Meet the 2016 CAS Outstanding Student

by Rochelle B. Sarmiento (Polylinker)

When the midnight clock strikes at one, two days before an exam, he would sit on a black plastic chair beside the glass wall of a fastfood chain where students of various doses of sleep would flock, sometimes with other friends, other times alone. 

He would often be geared with a handful of photocopied readings and a thick book borrowed from the university library. Then some moments later, he would walk towards the counter and order one thing: a plain iced coffee. And occasionally, a familiar face would call him by his nickname, and he would smile wide. He might be proud of his almost perfect teeth. 

Gracing the smile
PJ, known to some of his friends and professors as the man who is fond of moderately infusing himself with caffeine, was recently conferred as the 2016 College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Outstanding Student with that same proud smile. This time, however, he was summoned by his full name, Paul Jhon P. Diezon, up on the stage of the CAS Auditorium, with this mother Janette who was equally, or even more than proud, but never arrogant, of her son. PJ received his award on the 18th of November, during the 44th CAS Foundation Anniversary Celebration Convocation and Awarding Ceremonies.
PJ Diezon smiles while holding his plaque of recognition; his proud mom is on his right side
Photo by Leann Suiton
Becoming a GeneSoc member
A BS Biology major in Cell and Molecular Biology student, PJ joined The UPLB Genetics Society in 2013 where he was elected as the editor-in-chief of GENEWS, GeneSoc’s official publication, for AY 2014-2015. He shared that his experiences as a GeneSoc member helped him improve not only his social skills, but his work ethics as well.

He also mentioned that GeneSoc was one of the reasons that he decided to run for the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council (CAS SC) under the slate of Samahan ng Kabataan Para Sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN). GeneSoc was among the 25 formations which established SAKBAYAN on July 1, 1996 as an alliance against the pressing issues on commercialization of education and campus repression. To date, SAKBAYAN remains as the widest alliance of student organizations, fraternities, and sororities throughout the University of the Philippines System, with 61 member-organizations and an affiliate alliance.

Furthermore, PJ served as a member of CAS SC for two consecutive terms having won his seat as a councilor and, presently, as its vice chairperson. His posts in the council opened his eyes onto the various social problems that the sector of education is facing, including the continuous increase in tuition fees and the implementation of the Socialized Tuition System (STS) and Student Academic Information System (SAIS) in the university. Considering himself as an advocate for free and accessible education, he has also been active in participating in a number of movements and mobilizations in the campus.

PJ participates in the 6th Southern Tagalog Pride March spearheaded by UPLB Babaylan last October 2016 in UPLB
Photos from SAKBAYAN

And as a break from the tasks of being a campus journalist and a student leader, he finds pleasure in playing volleyball. In fact, he has been a part of GeneSoc’s volleyball team ever since he joined the organization. He has also played for the CAS volleyball team for three successive years.

Falling in love
PJ entered UPLB with an aspiration of becoming a healthcare provider for people who have cancer. But after spending some time as a student tutor at the Office of Student Affairs and having been exposed to a range of extracurricular activities in his unending list of affiliations, he admitted that he fell in love, with teaching. His involvements in efforts that transcend beyond the confines of the handouts and the borrowed books made him realize that the problems of poor communities in the country have to be given sufficient attention, and eventually, to be properly addressed. These unserved and underserved communities, he said, needed a service that would be rendered in the form we are capable of. In his case, PJ finds himself to be of service through teaching. By now, he is resolute that he would be an educator in a public or state university upon his graduation.

Serving the people
PJ believes that the award was given to him not merely to account for being able to attend to his extracurricular works and still obtain those straightly ruled grades which were diligently gained at the expense of the iced coffee and the ink of his green highlighter. He emphasized that such distinction also serves as a spur “to do better, to be inspired, to be fueled with that burning passion in serving the greater masses— the Filipino people.” 

After all, maybe the cancer he wanted to help cure was the “social cancer” which our National Hero depicted on several of his literary works for his homeland.

Encouraging his co-students
For the past few years, CAS has recognized its students who have exemplified excellence while engaging in activities outside the stadium of lecture halls and laboratory classrooms. 

This year, the CAS Outstanding Student is certain that UP education is parceled with a responsibility which is tantamount to leading the country towards progress. 

And just like any other student, he sees, and experiences, a multitude of difficulties that may come along the way. His advice: “work hard, in spite of all, to give back to the nation that is waiting for us.” #

Rochelle B. Sarmiento is a senior Genetics major who intends to pursue a career in medicine after graduation. It is of her interest to read studies on epigenetic mechanisms and quantitative inheritance governing the expression of certain traits in human populations. She is also fond of reading classic literature and engaging in volunteer works. 

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