To many, Manay Judy is known as tapang and malasakit personified as a pro-poor public servant defined by her fights against patronage, corruption, and poverty as Secretary of Department of Social Welfare and Development. To me, she is Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, a source of motivation in living an academic life that is animated by engagement in the struggle for women empowerment even beyond the classroom.
Having met her in 2012, at a time when I was considering entering the MA Women and Development program of UP Diliman where she is teaching, I asked for her email address so that I can send her my specific queries. She was eager to answer my questions but to my surprise, she just told me, “May Facebook ka ba? Add mo na lang ako para doon tayo mag-usap!” And so, the first topic of our first FB conversation is about graduate school. She even attached the necessary documents for the application and reminded me days before the deadline.
I eventually enrolled in the said program and for the next three semesters, she became my professor in WD 201 (Women, Gender, and Development: History and Perspectives), WD 221 (Women and Organizing), and WD 291 (Women, Gender, and Development Research). While studying, I am also teaching in a local university in Manila. From time to time, in between the classes and submission of requirements, Prof Judy will ask me about my students, the subjects that I am teaching, and the general conditions of other contractual part-time faculties. Whenever I share my extremely impoverished condition because of delayed salary and stress in everyday commute from Manila to Diliman, she will give me bread or fruits while saying, “Kumain ka palagi para ‘di ka pumayat lalo at magkasakit!” Her sweetness extends to my classmates too as she randomly orders food for us during lecture and joins for dinner after an evening session. She is concerned not only of our wellbeing but also of our families, she even remembers the names of the kids and partners of my classmates!
I am honored to be the last student that she supervised for WD 280 (Field Instruction Program) and WD 300 (Thesis) before she retired from teaching. As a mentor, she is very hands on and meticulous to the point that she even joins me in doing fieldwork interviews in Barangay Vitas in Tondo. She makes sure that I am familiar with the community and with the people’s way of living. Just like all professors, she is also strict with deadlines, especially on the tools to be used in the interviews. One of the most significant research practice that I learned from her is on conversing with the participants, “Dapat kapag tapos ka nang mag-interview, tatanungin mo rin sila kung may tanong ba sila sa’yo. Dapat sasagutin mo rin sila honestly kasi hindi pwedeng ikaw lang ang may nalalaman tungkol sa kanila diba?” I have always remembered this line and applied it in all my other research endeavors. Eventually, because of her and my thesis panel’s encouragement, efficiency, and support, I successfully defended my thesis by 2015 and attend the graduation with Prof. Judy.
When I started my doctoral degree in the National University of Singapore last year, despite her busy schedule as the former DSWD Secretary, she still allots time for meet ups and short chats. We talk mostly about work, research plans, politics, and family/love life. My favorite part will always be the constant reminder before we part ways, about my dedication to research, “Marami ka pang matututunan sa PhD, pero lagi mong tatandaan kung para kanino ang mga research na gusto mong gawin.” Prof. Judy never fails to amaze me with her sincerity and passion in teaching and continuously learning from the marginalized, silenced, and ignored sectors of the society. She is indeed one of my inspirations in pursuing an academic career that is fully committed to serving the people.
Happy teacher’s day, Prof. Judy! Mahal ko po kayo!