University of Philippines Manila

UPM celebrates legacies in history and public health, calls for environmental action at UP founding anniversary program

“Everyone in UP Manila has a vital role in advancing the health of the people and the environment. We must expand the Hippocratic oath to include our own planet and the environment. The entire university and all its colleges, in particular the social sciences, must be oriented to planetary health.”

This was the resounding statement of Dr. Ramon Lorenzo Luis R. Guinto, director of the Planetary and Global Health Program of St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine, in his keynote speech at the 115th UP Founding Anniversary Program held on June 27, 2023 at the College of Nursing Auditorium in Sotejo Hall.

Present during the program were officials of the university led by UP Faculty Regent Carl Marc Ramota, UP Manila Chancellor Carmencita D. Padilla, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Arlene A. Samaniego, and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Nymia P. Simbulan.

Dr. Guinto, who obtained his Doctor of Medicine from UPCM under its seven-year INTARMED program in 2012 and is the founder of University of the Philippines One Earth—the only student environmental organization of health sciences students in UP Manila—gave a message that focused on what UP can and should do for the environment. According to him, everyone must recognize that “we cannot keep treating sick people living on a sick planet. Unfortunately, we’ve focused too much on the health of the people, but we neglected the health of the planet.”

Dr. Guinto, who is also a member of the National Panel of Technical Experts of the Philippine Climate Change Commission and convener of Planetary Health Philippines, opined that “one area where we can begin pursuing transdisciplinary research is on planetary health.” To emphasize, he added that “Planetary health is ‘agham ng lahat’.” He expressed hope that in the future, a “College of Planetary Health” may be established in UP Manila. Capping off his message, he implored the importance of “placing planetary health at the heart of our education. We must emphasize not only nation building, but planetary healing. Ang planetary health ang hihilom sa mga sakit ng ating kasaysayan, kalusugan, at kalikasan, tungo sa mas maunlad na kinabukasan para sa lahat.

In her welcome remarks, Dr. Samaniego touted the place of UP Manila in the UP system’s rich history, as it is the “original birthplace and cradle of the university.” She described the early years of the system, when there were “marked struggles for academic freedom, excellence in education, and service to the Filipino nation.” By looking back, Dr. Samaniego believes that the present “honors and pays tribute to the people who were instrumental to the establishment of the university; if not for their toil and sacrifices, UP would not be what it is today–a university by the people, for the people.” She also paid tribute to the “sons and daughters” of UP, the alumni, who personified the excellence and contributions of the university to the nation.

In her message, UPM Chancellor Padilla noted that in recent years, especially during the height of the pandemic, Filipinos were often asking each other, “Ano ang ambag mo?,” to which she highlighted the contributions of UP and more specifically UPM to the nation’s history and healthcare. The Chancellor stressed the unquestioned role of the university as the nation’s bulwark of democracy and human rights throughout the institution’s history, and its role as the nation’s primary center for healthcare and the health sciences, pioneering in medical breakthroughs and medical research.

According to her, “Maraming pagkakataon na na ang UP ang pangunahing tinta na sumulat sa mga pahina ng kasaysayan ng bansa…nagpakita ng malaking pagbabago ang UP Manila, hindi lamang sa kalidad ng serbisyong ipinagkakaloob natin, kundi sa dami at kahalagahan ng pananaliksik o mga research na ating isinasagawa; at nitong huli pati sa mga gusali at pasilidad ng ating pamantasan. Lahat ng mga pagbabagong ito ay tungo sa patuloy na pagsagot sa ating mga adhikain at bunga ng pagtutulungan nating lahat.” The Chancellor also acclaimed the university’s steps to becoming an environmental institution, one that is dedicated to help preserve and protect the environment, through its “Green UP” program. In closing, Chancellor Padilla 

stated, “Kasaysayan, kalusugan, at kalikasan. Ito ang KKK ng kasalukuyang panahon: tatlong aspeto ng bayan na ipinagbuklod, itinataguyod, at ipinaglalaban ng UP. Sa ating ika-isandaan at labinlimang taon, nawa’y ipagpatuloy natin ang ating mga minana at ang ating mga nasimulan, at ipaglaban ang ‘KKK’ para sa bayan at mga kababayan.”

In her closing remarks, VCAA Dr. Simbulan stated that “while we continue to face old and new challenges and conditions aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, let us remember that the UP community’s bold resolve, unity, and commitment, to overcome these challenges and obstacles, have been the traits which allowed us to fulfill our mandate as the health sciences center and as a national university.” She asserted that UP has consistently fulfilled its distinct role as an academic, research, and public service university amid adversity, persistently adapting and responding to the changing conditions despite certain limitations and weaknesses.

Dr. Simbulan believes that UP, as a national university, is mandated to address the challenges posed by climate change, worsening poverty and social inequities, and corruption and discrimination, which impacts people’s health and well-being. In closing, she invited everyone to learn from past experiences and lessons to enhance the fulfillment of UP’s mandate to serve the Filipino people through teaching, research, and public service.

The program was hosted by Associate Professor Dr. Emely D. Dicolen of the National Teacher Training Center for the Health Professions. The UP Manila Chorale sang the National Anthem and UP Naming Mahal, and performed a number of songs for the assembly.

I Martin R. Racza

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