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Basketball and scholarships

Basketball and scholarships don’t usually go together, but in a recent swing through three provinces in Central Visayas, Director-General Joel Villanueva of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) found the time to combine the game with the grant of scholarships to deserving young people, most of whose futures had been compromised by the effects of Typhoon “Yolanda.”

The trip through Central Visayas was highlighted by an exhibition game organized by Tesda Region VII aptly called “Shoot for You Dream Cebu.” Competing were “Team Specialistas,” composed of Tesda graduates and local political personalities and “Team Trabaho (Work),” composed of former players of the Philippine Basketball Association like Alvin Patrimonio, Marlou Aquino, Bal David, Jerry Codinera, Rodney Santos, Bobby Jose and Kenneth Duremdes. “Team Specialistas,” on the other hand, was backed by ex-PBA stalwarts Ramon Fernandez and Bonel Balingit; Cebu political leaders Representatives Samsam Gullas and Bebot Abellanosa and Mayor Mike Rama; and businessman Glenn Soco.

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Curiously, no mention was made about which team won the game.

But more than playing games, Villanueva personally handed the scholarship checks totaling P40.5 million meant for young people in 16 municipalities in northern Cebu that were badly hit by Yolanda last year. The scholarships will enable the scholars to avail themselves of technical and vocational training.

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“WE KNOW the typhoon survivors badly need jobs and money. The free training could provide the key to unlocking opportunities that could go a long way,” Villanueva said. At the same time, he urged the residents to use the training to learn skills that they could use in rebuilding their communities and starting their own small business.

“From carpentry to welding, to commercial cooking and massage therapy, there are a variety of courses that could help the survivors start anew,” he added.

Also while in Cebu, Villanueva signed a memorandum of agreement with the Cebu Contractors Association for training, assessment and certificate programs. He also addressed graduates who successfully finished the province’s training program in manpower development and placement.

Moving on to Siquijor province, Villanueva led the distribution of certificates of training to Tesda graduates and visited the Lazi Technical Institute. In Dumaguete, Villanueva awarded P1 million worth of scholarships to the provincial government represented by Gov. Roel Degama. Aside from this, he presided over the induction of newly elected officers of the Negros Oriental Association of Training Institutions and handed out scholarship coupons to the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas.

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LAST Sunday, my husband and I joined her longtime friends, family and supporters, and the Good Shepherd community in the Philippines, to attend the installation of Sr. Maria Regina “Gina” Kuizon as the new provincial of the Religious of the Good Shepherd in the country.

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“This is God’s will for you,” reminded Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who was but a young priest when he accompanied Sister Gina to the main Good Shepherd Convent when she joined the congregation.

At the time, recalled Sister Gina in her response, her parents were of two minds about her vocation. While her mother was supportive, her father was more ambivalent, so much so that he couldn’t bring himself to see her off. Months later, while visiting her at the convent, her father pleaded with the novice mistress, entreating her to “please send my daughter home to us.” Sometime later, he passed away, never quite reconciling himself to the fact that Gina, to use the old-fashioned phrase, had become “the bride of Christ.”

So it has been a bittersweet religious life for Sister Gina, whose installation coincided with the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Archbishop Soc warned Sister Gina of the hard times ahead, cautioning her to brace herself for the challenges. “You may be crucified like Peter,” he admonished her, “although I hope you will not be beheaded like Paul.”

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A LITTLE explanation for why a semi-heathen like me knows someone like Sister Gina. She and I were together for a brief while in the Archdiocesan Mass Media Office, even though we knew each other in our days with the Varsitarian, the student newspaper of the University of Santo Tomas.

In his own inimitable way, Felix Bautista, our journalism professor at UST and head of the mass media office, immediately baptized Sister Gina upon taking her as a staffer. She was “Queer,” a takeoff from her surname Kuizon, and a name that stuck. Indeed, although “Sir” has passed on, members of the Bautista family, including his widow, Ma’am Nena, were present at the Mass for Sister Gina. I remember “Sir” telling us that he teared up when Gina first told him about the “call” she had heard. She had become like the couple’s “13th child,” Sister Gina confessed, and perhaps she was extra special because none of the 12 Bautista children had chosen the religious vocation.

Although we her friends, the “Media Girls,” treat Sister Gina with easygoing friendship, she, too, has been a blessing to our families. We take seriously her promise to pray for us in times of trouble and joy, knowing that she may have a more direct communication line to the Lord than we.

And so we all trooped to the Good Shepherd convent last Sunday, filled with prayer and good wishes not just for Sister Gina and the RGS congregation but also for those—especially the women and girls who are their special charism—they have served and are serving, heeding the call of the Good Shepherd himself.

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TAGS: Alvin Patrimonio, Bal David, Basketball, Bobby Jose, Central Visayas, Jerry Codinera, Joel Villanueva, Kenneth Duremdes, Marlou Aquino, Rodney Santos, Socrates villegas, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Tesda, typhoon `Yolanda, Yolanda
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