Susan Aquino-Ong, faculty member at the Crop Science Cluster of College of Agriculture, has been chosen by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) as the recipient of the 2011 Outstanding Professional of the Year Award in the field of Landscape Architecture during the ceremony held at the Fiesta Pavilion, Manila Hotel on June 22, 2011.
The Outstanding Professional of the Year Award is the highest award given by PRC to a professional, as recommended by his/her peers for having amply demonstrated professional competence of the highest degree and conducted himself/herself with integrity in the exercise of his/her profession, participated meaningfully in professional activities through professional organizations, contributed significantly to the effective discharge of the profession’s social responsibility through meaningful contribution/participation in socio-related activities.
Prof. Ong is a staunch advocate for the preservation and conservation of heritage trees in UPLB. According to her, respect for trees as well as respect for nature is a very important virtue in design. “If your design is full of ego (self-centeredness) – people will see through it, but if your design is inspired by self-less service and your shared intent is for the public good – people will feel such a space. An enhanced space that exudes a sense of history, sensibility and substance will ultimately create the balance in the social, cultural, economic and ecological fabric of the landscape,” Prof. Ong said. She also mentioned that she always teaches her students and colleagues respect for nature, not to cut down trees nor remove even a single scrub or vine unless necessary, instead to carefully study before removing it in any project, “It’s a test of a designer’s diligence that is well thought-off which delineates the learned professionals from others.” “One blends with nature because you will always be part of nature; it’s difficult to maintain something when you alter to destroy everything later all the related problems will come out, because it becomes unsustainable and nature has a way of getting back to its normal-form” she added.
Among the notable projects that she did were the UPLB Poultry Portal sculptural garden in Animal Science Department and the Languages Portal garden near the Physics building, which is all located in the UPLB campus; other projects outside the university were the Calamba shrine garden and the multi-billion peso Subic-Clark-Tarlac 100-Kilometer Expressway (SCTEx) project. These are projects that Prof. Ong holds very dear to her heart not only because they are work of love but also because some are pro bono to the public.
Another trademark or significantly unique to her design is the use of native Philippine plants which she promotes to utilize blending with the country’s culture giving a sense of national pride and identity, notwithstanding the ecological stability and resilience it gives to the environment.
In 1999, the Philippines was awarded a Gold Medal for the Best Landscape Booth Competition International Category in the International Horticultural Expo in Kunming, China. Her professional partner and friend the late Professor Eliseo Bardenas and she were the two official designers and “workforce laborers” of the booth. Afterwards in 2008, Prof. Ong was elected as a member of the International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes of the ICOMOS-IFLA-UNESCO, an international organization based in Paris, France. She bagged the Pinakamaningning na Alagad ng Sining in the field of Allied arts in the province of Laguna in March 2010 and the Most Outstanding Citizen of the Municipality of Los Baños in September 2010. In the same year, she was also declared and elevated as the youngest of 12 Fellows of the Philippine Association of Landscape Architects (PALA).
Prof. Ong obtained her bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture at UP Diliman in 1986 and her master’s degree at the University of Melbourne in 1992. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in Environmental Science at the School of Environmental Science and Management at UP Los Baños. (PXMA Delos Reyes)
Photo by Leandro Martin and Patricia Karol Aquino-Ong