Gone too soonBy madrilena de la cerna
Cebu Daily News
The whole UP Cebu community was stunned with the sudden death last June 17 of Michael Mark Mende, a well-loved professor in Psychology. He had been suffering from a very serious heart ailment, just before his death with only 15 percent of his heart functioning. Psychology students past and present, colleagues in the Social Sciences Division, friends in and outside the campus will greatly miss him. The overwhelming outpouring of their love for Mike during the four-day wake until the burial so touched his family relatives who said they never expected that Mike was so dear to us.
I first met Mike in 1995 during one of the series of echo seminars on the Local Revolution, a project of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, particularly the committee on Historical Research, in preparation for the celebration of the Centennial of the Philippine Revolution in 1998. I was on study leave for my Ph.D in Diliman but I was asked to coordinate the echo seminar on the Visayas in UP Cebu. In the afternoon of the second day, we held a workshop because the two paper presenters on the revolutionary struggle in Samar could not make it. I befriended Mike who was one of the student participants. I was impressed by his thoughts on the issues brought about by the echo seminar titled “The Multi-Dimensional Aspects of the Revolutionary Struggle in the Visayas.” I had a hunch that he was a student leader. Later I found out that he was the chairman of the student council. When I returned to UP Cebu after finishing my studies I would meet Mike again but this time as a colleague in the Social Sciences Division. He taught Psychology from 1998 to 2012 and greatly touched the lives of many students who considered him a father figure – clowning with them in class and outside the class, advising those with problems.
The greatest thing he did as a professor in UP was to teach the students how to live the UP spirit. He founded the organization UP Tao in 1998 to develop camaraderie among boys and girls within the campus and other universities. He initiated activities for his class and if there were any to be held inside or outside the campus no matter how late in the evening, we were ensured that the students were safe with Mike around. This concern and care for students was very evident when he was the Dorm Manager in UP Cebu. He brought about several reforms in the organization and the management of the Student Dorm. He checked the problems of the dormers regarding the ventilation of rooms, checked and repaired broken pipes, clogged toilets. He repaired the study room even shelling out from his pocket. He started the Feed the Dormers campaign. Everytime there was a big activity in the conference hall and there were extra meals or snacks, he requested organizers to donate them to the dormers. He was able to convince the administration to assign a utility worker in the dorm.
His students recall that every class would not end without laughter. If they had a party, he would house them. One of the subjects he taught was Sikolohiyang Pilipino. Among the topics (it seemed his favorite) was food, particularly local food. He assigned his class to research, report and discuss in class the history of the dish, the local concept of food, the relation between food and environment, and food as part of culture. The clerical and working staff also shared their interactions with Mike. They saw him as a selfless and compassionate person who liked to talk about the lives of other people and a disciplinarian to his four-year-old son Joaquin Ignacio fondly called Popong.
In many lectures, symposia or conferences, Mike was the favorite master of ceremonies because he knew how to read his audience; he had humor and patience. His last stint as master of ceremony was last April 24 during the UP Kapihan with UP President Alfredo Pascual and the UP Cebu constituents.
Mike had special advocacies for women and children. He was chairman of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Legal Bureau before he passed away. He had trainings and conducted lectures on the Psychological Impact of Child Abuse, Child Development, and Trauma among Abused Children in Sex Tourism. He was also a member of the Men Opposed to Violence Against Women and Children or MOVAW-C.
His mother, Ma. Teresa Bondoc-Mende, a very jolly person like Mike, recalled that Mike grew up with a strict mom especially with the making of assignments. Since mom travelled often for her work, Mike learned to be independent, doing his assignment and countersigning his assignments. After Mike’s college graduation, mom and dad left for abroad and MM as Mike was fondly called by his family was on his own.
UP was Mike’s life. When he visited his parents in New York, he told his mom that he had to go home because he had a teaching load in UP. Marites Mende is very proud of Mike and said it aptly: “I don’t have a big house or other wealth but Mike is my trophy. His sudden death is painful but I have learned to let go of him early.” Mrs. Mende used to receive letters from Mike’s teachers telling her how they appreciated Mike. The late UP Cebu Dean Socorro Villalobos also wrote her appreciating Mike as a student council chairman.
She cried when she read what the students wrote about Mike on Facebook and saw the students crowding his wake.
On my part, I consider Mike a true nationalist who tore his green card and chose to stay and serve the country by teaching and influencing the youth. Everytime the UP Naming Mahal is sung or played, Mike Mike would raise his fist when singing the last stanze, “Humayo’t itanghal giting at tapang. Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan. Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan.” This is how I will remember Mike. He was 35.