Thursday, February 23, 2012

A STRATEGIC NIGHT OUT

I haven't talked about my recent and unusual night out. Normally, I go out with my friends and cap off the evening with huge, witty and unforgettable stories. But last Tuesday night, together with UP Circle Brunei officers and Filipino Professors in Universiti Brunei Darussalam, I had the chance to spend an evening with Dr. Gisela Concepcion, the Vice President for Academic Affairs of the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Apart from enjoying the scrumptious food at Tarindak De Seni, I was delighted to hear the good news from Dr. Concepcion with regards to the recent developments at the University of the Philippines ranging from administrative up to scholarly projects.

Dr. Concepcion was in Brunei for a conference, "Curriculum Innovation International Network Meeting: Curriculum Reform - Looking to the future" which was held from 20 and 21 of February.

Read on to find out more of our intellectually stimulating and inspiring meet-up with Dr. Concepcion.

When I first heard from Dr. Egay, our President in UP Circle Brunei, that we will have  dinner with Dr. Concepcion, the Vice President for Academic Affairs of the University of the Philippines, Diliman, I became hesitant. I was just packed with so much work load that I don't think I could manage to go out. Apparently, because I was able to work fast and deliver all requirements for our clients, I was granted with not to do overtime. So, in the next few hours, I found myself at Tarindak De Seni, together with my co-officers.

The scheduled dinner at Tarindak De Seni was well attended by UP CB Officers. The attendees were: Dr. Egay, Dr. Joey, Dr. Rommel, Dra. Irma, Ma'am Betsy and I. Interestingly,  most officers of UP CB are also professors and programme leaders at UBD or Universiti Brunei Darussalam.
L-R: Ma'am Betsy, Dr. Joey, Dr. Rommel, Me, Dr. Egay, Dr. Concepcion, and Dra. Irma
 
I arrived at 10 past 7 at Tarindak De Seni, together with Dr. Rommel, Dra. Irma and Ma'am Betsy. Dr. Egay introduced us to Dr. Concepcion. Soon, our conversation with Dr. Concepcion started.
me and ma'am Betsy! Photo by Dr. Joey.
 Before I proceed talking about what we discussed, let me tell you my mouth-watering journey at Tarindak De Seni. Despite the accident I had at their premises last year, around December, I had once again embraced their services because of the truly irresistible and authentic Bruneian cuisine they prepared. Seriously, I was thrown off in my diet plan because of the buffet that imprisoned my taste buds. From the soup, main course, and up to the dessert, my BND22 was worth it.

I had one round in enjoying my soup; thrived for two rounds for the main course, and yes, two more rounds for the desserts.
The soup!

First Round!

Appetizer!

Grilled chicken and beef!

Round 2!

The dessert with the puto bungbong!

Cakes galore!

At Tarindak de Seni, I had a taste of their roasted lamb, as recommended by Dr. Joey. And yes, I enjoyed the lamb which was cooked to softness and best eaten with rice. The steamed fish was also a best seller, paired with buttered prawns, chicken curry, and a lot more. On the dessert section, apart from tasting the cakes, the "Puton Bungbong" (ala Brunei) captured our attention. Yes, we enjoyed the puto bungbong with niyog.

Goofing around in the dessert section. Photo by Dr. Joey.
Going back to the mesmerizing night, let me share to you my first impression of Ma'am Gisela. At first, I thought that Ma'am Gisela would be very intimidating and bossy. I was wrong.
Dr. Concepcion and Me!
 Ma'am Gisela was very accommodating, down-to-earth, and pleasant to talk with. She was poised yet very articulate in discussing things on us. On top of that, she showed interest on various topics that we threw on the table ranging from the odd up to the scholarly inquiry. Yes, she answered whatever question we asked during the three hour meet-up.

I was delighted to hear reports on recent developments at the University of the Philippines. Actually, I'm quiet updated with UP Diliman because of Dr. Arminda Santiago, the graduate chair of the UP College of Mass Communication. Whenever I'll go back to the Philippines for a vacation or some conference, I always take time to visit UP and yes, my friend and mentor, Ma'am Armi. Then again, what Ma'am Gisela shared was an addition to the information on tracking the progress of UP especially in this fast paced and highly digital era.

What's good to know from Ma'am Gisela was that there's a changing landscape on how the University operates to accommodate the needs of the students and the faculty ranging from building new facilities up to adjusting reasonable salaries of professors. Despite the news on budget cut and all the politics that affect University Education in the Philippines, it's highly inspiring to realize how the administration, colleges, faculty and even students make its way in raising the quality and output of UP. 

On one hand, Ma'am Gisela also talked about the "Balik Scientist" program, which aims to attract Filipino Scientist overseas to go back in the Philippines and share their knowledge, either by teaching, producing research portfolio or collaborating with former University or employer overseas. Plus, apart from the research grants and other benefits, exchange programs are highly tapped to involve various universities, locally and abroad, toward building strategic partnership and collaborations.

Of course, we also talked about our lives in Brunei. Filipino professors in UBD shared their idea on future collaborative projects especially on exchange programs. With the growing knowledge on the impact of globalization, an interdisciplinary framework, which Ma'am Gisela highlighted, was suggested to become essential and critical in teaching and learning.

While the conversation thrived on collaborations and strategic partnership to address curriculum development, facility sustainability and flexibility in time of globalization and coping with brain drain through competitive local offerings, the night was also peppered with light stories such as about living in Brunei, the culture, traditions, adjustments, and yes, the food.

Indeed, it was an honor to have Dr. Concepcion or Ma'am Gisela. With all the imparted knowledge through evidence-based reports, we were all inspired to plan and implement collaborative projects for UP.

On my part, I was motivated to pursue my PhD (which may start this year or early January) and hopefully teach and create partnership on future research projects, inside and outside the academia.

Me, Dr. Joey, Dr. Concepcion, Dr. Egay, Ma'am Betsy, Dr. Rommel and Dra. Irma. Photo by Dr. Joey

***
Information (Via Online)
 
Dr. Gisela P. Concepcion obtained her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of the Philippines. She is a part of the faculty and researchers of the UP Diliman Marine Sciences Institute. She also chairs the Dean's Office on Special Initiatives for the Advancement of the Sciences, College of Science, UP Diliman. She leads the PharmaSeas and PMS-ICBG programs at UP MSI. She is a member of the National Academy of Science and Technology.

Furthermore,  from 2003 to the present, Dr. Concepcion has pursued a collaboration with Professor Baldomero M. Olivera of the University of Utah on neuroactive peptides from venomous Conoidean snails. From 2008 to the present, she has led the PharmaSeas marine drug discovery program funded by the Philippine Government. In 2009, she became the associate program leader in the Philippines of the US NIH-funded ICBG program on Philippine Mollusk Symbionts in collaboration with Margo Haygood of Oregon Health Science University, BM Olivera and Eric Schmidt of the University of Utah and other US researchers.

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