Full And Unedited Interview By The Universitarian With Dr. Baby Boy Benjamin D. Nebres III

Photo by Summer Untalan, Online Content Editor

Unibê: Una po Sir, your vision paper rebranded the four pillars of the University, how will you adhere po that the four pillars under your administration will not be a spoken identity but observable values of the University?


Nebres: Yeah, actually these four pillars are coming from the different legacies of our past presidents, the productive scholarship is the vision of Dr. Susana Cabredo, and the transformative leadership is somewhat [what] that I [have] learned from Dr. Faye Lea Patria M. Lauraya the collaborative service is that’s the lessons that are also learned from Dr. Cena during that time that I am a student leader in her presidency and the last one is the distinctive character which is always emphasizing that we have to give a brand for BUeno, kasi our partners are keep on asking about who really are the BUenos and yung mga sabihin natin na in the workplace and even in the field of industry, they are quite asking why there is a kumbaga a different attitude or a different behavior … yun yung dapat tutukan natin, parang a sense of rebranding of who really is a BUeno. Another thing, these four core values is also will help me in defining of what is a university for humanity that’s based on industry 5.0 and education 5.0 na sinasabi na because of the past days development because of the technologies being offered in the market parang you forget na about the sense of humanist, the sense of humanity within, kaya kailangan it’s right time now na not focus on the self, on the university but to focus on what the university can do to the humanity, to everyone in the developmental society – sinasabing society, it is not only just the community, there’s also community of professionals, community of individuals, community of leaders, just like in the what is being emphasized in the UNESCO’s four pillars of education learning to know, learning to do, learning to be, and learning to live together and learning to live together is the sense of ... or rather is a manifestation of what we can call a sustainable society.”


Unibê: You have been the OSAS dean and at the same time a former scholarship and financial grant aide’s officer in BU, you know the grassroot experience of the students, alam nyo po yung sufferings nila. Do you see this as an advantage po and what do you think we need to improve in terms of that po if you will become the president?


Nebres: What I’m going to improve in the scholarship? Okay, I think what we have to do is to strengthen our partnership, strengthen our linkages and network kasi nang pumasok ako sa scholarship talagang hindi sya well-defined yung – ayoko naming siraan, huwag ganito, it’s off the record na ‘no, basta I’ve done my best as a scholarship officer. Okay, what we are going now to do is simply connect kasi apart of my vision is yeah, the national and international needs and targets and even challenges can only be mandated through a strong collaboration with our partners, and the strong collaboration of our partners can give also the best benefit for our students and one of it is the scholarship. Another thing is that we were going to make our alumni stronger because the alumni can give an endowment for the students, for the students to finish. Alam na natin na even though it’s free higher education still, hindi parin kaya ng mga estudyante yung tinatawag nating cost of education in the public school, di natin alam kung talagang bumababa talaga or it’s because mataas ang inflation so the only thing is we’re going to strengthen our partnership with our benefactors.”


Unibê: Nataas sa government foundation commended you for maintaining zero suicide incidents in BU from 2018 to 2020, however during the pandemic there are some student who reportedly resorted to ending their lives, but under your term po how will you make sure that students will have more mentally healthy po?


Nebres: Denver, diba alam naman ninyo yaan na in 2017 up to 2020 of first quarter we have a zero record of suicide diba, kaya lang because of the changing landscape, nagchichange ang mindscape, then therefore, we have now a problem, yung mga sudden changes na ‘yan, this is one factor that kumbaga sumira doon sa record natin for the zero suicide or suicide free campus, but with my term kasi I’m going to add center for well-being or wellness together with the mental health and as I promise with my core team and as I promise with the other students who talk to me, na they are mental health advocates, now we will go into strengthen our guidance and counseling program, actually, the secret of the suicide free campus is in the one, is on the right reading of the profile of the students if the student gives the right profile then, the guidance counselors can read the right data for the right program for the students. Another thing is to strengthen our peer counselors, because the peer counselor is the support, ito ang pinaka main support in our mental health program, alam mo ang mga bata hindi naman basta pupunta sa guidance counselor just to tell, normally pumupunta yan sa mga kaibigan and we have to do to strengthen the kaibigan system. The third one is that since there’s a [lack] of guidance counselors na pwedeng i-hire is we’re going to strengthen also the program adviser or rather the class adviser system as a para counselor that will help the guidance counselor, which is we are doing at present [and] hindi natin nafu-full implement yoon. And then last one, is the creation of the center for well-being, the center for well-being will include not only yung mental aspect but also the physical aspect, kasama na yung nutritional aspect—the well-rounded self, okay, that will going to study about this our students, our personnel in the university, and other stakeholders and it will help us in giving decisions—right decisions and providing right programs and projects for our stakeholders lalong-lalo na sa estudyante, lalong-lalo na sa ating mga personnel and our partner or other stakeholders.


Unibê: You also spearheaded the revision of student handbook in 2019, particularly in BUCAL have the liberty to dress as their form of expression yet other colleges have no similar privilege, how would you solve this existing inconsistent dress code po leniency in BU?


Nebres: Actually there are certain professors kasi na is very conservative, yun yung pinaka-ano ko, they can express their gender, their self, but the main problem when we go now to the industries, we cannot dictate the industry to respect them, yun yung pinaka main problem natin, in the university we can give that, we can try for equality, we can try for equity, but we cannot control the external industries like for example in BUCIT yung other industries they don’t allow yung mga students immersing with long hair and long nails. Another thing is in the field of education, there are schools na they will not going to allow transwoman to be—to practice to teach there are some schools ha, not all, so we have to respect also all these things tatandaan natin na yes, we are clamoring for that, we are fighting for that, we are advocating for that, but we cannot dictate them na to follow us, but we can serve as their inspiration na we can do this and they can do that. Pero saakin alam mo ko Denver, basta you can wear it with all the pride, hindi mo nababastos yung uniform mo at hindi mo nababastos yung damit mo at ang sarili mo, you can do that pero kung yung time na nababastos mo na yung sarili mo parang nababastos mo na rin yung mga…yung parang nawawala na yung self-respect mo and that’s now high time for you to think if you’re going to proceed or not—kaso tatandaan natin what is essential sa development of self and how you’re going to face yourself in the world of reality.”


Unibê: You have been the OSAS dean for the past years po, do you see this as an advantage because you know how students suffer like in the grassroot level and you know how student activity works, do you see this ba like as being more knowledgeable of student situation, do you think this is advantage to be the next president do you see this as advantage po?

Nebres: It’s one of my advantage because I worked with the students since 2010. I visited their homes. I know most of the students - their likes, their needs, their challenges, their expectations, their different sights about themselves. And for the past years, I think sabihin natin mga 13 years as a practitioner in the office of student affairs and services, no’ng kapanahunan pa office of student services, I think that is one of my advantage. And to tell you frankly, everything in the past, my former student leaders are helping me to provide general welfare for the students who are with problems during the pandemic years. So, I think, yes.

Unibê: In your tagline "BU is U," how confident are you that you possess the character to define BU?

Nebres: Actually, the main idea here is this. ‘Di ba natandaan natin productive scholarship, transformative leadership, collaborative service and then distinctive character. ‘Di ba ‘yun yung [four pillars] ko noh? And then, in the BU is U kasi is that, everything can be done because of you. Always keep in mind that the best always start with you. Okay, the best always starts with you because you is you. ‘Yun ‘yun. Parang I’m telling you na you should be kumbaga, focus, on to be a passion-driven to excellence. So, ikaw mismo ang gagawa ng lahat. Ikaw mismo ang magdadala ng pangalan ng Bicol University. Ikaw mismo ang kumbaga, ang tatayo sa sarili mo kaya that is what BU means. So, kapag pinagsama-sama mo ‘yang Bicol is U o BU is U, ibig sabihin n’yan, pwedeng mag-rise up ang Bicol University. Kasi ang nangyayari na kasi ngayon is that hindi na natin nararamdaman ‘yung feeling na I am proud BU student. I am proud BUeno. ‘Di ba? Konting kibo, complain. Hindi lang mabigyan ng mataas na grade, complain. Nasaan na ba ‘yung sense of passion? Kung totoo talaga ‘yung ginagawa mo, why you have to ask it? Everything should be given. Katulad mo Denver, sa iyo. You are passionate of what you are doing. Even in the call of duty na kahit hindi naman oras na nasa school, nasa school ka because that is you. That makes you an active BUeno. The passion-driven self to excellence.

Unibê:  If you are to become the next BU President, what observable changes can we expect in the first five months of your administration?

Nebres: Well actually, one is the reorganization of the university, based on the capability, based on the passion and specialization. Number two is syempre, I have to translate my vision of a university for humanity, into a strategic plan, into a strategic option, into an operational plan with operational options. And aside from that, I would like to do things that will… by the students, by the personnel that will make Bicol University vibrant. ‘Yun yung pinaka-ano e. Dapat everyone, everyone is happy. And not only that, para mangyari ‘yun, mangyari ‘tong lahat na ito, I’m going to have first a close dialogue with all sectors of the university.

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?

Nebres: What we are developing in the university is critical thinking and activism, one of that is critical thinking, as long as it will not directly affect, ah... kumbaga, not naman ‘yun na tinatawag natin na radical activism. That’s a different one. But what we mean is proactive activism. Kasi ang ano ngayon is proactivism na ngayon eh. Hindi na ngayon ‘yung tinatawag natin radical activism or the left activism. Hindi na ‘yun. Ang ano ngayon is what can you do to serve the nation. What can you do to help in the development of the nation? What can you contribute? But the activism that I’m emphasizing here is that, the sense of choice, the sense of reasoning, the logical reasoning. The deepening of issues.

Unibê: How will you protect ang mga students na nahaharass for example or nakaka-experience ng ganun under your administration po?

Nebres: Well actually, we have our legal support system. Katulad ng ginagawa namin ngayon. Hindi natin sila iniiwanan lahat. Basta may nag report, we will go to the legal office and then do the coordination with the right officers. Kasi karamihan ng mga kaso natin ngayon are harassments. Harassments coming from unnamed, unidentified individuals. And we want a close collaboration with different agencies, especially the law-enforcing agencies to help us to protect our students. Kasi tandaan mo, the students are the heart of the university. 

Unibê: Given that the residents living within the university have no title, what are your plans for the residents of Sitio Olag and those living at the BU Compound behind the new library? Also, what will you do if you discover that a resident staying at the university is illegally using their land? 

Nebres: We will go to do things under the law and under... Tandaan mo ang vision ko, university for humanity. We will always respect their rights. And we will provide all other use, especially  ‘yung tinatawag natin na healthy dialogues for them. And we will also be going to do legal. Before we do that.. Sabi nga natin, the best thing to do is to have a winning solution in everything that you do. That is a healthy collaboration. 

Unibê: Rate Pres.  Mascarinas term, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest and why?

Nebres: The administration of Dr. Mascarinas is 9. Because there is a lot of development pa na I think he can do more, he can do best. Kaya lang, his administration’s very limited, very limited. And sabi nga natin, it's very short time. We feel always short time for a  best president.

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

Nebres: Actually, everyone of us is very qualified. Everyone of us has its own strength. Everyone of us has something to offer for the greater [future] of the Bicol University so I cannot choose one. Everyone is qualified. Sabi ko nga sa final interview sa akin na ganun din ang tanong. Sabi ko, I cannot choose. Because anyone is qualified. Anyone can be supported. Anyone is ready to face the realities and to hold the office of the university president. Everyone of us has to offer talaga. Kung makikita mo d’on sa kanilang mga presentation. Gaganda ang Bicol University. Kung kaya lang na limang presidente ang magsama-sama para icouncil. I think it can do a lot of great things.