[Statement made at the “Tribute to Dondon” held at the UP School of Economics on February 12, 2016.]


Let me break it at once to you: Dondon Paderanga was to me a colleague, a friend, a brother, and a mentor all rolled into one.

His career as a professional economist began and ended here at the UP School of Economics (UPSE), with some stops in the government, private sector, and some universities abroad as a visiting scholar. It was a distinguished career, spanning more than three decades.

Here at the School, we developed a friendship that I fondly remember and will forever cherish.

We were in the same cohort, invited to join the faculty in the Seventies. The UPSE was established as an independent college in 1965. When Dondon and I joined the faculty, it had had two deans who had the vision to make the School one of the best economics institute engaged in teaching and research in Asia.

The mission was to have a faculty size of at least 30 PhDs, with about 25 always in active residence in any given year.

Our then-department chairman was sent on a scouting mission. He visited campuses in the US where there were Filipinos doing PhD work in economics. The mission proved successful: From Stanford the School got three new faculty members, and Dondon was one of them.

Dondon had since then become an important pillar of the UPSE faculty, who did the School proud.

As faculty members, the task that our dean handed down to us was to “put the School in the map.” In other words, publish.

Dondon, having written his dissertation in Stanford on urbanization and regional development, started an important research program on spatial development in the Philippines, in collaboration with another faculty member and some graduate students. This bears highlighting: Spatial development has since become an important chapter in the government’s medium-term development plan.

Dondon was modest, irreverent and self-deprecatory even about his research accomplishments. I would kid him about his doctoral dissertation, that his main contribution to knowledge was this: When African-Americans moved in the Bay Area, land and rental values declined. And I went like, Don, isn’t that result awesome?

He’d shoot back: yes, almost as awesome as the finding of what’s his name again—that yokel from Pampanga—which is, when women marry and get pregnant, they take time off from the labor force.

That kind of ribbing was our form of stress management. Speaking of which, I recall how he handled the job of being the college secretary.

During our time, we’d say: One doesn’t have true academic freedom unless he or she is freed from administrative work. Most faculty members found being secretary very tedious, and if given the choice, would avoid the job.

But our dean would say: We all have to pay our dues for maybe just a year. Dondon took on that job, thrice in fact, and handled it with ease.

He would report in the morning at the secretary’s office. On my way to my office I would see him in from of his, talking to some fetching young coeds. I’d sidle up to him and whisper: I see you’re having quality time again, Dr. Paderanga. He’d laugh, and we would then go to his office, where the bantering continued over coffee—not third- wave coffee, but one brewed by either Mang Efren or Aling Cely.

In the afternoon, after lunch, I might drop by his office, seeing him preparing for his three-hour class in graduate microeconomics. About that, I’d say: Don, I envy your skills, being able to put in a one-fourth sheet of paper your three-hour lecture. A few semesters later, I told him in jest: I see, the one-fourth sheet of lecture notes has given way to a powerpoint presentation, anchored on two slides.

But all things must end, including quality time at the School.

Dondon joined NEDA in the late Eighties. I guess it’s destiny. He had been an advocate of economic policy reforms, and it was only right that he should move on to NEDA and witness economic policymaking from both sides then.

(Everyone in this auditorium knows that the economic policy reform process is not a popularity contest. One risks having detractors, and Dondon had a fair share of the latter.)

His next stop in government was at the Monetary Board of the BSP. I ribbed him, too, about his appointment to the Monetary Board. I said, so did you tell them that money matters. He’d say: Not only that, I told them that money is a medium of exchange and a store of value (always with a laugh, of course).

Dondon returned to NEDA in 2010, but for health reasons, resigned a couple of years later. He went back to the School, but first, a one-year visiting professorship at Kyoto University.

I saw him once at the School and I asked him what he was going to do at Kyoto. He told me that he would continue the research work he and another Filipino political scientist had started with a Japanese professor. They were going to investigate economic policymaking during the martial-law era by interviewing the technocrats at the time who were still around.

Dondon, I said, that’s great. Once you’re done with that study involving real people, you can say with conviction: Just because I’m an economist, it doesn’t mean I can only write fiction.

Then again, all things must end.

Dondon retired from the School faculty in 2013, a year after I did. He continued to lecture after retirement. I saw him once along the School corridor, and he asked me if I would lecture again. I said, maybe not: I dread becoming an argument for mandatory retirement. (It’s a little joke shared by a cohort of professors who turned 65 years of age beginning 2012.)

I will always remember with affection the harmonious and pleasant times I spent at the School with Dondon.

God bless you, Don. May you rest in peace.


[Other tributes to Prof. Paderanga can be found here and here.]