DSCTA Featured Alumni
Telling Stories and Forging Connections:
Two Speech Communication Alumni's Journeys in the Broadcast Industry
On The Potential and Potency of Stories
The arrival of Pope Francis in 2015 was a welcome sight for the Filipino people, especially for those who were in despair and loss. Just two years earlier, Super Typhoon Yolanda ravaged through the city of Tacloban, killing thousands of residents. Those who remained had dealt with unimaginable grief, but the pontiff’s visit would inspire hope, and Janvic Mateo was there to tell the world about it.
Janvic’s journey began upon watching Gamu-gamo sa Dilim (2002), a compelling documentary by Kara David about how children would gather around a gas lamp at night to study for school. He recalled how jarring it was to see what these kids were going through. Months later, a follow-up feature reported that Filipinos, moved by the documentary, had helped provide electricity for the children. Janvic realized then that telling stories was a way of opening doors for empathy and change. This inspired him to tell the stories of other people as well,
“Baka kapag nagkwento rin ako ng storya ng ibang tao, may matulungan din ako. [At kahit] hindi man ako yung makatulong, someone else might realize that they are in a capacity to help,” he said.
Though discouraged by his parents from getting a journalism degree, Janvic was not to be deterred. He enrolled in BA Speech Communication to learn more about people and was pleasantly surprised that he could take journalism electives along the way. He joined the student publication, KALasag, which gave him a sense of purpose knowing that his interests and skills had meaningful contributions to the College. During his stay in the DSCTA, he enjoyed research-oriented subjects like Speech 130, which acquainted him with rhetorical criticism. He eventually used a variant of the approach in his undergraduate thesis which centered on Twitter as a form of new media.
Admittedly, Janvic had some doubts about penetrating the journalism scene as a Speech Communication graduate. Nonetheless, he found a writing job at the Philippine Online Chronicles right after graduation. A few months later, Business World, DZMM, and The Philippine Star were reaching out to him for further opportunities. He eventually chose The Philippine Star where he was hired to handle digital operations. Serendipitously, reporters were lacking at the time, so he was made a reporter instead.
Everything else was history.
“It was surreal,” he recounted, “at 21 I was going to do what I always wanted to do.”
Early on, he was assigned to the Quezon City local government, covering education and human rights. Three years into his job, he was still looking for his first banner story and it was weighing heavily on him. He finally got his chance in 2015.
The coverage of the Pope’s visit was incredibly challenging. Large crowds of people gathered at every turn, and Janvic had to walk with and through them. To make matters worse, there was a storm brewing overhead, which seemed emblematic of the chaos Janvic was already braving. But brave the storms he did, and he got the story done.
The Yolanda tragedy of 2013 was devastating for the people of Tacloban. Yet he saw the same people full of hope in the face of a Pope who said, “I have always wanted to be with you.”
“I rarely get emotional while covering a story because I detach myself so I can write them properly. But there are instances that you feel the emotions and you just get affected by it,” said Janvic.
He was very thankful to get his first headline story in that manner. Though he had doubts about his readiness for the task, in the end he felt that he was meant to tell that story.
Janvic has since been expanding his horizons to serve others better. He became a founding member of the Caloocan Young Leaders Initiative, a lecturer at the College of Mass Communication, an editor for One News Ph, and recently, the lead reporter for the Office of the Vice President. He had also written about other issues, including the Maguindanao Massacre trial, a grueling assignment he had stayed with from 2012 until the landmark conviction of key suspects in 2019.
“I owe it to those people who died, that the public should never forget what really happened. I made it my responsibility. Kailangan hindi makalimutan iyon,” said Janvic.
When asked about his next steps, he expressed the desire to continue teaching in the academe while also making more time for the stories he really wants to write. He also encouraged students in the Department to make the most out of university life — to choose subjects that will open opportunities for the future, and use Speech Communication to learn about the self and others.
What began as a childhood dream is now a full-fledged reality for Janvic. Despite the dangers of his field, he remains at peace with his claim,
“If you tell the stories of these people — if you highlight the challenges they are facing — there is a possibility that someone will see that story, and that someone would step up and help them.”
Barnaby Lo’s dream was always to be a reporter in the broadcast industry and, now, as a foreign media correspondent for the esteemed international news organization Al Jazeera, he is living out his childhood ambitions. While he could’ve shifted into programs such as Journalism or Broadcast Communication, Barnaby recalls that he ultimately felt the need to stay in the Speech Communication program as it provided an environment that allowed him to grow as a conscious communicator and gave him the space to make the most out of his college years inside and outside the classroom.
When asked about his memorable experiences as part of the Speech Communication program, Barnaby credits his professors for constantly challenging him by finding ways for students to balance theory and praxis. These experiences readied Barnaby as a reporter by helping him work better with production teams, grow confidence in how he engages with varied audiences, and develop leadership skills.
After graduating from UP and working at a local news network, Barnaby pursued a master's degree in Journalism at New York University (NYU) which then became pivotal to his notable career as a reporter and foreign correspondent covering Asia and the Philippines. Part of his work was the creation of award-winning documentaries such as “Children of the War” about children affected by the Philippine government’s war on drugs and “Lolas” about Filipina wartime sex slaves. His work reflects the passion he has for his country as well as his determination to inspire others through the revelation of these social issues.
Even with all these achievements, Barnaby’s most valuable moments as a reporter go beyond receiving awards. Instead, when asked, he remembers how he survived covering stories such as the catastrophic storm Yolanda in Leyte and the siege in Marawi. These are what he considers the milestones that really stood out to him as he lives out his passion.
Barnaby’s own power of creating connections and making waves through his storytelling and truth-telling as a reporter was developed in a program he knows to produce well-rounded and value-driven students. It is no wonder that Barnaby’s only advice for DSCTA students is to “savor your experiences” and “have fun” because then, love and passion in your career will naturally follow along the way.
Bryan Jayson "BJ" Borja
Bryan Jayson ‘BJ’ T. Borja, BA Theatre Arts (2011) is recipient of the 2023 UP Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award in Community Empowerment in recognition of his leadership in creating positive change by revitalizing our local heritage.
As a UP graduate imbued with an abiding sense of responsibility to his people and nation, the skills and mindsets to improve human life, and a commitment to the freedom and welfare of all, BJ envisioned a community group that advocates civic awareness and development that is responsive not only to the community’s current pertinent issues but of the whole country as well. He dreamt and actualized this dream. It led to the formation of other cultural groups - BJ being the founder or consultant of each. The activities of these groups stimulate the increasing awareness in the importance of culture and the practices it entails.
BJ served as the President of Tourism Officers League of Laguna championing the revitalization and promotion of local heritage between and among the municipalities and cities in Laguna. At present, he is the President of the Southern Luzon Association of Museums. The organization emphasizes the value of raising national pride in the rich culture and heritage of the Filipino people, which are reflected in all forms of art as well as historical and religious objects and embody the ambitions of the country
He founded other groups to support various local heritage thrusts: Samahan ng mga Nangangalaga ng Poon, Friends of the Biñan City Museums, Inc., Likhaan Biñan Collective and Rotaract Club of Metro Biñan Babaylan, and many others, therefore creating bigger stage for cultural education. The establishment of these groups create a ripple effect - propagating civic works aligned to BJ’s vision of building strong sense of identity for the community.
In 2019, BJ was awarded as the Most Outstanding Tourism Officer of the Philippines by ATOP and Department of Tourism highlighting his contributions in tourism development through heritage conservation and promotion. Not long after, BJ’s brainchild, the “BALIK-BIÑAN PROJECT” (Tourism Development through Heritage Conservation), was among the Ten Outstanding Local Governance Programs in the Philippines recognized by the Galing Pook Foundation in 2022. The said feat is Laguna’s first ever Galing Pook Award.
The 2023 UPAA Awarding ceremonies will be held at Luciano E. Salazar Hall, Ang Bahay ng Alumni, on Saturday, 19 August 2023 at 4:00 pm.
The “theatre bug” was what prompted two-time Palanca-awardee Pat Valera to shift into the theatre arts program despite already being a third year entrepreneurial management student in the University of Asia and the Pacific. In 2006, he found himself a freshman again in the Certificate in Theatre Arts program at age 20. He graduated in 2009, but opted to continue pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the same field.
He acknowledged that his freedom to heed the call of theatre is not inseparable from his privilege. His family was supportive of his decision, and he transferred to UP with a promise to his dad:
“Within this field, I’ll try to make it and become one of the best, if not at least good.”
Upon entering UP, Pat Valera was already aware of practice areas he wanted to pursue: directing, playwriting, and dramaturgy. In his second year, he was assistant director to Dexter Santos and dramaturg for Orosmán at Zafira –a komedya of Francisco Balagtas made into a neo-ethnic dance musical. After his baptism by fire, he would then present himself as a mentee to Anton Juan, Jr and was able to co-write apply and act as a head dramaturg in his third year.
“It’s the different opportunities that were given to me, and then I seized as well, to be able to hone myself as a director, playwright, and dramaturg. All of those trainings came together: I was adapting plays, I was directing, I was assistant directing, I was designing, acting, and all fit in those five years, doing as many as 10 productions a year.”
The department provided avenues for training and mentorship, and Pat underscores the importance of not just taking these humbling and nurturing opportunities, but seeking them as well. For him, theatre was the “perfect temple” for his curiosity and fondness for people’s stories.
Pat had to take a break from his studies in 2010, at 24, to join the workforce. He pursued the creative and managerial part of advertising. He admits he was not very active in theatre then, but would occasionally direct, translate, and write. He came back in 2017, worked while completing his degree, and graduated in 2019. He says he’s always aspired to finish because he has a strong desire to learn and impart— wanting to teach meant that he needed a degree.
When asked about productions and roles he’s most proud of, Pat refused to name any. He recalled a pivotal experience of his from undergrad: he had invited Tony Mabesa to a play and added, “but sir, student production lang po siya ah.”
The subsequent scolding changed his mindset about theatre. Tony Mabesa said, “Anong student production? There are no student productions; there are only productions.”
“Here you have a mentor who is now a national artist telling you that you cannot treat a finals or a lecture or a presentation as something less than what it should be. Whether we had funds, or most of the time we had none, we would really give it our all. Lahat yun pagod at pawis at tuwa at ngiti din naman, everything.”
Pat said he learned the most from practicum and student productions.
“The work that I am remembered currently would be Mula Sa Buwan and Dekada 70, but these works wouldn’t be possible if i did not do the Komedya Festival, or participate in the Zarzuela Festival back when I was a student, or without the mentorship from my professors. Everything is important in that sense, and most importantly, the failures.”
Mula sa Buwan is known to be a commercial success, but Pat Valera stressed that while Mula sa Buwan is “what it is,” it was nurtured for almost 12 years before it became what it is today– a production mounted in a 1,500-seater theatre.
“Theatre is both practice and theory. To be able to excel in theatre, you must be good at both.”
The pandemic demanded rapid adaptation for artists. In recent years, theatre workers went on to other industries like series, film, TV, and other mediums, including online theatre. Pat did a musical series, Still, under VIU Philippines. He remarked that the transition was difficult, but doable. When theatre was possible again, Pat grabbed the opportunity.
Pat acknowledged that learning acting, directing, or playwriting online is massively different from what it asks from you in the face to face engagement. Not only the physical is deterred but also the energy, the nonverbal communication, and the theatricality that all comes together.
“But you cannot take away the fact that what you have been doing in the past two years is putting a lot of learning and theories and understanding and curiosity to your mind, so while there is no physical manifestation, it doesn’t mean that you have not been enriching yourself. You are still learning, but if the goal is to do live theatre then you will need to double time when it’s available. You have to be doubly curious and doubly engaged to fill up the aspects of the practical.”
On the question of what direction theatre is going in the future, Pat is more concerned about something else.
“Even before thinking where it needs to go, I am in the place wherein I want to know how to rebuild it.”
He asks questions: What are the things that we have to learn from? What are the things that we have to let go from our past? How can we be more mindful especially given all our experiences, trauma from the pandemic, from the recent elections? How do we navigate a better space for theatre, for its artists, for the audience, for everyone? And most importantly, how do we make it financially viable for everyone involved?
“More than thinking 10 years from now, 15 years from now, it’s more of: what can we as a community do? How can we invite people back to the theatre? What play should we be doing to incite interest again from the audiences? How can we as a community convene to make it more sustainable, to make it a better space for everyone to work, and to imagine their futures within this community, and make it thrive?”
Pat lamented that the industry is confronted with struggles in its revival, while also having to navigate political and societal problems. “What type of theatre do we want to happen? What type of theatre do we do now under this regime?”
There is a lot of carried grief from the pandemic, and many have lost much, including loved ones and opportunities. He said that the absence of space to decompress and unpack is hard on everyone. That is what we’re facing.
“You have to be kinder and more understanding of people. You have to develop new processes. That’s part of the learning, that’s part of the journey that we all have to consider. Let’s find other paths so that we also take care of ourselves as we present ourselves to the world. At the core of theatre is life, is being human. If you do not take care of the person, then what for?”
Mula sa Buwan is back for a two-weekend run this December 2022. Get tickets at https://premier.ticketworld.com.ph/shows/show.aspx?sh=MULASBU22
Dannah Joyce N. Piol
DSCTA alumna Dannah Joyce N. Piol was recently awarded the Erasmus+ Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD) scholarship by the European Union. She will be pursuing Choreomundus - International Master in Dance Knowledge, Practice and Heritage at the Université Clermont Auvergne (UCA) in France, Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet (NTNU) in Norway, Szegedi Tudomanyegyetem (SZTE) in Hungary, and University of Roehampton in the United Kingdom.
Dannah graduated BA Speech Communication, cum laude, in 2018. She was a member of the UP Speech Communication Association (UP SPECA) and the UP Streetdance Club (UP SDC), and was recognized as an honorary member of the UP Dancesport Society. She was part of the group that won the championship for the Crissa Campus Dance Synergy (College Division) in 2015, and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Ballroom Formation Competition (Standard Dance Category) in 2016.
Through the Choreomundus program, Dannah hopes to further explore the cross-cultural aspects of dance, and to learn how to deal with issues concerning dance as an intangible cultural heritage in different professional contexts
Dolly de Leon
Dolly De Leon has received critical acclaim for her exceptional performance in the Cannes Film Festival 2022 Best Picture (Palme d'Or) winner, Triangle of Sadness. In the Ruben Östlund film, she portrayed the role of a toilet cleaner to a deserted island leader.
A graduate of BA Theatre Arts, De Leon credits her acting training to her former DSCTA professors, mentors, and coaches –Chris Vertido, Ella Luansing, the late Tony Mabesa for acting, Ogie Juliano for voice and movement. She also acknowledges Prof. Jose Estrella’s mentorship and guidance in her effective portrayal of various characters for theatre, film, and television.
Dolly De Leon has performed notable roles in Dulaang UP and UP Playwrights Theatre productions: she played Anna in Old Times, Maria Clara in Noli, Paulita Gomez in Fili, Portia in The Merchant of Venice for The Portia Society, George de Jesus in Oryang: Las Viajeras, Stephania in The Tempest, Olga (Marilyn) in Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters (Tatlong Maria adapted by Rody Vera) for Tanghalang Pilipino. She also portrayed roles in The Vagina Monologues, As You Like It, Three Sisters (Virgin Labfest), Medea, Spring Awakening, The Duchess of Malfi, Distrito De Molo, The Country Wife, Bilanggo ng Pag-ibig, Tanghalang Ateneo’s Middle Finger, and in Ang Naghihingalo- a Virgin Labfest production selected as one of three one-act plays to be revisited in this year’s VLF. She acted in Have Thy Will, a collection of William Shakespeare’s sonnets during The Shakespeare in Asia, Manila Conference hosted by the Department of English and Comparative Literature. A performer-scholar, De Leon has also trained in Noh under Noh Master Naohiko Umewaka and has performed in his productions The Italian Restaurant and The Coffee Shop Within the Play.
Aside from theater, Dolly De Leon also ventures onto other performance platforms. She has done bit roles and bigger roles in television advertisements, radio, film, sitcoms, and soap operas both locally and internationally. Among her notable television performances are Erik Matti’s 7 Days of Hell episode for HBO Series Folklore and On the Job, Lav Diaz’ Historiya ni Ha, Antoinette Jadaone’s The Kangks Show and Raymund Gutierrez’s Verdict, where she won the FAMAS Awards 2020 for best supporting actress.
Eileen Kae Relao
Navigating Through People-Oriented Professions: On the Centrality of Humanities and Communication Studies
in Teaching, Policy Consultancy, IT Product Development, and Social Entrepreneurship
“Relating to people is everything. If you know how to talk and to listen, you will achieve a lot.”
(Eileen Kae Relao, 31, Social Entrepreneur)
When asked about the reason she shifted to the BA Speech Communication despite being already enrolled in a related undergraduate program, Eileen cited her interest in arts and humanities aside from the theories and praxis of communication studies. Envisioning herself becoming a newscaster, lawyer, and public official, then-incoming-college-sophomore Eileen was convinced that the multidisciplinary and humanistic nature of the Speech Communication program would equip her with the skills and attitude essential in the service-centric careers she wanted to pursue.
Interestingly, Eileen found herself treading a different path from what she had planned. In her junior year at the university, she worked part-time as an online English tutor, which opened opportunities for her to establish international linkages and found her first startup, a virtual business communication training hub for multinational companies based in Japan and Germany. In 2012, she accepted a teaching position at the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts where she served as a full-time instructor for three years.
In 2015, Eileen received a scholarship at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore where she earned her Master’s degree and graduated as a recipient of the Dean’s Leadership Award in 2017. As a scholar, she experienced hands-on action research where policy-based solutions are tested, developed, and implemented to address problems in the community as well as issues on a regional and global scale.
Immediately after graduating from NUS, she worked as a communications trainer, global business development head, and policy consultant for different companies based in Tokyo and Fukuoka, while also helping build what she considers as her first social enterprise: a trading company which exports Japanese agricultural and marine products to Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, and China. She is also currently an IT product designer and her most recent project involves top-tier hotels in Japan and Singapore. Among the many hats she wears, the one closest to her heart is being the founding president of Alea Chocolates, the second social business she is grooming to be a global industry player, which exports Albay’s premium quality Trinitario cacao products to Japan and Singapore, and by 2022 to Hong Kong, United States, and Europe.
Alea Chocolates is Eileen’s way of giving back to her family and hometown in Bicol. It is also her proactive response to the problems she sees in the business models of corporate giants that exploit farmers and practice unsustainable means of production and distribution. Alea Chocolates takes pride in its practice of sustainable agriculture, direct-trading, and profit-sharing that benefit the farmers, chocolatiers, and local producers in Albay. “At present, I have 20 chocolatiers in the factory, and most of them are housewives. I did not start this company to make a lot of money, you know? I just want to generate jobs and be a fair employer because despite being far from home, I still love the Philippines and I’ve always believed in Filipinos.”
Recalling her college years as a Speech Communication major, Eileen mentioned how all the subjects and all the mentors she had in the department inspired and prepared her for people-oriented professions, for dreams that are not just hers, but shared with others.
Filipinos on the Global Stage: On the Place of Theatre Arts Education in a World of Competition
“Theatre Arts is the school of life. It teaches you the human condition and lets you meet people from all walks of life.”
Paris – the Fashion Capital of the World. Miles away from the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theatre, a young Filipina braved a different stage to earn her M.B.A. in Marketing and Communications from the Mod’Art International Fashion School, and her M.B.A in Luxury Brand Management, Marketing and Communications from INSEEC Paris. From living alone, to being fluent in French, excelling in her graduate studies, and landing a dream job in the fashion industry, her theatre arts training helped Jacinta through all of it.
She has always been a performer – the class skit star, the cheerleader, the singer. Coming from a family of UP graduates, with an older sister who also took up theatre arts, Jacinta already knew what she wanted to study in college. She entered the Certificate in Theatre Arts program of the DSCTA determined to make it as a theatre artist.
“It was really hard sometimes,” Jacinta said, while describing her experiences in the program. “But it was still all worth it.”
She remembered the countless hours spent inside the theater – doing backstage work, managing responsibilities, and learning from the best practitioners in the country. She witnessed the passion and dedication that marked great artists. Studying theatre arts made her stronger and more resilient. It developed her character in unexpected and meaningful ways – sharpening her and making her more sensitive to the human condition. These experiences gave her the boldness to pursue graduate studies abroad. She knew she already had what it took to succeed.
Before she left, Jacinta also tried her hand in the film industry and in local politics. Unfulfilled in these ventures, she set out for graduate studies in France. After earning her M.B.A, she went to become the Corporate Communications and Community Manager at Estée Lauder Companies EMEA, where she worked with more than 25 international brands across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, and the U.S.A. She specialized in crisis management, corporate social responsibility, data analysis, events management, and content creation. She was also able to work in advertising and digital marketing for Bell & Ross, a luxury watch company.
After some time, she decided to use her expertise to help students get into the luxury industry. This led her to Instituto Marangoni Paris where she currently works as Communications Manager, creating opportunities for budding artists to pursue internships in leading fashion brands such as Dior, Chanel, and YSL. A definite highlight was organizing a talk with renowned creative director Olivier Rousteing. Students were thrilled to interact with the fashion icon and grateful for such a valuable opportunity.
“The best part of the job is making a difference in the lives of the students,” said Jacinta. “Especially in the fashion industry. It’s really competitive. It’s hard to keep going sometimes.”
Instituto Marangoni has since assigned Jacinta to manage affairs in the Philippines. She admitted that this is a rare privilege, and she is making the most out of it. While her previous post allowed her to help students from other nations, now she is given time to champion the Filipino and thrust Filipino artists into the global stage. Success may have taken her halfway around world, but now she is home, and more motivated than ever to push the Filipino artist into the limelight.
When asked for advice for the Department’s theatre students, Jacinta had two words: be kind. “That’s what people will remember about you,” she added. “Everyone you will ever work with will remember if you were kind to them.” She then encouraged students to be bold, but to remain humble and always prepared. “Be resourceful and creative,” she said. “Say yes to every opportunity and just go for it.”
Atty. Jose Amelito "Joe" Sutton Belarmino II
DSCTA alumnus, Atty. Jose “Joe” Sutton Belarmino II, was recently recognized as one of the recipients of the prestigious Chevening Scholarship. Atty. Belarmino will be studying MSc in Cyber Security and Digital Forensics at the University of Westminster in London, United Kingdom.
He graduated BA Speech Communication, magna cum laude, in 2010, and earned his Juris Doctor at the San Beda University Manila - College of Law in 2015 where he also served as President of the Law Student Government. He initially worked as a public defender at the Public Attorney’s Office and Chief of Staff of then Commissioner and now Congresswoman Stella Luz Quimbo. He is now one of the few lawyers engaged in the practice of data privacy law in the country. Prior to his Chevening scholarship, he previously served as Head Executive Assistant, Division Head of the Enforcement Division, Of