News & Events

Life Story: Dr. Alexis Delano Ortiz Bawagan


Dr. Alexis Delano Ortiz Bawagan completed his doctoral study at UBC in Chemistry in 1987. He passed away March 8th at the age of 55. Below is his obituary that was linked to in the Ottawa Citizen.

Life Story: Carleton prof Dr. Alexis Delano Ortiz Bawagan spoke truth to power

Dr. Alexis Delano Ortiz Bawagan

Born: July 8, 1958 in Laguna, Philippines

Died: March 8, 2014 in Gatineau

OTTAWA — Even by Filipino standards, Alexis was born short, but what he lacked in height, he made up in confidence, determination, and tenacity.

As a chemistry student at the University of the Philippines, he was top of the class. On campus, he spearheaded several clubs as president. At home, he was the eldest of five sons and two daughters. Regardless of where Alexis was, he never backed down from a fight, whether it supporting union organizing for sugar cane workers or standing up to a world-renowned theoretical chemist.

Alexis grew up amid the Marcos dictatorship. Although he was from an upper middle class family, he understood the unjust and extreme poverty in the country and worked with labour organizers to close this gap.

In the early 1980s, Alexis received scholarships to pursue graduate work at the University of Texas in Austin. During a highly politicized period, he led Filipino students’ movement and organized a lecture by Benigno Aquino Sr. Aquino was later assassinated when he returned to Philippines to run against Marcos for the presidency. Alexis’ involvement did not prove to be conducive to staying in the United States, which supported the Marcos dictatorship at the time.

Alexis transferred to the University of British Columbia where he completed his master’s thesis and began his doctorate. His supervisor, Chris Brion, professor emeritus at the university, described Alexis as one of the most talented and visionary graduate students he had ever seen.

In February 1986, during the Philippine People Power Revolution, Alexis brought UBC students together to watch news updates on the peaceful overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. It was during one of these meetings that we met. We started dating and married three years later.

When he was offered a tenured assistant professor position at Carleton University’s chemistry department, we made the long drive, camping along the way and discovering the beauty of the country that would be their home. Two years later, we had our first daughter Juanita, followed in short succession by our son Jose and daughter Ella.

On weekends with my Dad, Juanita recalled, they split their time between museums, church, and swimming lessons. As the children grew older, he brought them to their first protest on Parliament Hill, they canoed and camped in Algonquin, and joined him at his research lab in Berlin one summer. Alexis wanted his children to make the most of the opportunities they had.

He was equally devoted to his students, or as he called them, “big kids.” He regularly taught the first-year chemistry course for engineers and committed each of their names to memory, even in classes of 400. Since he started teaching in 1989, he has had over 10,000 big kids. On every exam, he would have a bonus question, which involved a bird and physics, which he challenged students to solve. Students who got more than 100 per cent were added to his Bird list. Members of the Carleton Student Engineering Society presented their own bird award to him at his funeral, a plaque honouring his commitment to teaching.

Alexis lived an exemplary life in the service of others, the pursuit of knowledge, and his conviction to speak truth to power. In his honour, his family we will establish the Dr. Alexis Delano Ortiz Bawagan “Bird” Scholarships at Carleton University and the University of the Philippines. We hope this will help create opportunities for students, much like he once was, to reach their full potential.

— Adelaida Bustamante is Dr. Alexis Bawagan’s ex-wife. Juanita Bawagan is their eldest child.

Source: © Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen