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Hip hop star Apl.de.Ap (in black, 2nd from right) opens up one of the boxes of COVID-19 test kits donated by his foundation and the UPAA of San Francisco to UP alongside UP President Concepcion (extreme right), UP PGH Director Legaspi (2nd from left), and Filipino-American businessman Dr. Larry L. Asera (in blue, extreme left). Photo by Bong Arboleda (UP MPRO).

 

The first two of five batches of COVID-19 test kits from the Apl.de.Ap Foundation International (ADAFI), the UP Alumni Association of San Francisco, Inc. (UPAASF), and UP alumnus and entrepreneur Yobie Benjamin have arrived at the University.

The Grammy-winning artist Apl.de.Ap, founding member of the hip hop group Black Eyed Peas, and chairman of ADAFI, officially turned over the donation to UP President Danilo L. Concepcion, UP-PGH Director Gerardo D. Legaspi, and TVUP Executive Director Gigi Javier-Alfonso.

UP President Concepcion welcomes Apl.de.Ap and Dr. Asera to UP, with Ms. Lilibeth Defiesta-Asera of ADAFI and Power Doha International Freight Forwarding (2nd from right) looking on. Photo by Bong Arboleda (UP MPRO).

 

The donation is the culmination of many months of massive efforts coordinated by US-based Mr. Ted Benito, Executive Director of the ADAFI, and Ms. Sonia Delen, ADAFI Board Director and immediate past president of the UPAASF.

The boxes containing DNA/RNA Shield™ Saliva Collection Kits, manufactured by Zymo Research Corporation, are currently housed in the newly constructed warehouse of the UP System Supply and Property Management Office in the Diliman campus. The boxes contain 131,000 COVID-19 test kits altogether, representing a partial shipment of the 227,722 test kits, worth US$2.85 million, donated to UP. The three remaining containers of test kits will arrive on or before March 18.

The first two of five batches of COVID-19 test kits donated by ADAFI and the UPAASF to UP have arrived at their new temporary home in a warehouse in UP Diliman. The kits will help ensure the safety of UP students and faculty returning to limited face-to-face classes on UP’s campuses. Photo by Celeste Llaneta (UP MPRO).

 

Opportunity to expand services

In his brief remarks, UP President Concepcion expressed his appreciation for the presence of Apl.de.Ap and the donation of the COVID-19 test kits. He officially accepted the gift during his meeting with UP alumni in San Francisco, California on December 10, 2021.

“Thank you very much from the bottom of our hearts, from the Filipino people and UP,” he said.

UP President Concepcion thanks UP’s benefactors for the generous donation. Photo by Bong Arboleda (UP MPRO).

 

UP PGH Director Legaspi also thanked Apl.de.Ap, Benjamin, ADAFI, and UPAASF for “giving us this opportunity to expand our services to our patients.”

“The plan is to expand this [COVID-testing service] to the whole UP community,” Legaspi said in his message during the turnover of the newly arrived first batch of testing kits. These kits will facilitate the immediate preparation of UP students for their gradual return to limited face-to-face instruction and practical academic work in laboratories and related facilities.

Related news: UP faculty discusses return to face-to-face classes this semester

Legaspi also commended the timeliness of the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 test kits since the UP PGH has just recently received certification from the Department of Health (DOH) to conduct saliva-based Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing. With this, the UP PGH has become one of few institutions, including the Philippine Red Cross and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, allowed by the DOH to conduct such testing.

“Saliva-testing has become a more convenient screening method for our patients as well as our students and faculty who will come in. It has also brought down the cost of testing from Php1200 to around Php300-400 per test, making it even more affordable and available to a lot of our constituents,” Legaspi said as he reiterated his gratitude for the donation.

UP PGH Director Legaspi expresses his deep appreciation before representatives from the UP community. Photo by Bong Arboleda (UP MPRO).

 

Apl.de.Ap also gave a short message, thanking UP President Concepcion, UP PGH Director Legaspi, “for accommodating the test kits in a safe place.” He also thanked Yobie Benjamin, Ted Benito, Sonia Delen, UPAASF President Liza Gino, and Board Chairman Jim Cortes for helping make possible the massive gift to UP.

“I wish they could be here today but, unfortunately, they can’t be, so I’m here to deliver the goods. And now the first batch is here,” he said.

Other UP officials and staff members also attended the turnover ceremony. Filipino-American businessman Dr. Larry L. Asera and his wife, Ms. Lilibeth Defiesta-Asera, representing ADAFI and Power Doha International Freight Forwarding, which handled the transportation of the test kits, were also present.

Apl.de.Ap thanks the UP alumni and friends who helped make the donation possible. Photo by Bong Arboleda (UP MPRO).

 

Taking the first step

During the reception hosted by President Concepcion at the UP Executive House, Apl.de.Ap responded to queries from the media. Asked about what celebrities can do to help people struggling with the pandemic and now the war in Eastern Europe, he replied: “Just spread the awareness of what’s going on. Try to help the people that are affected by the war that’s going on right now.”

“With all the social media and technology that we have, we could connect with people out there directly. You don’t have to follow organizations. You can do it yourself, just like what we’re doing right now. We’re in contact with people we know that could help. Just take the first step. Just spread the word of love, and raise awareness.”

“Connect with people out there directly. You can do it yourself. Just take the first step,” Apl.de.Ap advises celebrities looking for ways to help. Photo by Bong Arboleda (UP MPRO).

 

When asked for a message to UP—from the UP alumni in the US who partnered with ADAFI to donate to the students and faculty who will benefit from the testing kits—he said: “I just want to say ‘maraming salamat’ to all of the UP community for always supporting us through music and all the other endeavors. I’m thankful for the reception and collaboration we’re doing for the test kits so that it’s available for them to cut costs. We’re here to collaborate and help.”

Earlier, ADAFI and UPAASF received support from Philippine Consul-General Neil Ferrer​​, Consul Vanessa Bago-Llona, the Philippine Consulate-General staff in San Francisco, and Philippine Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, D.C., Jaime Ramon Torre Ascalon.​

Aside from Apl.de.ap, Benjamin, Delen, and Benito, UP alumni and friends Kevin Acebo, Dan Vo, Cathy Villarba, the UPAASF Board, Polly Cortez, Odette Keeley, Mae Dizon Perez, Fe Punzalan, Victor Villagracia, and Dr. Bambi Lorica, also helped with the shipment costs from the United States to the Philippines.

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