Tuesday, February 2, 2016

10 Outstanding Ilocanos for 2016

By The Ilocos Times staff

This year, there is an equal number of male and female awardees, with one awardee being openly gay. The youngest is nine while the most senior is an octogenarian. Some hold master’s degrees and doctorates while one awardee finished only grade school. Notably, there are two law enforcers and two Supreme Court justices. There is also one student athlete and a university unit. Two women keep Ilocano material culture alive while one man pursues a free and responsible press. And a doctor who strives to keep everybody healthy.

In celebration of Ilocos Norte’s 198th Founding Anniversary, The Ilocos Times is proud to announce the 10 Outstanding Ilocanos for 2016.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales
A native of Paoay, Ilocos Norte Conchita Carpio Morales is arguably the most efficient and most courageous Ombudsman (and former Supreme Court justice) the Philippines has ever seen.

Under Ms. Morales, the Office of the Ombudsman posted a 75-percent conviction rate in 2015, with 81 out of 108 decided cases leading to penalties for officials charged. By filing cases against corrupt and abusive public officials—including three senators involved in the PDAF scam, and even officials allied with President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III—Ms. Morales has upheld the long-standing democratic principle that a public office is a public trust. As a result, the Philippines’ Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2015 dropped 10 notches from 2014. While this figure remains a depressing situation, such improvement means anti-corruption efforts are bearing fruit.

Our respect for this fearless and “peerless” graftbuster whose Ilocano values of hard work (gaget), honor (dayaw), frugality and simple living (nasalimetmet) has opened a window for this country’s redemption.

Justice Diosdado M. Peralta
THE 162nd Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Diosdado M. Peralta is also the third Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice appointed to the High Tribunal.

A native of Laoag City, Justice Peralta finished his Bachelor of Science degree at the San Juan de Letran in 1974 before pursuing law at the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law, where he graduated in 1979. Northwestern University here in Laoag City later conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa on April 9, 2010.

Justice Peralta’s government career began in 1987 when he appointed assistant city fiscal in this city. A year later, he was assigned to Manila City’s Prosecutor’s Office. He later became the assistant chief of the Investigation Division Office of the Manila City Prosecutor’s Office.

On September 22, 1994, he was appointed Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 95, Quezon City, which was designated as Special Criminal Court on Heinous Crimes and, later, Drugs Cases.

On June 14, 2002 he was appointed Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan. Less than six years later, on March 28, 2008, he became the Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice.

P/Director Moro Virgilio M. Lazo
THIS Laoag native literally landed the biggest job in his police career after he was named Special Action Forces (SAF) chief just a month after the botched Mamasapano mission.

Police Director Moro Virgilio M. Lazo replaced P/Chief Supt. Noli Taliño who was named SAF OIC after P/Director Getulio Napeñas was relieved over the botched operation that left at least 65 individuals dead and which effectively slammed the door on the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

A true Laoagueño, Mr. Lazo finished his elementary and secondary education at the Divine Word College of Laoag. He then took up Agricultural Engineering at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños before he decided to enter the Philippine Military Academy.

A member of PMA Maharlika Class of 1984, Mr. Lazo became a member of the elite SAF upon his graduation. The SAF then was still under the defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC). Mr. Lazo stayed as a SAF commando from 1984-89, with another tour at the elite force from 2010-2013.

Prior to becoming the SAF chief commander Mr. Lazo also served as Firearms and Explosives Office chief; SAF directorial staff chief; a member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) during the term of Pres. Fidel V. Ramos; regional police director of Central Luzon; and provincial police director of Cagayan and Benguet.

After he was chosen to lead the elite police force, then DILG Sec. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II said Mr. Lazo was selected as SAF commander because “A true SAF trooper is the best one to lead the SAF,” which was then facing a “big challenge.”

The sixth of eight children, the SAF commander is brother to INEC Board President Reynaldo M. Lazo and Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Vicentito “Toto” M. Lazo. He is 54 years old and married to Paraxedes Velasco, a Bacarra native, with whom he has four children—two sons and two daughters.

Mhage Gerriahlou Sebastian
A small girl became the latest toast of the Philippine chess community after she bagged a gold and a silver medals in the 16th ASEAN + Age Group Chess Championship.

Nine-year-old Mhage Gerriahlou Sebastian from Binsang in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte won gold in individual standard category and silver in team category.

At her young age, Mhage is one the brightest chess players in the north and has represented the country in several age group championships, earning her an outright Woman Candidate Master (WCM) classification, the youngest Filipino to receive the honor.

SPO1 Aurora Joy Manuela
A graduate of Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Senior Police Officer 1 Aurora Joy Manuela never thought of joining the police force until one day, she found herself shifting careers, proving a woman’s natural instinct and wit to do wonders in crime solution and neutralizing bad guys.

Recognized as one of the Country’s Outstanding Police Officer in Service (COPS), a prestigious search of the Metrobank Foundation, Ilocanos take pride in SPO1 Manuela, currently the chief clerk of the Provincial Police Strategy Management Unit of Ilocos Norte Police Provincial Office (INPPO) for her selfless dedication to public service.

In her 13 years in the police service, records show Ms. Manuela’s great contribution to crime solution and crime prevention in the province.

During her assignment at the Provincial Intelligence Branch as Intelligence Operations PNCO, she strategically utilized the Barangay Information Networks (BINs) that successfully resulted in the arrest of criminal gangs.

She likewise contributed to the safety and security of the residents when she became a member of the Provincial Anti-Private Armed Group Task Force (PAPAGTF) where she shared her expertise on intelligence that resulted to the neutralization of criminal personalities listed in the watch list.

Her hard work helped in the reduction of illegal drug trade in Ilocos Norte as she contributed in the surveillance and buy-bust operations against illegal drug dealers thru the Provincial Anti Private Armed Group and Dangerous Drug Council (PAPAGDDC).

Ms. Manuela is also involved in the implementation and monitoring of the projects and initiatives of the Ilocos Norte Police Provincial Office such as the Motorist Anti-Street Crime Operatives (MASCO) and Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) Association for Direct Operations (MASCOBADO) and Kabataan Laban sa Bawal na Gamot (Project KALASAG) which involved community organizations in preventing street crimes and proliferation of illegal drugs respectively.

Ms. Manuela is an active member of the Alpha Phi Omega Laoag-Ilocos Norte Alumni Chapter (APOLINAC) that conducts annual community outreach program such as bloodletting, medical mission and Gawad Kalinga in the province.

Dr. Maria Lourdes K. Otayza
In her 14 years as medical center chief, Dr. Otayza—an obstetrician and gynecologist with exemplary performance in the field of hospital administration, research and training—has initiated vast reforms at the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center, now a 200-bed capacity, tertiary level 3 teaching and training hospital, and transformed it as one of the best Department of Health hospitals in the country.

The remarkable achievements of MMMH&MC reflect Dr. Otayza’s strong thrust of providing excellent universal health care to the public, through the implementation of various strategies. A well-driven administrator, she pushed for the improvement and accreditation of the clinical departments of the MMMH&MC and underscored the importance of equipping employees and maximizing their potentials. She invited subspecialists to practice in the institution and acquired state-of-the-art equipment needed by the hospital.  She sent employees for trainings in other institutions and specialty hospitals in Manila and spearheaded the conduct of in-service trainings to capacitate the medical, nursing and administrative staff. She is also known as a builder, having aggressively expanded hospital facilities to better serve their growing clientele. Fittingly, Dr. Otayza received the Dr. Jose P. Rizal Memorial Award from the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) for her distinct and outstanding service to the country.

To avert a foreseen dearth of good doctors in the province, Dr. Otayza collaborated with Mariano Marcos State University in opening its College of Medicine. During the medical school’s opening in July last year, she joyfully said, “this is the closest I could get to giving birth to a child.”

Here’s wishing Dr. Otayza many more years of visionary leadership and joyful “child births.”

MMSU College of Health Sciences
In 2015, MMSU posted a feat very few universities in the Philippines have ever achieved: a 100 percent in the Nurse Licensure Examination, not once but twice (May and November). The university was listed by the Professional Regulation Commission as the number one top-performing school in the Philippines. Four of its graduates landed in the prestigious roster of topnotchers.

Recently, MMSU again made news when it emerged as the No.2 Top-Performing School in the January 2016 Pharmacist Licensure Examination.

Kudos to MMSU OIC-President Prima Fe Franco, CHS Dean Manolita Crisostomo, and their faculty and students.

Way to go, Stallions!

Antonio T. Casimiro
On air, Tony Casimiro is well-respected and well-followed because of his fresh insights and bold commentaries on pressing issues. Off air, he is a distinguished media organization manager. Under his leadership, Bombo Radyo Laoag has been recognized as the national network’s best station, and has consistently ranked as the number one radio station in Ilocos Norte in terms of listenership. Also awarded as Bombo Radyo’s Best Station Manager, national level, Bombo Tony is currently tasked to train new station managers in various parts of Luzon.

Respected by his subordinates for being fair and disciplinarian, Bombo Tony believes that rules apply to all, including to himself. To keep his team on track, he holds daily staff meetings during which the relevant issues of the day are discussed, and the performance of his co-workers assessed. He is passionate about training new journalists, but let’s them pursue their own career path, even if this means moving to other media organizations.

With this broadcaster’s popularity, he can handily win in a local election, but he chooses, and rightly so, to continue leading his team in getting the news fast, first, and right. Shunning suggestions for him to run in politics, he regularly runs instead in marathons and other sporting events.

Charito Cariaga
Traditional Ilocano loom weaving still thrives in this age of Instagram and selfie sticks, thanks to the monumental efforts of a few people like Charito Cariaga.

In 1992, she founded the Nagbacalan Loomweavers Multipurpose Cooperative in Ilocos Norte. with a starting capital of only P5,300 with which they began weaving abel blankets and pillow cases. With help from various government agencies, they were able to increase their infrastructure and receive training. Today they have a growing number of active weavers who participate in trade fairs with a diversified range of products. This octogenarian rues the challenges the cooperative faces: lack of raw materials and the waning interest of the youth in weaving, but all these she surmounts through her great sense of humor, charisma, and never-say-die attitude.

Keeping the tradition alive is important, as they consider hand loom weaving a bridge to the past. But for material culture to survive, it must, in the spirit of dynamism, continue to evolve and adapt to the times. Last year, the cooperative signed a memorandum of agreement with Mariano Marcos State University for the development of new weaving designs through a USAID-funded project worth over P1 million.

Seems like Abel Iloco, unlike many lovers, has a good chance at forever.

Handy Lao
Handy Lao is Ilocos Norte’s most successful businessman of his generation.
In 2003, one year after earning a degree in marketing, Handy founded Vertext Handyphones, a small store for mobile phones and gadgets.  Now with seven branches which carry around 20 brands, Vertext has been recognized as one of the Philippines’ top retailers of Smart Load, Samsung, and Cignal products.

While his surname sounds Chinese, Handy is actually Ilocano by blood and upbringing. His language, choice of food, circle of friends, and values all reveal his Ilocano nature, but most important to mention is his burning desire to make a difference in the lives of children through education initiatives.

He may be well known for the many big events he has sponsored, ranging from street parties to the Mister International pageant which he brought in Ilocos Norte last year, but what is most meaningful for Handy, and few people know this because he shuns publicity in this regard, are his development efforts. Handy has assisted several elementary and high schools, particularly in the provision of equipment and educational materials. “I invest in children in the hope that they will build a world better than what we have today,” he says. Handy may be fun-loving, you can even say he is a party animal, but he is also one of the most visible personalities in times of calamity and disaster during which he extends his vast resources in relief and rescue operations, and in keeping people connected through his “libreng tawag” kiosks.

Some people run for public office because they do not know what to do with their lives, or because they simply want to become somebody important, or maybe because they feel entitled to a political birthright. Not Handy. Here we see a self-made young man who is already on top of his game—who lives a meaningful life that is comfortable and happy, and openly gay—but, fired up with the desire to do more good, still offers himself to his people.

Rosalina ‘Nana Rosa’ Abrojena
Lifetime Achievement Award
Well-known for its remarkable quality, Nana Rosa is the most popular, most in-demand Chichacorn brand. It is available is stores not only in Ilocos, but even in groceries in Metro Manila. It is also the brand of choice of overseas Pinoys.
The demand for her product is so high, there are times when her family can barely meet market demands. A story goes that Nana Rosa feels stressed out when you buy a lot of her chichacorn, and this is because she won’t have anything to sell anymore to other buyers.

“The more you buy, the more she gets bothered,” says some folks who have been in a beeline to buy chichacorn at their home at Salbang, Paoay. This story, of course, may be exaggerated, but it perfectly illustrates how her brand has gained a wide client base. Every grain of corn is ensured to perfection. “Wala ka talagang itatapon.”

Born in Pinili, Ilocos Norte, she spent her growing years in this agricultural community where garlic, corn, and rice are the main crops. She completed her elementary education and later on married Ernesto Abrojena, a farmer with whom she is blessed with four children—Reynaldo, Adriano, Merculia Maria and Nelia.

Nana Rosa started in the business in the 1980s by assisting her sister-in-law, Tomasa Abrojena, in making homony, locally called “pinabellad nga mais” to sell in the neighborhood. As typical Ilocanos who never let anything go to waste, Tomasa and Rosa dried the unsold pinabellad in the sun. They fried the dried pinabellad in small amounts of shortening and they came out crunchy with a delicate corn taste. They started selling this fried corn and it was surprisingly well liked. Soon, there were calls for what they started calling cornick and it did not take long before cornick was sold in town fiestas in neighboring towns. Her sister-in-law encouraged her to continue the business, which then was beginning to thrive.

Driven by her determination to improve the quality of cornick, Nana Rosa devised efficient methods of production, investing in better kitchenware and utensils, and other paraphernalia needed. Fortunately, her four children, with two of them business graduates, helped in this growing family business. It is through this cooperative spirit that kept the business going. They sought the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry which helped them in the packaging and labeling of their product. It was at this stage that the cornick was given the name “Nana Rosa”.

In 2003, the Small Medium Enterprises Development Council (SMED) recognized Nana Rosa’s family business for their outstanding achievements. This well-deserved award was presented to Nana Rosa at the Malacañang Palace. The Ilocano icon has received other awards and recognitions, including the Gameng Lifetime Award in 2009, attesting to her flavorful life.

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