Alumni Voice


“Tabula Rasa: Starting Again After Covid-19”

Vivienne Angelica H. Viernes

University student (Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering)

Eat. Study. Workout. Sleep. Repeat.

This was my honest-to-god initial perception of what my Covid-19 lifestyle, especially being in more than 6 months of lockdown, would turn out to be. However, there were a lot of major changes that had taken place since the start of the pandemic here in my home country.

Right off the bat, one of the first things I had to get used to was the remote setup. I found myself having more time to take on opportunities outside academics, such as extracurriculars, in the first few months before the school year started. I have always used these activities to cope with my heavy workload in school since the former served as a breather. 

With the ongoing pandemic, I have had my fair share of challenges when it came to projects that needed heavy coordination and socialization. I often hear the phrase “no man is an island” when it comes to work, and truly, this pandemic only reinforced that building a strong foundation together, along with good communication, gets the job done better and easier. I had to restructure my way of thinking and shift my energy to building up discipline rather than relying solely on motivation since there were a lot of days that it was difficult to stay motivated in a period where the anxiety and fear of the Covid-19 virus was high.

I took on several projects that involved me having to expand and learn more about my network even without having the chance to meet the people involved face to face. This leads me to one of the two realizations I had over the pandemic: regardless of circumstances, it is possible to form new genuine connections that have the same, if not stronger, level of trust, value, and communication, whilst strengthening old relationships into something even more timeless and ever-growing. 

One of my favorite projects was spearheading the welcoming of the next batch of freshmen taking up my course in the university, where my team and I helped make them feel at home through online activities. Despite the situation, it was one of my most successful and rewarding headships, and the fulfillment I had with the steering committee from the kids expressing their gratitude for making their first year memorable was truly unmatched. Aside from this, I also had the chance to be accepted into a college organization that held a competitive application process–they looked into establishing connections with professionals and companies for learning opportunities and On-the-Job Training which contributed greatly to my personal growth in my hard and soft skills. 

The second realization, and for me, the more important value that I learned during the pandemic situation was empathy. On a smaller scale, this could be as simple as understanding that your groupmate might not be able to hop on a Zoom call to work on your group project because they do not have stable internet connection. This could mean professors setting soft deadlines and shifting their attention to ensuring that students can understand their lessons without having to add to the ongoing stress of the pandemic. Indeed, empathy goes a long way.

With that, the kind of society I want to create after Covid-19 is one that knows how to be human–in the sense that we understand the concepts of accountability and empathy as ones that are not mutually exclusive. Most of the time, we tend to think that keeping accountability should revolve purely on quality work and professionalism, which is wrongly pictured to be cold and rigid. One of the most amazing features about humans is the innate ability to empathize–to put ourselves in the shoes of others even if we are not going through the same experience. In fact, empathy applies in being accountable as it entails being aware of what we can do to improve, which helps us to act in ways that are even more productive, excellently executed, and inclusive. The pandemic highlighted how important it is that soft skills, i.e. communication and planning, and objectivity, i.e. research based from statistics and data, be intertwined.

I cannot deny the fact that 2020 threw a lot at my country. Not only were we (and still are) struggling with handling the pandemic, but we also faced several natural disasters, political storms, and other chaos that stirred up and divided the Filipino people. Many struggled greatly this year and were exhausted from having to stay in a position where being praised to have a resilient soul seemed to be the only solution they could hang on to. In the simplest analogy, we might all be going through the same storm, but we are not on the same boats. Some people are on boats held together by tape just to stay afloat, while some are on cruise ships who have the privilege to live a relatively normal life despite the pandemic. 

When you treat people with empathy and educate yourself of the privilege you are given, you connect and get to know people deeper and have a more concrete idea of what and how you can do your best to help someone in need. This, I believe, is how I gained a better understanding as to how and what changes I want to contribute as a next-generation leader.

As a 2nd year student in engineering, I see myself contributing to public service by promoting the concept [of engineering] as something for the mass and for the people. There has always been the stereotype that engineering is meant for those with a higher level of intelligence, especially in mathematics and the sciences. I have always advocated for science, innovation, and engineering as something that everyone should have an equal opportunity or chance to learn and understand in an approach that is accessible and considers the different backgrounds and extents of education that we have. This is why I strongly advocate for the SDGs, and it is why I continually push for access to the truth, to credible sources, to education. In the future, I hope to cater solutions to problems in a way that is easily available to and suitable for the Philippine and world setting. I hope to use my education in giving back to my country by applying the skills I will acquire with honesty and dignity in alleviating both local and national issues. Ultimately, I believe that with the world taken by storm in all its current madness, disasters, brilliance, and innovations, the frustrating truth is that we tend to forget the basic morals and interdisciplinary aspects that, in the first place, should have always been and should continue to always be major considerations in any decision we choose to proceed with, especially when tackling problems. All these skills, knowledge, and connections that we gain must be used in a way that is sincere–in a way that allows each one of us to be focused, precautious, mindful, and most importantly, human-centered–to remind us of how our actions and the balance we find between objectiveness and ethics can dictate, in the long run, how we can continually grow as individuals with the common goal of the world’s betterment.













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