By Zarelle Glen Dorothy A. Villanzana | September 8, 2023
From recollections of their humble high school wins to their gracious expressions of gratitude for their notable honors as adults—all five of this year’s Outstanding Sillimanian Awardees exemplified honor and grace, fusing all their distinctive intellects under one banner: Via, Veritas, Vita. On August 28, they all took to the stage and claimed their medals at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, not leaving without their respective words of inspiration.
Homegrown Sillimanian Ambassador
Receiving her award for Excellence in Government Service/International Relations and Diplomacy, Ambassador Kira Christianne D. Azucena—with her soft-spoken voice yet entrancing posture—gave out nuggets of wisdom that listeners were blessed to have heard.
Defining herself as “a homegrown, indigenous product of Silliman University,” Azucena mentioned how Silliman taught her many important life lessons, with the most significant being the “importance of placing God at the center, anchored on the conviction that He is in control.”
“…I know many such people—at home, in school, at work, on the street—and every day, they inspire me to tread this hallowed path. It is in their honor that I receive this year’s Outstanding Sillimanian Award for Government Service, International Relations, and Diplomacy,” she stated.
She also expressed how her recognition is a tribute to the people who “show what it takes to live God-centered lives.”
In the next few minutes, she described them, saying how they are fairly easy to spot: they are selfless, compassionate, and generous. “They rarely seek the limelight and are breathtakingly down-to-earth, and they find satisfaction in helping and uplifting others.”
“They are love in action,” she said.
She then left the audience with the greatest reassurance.
“After all the mishaps, the shortcomings, the wrong turns, the lost opportunities, [and] many moments of self-doubt…we are now exactly where we are meant to be,” she concluded.
Inspirational Business Empath
The next to be awarded was Sandeep Gopichand Chandiramani for his Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Finance. More than his proficiency in business, he is also capable of keeping his feet on the ground, praising more the people who supported him.
“I strongly believe in the power of purpose and being a blessing to others. As we forge ahead in our personal and professional lives, let us never forget the importance, again, of kindness, compassion, and empathy. Let us try to be sources of inspiration,” he said.
Amidst all our pursuits and responsibilities, he advised: “…never forget the importance of having fun and enjoying the journey.”
Steward of Nature
If it weren’t for Dr. Louella L. Dolar-Perrin’s early exposure to nature by her parents, she wouldn’t have been standing on that stage that day. Her passion for protecting nature granted her the award for Excellence in Wildlife Conservation and Management.
“The seed they planted in me was further nourished when I entered the halls of Silliman. In this nurturing campus that affirms the integrity of God’s creation, I learned that faith, science, and conservation work can be interwoven into a single fabric of worship,” she said.
Although she believes that God’s design allows humans to flourish, she also said that we have the moral obligation to care for all His creation. Thus, striving for sustainability and being responsible stewards of nature are ways of sharing God’s gifts and blessings “with the generations that [will] come [after] us.”
Humorous Lola Doc
Receiving the award for Excellence in Medicine and Community Service, Dr. Maria Salud F. Kho kept the audience enraptured with funny anecdotes through her life’s journey and moments that touched the hearts of many.
“I have been practicing obstetrics and gynecology for more than half a century…When I sacrificed my personal needs to serve God’s people, the reward is tremendous,” she said.
57 years of service earned her thank-yous from professionals and even little children who called her Tita Doc or Lola Doc.
“God will plant you where you can bloom,” she added.
On receiving her award, she expressed her sentiments by comedically quipping: “I’m 82, I’m overstaying.”
Then, as the laughter subsided, she finished off, “So now I recognize that any good in one’s life is the result of what God and others have done to you.”
Sillimanian’s Arms to Farms
Last but not least, Dr. Asterio P. Saliot’s award for his Excellence in Agriculture Extension proved to be a well-deserved feat as he proceeded to thank all the people that made it possible for him to be there. In every word, he emphasized the desire to “help the farm families improve their lives” through the development of extension programs and projects.
In addressing his thanks, he mentioned several names, including Commander Sato of the New People’s Army, “who laid down their arms, stopped fighting against the Philippine government, and converted the towns into farms,” through their program “From Arms to Farms.”
Ending his speech, he considered his award “not mine alone–but ours.”
The five Outstanding Sillimanian Awardees may have excelled in different aspects of society, but they all shared the same roots and thus imparted the same wisdom of putting God at the center of service. Driven by passion and purpose, guided by providence—these are the five OSA recipients of 2023.