Monthly Archives: October 2008

U.P. kong mahal

When I first heard that UP has been overtaken by Ateneo for the first time in the THES-QS top university rankings (and on our centennial year too!) and that there was some justification given about something in the methodology, I just shrugged and thought, well, of course. When you have problems with a survey’s results, you can always question the methodology. And oftentimes, you really would be able to find something to question, from the sampling procedure to the way the questions were phrased or even the appropriateness of using the survey method to tackle the issue at hand in the first place.  Also, methodology aside, surely the better-funded Ateneo can find ways to overtake UP in the areas used as criteria in the THES-QS rankings (If you’re curious, you can check out the methodology here).

Thing is, when you do question the methodology, you sometimes end up sounding like a sourgrape, and, whether accurate or not, the survey would at the end of the day probably still enjoy a measure of recognition or credibility. So I just shrugged and thought, well, it doesn’t matter, not worth getting worked up about. UP pa rin!

Still, former UP Vice President for Public Affairs (and a favorite writer) Butch Dalisay’s remarks about the new rankings reminded me again about the subject, and put quite a damper to my morning. He talked briefly about the methodology – how UP did not even participate this year, the inherent bias of the criteria used, that there’s apparently a marketing angle to the THES-QS rankings – but what struck me was how he discussed the treatment of the criteria:

Just to make things clear, we need more of those plus points, too, and if we’re lacking in them, then that’s clearly a problem that’s keeping us from achieving truly world-class status. But what about resourcefulness? How do you recognize a physics department whose people can put a laser machine together all by themselves? What about service to the nation? What points can you give something like the Pahinungod program, which sends fresh graduates to teach poor children in the hinterlands?

We don’t want to sound like sore losers, but at least you expect the game to be held on a level playing field.

Definitely a very valid point (and, seriously, a laser machine all by themselves? Kudos to you, guys). Read his entire remarks here.  It’s the third of a three-section blog entry.

In any case, its rankings in surveys should be the least of UP’s worries.  The pursuit of excellence is not driven by the need for recognition, and service to the nation is not something that can easily be measured. On that vein, another worthy read is this speech given by Dr. Washington Sycip for the UP Centennial Lecture Series.

U.P. alumni closely identify the Oblation with their alma mater. But how many of them really know that when the sculptor Tolentino created this figure of a young man whose arms are outstretched in a gesture of sacrifice to his country and humanity, the artist also placed at its feet a cluster of “katakalanta” leaves, a plant that rapidly multiplies to symbolize, as Tolentino tells us the “undying stream of heroism in the Filipino race.”

As this University celebrates its hundredth anniversary I ask a final question: can we expect from U.P.’s leadership this heroism the country begs for?

a different celebration

So I sit here, barely two hours before my birthday, typing away at my laptop, which was exactly the way I feared I would spend my birthday. A couple of weeks ago I was toying with the idea of celebrating it by stuffing my backpack and going off somewhere by myself, but obviously, nothing came out of that idea.  I wanted to do something major, see, to distract myself, because my birthdays have always been either appallingly uneventful or else heralded by bouts of merciless self-assessment, self-esteem plunge, panic attack, and severe depression, in that order.

This time, though, the past weeks have been so crazy that I didn’t really have time to sit down and have that merciless self-assessment and the whole ball of wax that goes with it.  Instead, I have been busy juggling several commitments and tasks, and, well, ahem, helping to pass a landmark legislation on environmental sustainability and energy security.

The House passed its version of the Renewable Energy Bill last June, the Senate passed its version early last week, and, sooner than expected, both chambers immediately convened the bicameral conference session needed to reconcile the two versions of the bill and prepare it for final approval.  Yesterday, the bicam panel finished its job in a three-hour meeting and today, the eve of my birthday, the House of Representatives and the Senate gave me the best birthday gift and finally approved the Renewable Energy Bill.   It just needs to be zipped over to Malacañang, wait for the President’s signature or just dilly-dally at her desk for thirty days, whichever comes first, and then, finally, the country will have its Renewable Energy Law, or, officially, “An Act Promoting the Development, Utilization and Commercialization of Renewable Energy Resources and for Other Purposes.”

Tidbit: the earliest form of the RE Bill, then called the Non-Conventional Energy Bill, was filed way back 1989.  It later on got called the New and Renewable Energy Bill, before subsequently settling into plain Renewable Energy Bill.

Today’s approval at the House and Senate were just formalities, though. The real high point was the day before at the Hotel Sofitel, when the bicameral meeting adjourned and we knew that all the hard work had finally paid off. Towards the last half of the meeting, as the legislators quickly went through the last of the provisions that did not need lengthy discussions, we in the Renewable Energy Coalition were looking at each other in excitement going, wow, they’re really going to end this today! It could have gone worse, see; some bicams need several meetings or go on until the wee hours. Evidently, in this case, there really was no need for much debate, the legislators just agreed that yes, we need to encourage renewable energy development, and hammered out a pretty generous package of incentives and market mechanisms. Continue reading