Fellows’ Night with Dr. Angelo Porciuncula, Former Universitas Chairman
Dr. Angelo Porciuncula relates his experiences in handling Universitas during his student days at the University of the Philippines.
by Neil Nabuab
The inaugural Universitas Fellows’ Night took place last February 13, 2019, a day before Valentine’s Day, when people all over the world would traditionally celebrate love. Universitas Fellows and their friends gathered at the “V” office to celebrate a different kind of love – love of service.
The Fellows’ Night is a gathering of full-fledged Universitas Fellows, UFP Fellows (those who are still undergoing the Universitas Fellows Program), and their friends. It is a monthly gathering that fosters camaraderie and friendship among those closely involved in running the affairs of the Foundation. It is also an opportunity for these Fellows to bring new friends and introduce them to Universitas.
The guest speaker for the night was Dr. Angelo Porciuncula or simply, “Gelo”, as he is fondly called by his friends in Universitas from its earliest years. It was his first time set foot on the Foundation’s headquarters and was admittedly impressed by it. However, he quipped that he was “not surprised” that this day would come. He explained that more than a decade ago, the current President & CEO of the Foundation already shared the vision of Universitas with him. And what we see today is but a realization of that vision.
Dr. Gelo, a research scientist at the Faculty of Medicine of Yale University, shared many of his past experiences running Universitas. It was then a small group composed of scholars, leaders and volunteers, mainly from the University of the Philippines, where he was then an undergraduate student of Atty. Tuazon.
Dr. Gelo confessed that the difficulty of balancing the demands between his academics and running Universitas almost discouraged him from continuing – he almost quit. However, when asked how he managed to overcome the different challenges he had to face, he admitted, “I was open and I just let myself be led.” He did not realize that his trips to Krus na Ligas and San Vicente Elementary School–depressed areas near UP Diliman–to give Math, Science and Values, under Project Forge, the social outreach arm of Universitas, would be of great help in keeping his feet on the ground, as he pursued his professional goals. He now sees all his professional achievements as opportunities to serve the less fortunate. Before his current post in Yale, he finished his masters and doctorate degrees in medical molecular biology, focusing on cancer research, at the University of Navarre in Spain, and his postdoc research at the New York University.
Universitas, although it has already been incorporated as a non-stock corporation at the Securities and Exchange Commission, has kept true to its foundational charism. It remains faithful to its purpose – that is, service through the fusion of leadership and scholarship – which, according to Dr. Gelo, sets Universitas apart from other foundations. Thus, the Foundation’s officers and volunteers are persons who live this same brand of service in their respective professions.
Currently based in the United States, Dr. Gelo will continue to serve Universitas by co-heading its Bio-Medical-Science, Law and Ethics research group, together with Dr. Kristine Sunga, a medical practitioner in the Philippines. He may not anymore be treading the streets of Krus na Ligas, but the same passion for serving others remains inside him as he walks the streets of New Haven, Connecticut. For those of us who were present, it was truly inspiring to meet and listen to someone who, more than ten years ago, decided to be open to inspirations of serving people through his profession, and allowed himself to be led. The road is indeed not easy, but his example shows us that it is possible.