The bayanihan spirit burns bright in the University of the Philippines

No task is too big nor too small in UP’s fight against COVID-19. This is the rallying spirit behind the various UP bayanihan efforts that range from science and technology to humanitarian efforts, leading the way in social responsibility for its students and staff.

Responding quickly to the developing crisis, UP scientists, led by Dr. Raul V. Destura, went ahead and developed the diagnostic COVID-19 test kit, GenAmplify COVID-19 rRT-PCR Detection Kit. But this initiative by UP Diliman’s Philippine Genome Center (PGC) and the UP Manila-National Institute of Health (UPM-NIH), funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), is only one of many.

Recently, the UP Administration accepted the challenge of making the UP Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) one of the three referral centers for COVID-19 patients in the National Capital Region. This means that UP-PGH will have a COVID-19 ward, located far from the hospital’s more than 400 other, non-COVID-19 patients.UP-PGH is preparing itself to handle a number of patients up to 10 times greater than the expected number.True to the UP spirit of honor and excellence, over 100 interns at UP-PGH volunteered to go back on-duty to help the patients and the remaining healthcare workers in the hospital.

The frontline personnel at UP Manila’s Philippine General Hospital will soon be joined by faculty, staff, and students of the UP Diliman College of Science (UPD-CS), who will undergo training and accreditation at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM)before being deployed to the various testing centers.

Meanwhile,the UP Diliman College of Engineering (UPD-CoE) and the UP Cebu’s FabLab (under the College of Communication, Arts and Design) are both working on mass-producing face shield frames for the Personal Protective Equipment of the frontliners. The UP Cebu FabLab is also designing a bodysuit prototype for the PPE. Moreover, the UPD-CoE and UPD-CS are currently developing disease transmission modeling and a more cost-effective adult ventilator to aid the breathing of COVID+ patients.

In Southern Philippines, UP PGC Mindanao director Dr. Lyre Anni Murao is proposing the setting up of a laboratory that can give free testing for COVID-19 in the Davao Region to supplement the ongoing tests in the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC). SPMC is currently the only medical facility in Mindanao recognized as a subnational reference laboratory that can test for COVID-19. The proposed lab will be made from two container vans—the easiest way to set up the facility—and equipped with a real-time polymerase chain reaction or PCR detection system and other equipment.

Apart from rallying its science and technology, the University is also taking the lead in online education and humanitarian practices and programs.

Prior to the enhanced community quarantine, UP led the initiative to shift to virtual classrooms. UP was also the first among educational institutions that opted to suspend online classrooms as this would create the need for some students to go to computer rental shops.

As directed by the UP System leadership, constituent units were among the first higher education institutions to process and release in advance the salaries of its faculty and staff, including contractual personnel, to help them during the quarantine period.

UP President Danilo Concepcion, UP Manila Chancellor Carmencita Padilla, and UP Philippine General Hospital Director Gerardo Legaspi are also spearheading the establishment of a UP PGH Bayanihan Na! COVID-19 Operations Center to formalize the system and structure that will facilitate the University’s reception of support for its frontline workers.

Furthermore,the UP community continues to undertake various initiatives to address social problems that have arisen because of the enhanced community quarantine. For example, the UP Vanguard has stepped forward to assist indigent students stranded in the Diliman and Los Baños campuses by giving them and the dorm staff free brunch and dinners, a laundry facility, and a cash allowance. The constituent units’ Office of Student Affairs have also been coordinating with other groups to deliver various forms of assistance for the stranded students in the various UP campuses.

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