The Ugnayan ng Pahinungód/Oblation Corps: 30 years as keepers of UP’s soul

| Written by Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta

Maglingkod. MagPahinungód.

Thirty years ago, the Ugnayan ng Pahinungód/Oblation Corps—the University of the Philippines’ (UP) volunteer service program—was established after the media posed a question to the country’s national university: “Has UP lost its soul?”

UP’s response to this challenge can be seen in the generations of UP Pahinungód volunteers who have traveled to far-flung areas over the past decades, dedicated to helping underprivileged communities by providing quality education and other forms of service. As UP President Angelo Jimenez himself said earlier this year: “The best answer to that question is this: it was never lost.”

 

Honor and excellence in the service of the nation

 

Speaking during an art exhibit opening on February 27, an event which was part of Pahinungód’s 30th anniversary celebration, Jimenez affirmed the continuing importance of volunteerism and service as part of UP’s identity. “I came into the UP presidency with a simple reminder that our main mission is to serve the Filipino people. We have to show the Filipino people that they were right in investing in us. They were right in thrusting upon this University the hopes and dreams of our people,” he said.

At the exhibit, which was installed at the Parola Gallery of the UP College of Fine Arts, Jimenez commended the directors, staff, and volunteers of the Pahinungód offices of the different UP constituent units (CUs).

 

UP President Angelo Jimenez (5th from left) and the heads of the Ugnayan ng Pahinungód offices from the different UP CUs stand with the three top winners of the Pahinungód art competition. Photo by Bong Arboleda, UPMPRO

 

In the program’s most recent report, for July 2021-December 2022, Pahinungód’s efforts reached 22,800 individuals and 428 schools in 83 communities, through activities by over 2,500 volunteers.

Among the Pahinungód offices’ recent initiatives are: the EDUKaravan in UP Baguio, the Teacher Professional Development in UP Cebu, the Psychosocial Support Program in UP Diliman, the Volunteer Development Program in UP Los Baños, the Community Health Program in UP Manila, the Affirmative Action Program in UP Mindanao, the Online Bridge Program in the UPOU, and the Coastal Resource Management in UP Visayas.

These initiatives are concrete ways that UP lives up to its motto of “Honor and Excellence in the Service of the Nation,” said Jimenez.

 

UP President Angelo Jimenez and UP System Pahinungód Director Marie Therese Bustos examine one of the paintings selected as finalist during the art competition in celebration of Pahinungód’s 30th anniversary and the Pahinungód spirit. Photo by Bong Arboleda, UPMPRO

 

One of the ten flagship projects of UP under President Jimenez is the “Expansion of Public Service Offices, Ugnayan ng Pahinungód, Padayon, and NSTP Programs.” Under this falls key projects such as the institutionalization of service learning and community engagement in the curriculum and amplifying UP’s brand as a public service university.

He reiterated his call to the UP community for 10,000 volunteers during his term, and stated that his vision for his term was a university “engaged in the formation of good citizens and leaders, and in knowledge co-creation for an equitable, progressive and sustainable society.”

He concluded, “The [Pahinungód] volunteers are the one single group in the University that I want to honor and recognize, because at the end of the day, the question is no longer about whether or not we have lost our soul. The question today is sheer self-interest. There is no future for us if we do not take care of our brother and sister Filipinos who do not enjoy the same opportunities that we are enjoying today.”

 

Elaine B. Fernandez’s first-prize winning painting representing the Pahinungód spirit. Photo by Bong Arboleda, UPMPRO

 

The Pahinungód spirit

 

The art exhibit in celebration of the UP Ugnayan ng Pahinungód’s 30th anniversary began as a painting competition that ran from September 2023 to January 2024, focusing on the theme of “Maglingkod, MagPahinungód” as a way to revisit what Pahinungód means to UP and inspire the Pahinungód spirit within the UP community. The competition was open to all members of the UP community, including students, alumni, faculty, and staff. The top 30 finalists were selected from a total of 45 submissions, and the top three winners awarded. Elaine B. Fernandez took first prize; Mark Vincent Java, second; and Emerson B. Ebreo, third.

 

 

The UP volunteerism spirit captured in the paintings were exactly what UP System Pahinungód Director Marie Therese A.P. Bustos would wish for Pahinungód on its 30th birthday. “Sana manatili siya at mas lumalim pa siya sa consciousness ng bawat isang tao dito sa loob ng UP. Hindi yung mababaw na pagkakakilanlan pero mas malalim,” she said in an interview.

“Feeling ko nga, [yung participants dito sa] art exhibit, hindi naman sila volunteers, pero sinubukan nilang intindihin kung ano ang Pahinungód. Kaya feeling ko, ‘Aba, marami palang nakakaintindi nung konsepto ng Pahinungód,’” she added.

Bustos emphasized that the call to volunteer through the Pahinungód is open to everybody in the UP community, including those who may believe that they are not interested in or have nothing to contribute by being volunteers.

“Unang una, iba’t iba kasi ang forms ng bolunterismo. Hindi lang siya iisang hulma, so sigurado ako na meron kang skills na pwede mong i-offer,” she said.

While some people have skills that enable them to directly engage with the partner-communities, others have skills that are needed for the critical behind-the-scenes work, such as creating publicity materials, maintaining websites, organizing fundraisers, and donating blood, Bustos explained.

Even the assistants helping out with the UPCAT and the UPCAT Helpdesk are Pahinungód volunteers, she pointed out. Some student peer-support activities that are done online are also forms of volunteerism.

“There’s a whole range of volunteers and possibilities. There’s always a place for you,” Bustos said. “It really starts with offering yourself… [Pahinungód] doesn’t ask anything outside yourself, and you are enough.”

 

 

For anyone in the UP community wishing to volunteer and be part of the Pahinungód spirit, please contact the UP Pahinungód office closest to you:

Pahinungód UP Baguio
Pahinungód.upb@gremio777.com

Pahinungód UP Cebu
Pahinungód.upc@gremio777.com

Pahinungód UP Diliman
Pahinungód.upd@gremio777.com |

Pahinungód UP Los Baños
Pahinungód@gremio777.com |

Pahinungód UP Manila
upm-Pahinungód@gremio777.com |

Pahinungód UP Mindanao
Pahinungód.upmin@gremio777.com

Pahinungód UP Open University
Pahinungód.upou@gremio777.com |

Pahinungód UP Tacloban
Pahinungód.uptacloban@gremio777.com

Pahinungód UP Visayas
Pahinungód.upv@gremio777.com