Yanson matriarch conferred with ‘honoris causa’ for philanthropic work

Olivia Villaflores Yanson, accompanied by her son Leo Rey (3rd from left), and Ginnette Yanson-Dumancas (4th from right), receives her honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Business Management (Honoris Causa) at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos (UNO-R) in Bacolod City Wednesday, in the presence of Dr. Raul Alvarez (2nd from right), director of Commission on Higher Education (CHED)-6, Rev. Fr. Joel Alve (2nd from left), OAR, university president, and Dr. Dennis Madrigal (left), dean of Recoletos de Bacolod Graduate School. (Glazyl Y. Masculino Photo)

By Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – The University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos (UNO-R) here conferred Olivia Villaflores Yanson with an honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Business Management (Honoris Causa), acknowledging her valuable contributions to the community.

Yanson was accompanied by her son Leo Rey and Ginnette Yanson-Dumancas during her conferment yesterday, which was also witnessed by some of their employees, friends, and family members. Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez and his wife Nikki also graced the occasion. A Mass of the Holy Spirit led by Rev. Fr. Rafael Pecson, OAR, president of Recoletos Educational Apostolate in the Philippines, was held prior to the conferment rites.

Yanson, a matriarch of the Yanson Group of Bus Companies (YGBC) that operates the giant fleet of Ceres buses, which is the largest in Southeast Asia, was recognized for her philanthropic work and generosity not only towards their more than 18,000 employees but to Negrenses and Bacolodnons as a whole.

Dr. Raul Alvarez, director of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED)-6, said that “Honoris Causa” is given because of the outcome, manifestation of compassion, and leadership. “Wala ginahatag ang “Honoris Causa” because may kaya o may poder ang isa ka tawo,” he added.

Yanson, the second among the four children, was born to parents Dolores Selibio Torrillo and Cayo Mira Villaflores. While she was a nurse by profession, having obtained her degree from Siliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental in 1956, OVY, as fondly called by her close friends, continues to extend her helping hand to thousands of less fortunate Negrenses.

In her message, Yanson said that she has chosen the nursing profession with a calling to serve humanity with compassion, and caring as the basic core elements of her noble profession.

“Neither my parents nor I myself would have come to envision that there was far more in store for me throughout my life which began with the compassion and caring commitment to humanity,” she added.

She founded the OVY Educational and Health Cares Foundation, Inc. to provide educational and healthcare assistance to the underprivileged. She said that she sponsored a group of physicians and surgeons from Pennsylvania, USA, to come and perform surgery on needy families with children who had cleft lip and cleft palate.

“That was a very rewarding mission as I saw the happy faces of children who were once withdrawn and shy because of their deformity, transform into more confident children,” she added.

She also supported education by providing buildings and educational resources to schools and colleges and funding the education of underprivileged children. “This is God’s work and not mine. I am merely a vehicle for the Almighty God’s work here on earth,” she said.

Aside from that, Yanson said that fate also led her to become a successful entrepreneur, as she recalled the time when she and her late husband Ricardo Yanson started a transportation business.

“It was never easy at the beginning, the hardships involved financial difficulties in starting a business and there were so many other challenges,” she added.

But, she noted that in the course of their transportation business, there were numerous opportunities such as providing jobs to people and witnessing the realities of life for people who helped them in their business, such as their employees and their families.

She said that she had witnessed first-hand the employees’ struggles with their own lives as they continued to help them succeed in their business.  The YGBC, the country’s largest bus company group, which began in 1968, owns the Vallacar Transit Inc. (VTI) which operates in Negros, Panay, and Cebu.

“Every day, there was something for me to do, the business aspect was a major role for me, but the humanity aspect was even a bigger role because human lives are at stake and that is precious,” Yanson said, adding that she felt and knew that she is needed here in this life to serve humanity.

As an environmentalist, she also expressed her concern for the environment and used her resources to take protective action in the reforestation of more than 750 hectares of denuded land in Basay town and Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, and Talisay City, Negros Occidental. She also advocated for the rehabilitation of marine sanctuaries in Dauin, Negros Oriental.

“I will treasure this Ph.D. degree as a testament to my achievements and my legacy to the works,” she said.