Friday, March 4, 2016


Attending scholoarship on Leadership and Management of Universities in the 21st century, UN University, Amman, Jordan, 2006
by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
March 5, 2016 issue

From a little girl who peddled rice cakes in the streets, Erlinda Alli Ganapin rose from her lowly beginning and survived many odds, some of them miraculously. How she beat them makes an interesting story.

You cannot ignore Ganapin, the educator who is ready to take her second career. Born, raised and educated in Palawan, Ganapin is a self-made woman, toughened by challenging experiences, molded by beautiful values, and time continues to make her a vintage wine.

Once chosen as outstanding woman of the city of Puerto Princesa, you can liken Ganapin to many indigenous things Palawan is famous for, like lustrous south sea pearls, brown and tough “Kamagong” tree, pungently sweet ripe “Mampalang” (local mango) and many more.

The woman is confidently homegrown, with a heart for teaching people to better their communities.

For Ganapin, nothing is impossible when you dream about something and pursue it relentlessly.
Listening to her as she dreamt of seeing Manila as a kid is like watching a riveting indie film. It holds you spellbound and you can tell, she is a woman of substance.

Born to be a storyteller 
Old family picture, with sister Aida, three months after the fateful MV Fortuna incident.
When she was nine years old and just finished fourth grade in school, her mother took her and two of her sisters, including a female relative, to Manila to enjoy summer vacation.

She could not contain her excitement the moment she stepped into MV General Luna, the big ship that sailed for three days and two nights to reach the city. To make the story short, it was a trip she would never forget for the rest of her life.

On their way back home, a series of unfortunate incidents greeted them as well as hundreds of passengers in the middle of the sea. An engine trouble had caused the ship to stall and passengers had to transfer to another ship.

Packed like sardines on MV Fortuna, the rescue ship, Ganapin’s family slept on the floor and occasionally, on top of their luggage. Everything seemed fine until loud screams jolted them out of their sleep.

A big commotion ensued and she saw people running in different directions. They were shouting “Fire, fire!” A woman then shouted, “Huramentado, huramentado, takbo kayo!” (Amok, everybody run!)

Ganapin was beside her mother who could not help but panic. She then grabbed her hand and both of them hid under a nearby cot.

Halfway to safety, her mother remembered that her two other sisters were not with them. Shouting her sisters’ names, she came down dragging her.

As they dashed through the dining area passing through a narrow hallway, Ganapin saw a man approaching them with a bloodstained bolo. The man who had gone berserk was brandishing it against those who were blocking his way.

Attending PSU-Cuyo graduation ceremonies, 2011
And then the nightmare - the man swung his bolo hitting her mother’s scalp. At that instance, blood spurted out like a fountain from her head, terrifying her endlessly. Like a monster, the crazed man turned to her next.

About to strike her, her mother had regained strength from half-consciousness and pushed him with brute force in the nick of time. All bloodied, she hurriedly put her inside a big box and covered it with a piece of luggage.

But the man sprang back and continued his attack. With one violent swing, the man hit a luggage her mother had grabbed earlier to shield her. It had split into two, even causing a deep wound on her mother’s left hand. Without the luggage, her mother’s hand would have been cut off.

Horrified for what she saw, Ganapin cowered in fear. There was as if a mysterious hand that guided her mother to save her from near death. Then they heard loud gunshots. The man fell dead with many people wounded in his wicked wake.

Traumatized, a couple (Mr. and Mrs. Bagaoisan of Santa Lucia) attended to them. Ganapin would later learn that her older sister almost jumped off the ship. The terrifying incident on that fateful night of June 1958 landed on national newspapers.

Being sworn-in as OIC-President of PSU, 2011
Back in Puerto Princesa, her teachers and friends would always ask her to recount what had happened. Retelling the story would make her an effective storyteller later on.
Recovering from trauma
To forget and put it behind them, her mother thought of a small business at home making rice cakes. She and her sisters knocked on people’s homes and sold them before going to school. They were assigned specific streets in the town where they sold them door-to-door.

Ganapin sold the most because she had the loudest and charming voice. She even endeared herself to the cabaret girls near the popular Cosmos Bakery. The only time she stopped selling was when she entered high school because she didn’t want to come to school late.

Born in a town where everybody knew everybody, Ganapin is grateful for all the learning experiences she faced during her growing up years.

“I cherish the joy and laughter of my childhood. There were frustrations, pain and suffering, but as years went by, they’ve become part of a beautiful story worth sharing,” she intimates.
She remembers playing “patintero”, “luksong tinik”, “tumbang preso”, “tagu-taguan”, “piko”, “pitsao”, “maro” and “tatsing” under the sun and during full moons.

Her installation as first President of of the Soroptimist International Puerto Princesa City chapter, 2011.
  She cherishes her boyish adventure of climbing fruit-bearing trees, gathering seashells, sea urchins and fiddler crabs at nearby “Parola”.

She remembers binging on ‘plywood’, a kind of hard baked bread, banana cue and “maruya”. “We drank water directly from the school’s artesian well if we didn’t have enough money to buy soft drinks. I was also bullied because of my dark brown skin and kinky hair,” she narrates.

Chasing a dream

Ganapin always wanted to be a lawyer. After high school, she enrolled at a local Catholic school to take up preparatory law. “That did not happen because my older sister convinced me to shift to education. She reasoned out that the province was in dire need of teachers,” she says.

With her father’s untimely death, Ganapin was compelled to become a working student. While tagging along with a friend who was auditioning for a broadcasting job, a man with a baritone voice yelled “Next!” referring to her.

The man was the famous Jess Decolongon, a respected radio personality in the country. Ganapin reluctantly tried and to her surprise, she was taken in. The rest is history.

Ganapin learned the value of coming on time (as in this interview where she came in 30 minutes early), preparedness, continuous learning while on the job, objectivity in dealing with situations, presence of mind, reading and improving one’s craft and not to settle for anything less.
United Nations University, Amman, Jordan

At that time, Ganapin worked as a student assistant at the Office of the High School Principal Holy Trinity College, from 7:00 to 11:00 am and 1:30 to 4:15 pm and enjoyed free tuition privileges.

At the same time, she attended classes that started from 4:15 pm to 8:30 pm.
She sold mosquito nets, blankets, bed sheets and pillowcases sent by her brother to augment the family income and worked at the Office of the Auditing Examiner’s Office at Palawan National School, Provincial Assessor’s Office, Office of the Provincial School Superintendent while continuing part-time work at DYPR on weekends (with a salary of two pesos per hour).

She worked full-time during summer as disc jockey, hosted live shows, gave advice to people in love on air, was a newscaster, did field reporting, public service, and hosted musical programs.
Family values

Ganapin’s family instilled in her faith in God, honesty, respect for elders, concern for others, hardwork and perseverance.
She helped her brother Artemio who took over her mother’s home business. Though half of his right leg was amputated because of a fatal accident, he strived hard. He now manages a family business in Antipolo market and lives in a big house with his family.

Her older sister Aurora taught her multi-tasking and time management. “I should really be thankful for her efforts in making me learn how to survive in life,” she adds.

Improving herself

Ganapin read pocketbooks, newspapers, watched English movies, accepted English programs at DYPR (“Words and Music”), joined literary writing contests, wrote poems, short stories, scripts, memorized speeches, listened to good speakers to improve her English.

An active student leader, she won as a senator in college. She graduated at age 19 and became a full-pledged teacher.

Her first teaching job was at a barrio high school in Quezon town southern Palawan. Here, she once walked a 7-kilometer muddy road from a sitio because the vehicle she took could not proceed further to the town proper.

“My first two-years of teaching was full of challenges and frustrations but that did not discourage me. I organized a fund-raising campaign for our school building. The local government funds were not sufficient to provide our needs in school. We had to wait for 5 months to claim salaries,” she relates.

Ganapin’s starting salary was Php 234.00 charged against local funds. “I initiated educational field trips to supplement theories taught in school. I recommended students for summer jobs in a mining company for them to earn extra income for their continuous schooling,” she adds.

She transferred to Palawan National School in 1971 as a full-time English teacher, resumed radio work during weekends and moved to the newly opened Palawan Teachers' College (predecessor of Palawan State University) in 1977. It was the start of a flourishing professional growth for her, paving the way towards her dreams.
As an active anti-corruption advocate doing a roadshow in 2007.
 She then pursued a master's degree in college teaching. A year after, she specialized as Trainor in English for the Decentralized Learning Resource Center, a school for school administrators of the Department of Education. Soon, she was designated Director of Information. 

Because of her media background, Ganapin was tasked to answer issues raised by faculty and students against school administration in local media and at Radio Veritas and Radyong Bayan in Manila.

The dark and bright years

When Edsa Revolution was unfolding in 1986-1987, the then Palawan State College was also undergoing a student-faculty unrest.

Groups wanted the incumbent president to give way to a Palaweno educator. Unfolding events would make Ganapin principal of the Laboratory High School from 1987-1991, a tough task she handled after the transition of leadership.

In a state institution where designations are never permanent, Ganapin anchored a one-hour a week radio program aired to keep stakeholders informed about college activities.

She was among those who prepared a position paper needed for a bill converting the state college into a state university.

As coordinator of PSU-World Bank Partnership, she attended a training program spearheaded by Transparency Accountability Network, fulfilling her part as educator.
She assisted in the realization of many other extension programs of the university. Like giving short-term livelihood courses for 8 barangays (Tiniguiban, Santa Monica, Sicsican, Irawan, Santa Lourdes, Tagburos, San Jose and San Pedro).

Eventually finishing her doctorate degree in Education in 1998, she was designated Dean of College of Education the following year. She would hold the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs after three months, lasting for nine years.

In 2005, Ganapin became Executive Vice President of the university and served as member of the PSU Board of Regents as alumni representative (1999-2004). She worked on major curricular reforms and initiated additional extension centers in different municipalities of the province.

She was given a 5-day scholarship on Leadership and Management of Universities in the 21st Centuryat the United Nations University in Amman, Jordan in 2006 where she presented a paper on Solid Waste Management Program of Puerto Princesa City.                              

When PSU was recognized as the first sustainable and eco-friendly university in the Philippines in 2009, she was appointed chair of the committee on environmental sanitation and beautification, organized by the DENRm CHED and DEPEd.

Sharing the best practices of Palawan State University on environmental protection and conservation at Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University, Beppu, Japan, 2009.
She presented the university’s best practices at the Ritsusmeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan on December 12, 2009 as a result. All of these milestones happened while attending to a sick daughter who battled leukemia for almost a year. 

She worked with the World Bank through PSU Knowledge for Development Center and led a university-wide anti-corruption drive, making the school recognized as member of Transparency International. This earned her a Governor's Award in Education in 2010 two weeks after her daughter’s death.

She was then appointed OIC-President of Palawan State University a year after, a position she worked hard to attain with very supportive constituents.

She resigned after three months and applied for the presidency of PSU, an institution she served for more than three decades.

Educators and professional participants in Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University.
A few people worked against her and she eventually lost the battle, a well-orchestrated conspiracy done by people whom she says acted like God. “I thought it best to keep calm,” Ganapin says.

More than a year after her retirement in service, Ganapin was invited as an external associate for PSU under the Atlas Scholarship Program in Gottenburg, Sweden in 2013. Together with a team of educators from University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo De Davao University and Angelicum College, she worked on a curriculum for selected elementary schools, integrating environmental sustainability. 

Her mentors, advocacies

One thing she learned from her parents and siblings were to appreciate the good that people have done for them. Her mother had taught her how be a survivor. She considers her parents, siblings and former teachers as her mentors.

She includes Dr. Walfrido Ponce De Leon, founding President of Palawan State University, President Paterno Bruselas, Dr. Crispiniano Acosta, Sr., President Teresita Salva and former high school and now senior friends, Tessie Basaya, Atty. Grace Rivera Meregillano, Norma Lim, Norma Carlos Espartero, Norma Arrogancia Devecais, Roberto del Rosario and Dr. Erlinda San Juan among them.
“When I was about to give up a good fight, when I was groping in the dark because of so much complications in my personal and professional life, they taught me how to cope with situations without sacrificing self-worth,” she says.
Puerto Princesa Underground River: One of 7 new wonders of the world.

Ganapin believes in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), an advocacy she started in the late 80s when she co-authored Palawan’s first musical play "Kung Hindi Ngayon, Kailan?", with good friend Jane Timbancaya-Urbanek.

The latter took the lead in realizing this project, a partnership between PSU and the then Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD). Noted Palawenos composed the cast with Medy Beroy, Nonoy Lanzanas, Alex Maracaida and the late Gerry Ortega among them.

Gender sensitivity, women empowerment and violence against women are close to Ganapin’s heart. She is also a cooperatives advocate and has been helping barangays organize a cooperative of their own.

In a city where women leaders are few, or just one or two, Ganapin, the unbreakable, hopes to see the place of her birth as a disciplined and booming city, with a dynamic and sustainable urban and rural tourism program, not just a gateway to the now famous Underground River or El Nido, but as a truly nerve-center of activities in Palawan.