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Opinion

Consuelo J. Paz 1933-2022

THIRD EYE - Ramon J. Farolan - The Philippine Star

A few months ago, friends and colleagues of the University of the Philippines Center for International Studies came up with “A Festschrift,” a German word indicating “In celebration of” the legacy of Consuelo J. Paz, edited by Prof. Wystan de la Peña. Her youngest son, Victor, a professor of archeology at UP Diliman, said of his mother: “Consuelo Joaquin Paz was born in 1933 in Manila, the second of five siblings. Her formative years were spent in what was then the bucolic Kamuning area in Cubao. She was born to an unusual family of more English than Spanish, Tagalog or Kapampangan speakers, due to an English grandmother on her mother’s side. Grandma, as she was called, Frances Alden Morales, lived a long life and was a central figure in the growing up years of the Morales grandchildren. Frances’ husband, Eusebio Morales, was a chemical engineer who was instrumental in setting up the first industrial-scale ice plant in Manila.

“Mary Morales, my mother’s mother, studied in UP. A campus personality at the pre-war Padre Faura campus, she was the first Sweetheart of the Engineering fraternity Beta Epsilon. She was very sociable and readily overflowed with empathy for everyone she met. My mother’s father, Pacifico Joaquin, hailed from Bacolor, Pampanga and had a good ear for music, though he played mainly for pleasure and made a living as an entrepreneur. My mother can still recall the funeral of her grandfather Modesto Joaquin, who was known as a Maestro and Katipunero in Bacolor.

“My mother was still a child at the start of the Pacific War but at an early stage, she already had a strong sense of responsibility – she took care of her family, did the marketing on her own at age 10, learned to cook for the household and sewed her own dresses. Soon after the war, my mother and her sisters went back to school at St. Theresa’s College in Manila. The formidable European nuns of STC did not waste time in giving them a Catholic education. In her senior year, the nuns reprimanded her for wearing something from a “godless institution,” the guilty accessory, a UP High School pin, a gift from her boyfriend who would become my father. When the nuns found out she was going to UP for university studies, they made her take an oath that she would continue to be a good Christian and Catholic. Indeed, she was one during her entire stay in UP and after.

“Very active in campus life, she, just like her mother, became the Sweetheart of the Beta Epsilon fraternity. She also joined the Delta Lambda Sigma sorority. Her older sister, Sonia Valenciano, was in the same sorority and was also active in campus politics. Soon after college, she got married and became a full-time housewife... 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.”

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, holding 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 (1979-1982; 1988-1991) 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 gray.

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. The sablay was officially adopted in 2000.

One of her main advocacies was the use of Filipino as a medium of instruction in schools. She was named one of the major consultants in the framing of the language provision in the 1987 Constitution. When she was appointed Dean of the College of the Social Sciences and Philosophy from 1992 up to 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. Her heart, as exemplified by her deeds, was that of one who loved her country and her people.

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 Friday evening, Connie, 89, passed away peacefully.

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CONSUELO J. PAZ

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