The lantern parade in UP Diliman bids everyone to soar high, “Pumailanlang”, or “to surpass the suffering and difficulties faced by the country”. Contest hall-of-famer College of Fine Arts mounts a show highlighting issues of Philippine seas.

UP CSWCD alumna Marja Abad shares her Iska story (Photo by Bong Arboleda, UP MPRO)

Eight hundred kilometers southeast of Manila is Siargao Island. Much has been written in travel blogs about this surfer’s paradise, this next big thing of a tourist destination. Like many travelers, Marja Abad has been backpacking most of her life in and out of the Philippines and has gone to Siargao. However, unlike many of them who have to the island come and gone, she chose to stay.

She is just as honest as she was during her final question-and-answer portion at the Miss Universe contest in 2010. But this time, eight years later, she admits that she has a major, major problem when asked why she wanted to take up a master’s degree in Community Development. “I’ll be very honest with you,” says the towering Bicolana beauty Venus Raj. “I had no idea what Community Development was at first. Someone told me to enroll in it as I was interested in going back to my roots and serving the community. Those were the selling points for me,” she continued.