FROM PROBLEM-SOLVING CHEAPSKATE TO SUMMA CUM LAUDE: THE STORY OF ALEX CRUZ

In April 2009, two months before studying chemical engineering at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, Alexander John Cruz had a big problem. He only had P2,500 in his wallet and was waiting for classes to begin so he could receive his scholarship allowance from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). He was already at the university that time, attending tutorial classes as part of his scholarship program. He was promised a P3,000-allowance, to be given in two tranches for the duration of the preparatory classes. The first half would be released at the start of the tutorials, the second half by the end. With little money for two months, he had to ask for free menudo sauce at the University Consumers Cooperative canteen, so he would only pay for rice in his meals. He became a cheapskate not by choice, but by circumstance. Alex is no stranger to poverty. When he was 2 years old, his mother, a single parent, had to enroll him at the barangay Day Care Center in Talavera, Nueva Ecija because she didn't have the money to buy for his milk. The center was managed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the students were given free food in class. When he was a kid, he was used to making a meal out of rice swimming in sugar water. When he graduated valedictorian at the Honorato C. Perez, Sr. Memorial Science High School in Cabanatuan City, he was originally supposed to enroll in a provincial college, even if he passed the highly competitive UP College Admission Test. "If you have the money, go to UP," his mother told him. READ MORE...

ALSO: Fil-Am doctor among 3 killed in Kabul hospital attack

Three Americans including a half-Filipino doctor were killed by an Afghan government security officer at a hospital Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks on foreign civilians that has rattled aid workers, contractors and journalists. Another American, a female medical worker, was wounded in the attack at Cure International Hospital of Kabul, run by a U.S.-based Christian charity, and the gunman also was wounded, officials said. The hospital staff performed surgery on the attacker, who had shot himself, before he was handed over to Afghan authorities, Cure said in a statement. However, Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the assailant was shot by other security guards. The attacker's motive was not clear, police said, and there was no Taliban claim of responsibility by Thursday night.

ALSO: Revisiting 12 children in Velasco's 'Hapag ng Pag-asa'

The 12 street children in Hapag ng Pag-asa, a highly recognizable work by the late Joey Velasco, have moved many who look at the most reproduced contemporary painting. Unbeknown to all, however, the models whose ages range from four to 14 each have a story to tell beyond the four corners of the mural. Before he passed away, Velasco did not stop at depicting them in the canvass, but secured for them a shelter at a Gawa Kalinga village. He continued reaching out to them until his death in July 2010 at age 43. Itok, Nene, Joyce, Tinay, Emong, Onse, Buknoy, Michael, Dodoy, Jun and Roselle were given a better chance of life, but nine years since the painting was made public, they all continue to face life's constant battles. READ MORE...

ALSO: Earth and art

University of the Philippines Diliman Masters in Fine Arts students celebrate Earth Day with the opening of a show entitled Lupa Hangin Tubig Apoy. This group exhibit showcases works of artists with different backgrounds but all decided to use discarded materials as part of their installation pieces. The four artists not only deal with discarded and found objects but the theme of the exhibit, which opened on April 22, harks the traditional classification of the elements used in antiquity.READ MORE...


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From problem-solving cheapskate to summa cum laude: the story of Alex Cruz

MANILA, APRIL 28, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Jovan Cerda - In April 2009, two months before studying chemical engineering at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, Alexander John Cruz had a big problem.

He only had P2,500 in his wallet and was waiting for classes to begin so he could receive his scholarship allowance from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). He was already at the university that time, attending tutorial classes as part of his scholarship program. He was promised a P3,000-allowance, to be given in two tranches for the duration of the preparatory classes.

The first half would be released at the start of the tutorials, the second half by the end. With little money for two months, he had to ask for free menudo sauce at the University Consumers Cooperative canteen, so he would only pay for rice in his meals. He became a cheapskate not by choice, but by circumstance.

Alex is no stranger to poverty. When he was 2 years old, his mother, a single parent, had to enroll him at the barangay Day Care Center in Talavera, Nueva Ecija because she didn't have the money to buy for his milk.

The center was managed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the students were given free food in class. When he was a kid, he was used to making a meal out of rice swimming in sugar water.

When he graduated valedictorian at the Honorato C. Perez, Sr. Memorial Science High School in Cabanatuan City, he was originally supposed to enroll in a provincial college, even if he passed the highly competitive UP College Admission Test.

"If you have the money, go to UP," his mother told him.

Two weeks before his high school graduation, he learned that he won a scholarship from DOST, so he hopped on a bus to Quezon City the following month, tugging his bags and appliances, with a meager amount in his wallet.

Five years later, his big gamble paid off. Alex is not only graduating on Sunday; he will graduate with the university's highest academic achievement.

"I was the first in the family. No one ever expected that I'd be a summa cum laude graduate," he said.

But he had it all planned from the start. On his first semester in university, Alex sat his first long exam in Math 17, the notorious college algebra and trigonometry course that occupies a spot in UP Diliman campus legends. For freshmen students required to take the course, Math 17 is the university's baptism of fire, with a number of students failing every semester. Alex was confident, though; he was expecting he would top the exam with a high grade. He got a little above 60 percent.

"Everyone in the dormitory kept bragging their scores in the Math 17 long exam," he said. The experience humbled him, and made him fear for the remaining nine semesters in his college life. "I thought I will crawl my way to my UP graduation," he said.

He was determined to make a turnaround, however. After the disappointing first exam results, he started photocopying previous final exams and studied harder on his own and with his classmates. His determination to improve pushed him not only to perfect the second exam, but go beyond the 100-percent mark with a 110-percent score.

"There's a 10-percent bonus," he said. He went on perfecting the succeeding exams and got a final grade of 1.0, the highest in the university's grading scale. The next semester, he got the highest mark in all 18 units, translating to a general weighted average of 1.0.

That year, he wrote "graduate summa cum laude" on a sticky note and posted it on his room wall. Almost five years later, he finished with an overall grade of 1.16, well beyond the 1.2-and-above requirement for a summa cum laude distinction.

Studying hard became his routine, and despite his being poor, he made sure to maximize the university's resources. "Every semester, I make sure that I have materials for my subjects. I don't buy books; I just borrow," he said. Acing his tests wasn't the only challenge for Alex, as he had to find a way to finance his college education from start to end.

"I was on my own," he said, so he took a number of jobs to make ends meet. He taught Ateneo High School students mathematics and chemistry for three hours a week. When he needed more money, he applied as research assistant to his professors, checking 120 papers weekly and doing research. He also took another tutorial job for students preparing for the National Medical Admission Test.

Despite having a busy schedule almost every day, he found time for extra-curricular activities, joining a number of organizations in the university. He was a member of the UP Academic League of Chemical Engineering Students, the UP Career Assistance Program for Engineering Students, the UP Organization of Novo Ecijanos and the Philippine Institute of Chemical Engineers Junior Chapter- Luzon.

"I met people who are really all-around, excelling in academics and leadership, bagging awards and winning competitions," he said.

Inspired by his friends, he worked on joining the UP Diliman team in the National Chemical Engineering Quiz Bowl.

"It's the first time I represented UP in a national competition and we won," he said.

His biggest achievement, however, happened on his last year in the university.

With two other classmates, he worked on a tongue-twisting thesis titled "Design, Optimization and Field Testing of a Plasma-Enhanced Optic Fiber Reactor for Hydrogen Production via Visible Light-Driven Photocatalytic Water-Splitting."

He explained that a synthesized ingredient is mixed with water, which is subjected to sunlight. The reaction splits the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water, and hydrogen is used as an energy source. The hydrogen interacts once more with oxygen, producing water as a byproduct. The water is split once more and process repeats itself.

"When hydrogen is used, the byproduct is water so it's a continuous process," he said, adding that hydrogen as an alternative energy source is a more efficient alternative than carbon which is used in the country's power plants.

His thesis won four awards: the UP College of Engineering's undergraduate project competition, the Phi Kappa Phi International Citation for Science Project, the Chemical Engineering National Undergraduate Research Competition and the Bank of the Philippine Islands-DOST Science Awards Best Project of the Year.

"We did research; we did extreme literature review; we stayed up all night for experiments," he said. He added that the prize money from the various competitions helped him with his finances, especially in paying for graduation requirements.

Looking back at his college life, Alex said his achievements are attributable to his strict mother who helped him develop a rewarding study habit.

He never got the chance to meet his father, but his mother ensured that he is taken care of and guided in his studies. He is also thankful for his aunts, who supported him financially and gave him inspiration in powering through college despite being poor.

"(They) gave me the will to strive harder and prove that poverty will not stop us from doing something," he said.

After graduation, Alex plans to work on getting his doctorate degree before working for the country. He is interested in working in the field of renewable energy, seeing as the Philippines stands as the second biggest geothermal energy producer in the world. "I could be there, tap those resources and optimize them," he said.

He added that it sounds cliche, but he wants to give back to the Philippines. Having studied in what he considers a macrocosm of Philippine society, he said he was made aware of different problems confronting the country, and the enormous potential UP graduates have in solving them.

"Imagine the change we can give... Imagine how many more thousands will march with us. If each and every one of those graduates would have that thinking, imagine the impact," he said.

On his graduation day on April 27, Alex will have officially completed his degree in chemical engineering. He is already way past his big problem of budgeting P2,500 for two months.

He has a bigger problem post-graduation, though, but he intends to solve it with the same passion and determination that resulted in his astounding academic achievement.

"I really want to do something that could change the Philippines," he said.

Fil-Am doctor among 3 killed in Kabul hospital attack By Kay Johnson (Associated Press) | Updated April 25, 2014 - 8:27am 2 256 googleplus1 0


This undated photo provided by the Lawndale Christian Health Center in Chicago, shows Dr. Jerry Umanos, one of three physicians killed when an Afghan security guard opened fire on a group of foreign doctors at a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday morning, April 24, 2014. AP/Courtesy of the Lawndale Christian Health Center, Bernardo Barrios

KABUL, Afghanistan — Three Americans including a half-Filipino doctor were killed by an Afghan government security officer at a hospital Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks on foreign civilians that has rattled aid workers, contractors and journalists.

Another American, a female medical worker, was wounded in the attack at Cure International Hospital of Kabul, run by a U.S.-based Christian charity, and the gunman also was wounded, officials said.

The hospital staff performed surgery on the attacker, who had shot himself, before he was handed over to Afghan authorities, Cure said in a statement. However, Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the assailant was shot by other security guards.

The attacker's motive was not clear, police said, and there was no Taliban claim of responsibility by Thursday night.

As international troops withdraw, civilian workers increasingly fear they are considered prime targets by militants. Some are rethinking their safety — and even if they will stay.

All three of the dead were identified as American doctors by Bektash Torkystani, a Health Ministry spokesman. But the U.S. Embassy confirmed only that three American citizens had been killed. Cure said a doctor was one of three people killed.

Among the dead was Dr. Jerry Umanos, a 57-year-old pediatrician from Chicago, according to his mother-in-law, Angie Schuitema. The Lawndale Christian Health Center in Chicago said Umanos worked there for more than 16 years before moving to Afghanistan in 2005.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. said Umanos was a Filipino-American.

Health Minister Soraya Dalil said the other two dead Americans were a father and son, who were visiting, and a U.S. nurse was wounded.

The shooting continued a deadly pattern of attacks on civilian targets in Kabul.

In January, a Taliban attack on a popular restaurant with suicide bombers and gunmen killed more than a dozen people. In March, gunmen slipped past security at an upscale hotel and killed several diners in its restaurant. Two foreign journalists were killed and another wounded in two separate attacks.

But attacks on Western civilians have not been limited to Kabul. On April 4, an Afghan police officer shot two Associated Press journalists working in the eastern province of Khost, killing photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon.

The hospital shooting is also the second "insider attack" by a member of Afghan security forces targeting foreign civilians this month.

While aid groups have been targeted before, the frequency of such attacks has disturbed a community used to the daily risk of working in conflict zones.

"We're not seeing aid workers running for the airport, but many organizations are taking a careful look at their security postures," said Graeme Smith, a senior analyst in Kabul for the International Crisis Group. "The hard reality is that the country is becoming more violent, and Kabul has not escaped this pattern."

Violence has spiked overall in Afghanistan as insurgents sought to disrupt the April 5 presidential election and sow insecurity ahead of the troop withdrawal, nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban's radical Islamic regime.

Afghan civilians, of course, have suffered the longest. A U.N. report said 2,959 Afghan civilians were killed last year, up 7 percent. Most of those deaths were caused by the insurgency, many of them by the thousands of roadside bombs planted around the country.

Foreign workers who once moved relatively freely — if carefully — in the capital are taking even more precautions. Instead of shopping at bazaars, traveling in taxis and lunching in cafes, many now are on virtual lockdown, shying away from once-popular restaurants at night. Many aid organizations have long had a system of restricting movements during heightened security risks, but these days that state feels nearly constant.

The increased number of attacks raises the possibility that insurgents have embarked on a campaign against foreign aid workers to drive them away and undermine any help the government might get after most international troops leave at the end of the year.

"Something rather worrying about Taliban attacks this year is that they truly are targeting foreign civilians now," said Kate Clark, head of the Kabul office for the Afghanistan Analysts Network. She noted, however, that the Taliban had not claimed responsibility for Thursday's shooting nor for two other attacks on foreigners this year.

Complicating the picture in the hospital shooting is that it was an "insider attack" by a member of Afghan security forces. Until recently, such attacks mostly targeted foreign military or Afghan forces, and it has been for years been difficult to determine whether these were Taliban-influenced or the result of personal disputes.

After so many years of an international presence, many Afghans appear to have shifted views on foreigners in general from celebrating them as liberators to resenting them as de facto occupiers whose money is drying up now that the international mission is winding down.

The hospital attacker, who has not been identified, served in the Afghan Public Protection Force and was assigned as a guard at the facility, District Police Chief Hafiz Khan said. The APPF is an armed security force under the Interior Ministry that was created to protect foreign organizations.

According to its website, the Cure International Hospital was founded in 2005 by invitation of the Afghan Health Ministry. It sees 37,000 patients a year, specializing in child and maternity health as well as general surgery.

It is affiliated with the Christian charity Cure International, which operates in 29 countries.

Umanos, the slain doctor, "was always working to help inner-city kids and trying to help out any needy, poor kids anywhere," said Jeff Schuitema, his brother-in-law.

"Our families and friends have suffered a great loss, and our hearts are aching," said Jan Schuitema, Umanos' wife, at the family home in Chicago. "We don't hold any ill will towards Afghanistan in general or even the gunman who did this. We don't know what his history is."

Mark Knecht, Cure International's chief financial officer, told reporters outside the group's headquarters in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, that it "remains committed to serve the people of Afghanistan." -with philstar.com

Revisiting 12 children in Velasco's 'Hapag ng Pag-asa' (philstar.com) | Updated April 19, 2014 - 11:00pm 0 75 googleplus0 1


Hapag ng Pag-asa is displayed at the entrance of a seminary at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines.

MANILA, Philippines - The 12 street children in Hapag ng Pag-asa, a highly recognizable work by the late Joey Velasco, have moved many who look at the most reproduced contemporary painting.

Unbeknown to all, however, the models whose ages range from four to 14 each have a story to tell beyond the four corners of the mural. Before he passed away, Velasco did not stop at depicting them in the canvass, but secured for them a shelter at a Gawa Kalinga village. He continued reaching out to them until his death in July 2010 at age 43.

Itok, Nene, Joyce, Tinay, Emong, Onse, Buknoy, Michael, Dodoy, Jun and Roselle were given a better chance of life, but nine years since the painting was made public, they all continue to face life's constant battles.

"Some of them [are winning], some of them [are struggling]. One has lost the fight all together last year--at age 18 due to complications at childbirth," television show Cheche Lazaro Presents said in a report.

Homepage ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Cheche Lazaro Presents Lenten special "Hapag ng Pagasa" will be aired on Easter Sunday, April 20, at 10:00 p.m. on ABS-CBN.

Today, many are still haunted by the image of the 12 young souls who take the place of Jesus' apostles in a Filipino rendering of Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Earth and art By Jose Ardivilla | Apr. 26, 2014 at 07:01pm

University of the Philippines Diliman Masters in Fine Arts students celebrate Earth Day with the opening of a show entitled Lupa Hangin Tubig Apoy. This group exhibit showcases works of artists with different backgrounds but all decided to use discarded materials as part of their installation pieces. The four artists not only deal with discarded and found objects but the theme of the exhibit, which opened on April 22, harks the traditional classification of the elements used in antiquity.

Amihan-Hangin 3 by Ninel Constantino

When the ancients classified the environment with the elements of earth, wind, water and fire, this is not just to make sense of the world they lived in but created compartments for exploitation. Alchemists have toyed with these elements across millennia in their attempts to produce what they perceived as the most precious of them all, an elixir of life.

Ironically, the exploitation of such elements in the contemporary world have rendered the earth strained with dwindling resources while being strangled by literal mountain ranges of refuse and filth. In this regard, the MFA students under the class of Prof. Katti Sta. Ana embarked in their works heralding the elements as well as using discarded materials and found objects to deal with their personal expressions.

Amihan-Hangin 2 by Ninel Constantino

Cartoonist Manix Abrera bemoans the flippant and rampant tossing of cigarette butts near his home and thus collected these alongside driftwood to render and simulate a crime scene that is both funny and provocative. Printmaker and Manila Standard Today contributor Chong Ardivilla uses scrap metal, found and discarded objects to create three retablos in which are physical manifestations of his prayers as coping mechanisms. Painter and educator Ninel Constantino has mined both her memories as well as the objects cast aside in her home and literally wove them together to replicate the wind in her work entitled “Amihan.” To simulate his growing up in different but interlocked cultures, John Yan Yung uses scrap materials from a bag factory to create an installation work connecting all elements entitled “Prometheus;” as marked impetus of his memories and different stimuli in culture clashes.

Amihan by Ninel Constantino

As environmentalists cry out to “Recycle, reuse, reduce” to protect the earth from further exploitation, these artists have recast and reconfigured to remind us that what have been tossed aside and ignored can have another “life” after their consumption. How’s that for an elixir?

All works thread together the issue that is dogging the planet right now in which the consumer cultures have rendered tons of discarded materials. Curated by Professor Katti Sta. Ana, the participating artists decided to reconfigure these discarded materials and integrate their personal expressions thus casting a new light and life to objects that are usually ignored and cast aside.

The exhibit runs until May 31 at the China Hall at the UP Asian Center Museum located at UP Diliman’s GT-Toyota Asian Cultural Center.

For more information, contact Ryan Reyes, 920-3535, 981-8500 local 3580, Email: upacmuseum@gmail.com, Website: http://ac.upd.edu.ph/index.php/museum-menu


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