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REANIMATING AN ALMA MATER
(The Struggle to Reopen the Divine Word University of Tacloban)
by: Athena Cloma-Granados


For some months now, a group of alumni, former students, faculty members and employees of the defunct Divine Word University of Tacloban (DWU) has been quietly working together to resurrect DWU from the ashes of a labor problem which went out of control, and which resulted in the closure of the University five years ago. Instead of just merely grieving over the loss of their beloved Alma Mater and doing nothing about it, the group bonded together to form the Divine Word Jubilee Foundation.

The Foundation’s Identity

The DWU Jubilee Foundation envisions to unite all those whose lives at one time or another were touched by DWU into a worldwide DWU community with the mission of restoring the University to its historic role of providing a good Catholic education to the youth of Leyte and Samar. It drew its inspiration from the centennial Jubilee Year which promotes reconciliation and forgiveness among men and women of good will.

Led by former faculty member and President of the Faculty Club, Ms. Fideliza Garcia-Noel, the Foundation aims to recruit some of the 100,000 – odd alumni, former students and staff of DWU the world over into the Foundation. Chapters are envisioned to be formed in Manila, Tacloban, Cebu, the United States and Europe. Members of the Foundation unite themselves daily by reciting the DWU Jubilee Foundation Prayer at high noon, in much the same way as the three-o’clock habit unites people worldwide in prayer. The Foundation aims to support DWU in its programs and activities by way of faculty development, student and employee assistance, facilities and equipment acquisition and professorial chairs, among others.

The Death of a University

It will be recalled that DWU closed down in 1995 due to insurmountable labor problems. Its closure resulted in a severe economic and educational dislocation in Tacloban City and in the whole of Region VIII. Losses from the weakening and closure of collateral businesses such as dormitories, boarding houses, restaurants, canteens, bookstores, and transportation, to mention a few, were estimated to be around P100,000.00 a day for Tacloban City alone. The cost of sending students to equivalent schools in Cebu and Manila drained the family coffers and depressed the economy of the Region as money flowed out of it as a result of this phenomenon. The Mayor of Tacloban City along with the Mayors of many towns of Leyte and Samar bewailed the closure of DWU as an economic tragedy for the Region. The Archbishop of Palo lamented the fact that now his Archdiocese does not even have a Catholic university. And the thousands of DWU alumni all over the world felt orphaned and homeless without their beloved Alma Mater. As one avid DWU supporter and alumna states, "it is like decapitating one’s soul, the very essence of one’s being…." High School Alumni Silver Jubilarians who celebrate a Homecoming every year, now change their celebration to a "Reunion", since there is no more home to return to.

DWU as the Premier Institution of Higher Learning in Region VIII

In its heyday, DWU had a student population of 14,000, and a complement of 400 of the best teachers in Region VIII. It offered around twenty courses up to the doctoral level, and had a complete College of Law and College of Medicine, including the 100-bed St. Paul’s Hospital, which served as a teaching laboratory for the allied health courses of the University. DWU maintained a University Museum which housed indigenous treasures and artifacts from Leyte and Samar. It pioneered in Lineyte-Samarnon cultural and social studies and published a well-respected graduate publication on this area. DWU regularly produced Board topnotochers every year from its many colleges, notably in Nursing, Med Tech, Engineering and Accounting. DWU by far towered over the other schools in the Region, and in truth was the biggest industry in the area. Its fall reverberated throughout the Region and left a vacuum that until now has not been filled.

Many leaders from the private, religious and government sectors have tried to mediate and resolve the issues involved in the labor problem, but did not meet with much success. The P100 Million settlement between Labor and Management embodied in a Memorandum of Agreement was not totally successful and generated still another labor case which up to now has not been resolved. And DWU remains closed as a result. Labor and Management are still working on a final resolution of all related cases. We hope that their efforts will result in the reopening of DWU in the near future.

The Resurrection of a University

And this is where the DWU Jubilee Foundation steps in. The Foundation hopes that with the help and prayers of the alumni and former DWU students and staff under the inspiration of the ideals of the Jubilee Year, DWU can finally reopen and regain its premier position and mission in the educational apostolate of the youth in Region VIII. Aside from Board Chair Fideliza Garcia-Noel, the other Board Members and Officers of the Foundation include Sara Caballes, Leo Rama, Imelda Nartea, Samuel Yap, Natividad Noel-Alejo, Wilfredo Garrido, Flerida Creencia, Ma. Luz Vilches, Athena Cloma-Granados, and Sylvia Gavan-Agocilla.

The Foundation will be formally launched on the traditional Alumni Homecoming Day this July 1st on the DWU Quadrangle at 9:00 AM, in Tacloban City. High School Class ‘75, this year’s Silver Jubilarians, will host the event. The Foundation will also hold a Grand Reunion this Sept. 30th in Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City starting at 2:00 PM. All DWU alumni, former students, staff and those who share in the ideals of the Foundation are invited to these events. Contact persons are Wilfredo Garrido, Jr. and Natividad Noel-Alejo in Manila (02-892-08-96, and 02-816-96-12, respectively), and Leo Rama and Imelda Nartea in Tacloban City (053-323-3031, and 053-323-4032, respectively). More details about the Foundation can be found in its website at http://dwujf.faithweb.com

See you in Tacloban and Quezon City on the above dates!

(Athena Cloma-Granados is an AB graduate of DWU and was Miss Divine Word University in her time. She is married to Atty. Estanislao Granados, himself a Law graduate of the same University.)