A human rights and social justice advocate based in California, U.S.A., and a distinguished chemist from Mindanao were given the Outstanding Sillimanian Award last Aug. 28 at Luce Auditorium.
Ms. Cynthia Arnaldo-Bonta is recognized in the field of Human Rights and Social Justice, and Dr. Myrna Sillero-Mahinay is a multi-awarded chemist.
Ms. Cynthia Arnaldo-Bonta
Cynthia Arnaldo-Bonta graduated from SU High School (SUHS) in 1953 and proceeded to take up Pre-Medicine from 1953 to 1955. She later moved to University of the Philippines, Diliman, where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology in 1958. She earned her Master’s Degree in Religious Education in 1968 from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.
Bonta has been active in the Christian ministry and community service. She was Minister in the National Farm Worker Ministry in Cesar Chavez Camp at La Paz, California; missionary in the United Methodist Church; National Youth Director of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP); and Interim Youth Director for the Philippine Federation of Christian Churches.
“As a minister of the Christian Church, I have chosen to be a community volunteer worker for the people, serving them, working with them, empowering them to take care of themselves and be the change they want to be,” she said during her acceptance speech.
When she migrated to the U.S., Bonta became even more involved in social justice activism. She served as chairperson and organizer of various human rights campaigns in California.
Bonta served in numerous positions on the Executive Committee of the Council of Asia Pacific Islanders Together for Advocacy and Leadership since 2010 and served in a number of Boards. She was co-founder of the Asian Pacific Islander American Political Association of Greater Sacramento and in 2001 was appointed chair for Sacramento County’s National Federation of Filipino-American Associations.
After receiving the award, Bonta said she is accepting it on behalf of the community volunteer workers out in the field and at home. She thanked the individuals who helped her and contributed to her life.
Furthermore, she acknowledged the need to have more women leaders so that the world could become a better place.
“To the women out there, you are the ones who know what love is. It is in your DNA,” she said, “and you have to [move] together to show us all how to love.”
Dr. Myrna Sillero-Mahinay
Dr. Myrna Sillero-Mahinay graduated from SUHS in 1972 and completed her BS in Chemistry in 1976. In 1985, she obtained her Master’s Degree in Chemistry from UP Diliman and placed ninth in the Chemists Licensure Exam a year after. She earned her PhD in Chemistry at James Cook University in Australia.
Dr. Mahinay is currently a professor in the Chemistry Department of the College of Sciences and Mathematics at Mindanao State University – Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT). She held two postdoctoral fellowships: one at the University of Miami and another from the National Institute of Natural Science in Okazaki Institute for Integration Bioscience in Japan. She was a research fellow for the International Fellowship Program Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) in Bangalore, India, for several months.
The Philippine Senate Committee of Environment and Natural Resources commissioned her to assess the extent of mercury pollution in Mt. Diwalwal, Compostela Valley, in 1999. Her findings eventually led the government to relocate affected residents and to confiscate smuggled mercury in the area.
The renowned chemist from Mindanao was then recognized the following year by the National Institute for Health as one of the Top 100 Women in Health Science.
Dr. Mahinay has written and co-authored research papers that have been published in both national and international scientific journals and publications. Her most notable research is on heavy metal analysis and how heavy metals affect living organisms.
Last year, Dr. Mahinay was honored by the Professional Regulation Commission through the Integrated Chemists of the Philippines as the Outstanding Chemistry Professional, the first awardee outside an NCR institution.
Dr. Mahinay dedicated OSA to her late sister Darna Sillero-Cordova, who had long believed in her potential to receive the highly-esteemed award. She also acknowledged her parents who strove to send their six children to school despite their limited resources.
She shared, “My parents trust that good education in a good university is a good future. That’s how I was taught–that education is the key to our future.”
The Outstanding Sillimanian Award is given annually to Silliman alumni who excel in their fields of specialization and manifest the ideals of the Way, the Truth, and the Life in their personal and professional lives.