November 20, 2013
SM City North EDSA

It is indeed an honor of the Visayas State University to receive this year’s award for the Eco-friendly School. We would like to express our gratitude and thanks to CHED, DENR, Smart Philippines, Nestle Philippines, Meralco and other sponsors of this award. We take the award as an affirmation of our environmental programs and actions in the university such as segregation of trash from collection to disposal, banning one-time use plastic bags, rainforestation, integrated coastal management, tarsier and biodiversity conservation, alternative energy researches and many more.

The Visayas State University has always been a campus blessed with abundance and beauty of nature. The campus of more than a thousand hectares and is strategically located between the green forest of the majestic Mt. Pangasugan in the east and the clear blue waters of the Camotes Sea on the west. In between is a community that considers the campus a paradise, proud of the campus where they live and always declare that VSU does not only mean Visayas State University but also means Very Scenic University.

The university persistently and passionately integrates in its three fold functions of instruction, research and community engagement numerous programs toward environmental conservation and enhancement. It was in this university that the word “rainforestation” was coined before it became widely accepted as the most appropriate approach in bringing back forests in tropical countries. It was this university that advocated for accreditation of timber-species nurseries. It is a university that implements conservation and rehabilitation of watersheds in Visayas and Mindanao.

The Visayas State University is one of the very few accredited and recognized Dark Green Schools in the country by the Environmental Education Network of the Philippines (EENP).

It is also a university known to conduct relevant researches and community engagement programs that provide better technologies, new knowledge and solutions to problems of our farmers, fisher folks and agri-processors.

The evaluation for this award happened few weeks ago when the campus was dark green from all the canopies of trees growing all over the campus. That time we tried our best to share with the evaluators a slice of our heaven/a taste of our paradise that is VSU. Sadly, that was a stark contrast to how the university looks right now.

Few days ago, super typhoon Yolanda unleashed its brute force in the Visayas and it did not spare the university and its external campuses. Trees snapped or were uprooted and fell on academic buildings and residences. Power and phone lines were down and water lines were cut. The campus looked like a war zone. Today, the campus is brown rather than green.

The scene however is minor when compared to what came to pass on our external campuses in Tolosa, Isabel and Alang-alang Leyte. VSU-Tolosa campus is next to the ocean thus suffered not only the force of wind but also the force of the storm surge. There the task is not just repair but to rebuild the school from scratch. For the other two campuses, it will take months to repair the damage and restore the buildings. Some of the buildings were not only rendered roofless but totally collapsed from the battering of wind.

This damage exerts tremendous hardship to our faculty members, staff and students. Many we know are still struggling to survive the days ahead. Not only are we hearing stories of our graduates losing their love ones, we are beginning to obtain unconfirmed reports of casualties among our students who we sent home to be with their families before the typhoon.

Nevertheless, we have not let this calamity quash or dampen our spirits. Crisis period is not a time to cry but rather a time to act and show strength. We have mobilized the whole community to work rain or shine to remove vestiges of the calamity and to bring back normalcy in VSU-main campus. We have restored the water supply of the campus and that of the adjacent barangays that are dependent on the University for water. Day by day, we have expanded the area of the campus that is energized by the university power generator.

Yesterday, after evaluating the situation, we have decided to reopen classes by Monday in two of our five campuses, though we know that some of our students from severely affected areas may not be able to return. For those from severely affected areas who will decide to return, it is our added responsibility to look for ways to somehow support them. Chances are, their families will be having difficulties in sustaining them in the university as Eastern Visayans are highly dependent on coconut and abaca. It will take months and years for their crops to regain its previous productivity.

We have therefore decided to use the cash incentives from the award we garnered this afternoon to support some of our students from affected areas who wish to continue studying this semester. We appeal for more support from the sponsor of this Search for Eco-friendly School for our affected students who may not be able to continue their studies if unaided financially.

Each day after the typhoon, I went around our main campus and our external campuses to spearhead in the clean-up and restoration. In the absence of the tree canopies, the sunshine is so intense that it hurt our eyes and burned our skin. We longed for the trees that shield us from the scalding sun. We cannot help but notice the buds emerging from twigs and branches even from fallen trees. The sight is enough to assure us that nature is on its way to protect and care for us again as much as we/our school will continue to protect and care Mother Nature.

Again, thank you for the awards.