by Ann Maureen Malaki
In compliance with the community quarantine restrictions, the Master in Disaster Risk and Resilience (MDRR) Program of the Ateneo de Manila University conducted an online recognition ceremony for the first batch of graduating MDRR students on June 9, 2020.
Advisors, mentors, faculty and guest speakers gave congratulatory messages to the students. Opening remarks were provided by the MDRR Program’s Co-directors, Dr. Charlotte Kendra Gotangco Gonzales, Dr. Emma Porio, and Dr. Ma. Aileen Leah Guzman. Dr. Kendra Gotangco Gonzales pointed out that the MDRR students have an important role as they are the ones who can “stand in that nexus of research,policy, and practice, and be able to integrate and synthesize so we can come up with more holistic decisions”. Dr. Emma Porio talked about the conception of the MDRR program in 2016, its approval, and capstone project defenses of the first batch. She advised the students to apply their knowledge “with intellectual generosity and humility for humanity [because] the world now is at risk to climate and biological hazards with terrific impacts to everyone especially the poor and vulnerable sectors” Dr. Aileen Guzman encouraged them to “transform the country to become more resilient,” and wished for the candidates that they will use their degrees for greater service.
Respected guest speakers also expressed their commendation to the students. Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ, Ph.D. (President, Ateneo de Manila University) compared the current pandemic to Ignatius of Loyola’s defeat during the Battle of Pamplona. “It was while being battered by these interior waves that Ignatius Loyola discovered what was important and what was peripheral.. It was during this disaster or post-disaster that things were clear to him — things that were fleeting, ephemeral and those that stay, those that remain.”, likewise he suggested: “we can be humble enough to ask God what God is asking of us in this disaster”. Ms. Ma. Antonia Yulo Loyzaga (President, National Resilience Council) imparted that the students were blessed to have learned from various types of experts and to have studied at a critical time when their new expertise will be applicable. “[The MDRR program] offers an intersection of social, natural, engineering or industrial sciences, access to expert practitioners and local knowledge that does not exist in an academic program in the country. It was designed to respond to what we saw on the ground as a real need to merge what people knew in these different sectors” said Ms. Yulo Loyzaga. Dr. Mélanie Robertson (Senior Program Specialist, Climate Change Program of the International Development Research Centre – Canada) mentioned how IDRC is proud as a supporter of the MDRR program: “I am convinced that this program will have an important impact for each student in assuming leadership roles in the climate and disaster risk management sector”.
Project Advisors of the Coastal Cities at Risk in the Philippines also provided their messages. Professor Gordon McBean (Professor Emeritus, Western University London) emphasized that the candidates will make sure that “there will be actions to reduce the impacts of hazardous events”. Dr. Hassan Virji (Executive Director, Global Change System for Analysis Research and Training) wished for their success “to reduce and manage disaster risks, and build more resilient societies”.
Dr. Evangeline P. Bautista (Dean, School of Science and Engineering, Ateneo de Manila University) mentioned that the students will have “many opportunities to practice what they learned” in this world “full of difficult and unexpected challenges. Dr. Fernando T. Aldaba (Dean, School of Social Sciences, Ateneo de Manila University) aspired that the students can “contribute in the effective management of disasters like Covid-19” with their “academic background, multi-stakeholder networking and collaboration skills and grassroot experience”. Usec. Ricardo B. Jalad (Administrator & Executive Director, Office of Civil Defense), said that the accomplishments of the MDRR scholars from OCD is also a milestone for their organization. Atty. Tecson John S. Lim (Director III, Policy Development and Planning Services, OCD) wished for the students to “all be agents of change and make big waves in your country’s effort to better protect, save and rebuild people’s lives”. Mr. Manuel “Ka Noli” Abinales (President and Founder of Buklod Tao Inc.) conveyed appreciation for the benefits that their organization gained from its dynamic partnership with the MDRR class and CCARPH.
Dr. Noralene Uy (MDRR Program Coordinator) acknowledged all the international and local project advisors, CCARPH Principal Investigators and work package leaders, MDRR supporting institutions and scholarship providers.
A video tribute to the graduates on the activities of MDRR Batch 1 and videos recorded by the graduate students themselves was played on the screen. This was followed by the virtual presentation of certificates of recognition to MDRR Program Class of 2020. The students will be considered official graduates only after receiving the diploma from Ateneo de Manila University, certified by the Office of the Registrar.
The ceremony was live streamed through the CCARPH: Investing in Climate and Disaster Resilience Project Facebook page to enable the families of the students to witness the event. For the ceremony playback, visit CCARPH Facebook page, or YouTube channel.