In memory of Dondon Paderanga

[Read at the UP School of Economics’ tribute in honor of Dr. Cayetano Paderanga, 12 February 2016; UPSE Auditorium. Dr. Ma. Cynthia B. Bautista is commissioner of the Commission on Higher Education, former dean of the U.P. College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, and former executive director of the U.P. Center for Integrative and Development Studies.]


Dondon’s untimely passing several days ago came as a great shock to me and I deeply regret that I was not able to personally condole with Delia except by text because I was out of the country during his wake.

I was shocked because I had just been pleasantly surprised to see the hale, hearty and ever teasing Dondon in the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) three weeks before his death. As the very hands on Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), he was in CHED for a meeting with Alex Brillantes, Nap Imperial and their team to flesh out the details of the Higher Education Career System that promises “to facilitate the recruitment, selection, appointment, preparation and assessment of the best leaders in public higher education”. Ultimately, the System or HECS hopes to “lead to the composition of a roster of eligible executives-with the academic merit and managerial competence for leadership positions”.

A collaborative CHED-DAP project, HECS was among the many projects Dondon envisioned DAP to be passionately engaged in. When he was new at the Academy, Dondon talked incessantly about his vision of a reinvented DAP that would revive its significant role in the 1970s–that of training the country’s leaders, updating them on development theories, perspectives and practices while carving out a niche for DAP in strategic studies. He had hoped to interest myself and some of the Convenors of the UP Center of Integrative and Development Studies (UPCIDS) in the 1990s in doing what we did then, this time in DAP. I must say he took his work in DAP very seriously and Tony Kalaw could attest to Dondon’s attention even to operational details. In fact, in my last interaction with him last month, Dondon was in an operational meeting, proudly wearing his DAP hat.

I met Dondon in the early 1980s when the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC) embarked on the establishment of the Visayas Research Consortium and the Mindanao Research Consortium. The PSSC agenda at the time was to enhance the research capacity of social scientists in regional higher education institutions— specifically, their capacity for research that could input into the formulation of solutions to local development issues.

We were young PhDs then. I no longer recall whether we were in Cebu, Bacolod or Davao but I will never ever forget my first meeting with Dondon Paderanga. Instead of the usual social niceties that would have helped us know each other a bit more before running the research workshop together, he interrogated me, asking a barrage of questions about my Phd, the methodology of my dissertation, whether as a sociologist (and in a condescending tone) I was familiar with particular quantitative techniques like loglinear analysis, whether I read the books of particular theorists in demography, whether I knew how to crunch numbers, etc..

The questions came one after the other. Indeed, I felt like I was in a thesis defense except that I was defending my competence to be the other resource person in a PSSC research workshop to a colleague who was just slightly older than me. Thankfully and just by sheer coincidence, I was a sociology graduate student whose research assistantship (RA) happened to be in population studies and the University of Wisconsin at that time had one of the best and biggest demography programs in the US Departments of Sociology—so I knew the authors he cited and had RA experience in number crunching for professors. Since I had just finished my doctoral studies, my memory of what I learned was also still fresh—enough for me to answer Dondon with confidence. I must have passed his test. Since then, it had been smooth sailing at work with Dondon and he never tested me again. I would tease him though, each time he naughtily sprung testing questions on unsuspecting colleagues., even those in high places.

The next time I worked with Dondon was nearly a decade later. He offered to help Sammy Tan put up the Mindanap Studies Program of UPCIDS, being a very committed son of Mindanao. A few months later, he talked to me about his concern over the reactive stance of the University on critical issues. At that time, the Philippine Senate had just ratified the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and he was agitated that the University had not done any strategic research that would allow the country to position itself in the rapidly globalizing world. The conflation of his persistence, the validity of his points and its timing in the history of UP CIDS resulted in the creation of the Emerging World Environment Program of the Center with him as Convenor.

At the time Dondon was also keen on getting a convenor for the legal aspects of globalization. Accordingly, economists could not tackle globalization by themselves. They needed lawyers who also understood economics. So he discussed the matter with then Director of the College of Law’s Institute of International Legal Studies and now Supreme Court Chief Justice Meilou Sereno who willingly came on board. Eventually, Dondon relented and told me “other social scientists” could also focus on globalization concerns. While he joked about social science research that was not aligned with the economists’ framework, he surprisingly did not pose any objection to the creation within UPCIDS of a Social Development Agenda Program, with more diverse perspectives on globalization, including early critiques that expounded on its projected “discontents”.

I am not sure if this is true or whether he was just pulling my leg but Dondon told me that Dean Pepe Encarnacion gave his faculty clearance to work with us non-economists in UPCIDS (after not participating in the Center’s State of the Nation Program early on). Interestingly, Dondon’s working in UPCIDS was the beginning of the “walang kamatayang” Amartya Sen story.

Amartya Sen was supposed to have advised economists who aspired to evolve into physicists in the next life to do their mathematics right. If they are unable to do so, they will be reincarnated as sociologists—falling several notches lower in the hierarchy of disciplines. They will be steeped in the dirt and mud of everyday realities. I could not imagine the Amartya Sen I read voraciously saying this but Dondon, with a poker face would always attest to the veracity of this story. Until his death, I never got the truth out of him. When this story was repeated tirelessly, my retort sounded like a broken record—“Here you go again Dondon with the arrogance of the hegemonic economics paradigm’.

In later conversations we talked about how the way he tested me in the 1980s connected to his Amartya Sen story—how, for instance, the supposed supremacy of the economics paradigm connects to its rationalist epistemology as reflected in the economists’ preoccupation with mathematical models. I teased him about economists compromising with empiricism when they do their econometric modeling. Despite such compromise, those of us who crunch numbers within a purely empiricist framework were still seen as never equal—at least in Dondon’s “ribbing” statements—to disciplines with a rationalist philosophy of knowledge such as economics. But since I did not usually get “pikon” in our conversations, our discussions always ended in light banter. Moreover, all the teasing remained that, teasing. He would tease Maris Diokno the historian and the late Malu Doronila the educationist—changing “sociology” in the Amartya Sen story depending on who he was talking to. However, all of us knew he was not seriously condescending towards us; it was merely his expression of affection.

Funny that Dondon in the end also muddied his feet in research on the ‘real world’. Some years after our stint in UPCIDS, he worked with a former UPCIDS colleague, political scientist Tesa Tadem, on the Third World Studies Center’s Technocracy Project. This qualitative project constructed a picture of the technocracy from interviews of economic policy makers who constituted Marcos’ technocrats. My only regret today is not having been able to tease him as often as I could have, had I seen more of him. After all, having ribbed political science—and public administration, more so—he actually did not hide the fun he had while working on the Project. I could also have enjoyed teasing him about the karma of working with the Third World Studies Center whose assumptions diverge from the liberal economic paradigm of the organizations he helped create.

Those of us who convened programs in UPCIDS in the 1990s who went out of town together for strategic planning meetings once or twice a year—the late Ledi Carino, Maris Diokno, Noel de Dios, the late Malu Doronila, Gil Jacinto, Mita Jimenez, June Lopez, Popo Lotilla, Beth Marcelino, Bong Nuqui, Malou Rebuillda, Meilou Sereno, Tesa Tadem, Sammy Tan, Rey Vea, Pris Zamora and the other Convenors who joined us at a later time appreciated Dondon’s presence without exception. He was, in many ways, the life of our party. It was different when he was absent. His teasing—and the embarrassment he subjected the ladies to—were legendary but in our collegial community, his teasing was accepted as his affectionate way of relating.

Dondon’s forthright teasing was also legendary. He would sometimes see me across the street and call me by shouting “Sociologist!!!; or for those who were against liberalization, “InterventionistIII”. We did not take offense because he only did this to his friends. When the late Malu Doronila and I went to Camiguin for the first time, Malu commented from out of the blue that she understood the forthrightness and irreverence of Dondon, given the raw beauty and space of Camiguin.

Several years after UPCIDS, I worked with Dondon as a fellow member of the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation (RMAF). Through RMAF, I met and traveled with his beautiful wife, Delia. She, of whom he spoke a lot. He would tell us about how they met, how they played footsies, how—despite pretending to flirt with stewardesses when the UPCIDS group travelled—she was the ultimate love and boss of his life. Dondon also talked about his two sons—Paola and Marco but Paolo’s name would come out more often because he would say in jest (but with a stoic face) that he was proud of Paolo despite his having graduated from the College of Social Scientists and Philosophy—where the lesser social scientists worked.

Seriously, I was extremely privileged to have worked with Dondon in different capacities and circumstances. We will surely miss him—the strategic thinker, the institution builder, the funny man, the teasing colleague, the economist, the teacher, the public leader, the very loving husband, proud father and doting grandfather.

Dondon, I am sure you are watching this tribute with great amusement. May you rest in peace!


Maria Cynthia Rose Banzon Bautista


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