Consuelo J. Paz, mother and leader

My sister-in-law Connie Paz raised eight kids (seven boys and a girl) and along the way, picked up an AB in English, an MA in Linguistics, followed by a Ph.D also in Linguistics, all from the University of the Philippines in Diliman. Unlike many of her colleagues, she was pure UP and she traveled farther than most with degrees from abroad. Starting as an English teaching assistant, she became an instructor in the Department of Linguistics, and ended up as a full professor in the same department. She became chair of the Department of Linguistics twice (1979-82, 1988-91) and in between stints, she found time to bring me a paper bag of sandwiches and an old t-shirt when I found myself with Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and General Fidel Ramos in a gathering at Camp Aguinaldo in February 1986, that signaled the start of the EDSA revolt. She must have figured that I was in for a long night. Connie attended protest rallies and marched under difficult conditions with various groups, but most especially with those who had little influence or resources. Some called her an activist. I saw her actions as reflective of an innate sense of justice that took in all shades of color – red, white, blue or grey.

One of her main advocacies was for the use of Filipino as a medium of instruction in schools. For this, she was named one of the major consultants in the framing of the language provision in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. When she was appointed dean of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (UP CCSP) in 1992-1998, she implemented the use of Filipino to drive home the importance of the language, using it in her memos and communications, and adopting a Filipino version of the college’s name.

Connie would often mention the uncomfortable use of togas during graduation rites held during the peak of the summer season. When the University Council created a committee to look into the matter, she became one of the leading voices in proposing the change from the toga to the sablay. It would bring about heated debates, with some quarters fiercely defending the status quo. Today the sablay is used by the University although perhaps, in a variety of ways by the different colleges. Somehow, I am reminded of a similar situation at the Philippine Military Academy, with cadets still wearing West Point-style uniforms. It would need the likes of a Connie Paz to change things.

Approaching retirement, then-UP president Emerlinda Roman asked for her help in setting up a new unit at the university to boost the profile of international studies in UP. Connie would be appointed officer-in-charge and later, director, Center for International Studies, a position she held until leaving government service in 2003.

Last week, friends and colleagues at the UP CIS came up with “A Festschrift,” a German word indicating “in celebration of” the legacy of Consuelo J. Paz, edited by Wynstan de la Pena. We share some excerpts.

Her youngest son, Professor Victor J. Paz, wrote: “As a young boy I was a lazy student and a dreamer. My mother always had time to help me review for exams, even at the last instance, no matter how tired she was. Although she deferred to my father, she was the real center of the family, a true matriarch. How she was with her children and relatives was the same way she was with younger colleagues and students all throughout her UP career – tireless in empathy and willing always to lend an ear to anyone who wanted her advice, her help or her opinion. She was a reliable champion of causes, no matter how large or how small, inside UP or on the national stage.

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“If asked, what is the legacy of Dean Consuelo Paz? I will say that she continued a tradition of women with strong character and influence in academe, a minority in UP until quite recently. She joined the ranks of women academics – the likes of historian Encarnacion Alzona (1895-2001), sociologist Ofelia Angangco (1926-2019) and writer Virginia Moreno (1925-2021) – who asserted their rights, opinion and scholarship in a male-dominated academic atmosphere. After her generation, there were more women academics and academic leaders in the university – parity among the genders has never been better.”

From Sara S. Raymundo, director of the UP CIS: “To my generation, Dean Paz is the female college administrator whose intellect, strength of character and a meticulously paired sense of propriety and fashion, informed the academe’s brand of 90’s feminism. Hers is a quest for academic excellence informed by an acute sense of independence from colonialism in both its old and new forms. In the presence of Dean Paz, calls to celebrate diversity, end sexism and for gender equality were neither fragmented nor matters of individual choice. Rather, they were framed within a larger whole, each being part and parcel of a vision we all must strive for. In the hands of Consuelo Paz, the future depended on connecting the bigger picture with day-to-day urgencies, big and small.”

Connie is now home with a full-time caregiver to attend to her needs but the mind remains clear and sharp. She may have difficulty speaking but her eyes have a way of expressing her thoughts and saying, “Thank you, thank you for everything.”

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Email: rjfarolan56@gmail.com

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