Manuel “Bangy” Dioquino Jr. was the founding chair of the Philippine Resource Persons Group (now the Association of Filipino Educators in Korea). Comprising Filipino university professors in Korea, the formation of the Phil-RPG was originally suggested by then-Ambassador Luis T. Cruz, with Consul-General Sylvia M. Marasigan as “handler,” as a consultative support body of the Philippine Embassy in Korea. From less than a dozen members, the roster expanded to nearly a hundred, then dwindled after several exchange programs ended; one of its high-profile activities was a weekly column at the Korean newspaper JungAng Daily. As AFEK, the group maintains more independence from embassy requisites and epitomizes Korea’s acknowledgment of the competence and professionalism of Filipino educators. The return of the founding chair to the Philippines (after half a decade at Kyunghee University), to pursue non-teaching options, occasioned a tribute requested by the Phil-RPG officials from me, as the only other founding member then present. The occasion was held at the Catholic University of Daegu on May 2013. On October 2015, at 55 years old, Bangy passed away from a lingering illness. His condition had not yet been detected during the time I prepared and delivered this speech.
Labor Attaché Fely Bay, Phil-RPG Chair Emely Abagat, and Pinoy Colleagues and Students in Korea:
Professor Emely asked me if I could deliver a tribute to our outgoing RPG Chair, Professor Bangy Dioquino. I hesitated for a few minutes – not because I didn’t think Bangy didn’t deserve any accolades – on the contrary, in fact. But the reason I hesitated was because of how closely I identified with the object of our appreciation today. I thought that in his place, I might be able to expect tributes only if I were terminally ill and halfway to oblivion. In fact, these past few years, I had been reflecting on people’s merits and achievements only when I realize that they might not be with us long enough.
Fortunately, this is one exception – meaning, Bangy won’t be with us soon, but only on a limited and literal level. In a larger sense, he’ll be even more with us, taking with him and leaving with us a rich collection of fun yet productive experiences, and bearing, for better or worse, the association with the Resource Persons Group as he embarks on a set of new challenges in our country of origin. You will pardon me if I desist from saying home country, because in a real sense, to me at least, any country I elect to stay in is home, and Korea would be it more than any other for now.
Emely’s reason for requesting me to talk about Bangy is that I’m supposedly the one to have known him longer than others in our group. That may be true in the sense that we were graduated in the same institution during the 1980s, and so we might have shared a lot of the insights and beliefs that constituted what we could term our sentimental education at the national university. More concretely, when I returned from US graduate studies over a decade ago and resumed teaching, my supervisor then, the late Dean Ellen Paglinauan, recognized my potential in curriculum development and requested me to join the university’s curriculum review committee.
I would like to speak a bit about this assignment. The longer I have been exposed to university processes in other countries, the more convinced I am that if we have anything to be proud of in Philippine education, then UP’s curriculum review would be a premier example. The committee comprises heads of units plus a few members elected at large, which was how I initially participated. The committee makes sure that new or revised courses and programs do not overlap with one another, and can be defended against objections by colleagues at every stage – from department to college to committee level, before it is passed on to the entire assembly of professors. I lost a lot of friends because of the fact that I would speak the way I would practice media criticism: with concern for the betterment of the proponents, but with no holds barred about any errors in their presentation.
In that committee, I noticed one other member who pursued the same goal of speaking frankly in order to perfect, whenever possible, a curricular adjustment: in short, a kindred spirit. Flash-forward to a few years later: when the Philippine embassy in Seoul invited me to the first meeting that would organize the group that later became Phil-RPG, I immediately found the organization’s leader familiar in a way I couldn’t place. It was Bangy who reminded me where we first interacted with each other.
We had more opportunities to interact obviously, because of our several commonalities: we were in Korea, we were in the same organization, we were in the same Seoul-and-suburbs chapter, we hung out in Diliman when we were in Metro Manila. He had family relations who were involved in film production and would have been colleagues of mine if I had remained at the University of the Philippines. That plus the fact that his mother was a piano professor and performer made him more conversant with classical and media arts issues than I was with his field. Professor Joy Siapno, another former RPG member continuing to make waves in politics, anthropology, and classical music, was a distant relation of his. I just had to conclude that they had those genes that allow for dexterity in left and right sides of the brain, while I had to content myself with whatever side it is that confines me to my area: the wacky side?
Just observing how Bangy can pull together various contacts, and exchange plans and ideas with them, while all I could do was burrow deeper into the images and manuscripts I was supposed to be analyzing, helped me to understand my own limitations. I’ll be able to spill out words useful or otherwise, but that requires the world to stand still in order in order for them to have any kind of observable effect. People like Bangy, on the other hand, will not accept the impossibility of change and will recognize that society is the key to making that happen. Where I would jot down a complaint or an observation, he will reach out to everyone – the embassy, the Honorable Jasmine Lee, Edward and Cookie Reed, the editors of Korea Times and JoongAng Daily, Senator Edgardo Angara, various university and government and private-sector officials in Korea and the Philippines – all in order to move things forward.
So in a sense it was inevitable that he would be carried along by some of the waves that he had generated. One of the great historical currents of our time and place – that of overseas employment – carried him here. And while I drop anchor and hope I get moored to this one place, another historical current, which I hope finally builds up into the tsunami of national development, will be taking him back to the Philippines.
Ka Bangy, you know that if I could freeze this last half-decade and relish the cycle of semestral hassles and holiday tranquility, with conspiratorial sessions where we could figure out how to improve relations between our countries, and maybe plan what we can do once we achieve Korean reunification … then I would coast satisfyingly toward retirement or death, whichever comes first. But you’ve decided once more to heed the call of our times, and my conscience won’t allow me to say you ought to stay put here. You’ll be taking some of the laughter and the anger and the dark neurotic secrets I’ve shared, and I hope that would be enough. We’ll be gazing from this distance at the struggles and the triumphs that you’ll be accumulating and we wish you the best on your forthcoming journey. Thank you for everything.