An outpouring of love, prayers, and gratitude was witnessed between December 8 and 9, 2020 in the campus that has been virtually empty since mid-March. Administrators, faculty members, and support staff came in batches to pay their last respects to a woman whose unique brand of hospitality made the campus a welcoming place to Thomasians and non-Thomasians alike. The object of this affection? Giovanna Villarama-Fontanilla, the late Director of the Office of Public Affairs.
Irreplaceable, indefatigable, impeccable
In separate eulogies, three Dominican priests with whom Fontanilla worked closely recalled their fondest memories of the late administrator. In a private Mass offered by the offices under the Office of the Secretary-General, Secretary-General Rev. fr. Jesus M. Miranda, Jr., O.P., PhD, acknowledged that the Thomasian core values of competence, commitment, and compassion can, indeed, be imbibed and lived out by Thomasians, as shown in the life and service of Fontanilla. “Ma’am Giovanna embodied our three C’s. In particular, fr. Miranda expressed the University’s thanks for the great contribution Fontanilla made to the positive public image of UST: “Her competence was seen in her excellent service to the University, the networks she helped UST build, and the positive image she helped make for UST.”
Meanwhile, former Secretary-General fr. Isidro C. Abaño, O.P., SThL-MA spoke lengthily about his former executive assistant, whom he credited for many of the memorable cultural pursuits that gave Thomasians a sense of identity. In his eulogy, he recalled working with Fontanilla in the early 1990s on the very first Paskuhan celebration, which has since grown to be the festive, grandiose, and fun-filled celebration that draws Thomasians and non-Thomasians alike. This contribution continued with the institutionalization of such other traditions as the USTv Awards, the UST Crime Watch, the Job Fair, the Ambassadors’ Night, and the Thomasian Welcome Walk, among others.
Abaño, who was heading the Quadricentennial festivities in 2011, said he could not imagine how UST would have been able to pull off successfully all the activities without Fontanilla, who “was everywhere.” Abaño thanked Fontanilla’s children, JC and IC, for sharing their mother to the University and assured them always of the University’s gratitude.
Finally, Rev. fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa, O.P., PhD, SThD, three-time Rector and the Rector with whom Fontanilla worked the longest, recalled his “unique…and irreplaceable” former co-administrator, who impressed not only Thomasian administrators, but even Vatican officials with her astounding organization skills, so aptly demonstrated during the World Youth Day celebration in 1995.
Fontanilla was, fr. de la Rosa attested, someone with so much dedication to her work. “Whenever she was given an assignment, she will give it her all to ensure it is successfully accomplished.” This dedication allowed her to serve the University in various capacities, such as being the pioneering Director of the Educational Technology Center, Director of the old Public and Alumni Affairs Office, Executive Assistant of the Office of the Secretary-General, and finally, Director of the Office of Public Affairs.
The former Rector also recalled how Fontanilla always “lifted my spirits,” with her customary greeting, unforgettable smile, and cheerful demeanor. This demeanor, fr. de la Rosa said, was consistently and sincerely shown despite the usual struggles brought about by personal and professional trials in life.