The Universitarian Editorial Board Interview With Dr. Ofelia Samar-Sy

Dr. Ofelia Samar-Sy, dean of College of Medicine, had selflessly dedicated her life to her profession as an internist-cardiologist. She is best known as a multi-awarded physician, researcher, and a humanitarian. She was recently awarded the JCI’s Outstanding Filipino Physician of 2022.

Is she the best fit as the next BU President for you? Know her stances on controversial questions.


UNIBÊ: No Poverty is also one of the sustainable goals of the UN which you intend to uphold. How can you help students who cannot properly study due to monetary problems? Expanding scholarships need money. How do you intend to generate resources for this?

SY: If you will notice my presentation while it is the number 1 SDG in my life, I think it's also my number 1 reason why I went back to Bicol University… I started from nothing and I have a very poor family, but I became a doctor so I want others to be inspired… there are also a lot of NGOs that can also help and it's easy to tap [them]... if you are able to help one poor student to be able to finish studies and graduate, that will really stop the cycle of poverty in the Philippines, so parang it's kind of important for us to really solve the problems of poverty in the whole Philippines through education.

UNIBÊ: We have SUC budget cuts. This is the reason why we admit new students from the admission late po. If given po ma'am na the number of students are low being admitted to Bicol University. How can you give a solution to this problem considering the budget cut?

SY: The income generating program of the university must be enhanced; I've been into business also, so I know how to generate income. I'm thinking for example, there is a good source of food in engineering na parang sa BUCIT ba ‘yun that they can cook and probably will be the [ones] to… do the catering. Otherwise, if it's not the case we will really have to open to mga international, national organizations or mga NGOs to adopt our students on scholarships… So dalawa ‘yan ha, so income generating and then pangalawa get donors, tie up with private donations.

UNIBÊ: What are your programs and plans to ensure that satellite campuses would not be left out in your development and transformative education? What will you do to know if they are really experiencing quality education under your administration?

SY: It's very crucial now. The most important thing that [we] really have to do is to digitalize, [automating] the whole Bicol University is crucial because that's the one [that’s] really hampering the development, the progress of the university… If I [become] the president, I will be able to automate all seven campuses of [BU]... The red tapes must be really abolished and that will need a lot of strong determination and leadership if we want to… I mean the spending will be minimized because you can already track down the supplies… [know] procurement processes, if it's already digitized it's so easy to see flaws.

UNIBÊ: The Bicol Universitarian actually visited satellite campuses and the condition of Gubat Campus and other campuses is very concerning, they just borrow buildings from LGUs and even churches they turn it into classrooms. What are your concrete plans on how we can achieve the digitalization dream for Gubat because they are really left behind?

SY: Actually, as far as Gubat is concerned there's actually a plan [for] medical and health-related courses center so there will be funding… I think the funding is not a problem in Bicol University, the problem really is the process, it's so slow so at the end of the year a lot of money is put back to the national treasury, nasasayang ‘yun, like ngayon maraming binalik so dapat hindi ganun, so we should be able to actually use up the funds that we have. So it will start [with] digitalization and that should not be a problem and the proper implementation of the processes must really be enhanced.

UNIBÊ: The 22nd-century learning philosophy said student's young mind for future market conditions. Given the aftermath of the pandemic, how can you enhance skills development to those who spends half of their college life in online set-up?

SY: Kasi ang 22nd century focuses on care, connection, and then we have community… When it comes to care, that means that the after the pandemic, it's more really about caring for each other and the second is for the connection. And I think, I interpret the connection there as just being together and also the connectivity and then going back to the browse for more transformative education, so it's very important that we should be able to capacitate the university so that you can improve the connections, etc. So napaka importante sa university na mag-adjust talaga to this particular situation because 70 years from now magiging 22nd century na tayo and you are really the digital age.

UNIBÊ: Strengthening the internalization of Bicol University is indeed important more than ever. What programs are you going to provide to improve the internalization of Bicol University and what impacts these students?

SY: So, when it [comes] to internationalization, we should have the exchange program… If we are now able to increase the exchange programs, opportunities of the students that will be great. At the same time, we will invite more international faculty to come in, so it's not just the students who will be moving the exchange but also the faculty. When it comes to foreign students we should be more aggressive because in other countries that is also a very good income [source] also… It's just [a] matter of marketing outside of the Philippines so it's very important… If our faculty [can] be sent abroad, [when] they come back, they will have a better perspective [of] what is education abroad tapos magkakaroon ng inbreeding.

UNIBÊ: What is your own definition of quality education if you become the president? What are your first steps to ensure students will see and experience this?

SY: When you talk about quality education, it should be holistic. it's not just about giving the academic curriculum… [In] the provision of curriculum, you must have faculty who really would teach as they would teach because you understand that there are colleges and faculties who will not come… We have to train the faculty as well so if the faculty [are] not teaching what is expected [of] them as a teacher complying with the curriculum, it's not quality education. You cannot actually aim for excellence if you are not putting the students to [that] excellence that they ask they must be.

UNIBÊ: What are your plans po sa infrastructures ng BU or do you plan po to improve on different satellite campuses?

SY: Definitely, there has to be an improvement, there has to be a lot to be put in place in [BU] and we can only do that if we will improve the processes in [BU] kasi if we you don't improve the processes, we won't be able to implement the programs at the same time. You need a leader to be able to improve the processes, it's really on the processes, [like] the bidding and also the lack of manpower and also the attitude of the employees, andun na sila sa comfort zone so kailangan invite na rin natin ‘yun.

UNIBÊ: What are your plans for scholars who have bad health conditions or got into a severe accident and are financially incapable in terms of medication? Mostly in situations like this, family and friends are asking for some help through the use of social media. Will your administration do something to help alleviate their cases?

SY: So right now, there's nothing we can do except really get insurance. It has to be insurance that actually HMO will provide even for the hospitalization… But the best really is to put up [a] hospital because it will also benefit the students. It's very crucial for [a] medical school to have a university hospital so ‘pag ganun, malilibre na kayo dun imbis na kung pupunta kayo kung saan dun na kayo because mababayaran naman ng PhilHealth yan through the universal healthcare.


UNIBÊ: Being an insider at BU, what do you think are the major shortcomings of the current administration that you wish to address? Rate his presidency.

SY: I think the problem in Bicol University is one: attitudinal, two is the management of resources, [and] administration of personnel. Those are the 3 main problems that must be addressed. When it comes to solving all the problems, it will need retraining, and also the implementation of automation and digitalization because we need to cut short. For example a one-stop shop enrollment, or a digital enrollment walang pila diba… In the room management system, you will know what the rooms don't have, and then the learning management system [is] also for the students. On a scale of 1-10, in fairness to him, he is very dedicated and he has done so much about his search and he has really put up a lot of infrastructure. Some of them lang are unfinished and then he was able to do that, sadly nag pandemic. If I'm going to rate him, I will rate him siguro mga 9.

UNIBÊ: Will you encourage or support the students to be involved in student activism as provided in RA 11369 s. 3 s. of 2019. If so, how will you circumvent the threats to student activists such as red-tagging and police interrogations? Or will you be silent about these red tagging issues just like the previous cases of red tagging in the previous years during the term of Masca?

SY: The freedom of expression, and also freedom of association is innate in the constitution so we should respect that, but of course there's [a] limitation. It doesn't give you the [right] to do something unlawful. So I will be one of the [advocates] and [supporters] of the students if they will actually do their activism. It is a very, very good manifestation of a vibrant democracy. Now, with regards to red-tagging, I will abhor anyone who will compromise the safety and the security of the students. I'm a mother… so the students can rely on me in the University. You will have a mother that will care for the students.


UNIBÊ: Among the four (4) other nominees, who would you pick as the next Bicol University President?

SY: Actually, I cannot really choose among them. First, I don't have the information about them but the fact that all of them qualified and were shortlisted, I think anyone of them can also be President, I think the studentry will have a very big role in terms of really pushing this president in the future. But if you will ask me I will be the best president.
The #BUPrexy Interview series was conducted by The Editorial Board and Staff of The Bicol Universitarian.