to feel more connected with nature, with organic things, with wood since we were all enclosed in our spaces.”

Yabut says furniture makers these days are mostly in their 40s and 50s. So to help preserve the legacy of rattan furniture making in the Philippines, he hires and trains younger artisans. “Ang maganda sa mga bata mabilis silang matuto. In as much as I want to support our [older] artisans, feeling ko I need now to step up in trying to explore and teach the younger generation about it.”

To help preserve the legacy of rattan furniture making in the Philippines, Yabut hires and trains younger artisans.

Yabut’s modern rattan furniture pieces can be seen at Angkan Coffee Company, SM North The Block Food Hall, Mugna Cafe Bohol, and Lihim Resorts El Nido. He’s also currently working on outdoor pieces for Pia Wurtzbach’s personal lanai, including what he named the “Binibini” chair, “an outdoor piece with organic lines and graceful silhouette befitting a queen.” It looks like this erstwhile architect is becoming the maker of seats of power.

Photos courtesy of Jed Yabut