Over two decades ago, UP pioneered the country’s first university-based formal volunteer service program. The program merged from a study conducted by Dr. Maria Luisa Doronila and Dr. Ledivina Cariño that looked into how much value UP students ascribed to social commitment—essentially asking, “Has UP lost its soul?” The response to that study was the creation on February 28, 1994 of the Ugnayan ng Pahinungod/Oblation Corps.
The Pahinungod Program is a legacy of UP President Emil Q. Javier’s administration. The autonomous universities under the UP System had Pahinungod offices under the UP System Pahinungod, which had Dr. Cariño of the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance as the first Director, followed by Dr. Grace Aguiling-Dalisay of the Department of Psychology, UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.
In his article published in Social Science Diliman in December 2011 titled “Empowering the Youth Through Voluntarism: University of the Philippines Graduates as Volunteer Teachers,” Dr. Neil Martial Santillan wrote: “The first five years of Pahinungod saw the implementation of a multitude of programs with support from students, staff, and faculty of the different UP campuses—medical missions coupled with training of community-based health professionals and seminars on basic health care; relief and rehabilitation work in calamity-stricken areas; programs empowering farmers as agricultural scientists; summer immersion programs for students to gain insights directly from the community; service learning as an instructional method; peer counseling; ecology camps; training workshops for teachers on updated pedagogical skills; examination for students in the provinces underrepresented in UP (affirmative action program), and deployment of graduates as volunteer teachers in remote areas (Gurong Pahinungod).”
As the UP administration changed, priorities shifted as well, leading to a change in fortunes for the UP System Pahinungod. After UP President Javier’s time, a devolution policy allowed the now UP constituent units to decide whether or not to continue the Pahinungod Program. UP Manila, UPLB, and UP Visayas all chose to retain the program in their own ways. The UP Diliman Pahinungod, however, was dissolved, and the task of providing avenues for volunteerism were transferred to the colleges’ extension service initiatives, coordinated by the UP Diliman Office of Extension Coordination.
Here, the people who served as Directors of the UP Diliman Pahinungod look back on their experiences, the challenges they faced, and the lessons they learned about the spirit of volunteerism and the blossoming of UP’s soul.
How did you get into volunteering?
I was with a group back in the 1980s to mid-1990s. It was called the Education Forum, an arm of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines. The volunteers were teachers from public and private schools. We would hold seminar workshops to enrich the curriculum—not only strategies but content as well—because we thought the teachers should make the decision about these matters, not just the administration. The word “empowerment” wasn’t in vogue yet, but I think that’s what we were doing. We asked, how do you make education relevant? So it was education for social transformation. Of course, you needed the teachers for that, so we would hold workshops for both the administration and the teachers to get them started at the same level.
When did you serve as UP Diliman Pahinungod Director?
I came in from 1999 to 2002. Grace Dalisay was System Director at the time, so I took over in Diliman. I was winding up my second term as Principal of the UP Integrated School (UPIS) and began sitting in as Director of Diliman Pahinungod in February. I formally took over around April. I was also director of the Education Research Program of the Center for Integrative and Development Studies at the time.
My teaching at the UPIS was what kept my feet on the ground. Then the UP Open University asked me to handle one graduate course on language and literacy, and that’s how I started with the UPOU around 2000 to 2001. Then in 2008, I was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Education of the UPOU.
Tell us about the Gurong Pahinungod.
My term was under UP President Emil Javier, then President Francico Nemenzo, with Dr. Emerlinda Roman as Chancellor of UP Diliman. During my time, the administration was streamlining the budget, so all the offices were asked to be more stringent with expenses. So we looked at all the programs of the Pahinungod, we met with the staff and volunteers, and selected the programs that clearly achieved the objectives of the Pahinungod. And we saw that the Gurong Pahinungod, which was launched in 1997 in collaboration with the Department of Education, had a big impact.
So we strengthened the Gurong Pahinungod. We incorporated teacher-training seminar-workshops. For example, we would send volunteers to a school in an underserved community, and we would visit the Pahinungod volunteers quarterly.
The staff would go to a district, assess the surroundings, see what schools were covered in the district, then conduct a survey on what these schools needed. The Gurong Pahinungod would help the teachers in conducting this survey. Based on the results, we would choose from the expertise of the faculty-volunteers from Diliman or elsewhere for the workshop we would run. So if the teachers said they needed training in English, Science and Social Studies, that’s what we went with, choosing a maximum of three subject areas for the workshop. The visit to the school would last five days, and the workshop three days. In between we would process the Gurong Pahinungod volunteers. But really, the entire thing was a community effort.
Our Gurong Pahinungod volunteers did not come from just the College of Education. They came from Engineering, Business Administration, Economics, Social Sciences and Philosophy, and so on. If they weren’t from Education, we would offer them programs on teaching and education prior to their deployment, equivalent to around 18 units, so many of them take and pass teacher exams after their one year of volunteer service and become teachers.
What were the challenges you faced as UP Diliman Pahinungod Director?
I saw the political aspect of it, when they ended the Pahinungod in Diliman. I went on sabbatical at the time, but most of my activities during my sabbatical involved working with the struggling Pahinungod. We worked together to fight for the retention of the office. In fact, some of the deans rejected the idea of devolving Pahinungod to their units.
We, the Pahinungod directors, even agreed that, ideally, the Pahinugod Office would oversee the activities of the National Service Training Program, so that the volunteer activities and NSTP activities would be coordinated, with no overlaps and duplications. Diliman could form teams consisting of volunteers from each disciplinal cluster or a blend of disciplines and these teams could adopt communities and develop programs, with the involvement of the communities.
There was no shortage of volunteers?
No. The students would come to the office and volunteer. There was no Diliman unit that didn’t have volunteers, and their usual comment was that they learned more from the community than the community from them. That’s usually the case.
Also, they found an outlet for what they wanted to do, other than purely academics, and they managed to blend academics with volunteering. There was a service-learning option, where instead of just submitting a term paper, you applied theories and principles outside. The NCPAG had this, and sometimes the volunteers would go to a depressed community and serve the senior citizens by facilitating their applications for senior citizen IDs.
We even had the Quezon City Jail Project where the volunteers would go to the Quezon City Jail in coordination with the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and conduct literacy workshops, or simply visit with the jail inmates who had nobody to visit them, or run simple errands for them, or on certain occasions, hold programs to entertain them. I remember some volunteers from the College of Music who would sing for them or play instruments.
I really saw the effort these young people put into volunteering, and the camaraderie they developed. As director, I learned so much from them. And we and the volunteers still get in touch with one another. They still organize groups and do volunteer work. They still do this to this day, even though they already have families now.
What is it about volunteering?
I think it’s inherent in us Filipinos, because we’re not really individualistic. We love working with communities; there’s a sense of service there. However, if you don’t make the students aware that this opportunity is available, they might get distracted, because there are so many more interesting things to do. Volunteerism is a way for them to see that there is a world outside where they are now.
What do you believe is the legacy of the UP Diliman and UP System Pahinungod?
As long as public service is there through the Padayon Public Service Office, and as long as it’s not a dole-out… UP is part of a bigger community, so we should always be involved—not only aware, but involved. We should do something. That’s why it’s called activism, because you act on it. It’s active participation.
It’s not just about joining a radical movement. Teachers can do this in class. We’re supposed to be dealing with knowledge, right? When we gain knowledge, we become more aware. But do we stop at awareness? No, we do something. We change our behavior. How do you share what you learned? How do you learn further from others so that you become a better person?
While each day is a learning experience, the learning from volunteering is deeper, broader. You learn to see society as one big school. The whole community is the school. Education happens every day, everywhere. Everyone is a part of it.