Many changes have happened in the last 10 years. The major program that we launched three years ago was the iPad program. It started out as a pilot class in the second year high school. now starting from first year all the way to the new 12th grade. The second change is in the IT program. When my father was alive, our IT program was open source programming. Since then, we switched over to Apple and mobile devices. Students can put together apps for android.
Now, we will go back to open source but at a higher level. We have CISCO network but we’ll now offer open source. The advantage of open source is that the software is free and when it comes to hardware we don’t have to use proprietary hardware. I personally favor Apple products but I also recognize the costs. With the open source, the iPad program will still continue.
We now have a robotics program. We use a robotics system where students have to design the robots and the program so the robot can function. This year, we are hoping that VEX Robotics (the company that makes robots) will agree for us to host for the international VEX competition in Asia. But we have to get other institutions to join. I believe Vex will provide all the equipment to the schools with the understanding that the schools will purchase the equipment in order to sustain the level of competition in the city.
The latest building we made is the Gym which we refer to as the Greyhound Garden. We’re the only one on this side of the island which has three courts so we can have simultaneous practices for Basketball and Volleyball. The advantage is that we are addressing the students’ needs to give them time to study.
To many people, athletes are spoiled brats, have way too many problems and are not accountable for anything. With that kind of attitude towards athletes, the parallel for me is abused children. I know some people will be offended by that term because Filipinos typically tend to smother their children with so much love.
What we’ve done with our athletes is we provide so many services. one of them is tutoring services. we identify from the very beginning who among our athletes need tutoring. Our athletes have problems with math, English, logic, everything needed to function in society. All they know how to do is to play football, basketball, volleyball.,,whatever sport they’re in. This is just one of our goals to get them up to speed so by the time they graduate, they will function in society.
This does not mean we will be a diploma mill when it comes to athletes. they have to pass the courses like any student. It would be unfair to them if we pass them just because they’re athletes or pass them because they’ve been train separately. They should be passed because they perform well in the court and in the classroom. The athletes have the same comprehensive exams, they have to maintain a 2.25 to remain in school. The point is they are functional.
Every athlete in this country has five years eligibility. If they do not graduate after five years, the school cuts off their scholarships. Most of the time these athletes are also very poor and their only option is to drop out.
We have a policy and we have used this on two of our athletes, where if their eligibility has stopped and they are still in their third or fourth year, we still give them a scholarship so they could finish their degree. We are very interested in the kids that come here. We want everyone here to be a functioning citizen, not just in the Philippines but a global citizen.
Unfortunately, my father and I didn’t have the chance to talk about what he really wanted to do. We just keep emphasizing the mission that my grandfather had established when the school opened. But based on what my father had done when he returned in 1995 up to 2004, I don’t think I’m that far away from the way he would have done it. I think the main difference would be how he would have handled the finances in terms of the improvements but in terms of the end goal, I think we’re pretty close to each other.
My father’s approach to finance was he would react first to the number then to the utilization. Being an architect, I’m sensitive also to the bottom line but I always look at utilization. More often than not, I’d say, “okay, this is something that costs more than what I initially agreed to.” But if we present it to my father so he could understand utilization, he would eventually agree.
I have included Americans into our Architecture program. I know a lot of people would say “Oh my God, foreigners in a Philippine program!” Well, our approach to architecture is different from anything else. What we have in our program is sustainable green design. Many institutions only have “green” design but they don’t have “sustainable.” What I mean by that is, for example, our Estudio Damgo, which is now on Year 2. Basically, it’s a sustainable facility for a needy user. What our 4th and 5th year students do before they graduate is they go to the community to see who and what needs something.
They come up with the schematic design and present it to the community. Once the design is accepted, they work on the final phase, which includes funding. The school does not fund this program. They have to find the funding. We have Global Giving which is our international source of funding. The kids write emails–they do everything–to get people to donate money.
By November, they’ll have the funds the they begin construction. And two weeks before graduation, the building is constructed and turned over to the community.
As far as I know, we’re the only school with this project. We’re the only ones to have our students actually really work with their hands. Actually, in architecture, what the students are doing when they get out in the field, people really do that kind of work until their fifth year of experience. So our graduates are very very lucky because they get to do this stuff before they begin to work in an office. I looked for that kind of experience. I’m always very conscious of “Filipino first” but that did not exist here. So the idea in bringing these Americans over is to share this knowledge with the Filipinos as technology transfer. Eventually, the Filipinos can run this program themselves.
We have three American teachers and they’re a minority. We have Filipino architects who are design instructors–Richter Tia, Val Vinarao and others.
We’ve struggled for many years, even when my father was alive, to keep up the population of agriculture. One of his goals in agriculture that farming could be done on a small scale, or on land 1 or 2 hectares at the most. So far, we haven’t had much success because we’re dealing with traditional farming methods, especially in areas of agronomy. We’re trying the upland rice variety of Henry Lim Bon Liong, the father of hybrid rice in the Philippines.
The other one is aquaponics. This basically uses fertilizer from fish waste in conjunction with vermicasting and we make vermi tea out of vermicasts. The results are phenomenal. You reduce the maturity time for harvest by almost one third. That’s also pretty exciting for us.
We do have a dairy farm. We are bringing in milk from our farm in Tanjay to the school. We can’t bring in much volume because it’s so popular that we sell most of it at the farm gate. We are in the process of breeding so we can produce more. We don’t just look to producing milk but also milk products like cheese.
Sugarcane will eventually be replaced with hybrid upland rice. We are doing this because I feel very badly that we have sugar, especially because of the social impact to Filipinos. Sugar is basically a pseudo-slave industry. I know a lot of people don’t like to hear those words but let’s face it–these guys work only twice a year and whatever they earn is a pittance. It’s barely enough for anything. And cane sugar has also been found to be extremely unhealthy–it is a leading cause of diabetes in the Philippines.
Socially, I want to get away from sugar. I don’t see sugar as a crop that will help the Philippines progress. We do believe in sugar and that is coco-sugar and that’s what we’ve been processing at a very wall scale.
Coco sugar is very low on the glycemic index compared to all the sugars. It’s so low that it’s just a little bit higher than the medicine for diabetics. The flavor is very good. We’ve converted all our products from cane sugar to coco sugar and wer’ve had very good feedback.
We will soon be turning to brown rice instead of white polished rice. Brown rice is again very healthy — lower in the glycemic index.
We had nominated several members that were outside of the Sinco family and these nominations came through the board and through membership meetings three years ago. The challenge came when the family members found out that non-family members were included in the corporation. The Supreme Court ruled on it in December. We got a writ finalizing that what we had done to add members even though they weren’t family was perfectly legal. So we went from 12 members to 21. Majority of the members are outsiders.
We’ve had some very good connections with government through these corporate members, like Philip Juico. He has been all over the national scene and has been an instructor in the master’s program for business in La Salle, so it’s been good for us in the national level especially when dealing with CHED and the Department of Education.
Another one is my uncle who just passed away–Renato Dragon, who was helpful in dealing with other government organizations when we got stuck with red tape, especially when he was a congressman in Cavite.
Other members — we have Dennis Welter from Olympia, Washington, an environmentalist who has been helping us with our environmental program. He has reinvigorated several rivers in Washington and he is helping us in finding a solution to our mountain of garbage that continues to burn and poison all of us here. Another member in Honolulu, Charlotte Tanaka, has been very influential in the Estudio Damgo project. She has introduced that project to many people in Honolulu who contributed to the funding so Estudio Damgo could succeed.
The inclusion of additional members was not a political move. The corporate membership prior to my father’s passing away was, for lack of a better word, stale. It wasn’t bringing anything new. We had members who were just sitting who were not providing any input. We all know as a member of the corporation, you’re there for a specific reason. Not just to sit but to bring in something that the corporation could use.
This is why we had new members because we saw that we needed fresh blood, fresh ideas, fresh infusion of possible capital. Introduction to other people in the community, both local and international. And it worked. Since we placed these people we were able to sell our programs. I’m very happy that the Supreme Court upheld the decision.
We’re still working on it. but it’s a priority for us to find a successor not just for myself but for the President. We want to bring this community of ours to a certain level of mindfulness that they understand the importance of our educational institution. I’ve had many discussions with Dr. Aparicio Mequi and my mother about what an educational institution really is all about. We have come to the conclusion that whatever we do here is an experiment to see how we can progress, how we could perfect everything. Part of our mission here is to make people understand that they are part of the total solution–they cannot be a part of the problem. And we know what the problem is.
We know what we’re doing but to get to a higher level, we have to keep experimenting with methodologies, with social norms. Many times, what we’re introducing is foreign to the culture so what else could you call it?
Why does the Negros Athletic Association (NAA) need to exist? When it comes to the approach of the athletes, I consider all athletes of the country abused children. They’re used as lab rats. Entertainment. This is just so wrong. We just don’t treat our youth that way. Yes, these guys have certain innate talents physically, but they still are people. They need a set of tools so they could function when they’re past their mid-20s. This is one thing we need to do which is real. Playing a game is not real. The lessons learned from a game are real.
NAA is designed so that there are three seasons a year. The athletes in the past only train all year round but there’s only one event a year. That’s ridiculous. The other mission of NAA is that we require a GPA of 2.75 from academic clubs. Many institutions have asked to wave that requirement for the first year because it also took our athletes a long time to understand the importance of academics. So we’re giving the other academic institutions one year. It’s as simple as preparing these athletes for life. Shooting three-pointers 20 in a row is not going to do that.
Insurance is optional. In sports, accidental insurance only covers the emergency room. When you’re injured in sports, you need therapy. Their insurance doesn’t cover therapy. Our insurance does. As an ex-athlete, you’re never 100 percent healthy. At best, you’re 90 percent healthy. That’s the importance of insurance.
The ID requirement cannot be waived. This ID is needed at each competition. The cards are presented to the officials and they have to match the kid. For some reason, in football, you get a red card, your ID is pulled by the referree and given to NAA so they will not be allowed to play until your ID Card goes back to the officials. We need to create an atmosphere that we’re serious about the results of the NAA. Sports is supposed to teach respect for yourself and respect for your opponent.
People have to stop looking at things the traditional way and start to understand why certain procedures and certain fees are in place. A lot of people will say “can we trust you to be fair and impartial?” If there’s anything that one knows about Foundation University, it’s that we’re always fair and impartial. We may be emotionally heated at times but we’re always fair and impartial.
I’ve been asked the question: Have you ever considered putting a campus here or there? If and when everyone on board understands the real reason for an educational institution to exist from day to day, year after year, century after century, then yes we will expand. But until then, we have to keep it close. We’re impatient. We want to succeed fast. I really don’t know when that would be. All I can say is soon.