Gawad Maria 2021: Tribute in Honor of the Retirees and Service Awardees

Every year, the Marian community celebrates the nativity of Mother Mary, Saint Mary’s University’s patroness and namesake. This year, the day became more special for two reasons. Despite the limitations the pandemic has caused, once again, the occasion brought the Marians together to prayerfully remember Mary and celebrate the solemnity of her birthday in a eucharistic celebration broadcasted live through the Campus Ministry’s Facebook page. Secondly, Dr. Henry F. Gamboa, the dean of the School of Teacher Education and Humanities, remarked that the day coinciding with Gawad Maria, SMU’s annual tribute to retirees and service awardees, was one of the beautiful things that happened amidst our personal and institutional struggles at this time. It was suspended the previous year because of the pandemic but this year, it took place through a live broadcast in The Marian’s Facebook page on September 8, 2021 at 3:30 PM.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Gamboa emphasized the significance of the occasion saying that foremost, it is the Marian community’s gesture of showing their appreciation to the retirees and honorees for having made the noble choice of dedicating their life and service to Saint Mary’s University against all odds. Further, ingeniously utilizing blended modalities in various platforms made available by the context to expand participation among Marians and inviting an inspirational speaker for the first time showed SMU’s tenacious commitment to its mission-vision, a character trait that epitomizes the Blessed Mother and the awardees themselves.

In the first part of the program, the presentation of excellence awards to employees who rendered 5 years, 10, 15 and 20 years, and 25 and 35 years was done by Mrs. Venica S. Acosta, Vice President for Finance; Dr. Moises Alexander T. Asuncion, Vice President for Academics; and Rev. Fr. Philip A. Yu, Jr. CICIM, Vice President for Mission and Identity, respectively. Mrs. Jovita Villanueva, In-charge, Publications and Promotions, Grade School, and an awardee for 35 years of service, gave the collective response on behalf of the service awardees. In her speech, she reflectively recounted how she coursed through seven university presidents and four grade school principals who taught her the value of self-lessness, competence and utmost dedication to her craft. She also remembered with gratefulness the various assistance she received from colleagues saying that one becomes better with the help of others. The “snippets of wisdom” from her fellow awardees she thoughtfully included provided a view why many chose to stay in Saint Mary’s University while some would rather leave. The opportunity to make a difference in the life of others, the chance to learn from and work harmoniously with genuine people, the prevailing values and missionary spirit, the choice to become a proud competent Marian educator – all these and others have inspired the awardees to become better to help sustain the mission of SMU. Besides a plaque of appreciation, the awardees would receive either cash incentives or certificates of scholarship depending on the category of the service they rendered.

The second part was a tribute to the six retirees: Mr. Nelson A. Acosta, Sr., Staff Member, In-charge of Bookstore, Inventory Management Office; Mr. Godofredo E. Arzadon, Staff Member, In-charge of Book Binding and Printing, Publishing and Digital Printing Office; Engr. Leonido A. Costales, Jr.,          Head, Physical Plant and Properties Development and Maintenance Office; Dr. Fe Yolanda G. Del Rosario,      Dean, School of Teacher Education and Humanities; Mrs. Rosario T. Guillermo, Internal Auditor; and Mr. Ventura G. Tayaban, Jr.,               Staff Member, Physical Plant and Properties Development and Maintenance Office. The video presentation for each retiree provided a snapshot of how the years they spent with SMU went by. But more than merely showing the milestones in their life, the presentations treated us to stories of dedicated husbands, fathers and sons, wives, mothers and daughters, in-laws, grandparents, friends, colleagues, superiors and most of all, hard-working, loyal and prolific servants in SMU’s mission of making a better world. The inspirational message given by Dr. Virgilio B. Aguilar, Vice President Emeritus, and a retiree himself provided the best tribute for all the sacrifices and contributions the retirees selflessly accorded to Saint Mary’s University. Aptly introduced by Mrs. Gloria Vicky A. Antonio, University Statistician, as very hardworking, innovative, religious, a great boss, industrious, luminary and loyal, idol and immortal, and outstanding – an acrostic based on his name and which accordingly describes him as a former employee and administrator in SMU, Dr. Aguilar talked about a number of things. First, he referred to retirement as both a sad and happy moment that should always bring a feeling of nostalgia for all the years of companionship, friendship, love and care for one other. Second, he recognized and expressed his salutations to the invaluable contribution of each retiree to the gradual growth and development of SMU in terms of physical structures, curricular and faculty developments, student services and community extension programs. Finally, he gave guidelines on how the retirement years can be transformed into beautiful years of relaxation, of continuous physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth, of new horizons and opportunities, of joy and optimism and of acceptance that growing old is not something to be complained about and a source of humiliation, but a gift not enjoyed by many.

Dr. John Octavious S. Palina, University President, awarded the Certificate of Appreciation to the speaker, which was followed by the giving of the Sedes Sapientiae award to the retirees.

On behalf of the retirees, a collective response was given by Dr. Fe Yolanda G. Del Rosario, Dean Emeritus, School of Teacher Education and Humanities, who shared her reflections on the meaning of retirement and its impact on the life of the retirees. According to her, retirement is the point in life where one casts all fears, move on and never look back. It also does not mean closing a chapter in life because that chapter took years to build and as such, it entails a lot of memories. What a retiree can do is to reflect on how much he has done for himself, for his colleagues, for the students and for SMU and trust that this will leave a mark on people left behind. More importantly, the retiree should move forward and enjoy the perks of retirement – a more relaxed routine, spending more time with family, movie marathons, traveling and many more.

The emotional event was closed with a serenade from the SMU Chorale Society and a soulful rendition of the university prayer by Mrs. Kristabelle Geijy D. Gonzales, Staff, VPMI/Adviser SMU Chorale Society.

Finally, the master of ceremonies, Mrs. Lysel I. Haloc, faculty member, Languages Department, School of Teacher Education and Humanities, shared a message from the Marian students through Miss Rheena Niña Salinas, SCC President and some congratulatory messages from the participants in the live broadcast.

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