The Many Facets of VP Wendell Capili

| Written by Franco Gargantiel II

Vice President for Public Affairs Jose Wendell P. Capili in his interview with the UP Forum. Photo by Misael Bacani, UP MPRO.


If you happen to visit Art Circle Café in the UP Diliman campus, odds are you might see a bespectacled man enjoying a cup coffee and a meal. Don’t be surprised if this person turns out to be Professor Wendell Capili as that café happens to be his favorite spot in the campus. Yet at first glance, people would never assume that this distinguished looking professor-type enjoys romantic comedy movies, runs as a hobby, and loves eating sapin-sapin, his favorite Filipino snack.

Dr. Jose Wendell P. Capili is currently the UP Vice President for Public Affairs (VPPA). A Professor 12 at the Department of English and Comparative Literature in UP Diliman, his favorite subject to teach is Filipino literature in English.

He also cannot live without his mobile phone. He says that when he wakes up in the morning, the first thing he does is to check his phone for messages.

Making good on a promise

Capili has had a very long and personal history with the University of the Philippines. His earliest memory of UP was during a trip with his father when he was seven years old. “We were driving to a relative’s house in Tandang Sora, and we briefly stopped the car.” His father pointed out the UP campus to the boy, and told him that this would be the place where he would soon learn, and be educated.

Capili made good on that promise, teaching in UP as a professor for 35 years. He also spent 25 of those years serving as a University administrator: as a program development associate to UP Diliman Chancellor Claro T. Laguno and Chancellor Emerlinda R. Roman from 1997 to 2001, and as Associate Dean of the UP College of Arts and Letters for nine years. He then became Assistant Vice President (AVP) for Public Affairs for fourteen years, serving under six UP VPs for Public Affairs and three UP Presidents.


“We have to ensure that more Filipinos feel that UP is there for them. That UP is not just for the Iskolar ng Bayan; UP is for the Filipino people.” – Capili


Capili explaining his thoughts on UP’s role in nation-building. Photo by Misael Bacani, UP MPRO.

From the ground up

When asked about his initial reaction to being appointed as the Vice President for Media Public Affairs, Capili said he was very surprised. Up until that point, he was already considering going back to his home department and taking on a full-time teaching load.

“I thought that it was already the end of my career as an administrator and that I should spend more time as a University professor.” Although he had conditioned himself mentally to teach full time, he nevertheless accepted the new position that was given to him.

Of course, appointing someone with an academic and administrative career as long and impressive as his as the next UP VP for Public Affairs was a logical move on the part of the new administration. According to Capili, his experience of serving under six different VPs and three different UP Presidents will enable him not just to understand how the Office of the Vice President of Public Affairs is run, but also to see himself as an instrument between different sectors of the University.

“I really started from the bottom. I came from the gutter. Getting into the University, I snuck my way in,” he said of his beginnings in UP he as a temporary instructor with a yearly contract for several years before gaining tenure.

The importance of kindness in UP

Capili knows all about the struggles many UP staff and community members face. He knows what it’s like to be hungry, to have his salaries delayed and his overload pay withheld for years, to not even have the luxury of having his own office. He is well aware of the fact that there are problems that need to be resolved within the University, and if someone like him, with the highest rank of a Professor 12, feels the bitterness of these struggles, then how much worse is it for administrative staff, instructors and part-time UP contractual workers?

“I hope I can be an instrument to getting things done. Not necessarily solving these issues right away, but be the instrument, pointing out which office should attend to their needs.”

He went on to say: “As Vice President, I would be able to amplify these issues a little more, because I know things on the ground. I’m not sitting inside an air-conditioned office; I know what’s really going on down there.”

His vision aligns with new UP President Jimenez’s thrust to promote kindness and not just compassion within UP. “In the University, we keep on talking about honor and excellence. But what’s the point of having honor and excellence if you are not kind to the people around you?” Capili asked.

Aside from vulnerable UP administrative staff and contractual workers, especially those who are single parents, Capili also takes to heart the struggles his students face, many of whom come to his class without having eaten anything. “The fact that the President has emphasized in his speech that we have to have honor and excellence—that is something that we have been doing. But it has to resonate in spaces outside our classrooms, outside our offices. We have to connect to the larger community.”


“I’d rather that people do not just strive for excellence.
They have to be kind, and they have to be driven to encourage and inspire as many people as they can,
within the place of work or home or community.” – Capili


UP for the Filipino people

Capili believes that each employee should feel that change is happening, and that it shouldn’t be merely confined to motherhood statements. “You are not a UP official because you have to attend all these glorious events,” he said. “You are an official because you have to be an instrument. You have to attend to all these different matters that concern the lives of these people. And not just the lives of one or two people that you know. There are so many people that you still have to get to know. They all have backstories, and they needed to be attended to.”

His biggest goal is to make sure that the University does its best to make supportive processes more seamless, and that UP’s presence is felt not just by its constituents but by every Filipino.

“It is important that the operations of the Office of the Vice President for Public Affairs should resonate not just within our publics, but with the larger external public. We have to ensure that more Filipinos feel that UP is there for them. That UP is not just for the Iskolar ng Bayan; UP is for the Filipino people.”

The best piece of advice Capili has been given is to be very diligent and to be determined to succeed, but more importantly, to inspire others. Many of his childhood teachers who didn’t necessarily have high positions or ranks were the ones who inspired him to choose the path that he has taken for himself, and for that he is very grateful to them.

“I’d rather that people do not just strive for excellence,” he shared. “They have to be kind, and they have to be driven to encourage and inspire as many people as they can, within the place of work or home or community.”

A behind the scenes photo of Capili during the formal portrait session for UP officials. Photo by Misael Bacani, UP MPRO.

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