THE University of Luzon conferred the degree of Doctor of Pedagogy, honoris causa, on Carolina Catenza-Porio, executive director of the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE) on March 15, 2011, in recognition of her eminent stature as educator-administrator and book author.
The honoris causa conferment is part of UL’s commitment to dedicate school year 2010-2011, its 63rd year anniversary, to acknowledge the accomplishments of individuals like Catenza-Porio who was cited for “strengthening the country’s education fiber by widening educational opportunities for the youth and elevating the role of women in nation-building.”
The following is Dr. Porio’s response on the conferment:
I am overwhelmed and humbled by the honor that this prestigious university, the University of Luzon, confers upon me today, the degree of Doctor of Pedagogy. I feel, however, that I am accepting this conferment not so much for a personal accomplishment although knowing how important this conferment is, I wish I could have done much more personally.
I feel that I am accepting this concernment in behalf of an ensemble performance or accomplishment; this honor rightfully belongs to the entire private education sector and to FAPE, private education’s staunchest advocate.
This conferment is meaningful on many levels: at the level of the entire private education sector, at the level of FAPE and lastly, but not the least important, on a personal level. Let me begin with what this conferment means to me on the personal level.
There were many circumstances in my personal life that have contrived to influence the course of my career resulting to 36 years of service exclusively to private education. With your indulgence, I wish to share these with you today.
I had wanted to be a medical doctor but the poverty of my parents coupled with the fact that there were other siblings to send to school, forced me to take a college degree that was affordable to them. My formative years were with the Society of the Divine Word Fathers, who gave me the opportunity to earn a college degree in Education and then entrusted me with a teaching position in two of their schools. My graduate education and ten years of service to the Graduate Schools of Business and Education were spent with the Christian Brothers of De la Salle. I later served as the Executive Director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) before becoming the Executive Director of the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE). Interspersed among these engagements was a stint as principal of yet another private school. In short, my entire professional life had been spent serving Philippine private education.
I joined FAPE at what would look in hindsight, the most critical period of its existence, as it suffered the fate of thousands of other corporations and organizations affected adversely by the Asian economic crisis in the late 1990s. Back then, I did not have a full comprehension of the impact of the economic crisis on the operations of FAPE, a quasi-government entity, entrusted with an endowment for the assistance of the private education sector, which had diversified into other ‘businesses’ to augment this endowment. For a while, I thought that my having joined FAPE at the time that I did was a classic case of being at the “wrong place at the wrong time.” Two years later, it was ‘doubly moronic’, so I was told, to have accepted the job of Executive Director of an organization that was at the brink of extinction and the recipient of so much adverse criticism particularly, from the sector it was pledged to serve. The private education sector had felt betrayed and perhaps not without reason!
But I took the challenge, because I am a perpetual optimist and because nobody else would, and the rest is part of FAPE’s history. Looking back, I realize that I was not misplaced after all. My God planted me in FAPE soil at the right time for the tight reasons. As God’s plan for me and for the organization unraveled, the adage, “grow wherever you are planted” which resonates deeply with my own philosophy in life and my strong belief (which is part of my catholic upbringing) of letting God do the rest after one has done one’s best began to play out.
FAPE was my school of ‘Hard Knocks’. In its classrooms, I learned many things and improved my management craft. I did not realize that I could be good at PR work. Because I needed to win back the confidence of many education stakeholders and convince them that FAPE had enough organizational stability and enough good will in its emotional bank account with the private sector to be able, not only to survive but rally a comeback, I began to lose my fear of speaking in front of people. I gradually realized some hidden gifts and talents, not the least among which was that I could inspire people, especially our staff, to sacrifice personal needs in favor of the greater good of our organization.
I thank God for having allowed me to be part of this great team of hardworking and dedicated employees. Today, I can confidently say that FAPE, with the gradual restoration of its programs of assistance to private education, has bought back its honor and is once again a vibrant service and resource agency.
Eleven years ago, at about the same time that FAPE was experiencing difficulties, God tested my faith in an even more mysterious way. He took back my husband, King, my eldest son, Christian, and my only daughter, Samantha, together with some other family members, in an airline tragedy where all 126 passengers perished. My immediate family members were among the 26 passengers whose remains were never identified.
And as if that was not enough, while my son Karl and I were struggling to survive the trauma and pain of loss, I was diagnosed with Stage 3-breast cancer. I felt that a death sentence, from which there was no commutation, or reprieve, had just been served on me.
But through all these trials, I found my one source of strength. With all the tenacity I could muster, I anchored my faith on God’s mercy and goodness; I depended on His promises of healing and restoration. I believed that if He called me to do a task, He would provide me with all the resources I needed to succeed. I made a solid commitment to Him that I shall spend whatever is left of my earthly life serving Him by serving His people; by doing the things I knew best: educating others.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step”, they say. This afternoon I take another gigantic step, as I humbly accept this honor that you have conferred upon me with a pledge that I will work even harder to deserve it.
At the level of the private education sector, the conferment of this degree validates the political and moral imperative for adequate assistance to and sustained partnership between the government and the Private Education sector. The Private Education sector helps the government fulfill, in a very substantial way, the constitutional mandate for the provision of a free basic education for all.
This conferment is also a validation of the various roles that the Fund for Assistance to Private Education had played for the last 43 years, among others, serving as a catalyst for the private educational associations, like, APSCU who I believe was instrumental in conferring this distinction on me, to continue to have a powerful voice to inform the national policies and guidelines that direct the course of education as a primary tool for the development and transformation of society and to configure the national and local environments in which the private sector operates.
This conferment validates the relevance of an organization, like, the Fund for Assistance to Private Education; it validates the continuous need for an organization like FAPE to thrive. FAPE is unique in the sense that while it assists government by mobilizing or harnessing the various key players in the private sector to support or implement national development goals through educational programs, it can, at the same time, be an honest and constructive CRITIC of government. The role of being a critic of government while being its partner is probably the most difficult of the roles that FAPE has to play. It requires well-thought out, deliberate, calibrated moves that are anchored on both evidence and participative processes. The role of CRITIC immediately rules out fence sitting while a major policy scenario plays out or being simply a publicist or a PR arm of government. Over time, FAPE has developed processes and mechanisms for getting feedback from the sector, crafting sectoral positions and relaying these pieces of information to government through the DEPED, CHED, local government and Congress. The mechanisms for organizing national, regional, provincial, professional association think tanks, task forces, fora, conferences, workshops and research groups are in place. FAPE supports a research agenda the findings of which inform and continuously direct the funding thrusts and the course of its major support programs. The role of being a CRITIC is the most difficult role to play because if the private schools perceive FAPE to be just a mouthpiece of government, then it loses the proverbial ‘saltiness’ which renders salt useless. FAPE has to maintain the trust of government and the confidence of the private education sector. To quote Dr. Armand Fabella – “ang Private Education Sector ang among tunay”. It is interesting to note that about three and half decades after Dr. Fabella made this pronouncement, the same statement, the same sentiment is echoed in President Aquino’s mantra when referring to the primacy of the claim of EveryMan, of Juan de la Cruz, to government attention and service, “Kayo, referring to every Filipino, “ang among tunay”. Today I paraphrase this commitment using a more up to date or hip lingo, “kayo, ang private education sector, ang tunay na BOSSING.”
FAPE’s role of CRITIC also applies to constantly evaluating the sector it represents. FAPE is at the same time engaged in looking at its own outputs, processes and is constantly checking the alignment of the former to its ultimate goal of developing a self-renewing, sustainable Private Education sector — one that provides quality education that is relevant to both national and global needs while remaining contextualized by the unique religious and social requirements of its clients.
Being a CATALYST, being an ENQUIRER, and being a CRITIC require FAPE to be ACCOUNTABLE to both government and to the sector it represents. Therefore, like a dutiful steward, it had set up and will continue to refine the mechanisms with which to effectively ensure that government assistance goes to the intended beneficiaries and that a faithful accounting of grants and subsidies is reported to government through the DepED.
FAPE’s own history runs parallel to and intersects the evolution of the relationship of the private education sector and government. This history has been marked by periods of benign neglect, guarded suspicion, resentment, uneasy peace and, ultimately, of collaboration, of mutual trust and acceptance of shared responsibilities.
In Promise 27 of his First State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III stated: “Private education must be a partner in producing quality education in the country. I intend to expand GASTPE (Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education) to a target of 1 million private HS students every year through education service contracting (ESC) while doing away with the wasteful education voucher system (EVS) of this administration… I will expand government assistance to private education. A strong private school system will strengthen our public schools by providing parents an alternative and not adding to the overcrowding.”
FAPE intends to fully support government and the private sector in ensuring that the ESC program is both effective and efficiently managed.
It is both an honor and a privilege for me to serve in FAPE. It is exciting to be part of nation building; to see how your small piece of the puzzle fits to complete a picture. While nation building is at best a motherhood cause or concept to many, to me, it’s personal in the daily operations and struggles of FAPE. If I am asked why I wake up every morning, I can honestly say that I wake up every morning to celebrate the victory of every Filipino child against ignorance and poverty, because I am convinced that Educational Service Contracting has enabled many Filipino children to have access to a good education. I wake up every morning to celebrate the victory of every teacher who chooses to remain teaching in the country, in spite of better paying opportunities elsewhere.
This conferment affirms the sacrifices of all private school teachers, overworked and underpaid as they are, who continue their mission to make a difference in the lives of our children. It is on their behalf that the A Teacher Party List was conceived, organized, ran for congress and succeeded. For the first time in the history of private education, through FAPE’s advocacy, and with the support of private schools, our teachers now enjoy a modest salary subsidy from the government. We will continue with our advocacy so that our teachers can live in dignity benefitting the profession. To be entrusted with assisting school heads to manage their schools effectively and efficiently and to meet the stringent requirements of the FAPE Certification Program, these are worth waking up to every single morning.
I accept this honor on behalf of the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC), FAPE’s Board of Trustees, who accorded me their trust and allows me both flexibility and autonomy in managing this organization. I share this honor with our national secretariat and regional coordinators who came all the way from their regional stations to witness this event.
I thank the Board of trustees, the administration and the entire academic community of the University of Luzon, my Alma Mater, friends and colleagues in the academe, all our guests and friends who are present. I am especially grateful for APSCU’s support.
And finally, I share this honor with my son, Karl Vincent, who together with his late father had badgered me to pursue doctoral studies because correcting people who introduce me as ‘Dr. Porio’ and my eternal rejoinder, “Carol” na lang po, kasi wala pa akong doctorate”, was beginning to sound like a tired, old refrain.
Our generous Father granted my family’s wish today! King, I wish you were here, but I know you are more proud of me now.
Thank you and good afternoon.