UP Alumni Association, Toronto marks UP Centennial

Community Round Up Nov 18, 2008 at 4:10 pm
UP Outstanding Graduates were honored by fellow alumni. From left: Noel Cruz, UPAA president and awardees Romi MananQuil, Dr. Nanette de Villa, Nena Maneclang Nera, Dr. Herbert Gaisano, daughter of awardee Dr. Leticia Rao representing her mother, and Dr. Francis Rementilla.

UP Outstanding Graduates were honored by fellow alumni. From left: Noel Cruz, UPAA president and awardees Romi MananQuil, Dr. Nanette de Villa, Nena Maneclang Nera, Dr. Herbert Gaisano, daughter of awardee Dr. Leticia Rao representing her mother, and Dr. Francis Rementilla.

Two presidents at the podium: Former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos and UPAA president Noel Cruz at the UP centennial ball.

Two presidents at the podium: Former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos and UPAA president Noel Cruz at the UP centennial ball.

UPAA president Noel Cruz addressing the centennial celebrants

UPAA president Noel Cruz addressing the centennial celebrants

The Philippine national anthem and UP Beloved are usually sung in energetic voices, but at the night of their Centennial Ball, in October 25, 2008, UPians sang them in hushed, solemn voices — this is not in character with the usually rambunctious, exuberant UPians. The air was heavy with emotion and eyes glistened in quiet reverence as they sang. This event is special to them – they are celebrating their Alma Mater’s 100 years of academic excellence, leadership and service. They are aware of their history, and the role of their Alma Mater in their lives and in their home country and elsewhere. More than 350 alumni and their loved ones came; they gathered to salute the University of the Philippines, and each other.

Noel Cruz, president of the UP Alumni Association, Toronto, stated that the highlight of their celebration is the presentation of the UP Centennial Distinguished Graduates Award to six outstanding alumni who have achieved excellence in their professions. They are Dr. Maria Antonia de Villa (BSc, Doctor of Medicine) – Clinical Practice of Medicine; Romeo C. MananQuil (Bachelor of Fine Arts, cum laude) – Visual Arts; Nena Maneclang Nera (BSc in Psychology, MA in Social Work) – Public Service; Dr. Herbert Y. Gaisano (BSc, magna cum laude; Doctor of Medicine) – Scientific Research and Academic Pursuits; Dr. Leticia G. Rao (BSc in Chemistry) – Scientific Research and Academic Pursuits; and Dr. Francis Rementilla (BSc in Physical Therapy) – Business and Entrepreneurship.

Dr. Antonina de Villa is assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, and member of the active staff in the department of medicine of St Joseph Health Centre for more than 20 years, nine of which was as chief of the cardiology division. She was one of only four pioneering women cardiologists in Greater Toronto. She introduced the Cardiology Journal series and the evening Cardiology Round series as part of continuing education for cardiologists at St Joseph Health Center. Dr. de Villa has been giving seminars for family doctors and residents and foreign medical students applying for elective rotation through the university. Her commitment to teaching and education has enabled her students to make their mark in medicine.

Romi MananQuil was assistant professor, chairman of Visual Communications, and artist-in-residence at the UP College of Fine Arts. He was commissioned by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to design the 1983 series of Philippine bank notes and coins, which included the 1000-peso centennial note, a Guinness Book of record holder. He co-founded the prestigious Philippine Artists Group of Canada and its president for 14 years. He had over a hundred art exhibitions in the Philippines, Australia, and North America, and he represents the Philippines and Canada at the Bridges Gallery of Fine Arts in Illinois. He is a member of the prestigious Portrait Society of America and is recognized as one of the leading Filipino artists in Canada today.

Nena Maneclang Nera retired last year from Health Canada after 26 years of service at age 74, probably a Canadian record as the oldest public service retiree. Earlier, she was Health Canada’s first Special Advisor on Diversity for three years, and had represented Canada at the World Health Organization in Switzerland, and at conferences on HIV/AIDS in North America, Europe and Asia. Before this, she was a senior community and hospital social worker for 17 years. A multi-awarded professional and community leader, she received last month the Ten Outstanding Filipinos Abroad Award in Washington, DC. She recently launched a fundraising drive to improve and maintain balance in performance and rejuvenation, environment and lifestyle at long-term health care facilities.

Dr. Herbert Y. Gaisano is professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Toronto, staff physician in gastroenterology at Toronto’s University Health network, faculty member in the Institute of Medical Science at U of T faculty of Graduate Studies, and associate member of the Fundamental Neurology Group at the Toronto Western Hospital Research Institute. For the past 17 years, Dr. Gaisano has lectured at the U of T on gastroenterology. He has received various honors and awards that include the Most Outstanding Researcher Award from the UP Medical School Alumni Association, Mary Jane Kugel Award from Canada’s Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and Young Investigator award from the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology. Dr. Gaisano holds a US patent on a new molecular target of anti-diabetic drugs.

Dr. Leticia G. Rao is associate (adjunct) professor in the Department of Medicine, U of T. She is a staff scientist and director of the Calcium Research Laboratory at Toronto’s St Michael’s Hospital, and a member in the graduate department of the Institute of Medical Sciences at U of T. Dr. Rao has delivered seminars and presentations in Canada, USA, Israel, France, Tunisia, India, Germany and Japan. Her studies include the identification of postmenopausal women who are at risk of bone loss due to osteoporosis, and the effect of long space flights on bone formation with astronauts.

Dr. Francis Rementilla serves as an example for new immigrants hoping to work in their profession. A few months after receiving his degree in physiotherapy in 1990, he left the Philippines for Toronto. He interned at a hospital, and within months, obtained his Ontario license in physiotherapy. In 1995, he struck on his own by opening his first clinic. Since then, he has expanded his business to five companies engaged in foot and postural treatment and sports medicine. He holds a Canadian and US patent on the arrangement and method for producing therapeutic insoles. In 2007, he received his doctorate in physiology from Daemen College in Amherst, New York. Dr. Rementilla is a former president of the UPAA Toronto.

In their brief speeches, all six UP Centennial Distinguished Graduates are unanimous in their acknowledgement and appreciation that the education and training they received from their Alma Mater inspired them to push on their professions.

The program of the evening also includes a mini art exhibit by artists Romi MananQuil and Omel Masalunga., and a lot of musical presentations – piano renditions by Mila Magno and Dr. Edward Lansang, harana by tenor Oswald Magno and songs by baritone Omel Masalunga, folk dance and rondalla music from the Fiesta Filipina Rondalla and Dance Troupe, duet by famed soprano Eleanor Calbes-Thompson and her sister Dr.Delicia Calbes-Asimont, songs by the special Centennial Singers Perla Andres, Gena Baldivia, Olivia Camacho, Guy Camacho, Dr. Perla Lansang, Mila Magno, Oswald Magno, Marietta Poole, Rene Reynoso, Geny Toribio, and Dr. Maselle Virey.

Former president Fidel V. Ramos, himself a UP alumnus, was the surprise guest; he arrived towards the end of the Centennial Ball. He was in Toronto as his first stop in promoting Gawad Kalinga, and the Ramos Peace Foundation. Former president Ramos was proceeding to Winnipeg, then to Vancouver. He took the opportunity to visit with fellow UP alumni and join them at the UP Centennial celebration.