Banatao, Comerford among 2019 U.P. distinguished alumni

Engineer and technology entrepreneur Diosdado Banatao

By Joe Garbanzos

The University of the Philippines Alumni Association in America announced its list of 2019 Distinguished Alumni and Special Recognition awardees. The awardees will be honored at a Gala during the 20th Grand Reunion at the Crowne Plaza Hotel San Francisco Airport, in Burlingame, California on September 1.  

Nelsie Parrado, president of UPAAA, and co-host Sonia Delen, president of UPAA of San Francisco, are pleased to announce the selection of the distinguished alumni awardees.  

Said Parrado, “We see them volunteering in communities, working in hospitals, finance, real estate, schools, churches and diverse other workplaces. To these uncelebrated alumni, the association is proud of their contributions and achievements.”

The honorees

Diosdado (Dado) Banatao is an entrepreneur and engineer in the high-tech industry, credited with having developed the first system logic chip and the first Windows Graphics accelerator chip for personal computers.  He was conferred an honorary doctorate degree by U.P. in 2000.

Aida Sarmiento is a Practice Manager at Midwest Pediatrics, Ltd., Lombard, Illinois. With her husband, Dr. Rodolfo Sarmiento, she has participated in numerous medical missions in the last 20 years. She earned her graduate degree in Nursing from UP-PGH in 1967.

Olive Rocha-Aliga is the President of the University of the Philippines Vanguard Corps of Sponsors Alumni International (UPVCSAI. She has provided strong leadership to UPVCSAI from its conception in 2004 to the present. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree from U.P. in 1973.

Dr. Juanita Caccam developed a laboratory screening method for neonatal hypothyroidism at the San Diego Institute of Pathology and Mass Diagnostic Laboratory. She earned her B.S. Chemistry from U.P. in 1956.

White House Chef Cristeta Comerford

Cristeta  Comerford is one of the longest-serving White House executive chefs. She is the first female and the first Asian American appointed to this position. She attended classes towards a B.S. degree on Food Technology at the U.P. College of Home Economics.  

Polly Santiago-Cortez is the Vice-Chair of the Friends of U.P. Foundation of America. She retired in September 2015 after over 38 years as a Federal Banking Regulator at the U.S. Department of Treasury.   She earned her B.S. in Business Administration from U.P. in 1966.

Dr. Benito de Lumen is Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Sciences at University of California, Berkeley. He is Founder and CEO of Narra Biosciences, a biotech company commercializing the anti-cancer peptide “lunasin.” He earned his B.S. in Agricultural Chemistry from U.P. Los Banos in 1962.

Dr. Wilfrido Feliciano, a plastic surgeon, was an Assistant Clinical Professor of Plastic Surgery at St. Louis University, Missouri from 1989 to 2005.   He earned from U.P. his BS Pre-Med degree in 1961 and his MD degree in 1966.

Dr. Roy Guinto is a thoracic surgeon who has volunteered 12 times in rendering surgical missions in underserved towns in the Philippines. He earned from U.P. his BS Pre-Med degree in 1966 and his MD degree in 1972.

Dr. Dennis Labayen started as a Field Director in the Philippines for Outreach International from 1981 to 1994 and became its Chief Field Officer from 2012 to 2018.   He earned from U.P. his BS Pre-Med degree in 1968 and his MD degree in 1972.

Atty. Teodoro Laguatan heads a law firm in the San Francisco Bay Area which does complex litigation not only in immigration law but also other areas of law including human rights. He earned his BA in Public Administration from U.P. in 1968 and his law degree.

Ms. Venus Veronica Leighton is the founder, creator, publisher, editor and manager of the longest-running monthly Filipino American publication (Via Times News magazine) and the executive producer of a sister broadcast outfit (Chicago Philippine Reports TV). She earned her B.S. in Foreign Service degree from U.P. in 1961.

Dr. Emmanuel Cris Liban is the Executive Officer, Environmental Compliance and Sustainability in Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) in Los Angeles, CA. He earned his BS Geology degree magna cum laude from U.P. in 1989.

 Dr. Edward Mader is an Associate Professor of Neurology at the Louisiana School of Medicine in New Orleans. He is currently the Program Director for the Clinical Neurophysiology training and Co-Director of the EEG and Epilepsy Monitoring Unit of the University Medical Center. He earned from U.P. his B.S. Biology degree in 1983 and his MD degree in 1987.

 Dr. Luisito Pablo is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at University of Florida. He earned his DVM cum laude from U.P in 1978.

Dr. Cirilo Reyes is the Production Veterinarian at Seaboard Foods. He is an Advisor to the Board of Directors, Southwest Kansas Filipino-American Association. He earned his DVM degree from U.P. in 1981.

Dr. Mary Jacquiline Romero is a quantum physicist in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems at the University of Queensland, Australia.  She earned her BS Applied Physics degree from U.P. in 2006.

Dr. Constancia Uy was Emerita Professor of Pediatrics at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School. She has demonstrated her leadership by being elected President of eight organizations including UPAAA, UP Medical Alumni Society in America (UPMASA), and UPMASA- NJ/NY/CT Chapter (Founding President). She earned from U.P. her BS Pre-Med degree in 1964 and her MD degree in 1967.

Dr. Josefino Tunac is the President and Chairman of Arterez, LLC, a biotechnology group. He earned his BS Plant Pathology degree from U.P. in 1964.

Dr. Winston Umali is the Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at CarePoint Health – Christ Hospital in Jersey City. He earned from U.P. his BS Psychology degree cum laude in 1988 and his MD degree in 1994.



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