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The 2019 Annual Report of the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI) “Puso at Sigasig” was nominated for the Platinum Anvil in the recent 56th Anvil Awards. Taking home the Gold Anvil, the annual report adopted MBFI’s 40th founding anniversary theme “Puso at Sigasig (Heart & Zeal).” It curated stories of extraordinary kinship and mentorship among its featured stakeholders and highlights the values of heart & zeal as its foundation to shine a light on opportunities that expand access, provide recognition, and demonstrate possibilities of a better future for all.

Organized by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP), the Anvil Awards is considered as the Oscars of public relations industry in the Philippines. The Anvil symbolizes excellence in public relations and is awarded by distinguished multi-sectoral jury to outstanding public relations programs and tools. The Gabi ng Parangal was held virtually on February 19, 2021.

Meanwhile, two (2) digital public relations programs both received the Silver Anvil. “#MADEatHome: Art Education Online” was launched in 2020 as a platform to sustain the art thrust of MBFI while the annual Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) painting and sculpture competitions were deferred due to the pandemic. To adapt to the changing times, MBFI launched “#[email protected]” to amplify the use of digital media for its art education track. Contents and webinars organized were highly received by the followers of MADE social media page.

The “2020 Metrobank-MTAP-DepEd Math Challenge (MMC) [email protected] Campaign” on the other hand, was designed to become an online learning environment for math enthusiasts. MBFI saw the need to revamp the existing MMC social media platform to sustain and scale its objective of awakening greater interest in mathematics among elementary and junior high school students. The results of the [email protected] campaign have borne fruit to a real disruption: it has successfully sustained and awakened the interest and participation of a more captive at-home audience in learning mathematics.

Meanwhile, GT Foundation, Inc. (GTFI), received the Silver Anvil for the “Bags of Blessing (BOB) 2020: #BeyondFestivityGenerosity.” A brainchild of the late Metrobank founder and chairman Dr. George Ty Siao Kian, BOB is a gift-giving program that is celebrated every Chinese New Year. BOB brings together employees of GT Capital Holdings and Metrobank Group of Companies, as well as institutional partners to participate in the legacy to sustain a culture of “Paying it forward” through the distribution of 10,000 bags of items worth PhP 1,000 to 10,000 indigent families in 25 sites nationwide. With this year’s public relation thrust of #beyondfestivitygenerosity, the program values volunteerism, social responsibility, and cultural connectivity among the volunteers and its beneficiaries.

MBFI has been winning Anvil awards since 1985. To date, it has won 92 Anvil awards for its various public relations programs and tools, including the much-coveted Grand Anvil gaining the record as the first corporate foundation to win a back-to-back Grand Anvil (2009 and 2010) and 2 Platinum Anvils (2015 and 2016) in the history of the award-giving body.

Thousands of students, faculty and staff from five public schools in Metro Manila can now look forward to new handwashing facilities installed in strategic locations in their schools that will help them fight COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.

League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) member and project sponsor, Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI), formally turned over five new 10-faucet hygiene facilities to Mataas na Paaralang Neptali A. Gonzales and Addition Hills Integrated School in Mandaluyong City, Kapitolyo High School in Pasig City, and Quezon City Science High School and Ramon Magsaysay (Cubao) High School in Quezon City on December 17, and on a virtual ceremony on December 29.

This is under LCF’s initiative, LCFWinS: Lingap Eskwela sa Pandemya, implemented by Manila Water Foundation, which aims to support the Department of Education (DepEd)’s WASH in Schools (WinS) program.

In a message, Metrobank Foundation President Aniceto Sobrepeña shared that MBFI has been working hard to support the fight against COVID-19 and is delighted to support DepEd’s WASH in Schools program. “We at the Metrobank Foundation, together with our sister foundation GT Foundation, have recognized the need to contribute to the Philippine nation’s fight against COVID-19, by creating a multi-million-peso COVID fund to support our partners in their respective sectors,” he said. “The LCFWinS: Lingap Eskwela sa Pandemya program is one of the significant partnerships that we in the MBFI have for this year as we continuously support the WASH in Schools program of DepEd,” he further added.

Gigi Bullanday, Principal III of Addition Hills Integrated School, recalled the school’s transformation since the facility was constructed. “’Yung area na ito ay tambakan ng mga sirang upuan. Dito rin po nilalagay ang mga basura noon (This area used to be a dump site of broken chairs and trash,” she said. “This is the best place to build the WASH facility—something beautiful and useful,” she added.

With the new facility, Bullanday said that this prompted their school to improve on their health and safety protocols. “Babaguhin po natin ang aming protocol. Hindi lang po magse-spray ng alcohol ang aming visitors, parents and stakeholders—lahat po ng aming guests, ire-require po naming maghugas ng mga kamay bago pumasok sa school. Para naman po safe tayong lahat (We will change our protocol. We will not only require our visitors, parents, and stakeholders to sanitize with alcohol, but to also wash their hands before entering the school. This is so we can all be safe.),” she said.

“Thank you so much, League of Corporate Foundations, Metrobank Foundation, and Manila Water Foundation for giving us this facility. Iingatan po namin ito dahil malaking tulong po ito sa aming paaralan (We will take care of this as this is a huge help for our school),” Principal Bullanday said in a closing message.

The handwashing facilities under the LCFWinS program can be operated by a pedal, and has a one-meter distance between faucets, to observe physical distancing. It also has a lowered sink which can be easily used by children.

Upholding health and safety above all, the handwashing facilities under the LCFWinS program can be operated by a pedal. There is a one-meter distance between faucets, to observe physical distancing. It also has a lowered sink which can be easily used by children. Each facility is built with ten faucets with soap containers and installed with signages about COVID-19 precautionary measures, proper handwashing, and the responsible use of water. The turnover last December 29 is the first of many projects with MBFI under LCFWinS. Under the program, MBFI will be donating a total of 10 hygiene facilities and 2,000 pieces of hygiene kits to another 10 schools.

To date, the LCFWinS program has benefitted more than 96,000 individuals.

Ingenuity must thrive inside and outside the classroom and, even, amidst crisis. This is the wisdom that Ms. Ma. Regaele A. Olarte, 2016 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipino Teacher, strives to sustain, especially now as she, her students, and co-teachers find themselves at the center of changes due to the pandemic.

One of the ways she does so is by continuing to lend her expertise as a science educator and Education Program Supervisor in the Department of Education (DepEd) Division of Muntinlupa. Now, a normal day for her consists of balancing and assisting in the implementation of various programs and projects in her Division, performing the duties of a pregnant work-form-home mom, and pursuing her doctorate degree at the University of the Philippines-Open University.

Good news greeted Ms. Olarte and her family before the onset of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Metro Manila—she is pregnant with her third child. While this has placed her in the list of high risk or vulnerable groups, she copes with the situation by helping others get through this crisis.

Having this full plate is as tough as it sounds. Ms. Olarte, nonetheless, finds fulfillment in dedicating her service for other people. “I continue to offer whatever kind of service I can readily give to help other people during these times, because in that way, I also help myself in equal measure. Whether completing my daily tasks or delivering services beyond my duty, I never get burned out because I put joy in everything that I do,” she revealed.

Learning goes on

On top of her regular work, Ms. Olarte designs and produces numerous advocacy materials promoting the importance of continuing education amid the pandemic.

Her experience in enhancing and modifying instruction materials can be traced back several years ago when she was tapped to be one of the national authors of the DepEd Learners’ Materials, Teachers’ Guides, and other curriculum materials as part of the shift to the DepEd K-12 program.

At present, she serves as both writer and validator of self-learning modules for distance learning. In this capacity, she also actively disseminates relevant information on module utilization and shares her knowledge on module development among other writers nationwide.

Some of the materials designed and produced by Ms. Olarte

Science for the community and the future

Ms. Olarte is perhaps best known for promoting invention-driven instruction and enhancing science education in her school and in Muntinlupa. In her class, she empowers her students to observe, innovate, and explore their potential.

In 2008, Ms. Olarte initiated a program called “Invention-Driven Instructional Design and Innovation Transfer (I-DID IT)” geared towards balancing formal classroom-based instruction with finding solutions to real-life problems. The name itself underscores the maker-oriented nature of the initiative.

With I-DID IT, learners become creators, builders, designers, and producers by generating ideas, designing investigations, and implementing sustainable solutions that benefit their community.

Students have won in various invention and project-making competitions both locally and internationally. They were even able to patent their brainchild through the support of their school and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). This program is being implemented in the Division of Muntinlupa to this day.

Ms. Olarte believes that students’ curiosity and inventiveness continue to flourish despite the changes in the learning environment. She shared that through the Science Blog she started years ago, many students from all over country still reach out to her to consult about the conduct of scientific research and investigatory projects.

“This 2020 has shown us that the society is desperately in need of the next generation of problem-solvers, innovators, and inventors. By igniting the innate creativity and ingenuity of our Filipino learners, we’ll be able to “future-proof” our youth and create the resilience needed to meet global challenges, thus preparing our citizens for an ever-changing future,” she said.

Another notable impact of the I-DID IT program is the construction of the first-ever Chlorella Micro-farm in the Philippines, made possible by Ms. Olarte and her colleague and co-inventor, Jason Albaro.

This micro-farm is expected to yield algae harvest that can be turned into food supplements, medicine, and food fortification ingredients which will help address food security challenges in this new normal.

When the micro-farm was still a project proposal in 2019, it bested entries from all over the world in the Zayed Sustainability Prize hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government. It is an annual award recognizing “impactful, innovative and inspiring sustainability solutions” in health, food, energy, water and global high schools.

Ms. Olarte receiving the Zayed Sustainability Prize for the Chlorella Micro-farm project proposal in 2019

Ms. Olarte and Mr. Albaro received a grant from the UAE government to enable further development of the project. They are also closely coordinating with the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and DOST for its sustainable operation.

Recently, Ms. Olarte presented the I-DID IT program to the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking during the Public Hearing on Senate Resolution Nos. 393 and 413. Also, her team created a website that details the project’s features, core thrusts, and activities.

Indeed, duty always calls, and Ms. Olarte is undeterred to respond whenever and however she can. She hopes that during this challenging period, her fellow teachers find joy in their ability to guide learners.

She has this to say, “remember that your labor is not in vain because every seed that you have sown in the lives of the students will eventually grow and bear much fruit in the future. Every act of selfless service can be much bigger and impactful than we realize. We can always choose to make a positive difference by tapping into our own strengths and abilities, sharing them, and matching them to the right opportunities.”

The National Teachers’ Month (NTM) held from September 5 to October 5 carries on with the tradition of honoring the significant role of educators in society. With the theme “I teach for a better future,” the celebration puts the spotlight on teachers who are at the center of the reforms and innovations as the whole nation navigates a new normal—with their commitment to ensure continuity of learning among students stronger than ever.

Every year, the NTM celebrations are led by Metrobank Foundation, Inc., the Department of Education (DepEd), and a consortium of organizations from the government, business, academe, media, civil society, and other industries. This 2020, it once again engages the public to honor the teaching profession and say thank you to their teachers, mentors, and coaches in a month of appreciation.

This 12-year movement began in 2008 when former DepEd secretary and currently De La Salle Philippines president Br. Armin Luistro conferred with Metrobank Foundation president Aniceto Sobrepeña and proposed the idea of a month-long observation to heighten public consciousness and participation in the World Teacher’s Day celebration every October 5.

What began as a simple idea has evolved into a nationwide movement. Since its inception, NTM marked several milestones: in 2011, Presidential Proclamation No. 242 was signed, officially declaring “the period from September 5 to October 5 of every year as National Teachers Month.” In 2016, the Republic Act No. 1073 was also signed, formally designating “October 5 of every year as National Teachers’ Day” which likewise serves as the culminating event of NTM.

Different activities, same celebration

The NTM activities and treats for teachers might be different this time around but the purpose that drives the campaign has not changed.

Throughout the month, partners and other participating organizations organize their own events and offer exclusive treats for teachers. Among those providing opportunities for personal and professional development through webinars and virtual workshops are Microsoft Philippines, Knowledge Channel Foundation, World Vision Foundation, City Savings Bank, Synergeia Foundation, Bato Balani Foundation, Pru Life UK, Globe MyBusiness, and Smart Communications.

Further, some organizations are running specialized events. Museo Pambata Foundation is hosting a teachers’ online party and Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost) is inviting the public to write to their teachers through a letter-writing contest.

Meanwhile, several companies are also offering special treats and discounts. These include the Philippine Business for Social Progress, Enchanted Kingdom, Manila Doctors Hospital, and Global Eyecare Center Davao.

Interested teachers may check their social media channels for more information on the said events and treats.

Towards a better future for Filipinos

The pandemic has certainly upended lives and brought many changes. NTM continues to stand in solidarity with educators nationwide whose role is crucial in helping realize a better normal and, most especially, a better future for Filipinos.

DepEd Region I will take the lead in the culminating celebration of NTM on October 10, 2020, making way for the opening of classes on October 5, 2020. They will adopt the theme “Gurong Pilipino para sa Batang Pilipino.” The event will be streamed live on Deped Philippines’ official Facebook page.

The virtual signing agreement held last September 4, 2020 was led by Metrobank Foundation president Aniceto Sobrepena (top center), Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines vice president for operation Justin Ongsue (top left), Boysen vice president for Marketing Ruben Cueto (top right) together with UST rector Rev. Fr. Richard Ang, O.P, UST dean of College of Architecture Arch’t Rodolfo Ventura (lower left), and NU president and chief executive officer Renato Carlos Ermita, Jr.

The Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines signed another partnership agreement with the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI) during a virtual signing of agreement held last September 4, 2020. Through a PhP 6.8 million scholarship fund, 15 architecture students will benefit from a 4-year scholarship assistance. The ceremony was attended by MBFI president Aniceto Sobrepena, Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines vice president for operation Justin Ongsue, vice president for marketing Ruben Cueto, and representatives from academic partners.

Started in 2005, the ‘MBFI-Pacific Paint (Boysen) Scholarship Program’ awards scholarship assistance to incoming 2nd year Architecture students from the University of the Philippines-Diliman and University of Santo Tomas (UST). For the 2nd phase of the program, the National University (NU) was added as a new academic partner. Each of the scholars from the three-partner universities will receive a fixed amount of subsidy to pay for their tuition and other fees. UST rector Rev. Fr. Richard Ang, O.P. and NU president and chief executive officer Renato Carlos Ermita, Jr. were present during the virtual ceremonies.

In the last 15 years, MBFI-Boysen Scholarship Program has already produced a total of 103 graduates and has awarded a total of 113 scholarship grants to 2nd year college students from the UP Diliman and UST.

The virtual turnover ceremony was led by Metrobank and MBFI chairman Arthur Ty, Metrobank president and MBFI trustee Fabian Dee and MBFI president and GTFI executive director Aniceto Sobrepeña on September 4, 2020 which was attended by key officers and representatives from beneficiary organizations.

Empowerment through dynamic partnerships has been at the heart of Metrobank’s anniversary for the many decades. This 2020, this rings true as it celebrates 58 meaningful years of being the people’s ally in progress. A total of PhP 30 million worth of grants was turned over to social development partners during its annual giving-back tradition, “Anniversary Grants Turnover Ceremony,” on September 4. To adhere to protocols, the event was held virtually attended by key officers and representatives from beneficiary organizations. Serving as Guest of Honor was Department of Education (DepEd) secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones.

Department of Education secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones

During this unprecedented period, Metrobank shares in the aspiration of helping Filipinos, most especially the vulnerable and underserved, to get back on their feet. To sustain its commitment to help the national government in addressing the effects and impact of the health crisis to many lives, said donation is added to the previous PhP220 million donation of the company which funded and supported efforts to combat the pandemic.

“The theme of this year’s event is collaboration. In these unusual times, our actions may be physically limited but through strategic partnerships, we can still achieve our objectives by working together,” said Metrobank and MBFI chairman Arthur Ty. “We at Metrobank have always looked at our anniversaries as an opportunity to give back and help the vulnerable and marginalized. There is a lot of need in our country right now but we hope that these small steps lead us to look to the future with some optimism and hope. And we’re grateful to our development partners for helping make this vision a reality,” he added.

Coursed through its social arm, Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI) and Ty family’s GT Foundation, Inc. (GTFI), this year’s batch of beneficiary organizations received financial aid to implement their programs on health, education, arts, livelihood, and nutrition.


One with the League to Promote Hand Hygiene

As a member of the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF), MBFI will support #LCFWinS: Lingap Eskwela sa Pandemya Program. Collaborating with fellow corporate foundations, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities will be constructed in select public schools nationwide in compliance to the ‘Guidelines on the Required Health Standards in Basic Education Offices and Schools’ (DepEd Order No. 014 s. 2020) which covers the protection of health, safety, and well-being of students, teachers, and personnel. To complement the facility, hygiene kits and supplies will also be provided.

MBFI’s donation will benefit almost 29 thousand students from 20 schools in Pasig, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, and Marikina, including La Union, Bulacan, Laguna, Rizal, Zamboanga City and Davao City.

Paddling Farther to Reach More Geographically-Isolated Schools

To reach out to more geographically-isolated schools, MBFI renewed its 7-year partnership with the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation. This time, not only to provide physical access to education for schoolchildren in the form or boats and school dormitories, MBFI will also provide in-kind donation of printers, copiers and risograph machines to aid teachers in the reproduction of the modules and learning materials. The donation shall benefit more than 20 thousand students from 39 schools in the provinces of Cebu, Romblon, Zamboanga Sibugay, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Pampanga, Zambales, Bulacan, Basilan, Siargao, Tarlac, Capiz, Zamboanga del Sur, and Sulu.

Photo from the Department of Education

Meanwhile, another donation of printers, copiers and risograph machines will go directly to select Department of Education public schools to benefit more than 23 thousand students from Manila, Navotas, Makati, Laguna, Sarangani, Leyte, Antique, Dipolog, Nueva Ecija, Iligan, Cavite, Iloilo, and Tarlac.

Art Community Gets Boost of Support

To further solidify support for the local art community, MBFI extended cash assistance to 200 visual artists whose main source of living was impacted by the crisis. Dubbed as MADE CARES (Metrobank Art & Design Excellence–Community Aid and Relief for Emergency Situations), past awardees of MADE Painting and Sculpture Recognition Programs, including eligible Filipino painters and sculptors have applied for the amelioration program.

Ministry to Curb Poverty

Another partnership renewed is that of the International Care Ministries (ICM). As a non-profit organization, ICM provides help, hope and change to impoverished families in Visayas and Mindanao. Through their integrated poverty solutions, 100 thousand ultra-poor Filipinos are assisted each year.

The donation will support their Transform and Prevail programs aimed at training and mentoring families living in ultra-poor communities on livelihood building skills. Transform is ICM’s core strategic program, designed to address the wide range of needs faced by families living in ultrapoverty. Transform starts by creating supportive environments for hope to grow, then invests in building capacity for sustainable progress out of poverty. Prevail, on the other hand, is a support network for savings groups that promotes sustainability towards greater financial inclusion. The assistance will cater to 222 households (1,110 individuals) from six (6) communities in the province Cebu.

‘Kindness Kitchen’ Goes South

From its previous donation to support the ‘Kindness Kitchen’ program of Ronald McDonald’s House Charities of the Philippines (RMHC) that served hot meals to 40 thousand individuals from NCR last April 2020, MBFI will fund additional feeding activities. This time, families and frontliners from the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu Lapu, and Davao province will be reached out, other than NCR.

GT Foundation Steps Up Tech-Voc Program

GTFI, the family foundation of the late Dr. George Ty Siao Kian, believes that quality education and equitable healthcare are basic needs that should be made accessible to the underprivileged. Since 2009, philanthropic initiatives of the family are realized through GTFI’s strategic development programs in the areas of health, education, and technology and innovation.

Through its Scholarships for Technical-Vocational Education Program (STEP), out-of-school youth and underprivileged students can gain access to quality education that enable them to gain immediate employment. Scholars of some of the best technical-vocational education and training schools in the country with industry tie-ups for guaranteed employment are supported. The virtual event served as an opportunity to renew the partnership with Dualtech Training Center, Don Bosco Technical Institute, and Punlaan School. Over a period of three (3) years, 150 Dualtech scholars will be supported to meet the manpower demands of specific industries. On the other hand, the 3-year partnership with the Don Bosco Technical Institute will support the technical skills education of 135 scholars from their 3 centers. Lastly, 24 scholars of Punlaan School will have the opportunity to gain proper skills training on hospitality and culinary arts through a 4-year agreement.

Extending Healthcare Privileges to Indigents

Manila Doctors Hospital (MDH) serves as the healthcare affiliate of MBFI which offers social services to indigent patients such as hospitalization and consultation subsidies, medical missions, and other health-related interventions in select communities. Through the annual financial support of GTFI, the corporate social responsibility programs of MDH such as quality non-discriminatory inpatient and outpatient services and surgical operations will reach out to more indigent Filipinos in need of medical assistance.

Laptops and Tablets for Blended Learning

To complement the national government’s groundwork for a blended learning approach for the school year, GTFI launched Project PERFORM (Provision of Equipment to Reinforce Facility of Online and Remote Modality of Learning). The program is targeting to give laptops and tablets to more than 600 qualified students from public and techvoc schools, as well as GTFI and MBFI scholars.

“Sharing has been at the core of Metrobank’s anniversary for the last 58 years. Grants turned over to our partners are intended to benefit those whom they are helping. Our donations are expressions of gratefulness ingrained in our institutional culture,” expressed MBFI president and GTFI executive director Aniceto Sobrepeña. “As we pursue these ideals, we do so honoring the memory of our founder Dr. George Ty Siao Kian. He envisioned a bequest that would go well beyond his lifetime, enabling and ennobling men to build a world where sound health, quality education, and productive lives are everyone’s portion,” he concluded.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals have continued to be at the service of all Filipinos and performed their duty nonstop with little to no respite. This is what the new normal looks like for Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-de la Paz, who remains committed to fulfill her obligations to the country and her institution during this time of public health crisis.

In 2019, Dr. Eva was named one of the 10 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos. She dons many hats as an educator, physician, and researcher. With this, work has never halted and series of engagements have constantly required her attention, especially now that she is actively involved in efforts to aid the government in the COVID-19 response.

She revealed what she considers her anchor during this period. “I am still overwhelmed with grief upon losing friends and colleagues in the medical profession due to COVID-19. What keeps me going is knowing that despite our present circumstances, God is sovereign and in control,” said Dr. Eva.

As the Executive Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, the greatest obstacle Dr. Eva currently faces is accepting that she cannot always be physically where the action is. This is due to her lung condition which puts her in the high-risk category for COVID-19.

With the aid of technology, however, she can perform all her crucial work. She oversees the NIH COVID-19 Testing Laboratory operations, trains Genetics fellows using the telegenetics platform, and coordinates UP’s training assistance to the Department of Health (DOH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). She also meets with donors and constituents online, serves as a keynote speaker in webinars, and even presents in the Senate public hearing on education and health.

Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-de la Paz is a Professor 10 of the College of Medicine and Executive Director of the National Institutes of Health both in University of the Philippines Manila. She also serves as Director for the Health Program of the Philippine Genome Center. She was named one of the 2019 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos.

It took a village to build a COVID-19 Testing Lab

The UP Manila National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) name has been doing rounds in the media recently, and rightly so. The institution is one of the first responders to the country’s call for an expanded COVID-19 testing capacity.

All hands were on deck as, within a span of two laborious weeks, Dr. Eva and her fellow doctors set up the stringent measures required for a testing laboratory. They immediately started testing for COVID-19 upon passing the necessary assessments.

Indeed, the NIH offered a silver lining just when the country needed it most. Dr. Eva has this to say about the work that her institution has achieved, “The NIH responded quickly and appropriately when the country needed testing labs at the start of the pandemic. It also had a mindset to be resourceful and always find a way to serve the testing needs of patients in the hospitals and quarantine centers.”

Frontliners working hard at the UP National Institutes of Health (NIH) COVID-19 Testing Laboratory

Putting up the laboratory, however, was only half the battle. During its first weeks of operation, the laboratory was efficiently run by around 30 volunteer staff from the NIH Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB) who, despite their willingness to focus on the undertaking, all had to return to their respective projects after a certain period. This need for manpower prompted NIH to hire new staff who now comprise the new COVID-19 Testing Team through the Human Resource for Health Program of DOH.

The Laboratory frontliner volunteers who helped make sure that the UP NIH COVID-19 Testing Laboratory is ready to serve the people’s testing needs

Further, the laboratory does not have any budget of its own to perform the COVID-19 testing. Despite this, the team has conducted over 20,000 tests to date and not charged a single centavo. This was possible through the outpouring of support from the DOH, RITM, Philippine General Hospital, and several private donors that came in the form of swabs, kits, and other supplies crucial to testing. They were able to serve the PGH patients as well as 29 other hospitals and community quarantine centers within their area.

Receiving donations which help support the operations of the testing laboratory

Equipping a league of front liners

The abilities to test, trace, and treat are vital in curbing the spread of the pandemic. Aside from expanding the capability of existing laboratories and building new ones across the regions, proper training is required to equip all personnel who will handle the COVID-19 testing.

This is where the NIH as well as other UP institutes and centers also came in. Dr. Eva, together with volunteer faculty and research assistants from the NIH National Training Center for Biosafety and Biosecurity (NTCBB), UP Diliman NIMBB and UP Philippine Genome Center (PGC), created online modules for the DOH and RITM training assistance program. The online modules cover two important areas: biosafety and molecular biology techniques.


The Biosafety Education and Awareness Training (BEAT COVID-19) is designed to provide core concepts of basic biosafety and biosecurity practices including risk assessment, bio-containment facilities, as well as basics of personal protective equipment (PPEs), disinfection, sterilization and decontamination, and waste management of biological material.

The DOH designated the NIH NTCBB to be the training provider. To date, the training has graduated more than 2,688 trainees nationwide, many of whom are already employed as laboratorians in different accredited laboratories.

The UP COLlab, on the other hand, is the online learning lab for RT-PCR testing. This online course is composed of lectures designed to provide the conceptual framework as well as overview of the testing workflow and protocols needed to perform the RT-PCR based diagnostic test for COVID-19. This is then followed by hands-on training.

It has been provided by the University for free, along with food and training materials. The DOH has recognized these efforts and is now funding the implementation.

Combating this pandemic has truly necessitated concerted action. Dr. Eva believes that fortitude will also help Filipinos confront this health crisis. “We all need to be resilient—able to cope with adversity and use challenges to forge strength and prosperity. Although we are still in the middle of abnormal times, we should still be moving forward to find best ways to provide better health care for the next generation,” she said.

Dr. Eva’s story, as well the stories of other individuals and institutions dedicating their energy to combat the pandemic, tells the power of solidarity and shared purpose. The fight may be far from over but hope persists—it lies in every Filipino driven to extend a helping hand.

Last July 14, 2020, GT Foundation, Inc. (GTFI) and Don Bosco Technical Institute (DBTI) successfully held a virtual MOA signing for a three-year scholarship program with worth more than PhP7.4 million that will sponsor the education of 135 students from three Don Bosco Centers located in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija; Naga City, Camarines Sur; and Canlubang, Laguna. Representing GTFI were executive director Aniceto Sobrepeña (bottom left), deputy executive director Nicanor L. Torres, Jr, and assistant executive director Irene D. Labitad, while TVET technical director Fr. Jose Dindo S. Vitug SDB, signed for DBTI. Also present were head of secretariat Philip Jay M. Pronstroller, senior program officer Lilac C. Lazaro, and program officer Bryan J. Sudaria for GTFI; deputy director Marc L. Celis and external relations officer Carlo Sigua for DBTI.

Under its Scholarships for Technical-vocational Education Program (STEP), GTFI aims to equip out-of-school youth and other marginalized students with skills that will help them gain immediate employment. Since 2016, the foundation has been supporting a total of 100 scholars of some of the best technical-vocational education and training schools in the country with industry tie-ups for guaranteed employment. These schools are the Toyota Motor Philippines School of Technology, DBTI, and DualTech Training Center Foundation.

The Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI) and the GT Foundation, Inc. (GTFI), together with Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, commended this year’s batch of scholars during a series of virtual Graduates’ Conversations on June 30, July 2 and 7, 2020.

A total of 14 scholars finished their undergraduate degrees from Manila Tytana Colleges (MTC), University of the Philippines Diliman (UP), and University of Santo Tomas (UST). They are the recipients of the GTFI-Manila Tytana Colleges Youth for Excellence and Service (YES) and MBFI-Pacific Paint (Boysen) scholarship programs. Out of the 14 scholars, eight (8) graduated cum laude.

The virtual encounter, which honored the accomplishments of the scholars, was led by MBFI president Aniceto Sobrepena. “There are so many challenging events happening around us now and I’m glad that our scholars did not give up and continued to become strong individuals. We are all proud of your accomplishments and we appreciate everyone for attending this online activity,” said Sobrepena in his welcome remarks.

The management congratulated the scholars and provided hope and encouragement as their in-person graduations have been canceled or postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The scholars also shared their stories and life journeys and recalled the people who helped them along the way. They outlined their plans on vision boards to guide their next steps in life.

Catherine Ryanne Naraga, a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy graduate, from Manila Tytana Colleges, considers her GT YES scholarship as one of the greatest blessings that enabled her to pursue Accountancy. Her family had a rough time supporting her college education because of her father’s illness that prevented him from coming back to work as a seaman. Her mother, who works in their barangay has not enough income to support their daily expenses. In this time of pandemic, they only relied on her father’s monthly pension and cash allowance from the local government unit. Now that she has finished college, her main plan is to focus on reviewing for the CPA licensure exam and look for a stable job.

Marian Joyce Dacquel, a Bachelor of Science in Architecture graduate, cum laude, from the University of the Philippines Diliman, shared that ever since 3rd-year high school she already envisioned herself becoming a successful architect. These all came true when she was granted the MBFI-Boysen scholarship program. Marian made sure to keep track of her academic performance and continued to be a consistent ‘college and university scholar’ throughout her five years taking Architecture. Marian recently passed the 2020 LAE and got qualified to UP Law. Aside from being an architect, she believes that practicing law is one of the best ways to give service to the country.

Karen Elyssa Eloriaga, a Bachelor of Science in Architecture graduate, cum laude, from the University of Santo Tomas, said that the scholarship served more than just financial support for her college education; it motivated her to excel in academics and reminded her that God works miracles in her life. Despite the day to day adversities, she has experienced in the university and during this current pandemic, she remains optimistic and strong in pursuing her dreams of becoming an architect. In the future, she hopes to join an architecture firm where she can gain substantial experience and earn a stable income. After this, Karen wishes to give back to the community by building social housing and providing scholarships for the poor.

Also present in the three-day graduate’s conversations were MTC president and former University of the Philippines Diliman chancellor, Dr. Sergio Cao, MBFI executive director, Nicanor Torres, Jr., MBFI assistant executive director Irene Labitad, Boysen vice president Engr. Ruben Cueto, Boysen marketing manager Vergel Dyoco, Boysen office manager Natalie Lee.

Reinforcing the vision of the Metrobank Group’s late Chairman Dr. George Ty Siao Kian to nurture the country’s future leaders, the online activity allowed the scholars to meet their benefactors and interact with their fellow scholars. Since 1995, the Metrobank Scholarship Program has been awarding financial grants to support deserving students through college. To date, the program has produced over 1,000 graduates in collaboration with its partner institutions and schools.

For more information on MBFI’s scholarship programs, please visit www.mbfoundation.org.ph.

Metrobank Foundation President Aniceto Sobrepeña (rightmost) and Department of Education (DepEd) Curriculum and Instruction Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio (leftmost) confer the Metrobank Foundation Fellows in Public Service title to 2019 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipino Teachers Dr. Cristina Cristobal (second to the left) and Dr. Dorothy Tarol last Feb. 12 at the Bulwagan ng Karunungan, DepEd Complex, Pasig City.

Newly conferred Metrobank Foundation Fellows in Public Service proposed to restore Philippine History in the high school curriculum and mainstream inclusive instruction to Department of Education (DepEd) officials and members of the academe last February 12 at the Bulwagan ng Karunungan, DepEd Complex, Pasig City.

Veteran history teacher and 2019 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipino Dr. Cristina Cristobal presented the need to revive Philippine History in high school, a subject previously removed by DepEd in the K-12 program. She also proposed the inclusion of teaching Philippine Government and Constitution for a school year, a bid she successfully pushed for in the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) System’s social science curriculum.

“Many of our students lack affection for history because of the traditional method that is used, but perhaps there is a way to love history. We’re not only teaching them facts, we want them to become critical thinkers,” said Dr. Cristobal.

The legacy of Dr. Cristobal, Quezon City’s Veteran Innovator in History Instruction, in PSHS can be best captured by her initiative to inspire changes to the students’ perspective towards learning history. She believes exposing students to primary sources provides evidence-based approach to learning.

Another 2019 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipino and special education teacher Dr. Dorothy Tarol, meanwhile, proposed the mainstreaming of her action research on inclusive instruction nationwide. Entitled “Buddy-Mediated Instruction (BMI): Pivotal Strategy for Spelling and Social Skills for Students with Hearing Impairment,” the study aims to develop a student’s basic literacy skills through pairing of two “buddies” who engage in learner initiated-activities.

According to Dr. Tarol, she hopes to “help teachers by sharing information about evidence-based instructional strategy for struggling readers by creating reading literacy experiences relevant to students’ interests, everyday life and to current environmental events.” BMI, as an instructional strategy, also became a benchmark model in DepEd Divisions of Iloilo and Iloilo City and was already replicated by around 178 schools.

Dubbed as Western Visayas’ Paragon of Inclusive Education, Dr. Tarol has shifted her teaching career to cater to students with disabilities at the Special Education-Integrated School for Exceptional Children in Iloilo City. She has since devoted her life’s work onto shaping an environment conducive for learners of all kinds.

Both proposals were deliberated in a roundtable discussion with Curriculum and Instruction Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio, Assistant Secretary Alma Ruby Torio and officers from the DepEd Bureau of Education Assessment, Alternative Learning System Program Task Force, National Educator’s Academy of the Philippines, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines and PSHS.

Through the Metrobank Foundation Fellowship in Public Service, professional milestones and personal life stories of the awardees are brought to the fore. Achievements that result to positive change and innovations that address major societal concerns are highlighted and widely shared.

Metrobank Foundation, Inc.

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