Two Ateneo women named Towns awardees

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TWO MEMBERS of the Ateneo community were among the nine who received this year’s The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (Towns) awards.

Manila Observatory Regional Climate Systems Program Director and Physics Department Associate Professor Gemma Narisma, PhD was presented the Towns award for Atmospheric Science. The other awardee was Eleanor Pinugu (AB IS ‘05) for Social Enterprise and Education.

The Towns Foundation Inc., in partnership with the Metrobank Foundation Inc. and the Metrobank Card Corporation, presents the awards to outstanding Filipino women who serve as catalysts in their fields and who dedicate themselves to nation building.

The awards are given every three years, following a nationwide search for prospective nominees.

The nominees were evaluated based on their achievements, personality, commitment and pioneering zeal. 15 shortlisted finalists were then interviewed by a panel of judges headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

The other Towns awardees are the following: Atty. Darlene Marie Berberabe for Government Service, Ani Karina Brown for Sports, Karen Davila for Media, Maria Rochelle Gerodias for Performing Arts, Noraida Abdullah Karim for Social Work, Maria Amihan Ramolete for Theater Arts and Maricor Soriano for Physics.

The awarding ceremony was held on November 21 at the Dusit Thani Hotel and was followed by an Awardees’ Forum at the Metrobank Plaza Penthouse the following day.

Working on climate change

Narisma was recognized for her contribution to the national understanding of and relevant response to climate change.

She campaigns for information education on climate change and specializes in climate modelling.

Climate modelling involves the building and manipulation of a computer-based model of the Earth. Climate scientists are able to simulate certain conditions, such as cutting down a large area of trees, which enables them to predict climate behavior.

Narisma, who was also the 2012 Outstanding Young Scientist in Atmospheric Science, believes that she is able to serve the nation through her work in three ways: Doing research that is good, developing young scientists and bringing science to the people.

According to her, good research ensures that the Philippines’ scientific community will be internationally recognized, which will hopefully encourage foreign scientists to work with Filipinos.

Furthermore, her personal advocacy to develop younger generations gives her confidence in future climate scientists.

She also wants to use science to work with the local government and local communities. “[Science] seems so disjoint from the needs of the community. Hopefully, we can give them science that they can use for decision making,” she said.

Helping through education

Pinugu won her Towns award for founding Mano Amiga Academy, Taguig City, a non-profit school that aims to help underprivileged families through education. She is currently the school’s executive director.

In an interview with The GUIDON, Pinugu said that the goal of Mano Amiga is to enable children from low-income families to receive high quality and holistic education that they would not have access to otherwise.

“Everyone says that education is the great equalizer,” she said.

To assist in the financial funding of Mano Amiga Academy, Pinugu also built Bistro 3846, a high-end cafeteria, in Everest Academy in Manila. All proceeds from the said cafeteria are donated to the Mano Amiga Academy scholarship fund.

Bistro 3846 also provides training and employment to the members of the less fortunate families that are members of the school community.

Pinugu felt humbled when chosen as Towns finalist. She also said that she felt grateful because her recognition will help generate greater awareness of Mano Amiga.

She believes that her responsibility as a Towns awardee is to demonstrate the ability of the youth.

“[I can show that the youth can] contribute to the betterment of society and, more importantly, the ability to sustain that drive, enthusiasm and zeal for doing good,” Pinugu said.

At present, her priority is refining Mano Amiga’s school and business model, as well as creating other branches of the school.

Her goal is to build 15 self-sustaining Mano Amiga schools by 2025.

Role of Ateneo women

Narisma and Pinugu shared their insights on what being an Ateneo woman means to them and how it has contributed to their success.

“Ateneo women don’t just work for work’s sake or just for excellence. The idea is to love and serve. Because you want to love and serve more and better, the excellence comes as a natural consequence,” said Narisma.

She shared that it was the Ateneo that taught her that service of the nation is inspired by a love for God. “That Ignatian spirituality is unique to Ateneo women. It makes the service part quite different,” she said.

Meanwhile, Pinugu shared that a select few of her college classes helped her get to where she is today, even if she may have been perceived as an underachiever in college.

“I wasn’t very motivated to perform well in some of the required subjects [in college] because, at that time, I could not see the relevance of some lessons to the career I wanted to pursue in the future,” she said, specifically citing her math classes.

Pinugu believes that it was her history, theology and philosophy classes that helped her chart the course of her life and learning.

“These classes ‘forced’ me to delve deeper into understanding the human condition and, in turn, instilled in me a profound desire to spend my life in a more meaningful way,” she said.

In an interview with The GUIDON, University President Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ shared some of the defining characteristics of Ateneo women that help them get recognized in their field of work.

“[These] include self-awareness, desire and passion, sense of purpose, love of God, the poor and community, a sense of belonging and a strong Jesuit ‘atmosphere’ of mobilizing one’s talents to serve others,” said Villarin.

Narisma and Pinugu join the ranks of other Ateneo women who have been recognized by the Towns Foundation: Sereno (AB Eco ‘80, 1998 Towns for Law), Mathematics Department Professor Queena Lee-Chua, PhD (BS Ma ‘87, 2001 Towns for Education), Catherine Babao (BS BM ‘86, 2004 Towns for Public Service), Mathematics Department Professor Catherine Vistro-Yu, PhD (BS Ma ‘84, 2007 Towns for Mathematics Education), Psychology Department Chair Regina Hechanova Alampay, PhD (2010 Towns for Organizational Psychology), Atty. Arlene Javellana Bag-ao (Ateneo Law ‘93; 2010 Towns for Alternative Law), and Therese Fernandez-Ruiz (BS Mgt ‘07, 2010 Towns for Social Entrepreneurship).

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