THEY are the “shining examples of God’s unending grace.”

This year, sixteen Thomasian alumni were recognized for their contributions in their respective fields last March 6 during the TOTAL Awards ceremony.

With the theme “to dream, do and dare,” Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. praised the awardees for their valuable achievements.

“I believe that what separates [the awardees] from the others is that they constantly achieve by working silently and always taking achievements with utter humility,” Dagohoy said.

The TOTAL Awards, a biennial award-giving ceremony done in partnership with the UST Alumni Association, Inc., is the highest honor bestowed by the University upon its distinguished alumni.

Service to the people

Among this year’s awardees is former Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa for Law and Justice. Zenarosa earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University in 1959.

Starting as an assistant fiscal in Quezon City, she became presiding judge of the city’s Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 76 in 1992 and remained in the position for 12 years. In 2004, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed her as associate justice of the Court of Appeals.

Zenarosa had many achievements under her belt during her stint as presiding judge, including the Most Outstanding RTC Judge in 2003, awarded to her by the Anti-Crime Assistance Group and the Volunteers against Crime and Corruption. She also received the Huwarang Ina for Law and Judiciary in 2008.

But her best accomplishment transpired during the 2010 national elections. Appointed as chairperson of the Independent Commission against Private Armies, Zenarosa outlined a blueprint on ways of dismantling private armies working for certain politicians, which she named “H.O.P.E.,” for “Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections.”

Her efforts against private army activities, contributed to the success and orderliness of the 2010 national elections, which the Philippine National Police considered “the most peaceful elections ever experienced” in the country.

A dose of kindness

A Thomasian lawyer is different from the others because of the moral values that they acquired during their stay in the University, Zenarosa said.

“We always have to uphold our moral values, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and raise our hearts to the Lord in thanksgiving for all our blessings.”

Another TOTAL awardee is Margarita “Ting-Ting” Delos Reyes-Cojuangco for Government Service. She finished both her master’s and doctorate degree in History in the University. She served as governor of the province of Tarlac from 1992 to 1998.

An advocate of democracy, Cojuangco was one of the many Filipinos who supported the abolition of the Martial Law in 1978 and was a government peace negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during former President Corazon Aquino’s term.

Cojuanco was also appointed presidential assistant to Arroyo for National School Building Project in 2001 and undersecretary for Special Concerns at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in 2004.

“The University felt so much like home because I always felt safe and guided here. Never did I feel that I was not liked, and I always encouraged to read and expand my knowledge more,” Cojuangco said.

Cojuangco also ran for senate in the 2013 under United Nationalist Alliance. However, she failed to clinch a spot in the Senate.

Media and the arts

Jullie Yap-Daza, this year’s TOTAL Awardee in Media and Journalism, was the only Thomasian in her family. Her outstanding achievements in the field of journalism made her a household name.

Daza was known for her late-night television program of 27 years, “Tell the People and Jullie,” and her editorial stint in Lifestyle Asia, a magazine which circulates in other Asian countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

Brown University honors Artlets sociology professor

She was also able to publish seven books. Among them were “Etiquette for Mistresses” in 1993 and “Manners for Moving Up” in 1996. Her books gained popularity for the risky and sensitive topics, like mistresses and social climbing.

Among her other accolades are the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas and a Golden Dove Award from the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP).

While Daza was the only Thomasian in their family, the Blanco brothers proved that the Thomasian blood runs deep in theirs, receiving a TOTAL award in visual arts.

The sons of famed visual artist Jose “Pitok” Blanco, Noel, Michael and Glenn Blanco made their mark in the art scene despite having no formal training in painting.

Although the three of them graduated from the Faculty of Arts and Letters in 1987, with degrees in Communication Arts, Literature and Journalism respectively, they never turned their backs on painting. It was honed in the family since they were young.

They went on to establish the Blanco Art Museum in their hometown in Angono, which is a recognized art center in Rizal.

Noel’s works were exhibited at local art centers such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Philam Life Center. His works were also presented at the First Nanyang Art and Food Festival in China.

Glenn, meanwhile, was also able to exhibit his works in several art centers and events, including the Philippine Art Center in New York. He also assisted in the painting of the “Flight of the Virgin Mary of Antipolo” at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at Washington, D.C.

Harding botaniko ng Unibersidad

Michael, on the other hand, was able to present his works last year at the UST Museum in an exhibition titled Pagpupugay sa Pamilyang Pilipino. He is currently an officer of the Angono Council for Tradition, Culture and the Arts.

According to Michael, being presented with the TOTAL Award inspired them to create more projects and exhibitions that would help communities, most especially those affected by the Super Typhoon “Yolanda.”

They also dedicate their achievement to their late parents, who honed them to become artists.

“Everytime na kumikilos kami, sa community man o kung saan, andoon ang [pagiging] Thomasian [namin],” Michael said.

Other TOTAL Awardees for this year include Jose Ramon Carunungan, director of the New Manila Chapter of the United Architects of the Philippines (architecture); Laura Suarez Acuzar, former member of the Board of Directors for accounting firm Sycip Gorres Velayo & Co. (business/accounting); Leticia Nietes-Buhay, founder of the Maria Lena Buhay Memorial Foundation, which focused on the deaf and hearing-impaired (education); Primo Andres, founder of the Terre Haute Heart Center (health-medical); Antonio Say, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology in the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery (humanitarian service); Jose Ma. Hubilla, founder of the Hubilla Design Group (interior design); Osias Barroso, founder of Ballet Manila alongside Lisa Macuja-Elizalde (performing arts); and Ma. Lourdes Sindico-Garganera, assistant vice-president of the Office of Regulatory Affairs of United Laboratories or Unilab (health allied).

Meanwhile, this year’s Young Thomasian Achievers are Reynold Agustin, developer of the QUICE application which allows students to review for licensure examinations (entrepreneurship), and Donald Castro, senior news reporter of ABS-CBN (media). John Joseph G. Basijan and Alfredo N. Mendoza V


  1. Hello!

    Good article on the TOTAL Awards. However, you failed to mentioN Engr. Benjamin Saldua of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He’s from EHS 1964 and Engineering 1969. He’s the awardee for Engineering Practice.

  2. As one of the recipients of the 2014 UST TOTAL awards, I wish to thank you for your article. However, you failed to include ENGR. BENJAMIN P. SALDUA and MR. LUIS I. ABLAZA, JR. among the OTHER 2014 TOTAL awardees, briefly itemized in your article. Engr. Saldua, is the Principal Structural Engineer of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was awarded in the field of Engineering Practice. On the other hand, Mr. Ablaza, who was awarded in the field of Entrepreneurship is the owner and proprietor of the Ablza Pawnshops, a 91-branch empire in the Philippines. I hope you can set the record straight by issuing an addendum or erratum to your article.

    Thank you and More power!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.