SEARCA graduating scholars for AY 2019-2020 in UPLB during the Testimonial Program (L-R; Back) Bordeesorn Phumrungruang, Myint Aye, Htein Linn, Yi Mon Thu, Kyu Kyu Thin; (L-R; Front) Ei Ei Thein, May Yee Kay Khine Sein, Theint Theint Aung. Los Baños, Laguna – SEARCA organized a Testimonial Program on 02 July 2020 as a sendoff for eight (8) graduating scholars from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) for AY 2019-2020. The Testimonial Program has been conducted annually for the last five years for all graduating SEARCA scholars from all study posts. This year, the Testimonial Program adopted a smaller and shorter format due to COVID-19 but retained its meaningful celebration of the scholars’ achievements. Dr. Maria Cristeta N. Cuaresma, Program Head of the Education and Collective Learning (ECL) Department, opened the program by congratulating the scholars, most of whom are also leaving for their respective countries. She also encouraged them to continue serving and empowering others to Accelerate Transformation through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN) which is SEARCA’s overarching theme for its 11th Five Year Plan and also to become active members of the SEARCA Regional Alumni Association. SEARCA graduating scholars during the Testimonial Program together with the SEARCA officials (L-R; Front) Mr. Joselito G. Florendo, Deputy Director for Administration; Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, Director; Dr. Maria Cristeta N. Cuaresma, Program Head of ECL Department. While there were only seven (7) Myanmar scholars and one (1) Thai scholar attending the event, SEARCA actually has 37 scholars graduating this academic year, as of 30 June 2020. This number will increase as more scholars receive their degrees in the coming months and they will soon join more than 1,500 SEARCA scholarship alumni throughout the region. Of the 37 current graduates, 16 received their master’s degree and 21 obtained their PhD degree. Majority of the SEARCA scholars graduated on time and this percentage has been steadily increasing through the years. The scholars recognize the support programs offered by SEARCA as a great help in their studies such as the English training, training on writing research proposals or scientific publications, the training on data analysis and statistical designs and the teambuilding activities that enabled them to get to know each other and create support groups. Despite the absence of family and friends during the program, a surprise video filled with photos and messages was dedicated to the graduating scholars. Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director, inspired the attendees by emphasizing that developing new knowledge, skills, and technology should come with heart and character. As SEARCA strives to build the human resource capacity of the region who can create innovations that will make a difference in the lives of the people, Dr. Gregorio encouraged the scholars to make good use of their education and be at the forefront of development -to serve the people and their country. He also highlighted the importance of preserving culture, ethics, and identity as well as developing mindfulness, curiosity, resilience, and fortitude. He hopes that they become new breed of leaders that would cultivate the same values in others and ultimately contribute to agriculture and rural development. SEARCA graduating scholars from Myanmar and Thailand together with the SEARCA officials. As a response, Ms. Theint Theint Aung, who took up PhD in Environmental Science, thanked SEARCA for becoming an instrument in accomplishing their dreams. She recounted the highs and lows of their journey, the accomplishments, fun and relaxing activities to the numerous assignments, presentations, exams, the food, even the weather, and during the last days of their student life -a pandemic. The rollercoaster ride like memories made their stay quite a memorable one. The program closed with an Irish blessing shared by Mr. Joselito G. Florendo, Deputy Director for Administration: May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand. The blessing is a fitting sendoff prayer for scholars to succeed in the road of life and on the path they choose.