Today is my father’s 65th birthday. I am reposting the tribute me and Marion wrote for Ingenium, the annual publication of the UP Alumni Engineers. This essay was first posted online on my father’s blog and was printed on Ingenium 2007. Before the final version was published, we of course solicited criticisms from Monram himself. Hehe!
Engineering a Society
While most electrical engineers take up careers in construction firms or in the academe, there are some who choose to take an alternative path. Ramon Ramirez EE ’66 is an engineer who took his profession to the grassroots. After all, he says, “Engineering is nation building.”
This rare find is better known as Mon or Monram to engineering alumni, Beta Epsilon brods, numerous friends, and batch mates from Albay High School where he graduated valedictorian. He is also “Mang Mon” and “Tito Mon” to comrade photographers and activists in people’s organizations. He first stepped into the U.P. Diliman campus in 1961 as an entrance scholar. He later enjoyed the Eleuterio Go Memorial and the ESSO scholarships at the College of Engineering.
After topping the 1967 electrical engineering board exam, Mon worked as an engineer at BF Goodrich, at the Allied Thread textile mill, and eventually at the San Miguel Corporation. He was part of the team that constructed the first fully automated Magnolia ice cream plant in the country during the late ‘60s.
While working as an SMC engineer, social issues continued to deeply interest Mon. During the First Quarter Storm of 1970 he joined the Samahan ng Makabayang Siyentipiko (SMS), a group of patriotic scientists and engineers from the University of the Philippines Diliman. Mon actively participated in learning more about the plight of the Filipino people and in making his skills as an engineer available to them.
When Martial Law was declared in 1972, members of SMS joined in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. Mon was twice imprisoned by the government for his ideals – the first in 1973 and again, in 1992. But he remained resolute with his progressive and freedom loving principles, and is non-compromising when it comes to upholding the people’s interest.
At 63, Mon still has the youthful militancy. He participated in the founding of Agham – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People in 1999. He helped convene the POWER alliance in 2003. POWER is a network of organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting the consumer against unreasonable power rate increases. Being the electrical engineer in the alliance, he provided the technical inputs in the writing of a thorough analysis of the Power Purchase Adjustment (PPA), a study of the power industry, and a critique of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).
POWER helped in filing a petition to the Supreme Court regarding the unbundling of Meralco’s power rates; it was favorably decided for the consumer. POWER also helped in the overcharging case against Meralco; it resulted in the order for Meralco to refund its customers. In both cases, Mon and his EE classmate and Meralco President, Chito Francisco, would sometimes meet at the Energy Regulatory Commission hearings. Although appearing for opposing sides of the issue, there is no animosity at all between them; it is purely advocacy work for Mon and professional work for Chito.
While involving himself in social and political issues, Mon remains active with the Beta Epsilon fraternity and the UPAE. He makes it a point to attend the monthly Beta Epsilon kapihan to share his thoughts and ideas with the alumni and resident brods. After typhoon Reming’s devastation of the Bicol region in December 2006, he encouraged his brods to fund a team that distributed relief goods to the victims. He keeps his brods and engineering colleagues abroad updated by helping maintain the http://www.betaepsilon.net .
Armed with his camera and extra batteries, Mon is ever present in participating and documenting the Filipino people’s struggles. He also helps maintain the http://www.arkibongbayan.org archive with his well composed photographs and sharply written captions. Through the years, he remains a true engineer with the youthful spirit to struggle for what is right and scientific, and for shaping what ought to be and not be resigned to what is. Unwavering and confident of this path, says Mon, “We have a just and peaceful society to build.”