First British education ambassadors named | Inquirer News

First British education ambassadors named

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 09:35 PM November 04, 2013

THE NEW British education ambassadors will help communicate and be role models for what is best about education in the United Kingdom and the Chevening scholarship. Ahmad (right) is shown with five of the ambassadors—Arnuco; De Ocampo, OBE; Hipol; Vilches, and Hermosa. RODEL ROTONI

From a 1970s grantee to recent returnees, seven Filipinos, who had a  British education and experienced the warmth of Londoners despite the drizzle-to-downpour weather, were declared the United Kingdom’s first education ambassadors in the Philippines.

Heading the list of envoys is former Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo, who said he felt like a “specimen” in 1970-71 as the only Filipino at  London School of Economics.


The other ambassadors are business journalist Jessica Hermosa, Ateneo de Manila University humanities dean Maria Luz Vilches, Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority chair and administrator Christopher Arnuco, Life Science Innovation consultant Karen Hipol, Malacañang Undersecretary for Political Affairs Jose Luis Gascon and  Kenneth Hartigan-Go, acting director general of the Food and Drugs Administration.


The UK Embassy said its seven pioneering education envoys were outstanding Filipinos who best exemplified how British schooling could take Philippine-honed excellence a step or two further.

It added that the ambassadors were “chosen for their intelligence, vision and dedication to make a difference in their home country.”

In a statement, the embassy said, “The UK education ambassadors will help communicate and be role models for what is best about education opportunities in the United Kingdom and the Chevening scholarship scheme.”

The UK Chevening program marked its 30th year in October. In the last three decades, the program has funded some 280 Filipinos through yearlong graduate studies in top British universities.

Four of the new envoys— Arnuco, Gascon, Hermosa and Hipol—were Chevening scholars.

UK Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad explained the choice of the ambassadors. “[W]henever we … needed a former student to come and say something, they always volunteered,” he said.


“So we thought, well, [while] relying on occasional volunteers was good … this was better, to really just reach out to the people. This was a way of … formalizing something that was happening informally,” Ahmad told the Inquirer during the recent launch ceremonies at British School Manila.

Ahmad said the education envoys would go beyond just promoting British education in the Philippines. They would also share their honest take on the British experience.

“We want to tell them (other Filipinos) what was good, what was difficult, what could be improved and in what way they could actually get the most out of it,” Ahmad said.

De Ocampo, recipient of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) award and  current chair of British Alumni Association, said, “I owe much of what I have become over the years to my education at  London School of Economics.”

“[In 1970-71], I was almost like a specimen since I was the only Filipino in the whole place,” De Ocampo quipped, eliciting laughter from the audience.

Vilches, who earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate in applied linguistics in the United Kingdom, said her years in Britain became the realization of a childhood dream.

“After having earned two master’s degrees and a PhD in the United Kingdom, I began to think that I must have been British in my earlier life. As a child I always dreamt of the wonderland of kings and queens, princes and princesses. In that fantasy world, England [was] always the place to be,” Vilches said.

For Arnuco, the trip aboard a military plane from his hometown—recently ravaged  by conflict between rebels and government forces—was worth all the trouble.

“I came all the way from Zamboanga, and we just had a crisis in our city. And, mind you, to come to Manila is very challenging for some of us,” said Arnuco, who flew aboard a C-130 cargo plane the night before the rites in Taguig City.

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“Someone asked me, ‘Why go through all the trouble just to attend this evening’s activity?’ I told him that I’d been invited to  several activities but missed all of them. The Chevening program went all out, all the way down to Zamboanga to come for me. Hence, it was just right for me to come to Manila and ride with the military to make sure that I [would be] here,” he said, as the audience applauded.

TAGS: Learning, Philippines

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