For the fifth consecutive time since 2016, the team from Visayas State University brings home the Regional Pag-asa Award (Group Category), this time because of the specific response done by the university in fighting COVID-19.

They call themselves the VSU Pandemic Movers who were operating under the command of the Office of the VSU President.

During the start of the pandemic, VSU President Edgardo E. Tulin came up with different committees who were delegated to implement COVID-19 counter initiatives that led the university in crafting and deploying management systems to mitigate pandemic-induced situations.

The group is composed of VSU key officials who worked on key areas and special projects to keep the university safe and responsive to the needs of VSU constituents including its neighboring communities.

Dr. Santiago T. Peña, former VSU Executive Secretary and now Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), served as team coordinator who oversaw the implementation of different projects including food pack distribution to stranded students, and arrangement with different local government units for the safe return of stranded students to their respective hometowns, among others.

He was joined by Dr. Elwin Jay V. Yu, Chief Medical Officer of VSU, who took care of responses related to health protocols, emergency, rescue and sanitation including the overall management of university frontliners in charge of keeping the VSU community safe.

Meanwhile, the Dean of Students Prof. Manolo B. Loreto, Jr. was particularly tasked to facilitate safe billeting of stranded students while organizing various interventions related to mental health to ensure the wellness of the stranded students.

Other members of the team include Dr. Rosario A. Salas, Head of the Department of Horticulture, who spearheaded a massive cultivation of vegetables in VSU demonstration farms to ensure local food security within the VSU community and its neighboring barangays.

Lastly, Mr. Jed Asaph D. Cortes, the Head of the VSU Web Team and a faculty member of the Department of Development Communication (DDC), took care of strengthening VSU’s information systems by delivering up-to-date news and local bulletins to inform the public about the happenings inside the university.

In a virtual awarding program that was live streamed on September 9 in CSC Eastern Visayas Facebook page, VSU Pandemic Movers team coordinator Dr. Santiago T. Peña accepted the PAG-ASA award on behalf of his group members.

“We are greatly humbled for the opportunity to serve and become instruments of goodwill and hope. Despite the pandemic, we see people from all walks of life bearing light and courage for others to survive, trusting that God will never lead us where His grace cannot keep us. On behalf of the VSU Pandemic Movers, with Dr. Elwin Jay V. Yu, Dr. Rosario A. Salas, Prof. Manolo B. Loreto, and Mr. Jed Asaph D. Cortes, it is our pleasure to accept this award to serve the people with honor and gratitude. Thank you so much,” Dr. Peña said in his acceptance speech.

Among the biggest accomplishments of the VSU Pandemic Movers is the provision of weekly food packs from March until July 2020 good for more or less 500 stranded students in VSU and in neighboring communities.

As they successfully managed securing weekly food relief to stranded students for five months, community frontliners and some indigents also received food aid from VSU through weekly distribution of freshly harvested vegetables and free planting materials to nearby barangays and partner government agencies.

With an already working and effective management system implemented within the university, the team also extended their assistance and expertise to the City Government of Baybay in the form of livelihood training for women’s organizations and other community stakeholders.

The group’s cohesive and integrated approach to pandemic response also became instrumental beyond other pressing community issues as they were also able to provide technical support in mitigating the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF) by assisting 426 swine practitioners across regional and national agencies.

In an initiative of the Office of the Dean of Students, they were able to launch a local social campaign called #NiKoPaNi derived from an abbreviation of Cebuano phrase ‘Nia Ko Para Nimo’ (I’m here for you). This is a way of raising mental-health support for students led by university guidance counselors who brought this campaign to different online platforms of the university while also implementing it offline by reaching out to stranded students who temporarily resided within the campus and in neighboring barangays during the start of the community quarantine.

On top of all these pandemic response programs was the efficient information management system carried out by the University Integrated Media Center (UIMC) that provided numerous platforms and various means in making information readily available to the entire Viscan population across the VSU system.

The awarding of the Regional Pag-asa Award along with other recognition is part of the annual Honors Awards Program (HAP) of the Civil Service Commission. Regional winners will automatically qualify to the national level competition with its winners to be announced at the end of the year.

VSU has been consistently winning both the regional and national awards of the CSC with three of its administrators named as Presidential Lingkod Bayan awardees and several groups winning the national Pag-asa Award.

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