Celebrating the success of Australian-educated Filipinos

AUSSIE DIPLOMACY MATTERS - Steven J. Robinson (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2019 - 12:00am

It’s said that education is what survives when the lessons are long forgotten. This means the real value of education is that it prepares you for life and all its risks and rewards. Filipino families understand the value of education so deeply that it is an ingrained habit. That is why so many parents invest as much as they can to support the education of their children. They know that good jobs go to those with a good education and the will to work hard.

I’ve seen that burning drive and ambition in the Filipino students I have met all around the country. And I am grateful that Filipinos see Australia as a natural stop off point in their journey to a good education – the sound foundation for success. Over the decades, more than a hundred thousand Filipinos have changed their lives for the better using the skills gained from their education in Australia.

My country is fortunate to host close to 13,000 Filipino students each year, making Australia the top destination for Filipino college students who choose to study abroad. Australian alumni include innovators like forensic scientist Dr. Maria Corazon de Ungria of the DNA Analysis Laboratory in UP Diliman and Glory Rose Dy of Balay Balay Architecture Puzzles. There are Australian-educated leaders in the military, such as General Benjamin Madrigal Jr., Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and his predecessor, and current Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Reconciliation and Unity, Ret. General Carlito Galvez Jr. And in government Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Operations Office is an alumnus of Federation University, one of Australia’s oldest colleges.

What I see among our alumni is that they measure their success by their contribution to this country. Earlier this week I had the honour to present awards to four outstanding Australian alumni who are using their education to propel Philippine progress.

 Our alumni of the year, Joji Ilagan-Bian, is an amazing leader who applied her learnings from Technical and Further Education in New South Wales to boost the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) sector in Mindanao. Her initiatives – including founding the Mindanao TVET Association composed of over 400 institutions – helped create a favourable business and investment climate in Davao City.

Then there’s Dr. Rene Abesamis, who received his Masters in Tropical Marine Ecology and Fish Biology and PhD in Marine Biology from James Cook University, who works on research to help reverse the decline in fisheries and biodiversity. Young Achiever Dr. Jason Alacapa, achieved Masters-level qualifications in Public Health, Economic Evaluation and Health Management at the University of New South Wales. Today his work includes applying new measures to improve health systems in the Philippines to decrease the burden of tuberculosis. And Dr. Abelardo Apollo David Jr. who received his Master of Occupational Therapy from the University of Queensland. He has established learning centres and community-based rehabilitation programs in Manila, Cebu and Davao for people with disabilities and children with special needs.

Their stories demonstrate the value of studying in Australia for themselves and the nation. I’m always delighted to hear similar stories and I invite readers who are Australian alumni to connect with us, share your story, and join our dynamic alumni community here in the Philippines.

Australian universities are world class; with several counted among the world’s best. I’m pleased that the Australian Government offers Filipinos who want to study in Australia the prestigious Australia Awards postgraduate scholarship programs. Through these scholarships, Australia and the Philippines share a rare bond – long after graduation day.

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(Steven J. Robinson AO is the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines.  Follow him on Twitter @AusAmbPH.)

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