The highly-acclaimed College of Veterinary Medicine started in 1978, back when Visayas State University (VSU) was then Visayas State College of Agriculture (ViSCA), as the Department of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine (DASVM) with its 4-year degree program, the Bachelor of Animal Science (BAS) with two majors: Animal Production and Animal Health. A 2-year curriculum with clinical and paraclinical courses was then established in 1991 to ladderize the existing BAS-Animal Health program to Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), which allowed students who had finished BAS-Animal Health to pursue the DVM degree. Thus, upon accomplishment of the DVM degree they obtained two diplomas – one from BAS-Animal Health and another for DVM. But this program was later discontinued in the year 2000 relative to the accreditation of the DVM program, with subsequent revisions through the years, making way for the 6-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree program that aspiring Viscan veterinarians today are questing through.


The College of Veterinary Medicine aims to deliver the “best education possible to its graduates, equipping them with 21st century and Industry 4.0 knowledge and skills to be able to carry out the duties of safeguarding animal health, public health, and the environment in both local and international settings.” This vision was met with exemplary execution throughout the years, constantly producing brilliant graduates who top the Veterinary Medicine Licensure Examination (VMLE) and outstanding veterinarians who shine in their respective fields, both locally and abroad. From having only three enrollees in the beginning, the CVM family has grown exponentially, and among these elite members are Dr. Antonette Sia, DVM, and Ralf Andre Tabao. Stories of dedication from different eras marked by passionate curiosity, community service, and meaningful connections.


Fascination and Dedication: The two sides of Dr. Sia’s Coin

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To be an animal behaviorist, that is Dr. Sia’s greatest dream – the one that led him to the doors of Veterinary Medicine. His fascination with animals started early on and he fostered it through quenching one curiosity after the other. “I would catch bugs and spiders. I would take note in a notebook of their feeding habits. The smells they produced, their poop. In the case of spiders, I noted how they spun their webs, how they wrapped their prey in silk cocoons”, he retold. 

He was fascinated by their anatomy, physiology, and behavior – especially their behavior. He watched shows on National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and Animal Planet growing up which intensified his interest in animals and why they are the way they are. “I just really like animals, they are interesting and majestic” he said and with his dream of becoming an animal behaviorist, Dr. Sia chose Veterinary Medicine as he considered it to be the most logical route to attaining his dream. And as Visayas State University was one of the leading schools for this program, it was only right to begin his journey here.

While in VSU, Dr. Sia was also a Literary Head in Amaranth as his love for animals also translated to passion for poetry. He writes under various pennames such as A.sia, Nepenthine from Nepenthe which is a drug which Ancient writers said was a means to forget pain or sorrow and thine meaning yours, thus, his penname means “cure for your sorrow”, Ennui which he used when he wrote pieces with themes of depression and suicide, and Fey for pieces that challenged his personal beliefs or values. As a Literary Head, he was strict in terms of the pieces he allowed to be published, he went as far as contacting writers about revisions or rewriting whole sections of their poems that he saw potential in but believed were lacking. His attention to the nitty-gritty details was a testament to his commitment to “Show, do not tell” and the power of words to shape worlds and perspectives.

Dr. Sia hails from Batch 2014 and he graduated on September 30, 2020, during the height of the pandemic. He passed the VMLE the year after, 2021, and he is currently a corporate veterinarian, working as a Brand Supervisor in the Marketing and Business Performance Department of Lakpue Drug, Inc. 


Fate and Passion: Ralf Veterinary Awakening 

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Ralf Andre Tabao is currently a third-year student in Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Though his dreams as a kid were composed of succeeding in the world of paleontology or politics, the animal shows and nature documentaries he watched growing up foretold his fate. He first realized it when he was in tenth grade, a pictorial was set for their batch as their recognition neared and they were instructed to dress up according to the field they will be exploring in the future. He reflected on the interests he had and among the list were animals and conservation – that was his “Aha!” moment. He looked back to the shows he used to watch on National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and Animal Planet and he thought to himself, “Maybe I could be part of that world – being in the field, exploring, documenting animals, seeing how they interact, and making a difference in the world.”

And like Veterinary Medicine was found along the way, VSU was also a chance encounter for Ralf. He was originally aiming for the University of the Philippines-Los Banos and was unaware of VSU’s prowess prior to his mom’s recommendation after he failed to make the cut for UPLB. Though he was sad about the result he received, he gave VSU a shot and went to go on a tour around campus and Ralf was immediately enraptured by the university’s beauty and revitalizing environment. He took the VSUCAT on its very last schedule set here in Baybay and recalls the warm encouragement of the faculty moments before he took the exam. “I passed the VSUCAT and I was so happy at that moment to start becoming a Viscan,” noted Ralf. “So, that’s basically how VSU, not part of the plan, became the main component of my dreams" he added. 

While he navigates the terrains of Veterinary Medicine, he also serves his duty to the studentry. Since first year, Ralf has been a member of the College of Veterinary Medicine Student Council from First Year Representative, to Treasurer, to Secretary, until eventually serving as President briefly for the first semester of academic year 2023-2024. Though he eventually stepped down to focus on his academics, he could not ignore the calling of duty for long and returned shortly after as a member of the Creatives Committee.


Fortitude, Resilience, and Passion: Lessons to pick up along the way

The path that Dr. Sia and Ralf traversed was difficult, as every field is, which is why fortitude is one of their finest artilleries. Ralf is supposed to be a fourth-year student this academic year but he failed multiple subjects last school year and consequently became an irregular student. But he has not let this challenge get the best of him; rather he takes his failures as benchmarks for growth – opportunities to be better. The “It is what it is” mentality creates this mindset of complacency that you cannot do better or that the odds are simply against you. But he argues, “There’s always space for you to do better. That mentality is wrong, you fall down but you get up and you get up stronger; that is the type of mentality you need.” He champions the importance of being ready, and creating routines and systems that work for you because when you put factors on your side of the ring to succeed, you balance out the odds and you are less likely to fail.

Dr. Sia adds to this when he said, “Every field is difficult. So, I chose the kind of difficulty I wanted.” Challenges and frustrations become easier hurdles to overcome when you do not hate the journey you walk on. He firmly advocates getting acquainted with yourself, your interests, your convictions, your values, and your motivations because this helps you know which path best suits your preferences and skills. Find something that you love to do, something that you have a passion for and it’ll all fall into place.

Veterinary Medicine is a course where you need a lot of dedication and passion for what you do, no matter how difficult the journey is it’ll all be easier if you have that love for it. And like the way diamonds are made, you must apply pressure and push beyond the limitations of your capabilities. That resilience of standing up after being crushed down is a determinant of how far you can go because though you have given your best you may and will still fail at times. You must accept that loss as it is just another lesson to learn, let that mold you into someone better.


The Friends We Find Along the Way

Both Ralf and Dr. Sia treasure meaningful connections made along the way. Dr. Sia went out of his way to acquaint himself with the people he met and was surrounded with every day, from classmates, instructors, maintenance staff, and even people he met in the corridors. “Make friends, and everywhere you go, you’ll always be greeted with a smiling face”, he said. He bargained with snacks, asking them to trade a delicacy from their town with a delicacy from his to know the person better and to understand their culture as well. He became a well-rounded companion who appreciated different personalities and cultures and also slowly built his confidence to share his ideas and interests. He collaborated with both his peers and his instructors, the instructors allowed them to challenge and be challenged with questions from them and their peers. He says, “Meaningful connections in life make it all the brighter”.

Ralf highlights the importance of a strong and healthy support system. One of the crucial foundations of survival is having good people that share the journey with you, friends that listen, empathize, and walk with you. People can share laughter, struggles, tears, and victories with you because no path is more daunting than the path you walk alone. Thus, he reiterates, “Do not be afraid to reach out, you are not alone.”


How VSU shapes the best in oneself

Visayas State University was and is an avenue for growth. Dr. Sia dearly misses his days in VSU, where he started building the foundations of the path he continues to walk today. Where he gained opportunities to meet people from a diverse community, learn about culture, build meaningful connections, get to know himself, and blaze his own trail. Yes, it was indeed difficult, so much so that he often believed he would not make it. But he did and it was all worth it, and he would not trade the world for all the good he learned and gained from his stay in VSU.

Meanwhile, for Ralf, VSU is also an avenue to foster independence, he has learned practical skills to survive without the familiar comfort and assistance of family ready to catch you at all times. It has taught him resilience, “that you can come back from downfalls stronger and better than you used to be.” Being a Viscan has been a whole host of emotions for him – the difficulties of academics, the pressure to pass, the fun adventures with classmates, and every other day in between. Though he concludes, “It’ll all be worth it in the end and VSU is going to be one of the reasons I’ll succeed.” 


A Message for VSU on its 100-year anniversary

As VSU reaches its centennial year, Dr. Sia leaves a moving message, “Continue to produce quality graduates that aren’t only good in academics. But graduates that would like to create a better country, graduates with moral integrity, and just an overall love for humanity”.

While Ralf exemplifies the room for growth that VSU has more than enough potential of achieving as it has showcased in its years of brilliance; he says, “VSU has achieved so much in the past years, but a lot still needs to be done to achieve the vision of being a globally-competitive university. I hope that the university continues to allocate more resources to its students and faculty so that we, the Viscan community, can continue to strive for excellence in our respective fields. With that, I am certain that VSU can achieve greater heights in the next 100 years.” 

The stories of Dr. Antonette Sia and Ralf Andre Tabao are reflections of courage through adversity and the sheer power of passion to propel you through it all. They are reminders of humble acceptance when things fall through then brave redirection to better, and realizing that life, perhaps, is about taking losses and transforming them to hope and passion.

As VSU continues to reach greater heights, may it keep nurturing people that have passionate hearts and brave souls, and be an avenue for stories of exemplary embodiment of its core values.

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