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CPAf alumni honored for excellent contributions in their fields

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by Stella Concepcion R. Britanico and Evelie P. Serrano

Four CPAf alumni received the CPAf College Distinguished Alumni Awards during the UPLB Loyalty Day Celebration and Alumni Awarding Ceremonies held on October 9, 2019 at the UPLB Baker Hall. They were Dr. Katsuhisa Ota (MS Community Development (CD) ’99 and PhD CD ‘07), Atty. Rommel A. Gecolea (Master in Public Affairs ‘13), Dr. Josefina T. Dizon (PhD CD ‘97), and Dr. Weerapon Thongma (PhD Extension Education ‘01) who was also a recipient of The Outstanding UPLB Alumni Award (TOUAA).

Dr. Ota bagged the CPAf College Distinguished Alumnus for Social Entrepreneurship and Development award. Dr. Ota, a Japanese national, has been providing local farmers in Davao, Philippines with skills, employment, and income through a social enterprise he established in 2017, the Pistacia Mindanao Coffee Export, Inc. This micro- and small-enterprise specializes in the production, manufacturing, and export of high-quality coffee and cacao beans. As Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Ota is responsible for all activities of the business – from community level to export/marketing in Japan. At the community level, he trains the farmers to increase the quality of the beans and facilitates awareness raising on environmental protection. Before Dr. Ota focused on helping Filipino farmers, he was a consultant of development projects in various countries for 15 years. He also served as community worker in Davao for more than a year under a Japanese non-government organization.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Evelie P. Serrano

Like Dr. Ota, Atty. Gecolea is a public servant whose advocacy is good governance and local autonomy by empowering the people of Cabuyao City through local economic enterprise and entrepreneurial programs. He is this year’s recipient of the CPAf College Distinguished Alumnus for Local Governance and Public Service award. Mayor Gecolea’s public service experience dates back to the early 1980’s when he served as Councilor of Kabataang Barangay, a youth organization that is the forerunner of the current Sangguniang Kabataan. He later became Councilor (elected thrice: 2001, 2004, and 2007) of the then Municipality of Cabuyao, Municipal Vice Mayor (2010-2013), and Cabuyao City Vice Mayor (2013-2016) before he was elected City Mayor in 2016. Among the significant developments in Cabuyao during his leadership are the establishment of the Cabuyao Investment and Development Authority, Cabuyao Institute of Technology, and Cabuyao City Hospital.

Meanwhile, Dr. Dizon was conferred CPAf College Distinguished Alumna for Community Development Teaching and Research. A Professor of CPAf since 2003, Dr. Dizon has been teaching community development courses and has served as adviser to over a hundred graduate students, local and foreign, who now hold key positions in their respective institutions. As mentor, Dr. Dizon has guided her students in conducting quality research, which are published in refereed journals and presented in local and international conferences. Being in the academe, the former dean of CPAf has been performing the tri-function mandate of the University - teaching, research, and public service. Her researches have not only contributed significantly to the body of knowledge but have also empowered local communities. All in all, her teaching, research, and public service engagements have contributed to UPLB’s quest for academic excellence not only in the field of community development but also in extension, community, and agricultural education.

Lastly, Dr. Thongma was recognized as the CPAf College Distinguished Alumnus and TOUA for Educational Leadership. The President of the Maejo University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, he previously served as the Vice-President for the University Council and International Relations and Dean of the International College of Maejo University. Likewise, he is the President of the Asian Association of Agricultural College and University and former President of the Asian Tourism Management Association. Meanwhile, his contributions go beyond being an administrator. In his 30 years of teaching experience, he has mentored a number of students in the undergraduate and graduate tourism development programs of the Maejo University. Most of these students are now leaders in academic and research institutes and development organizations.

The CPAf College Distinguished Alumni Awards are conferred yearly by the College and the CPAf Alumni Association to graduates who have exceptional achievements and contributions to society. Similarly, the annual TOUAAs are awarded by the UPLB Alumni Association (UPLBAA) to deserving alumni who have transcended their disciplinary fields of expertise and contributed to address contemporary issues. Aside from TOUAAs and the colleges’ distinguished alumni awards, other recognitions given during the ceremony were the Multi-generation Award, The Outstanding Golden Jubilarian Award, Nelia T. Gonzalez Service Award, and the UPLBAA Presidential Award.

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