University of the Philippines Los Baños

Nora Cruz Quebral 6244

Dr. Nora Cruz-Quebral, acknowledged “mother of development communication,” was the first to be featured in the UPLB Legacy Lecture Series (UPLB LLS), spearheaded by the Interactive Learning Center (ILC) to preserve, for posterity, the collective academic experience of its retired faculty members.

“Such rich academic experience is a valuable fount of scholarly knowledge and wisdom that could enrich learning resources for the students and enhance the sense of intellectual heritage among faculty members.” This was according to Dr. Maribel Dionisio-Sese, ILC director, who gave the opening remarks during the UPLB LLS held in cooperation with the College of Development Communication.

Dr. Quebral, professor emeritus of development communication, is  considered by her colleagues in UPLB to be a woman ahead of her time for pioneering development communication. She is also internationally acknowledged as the founding pillar of the field.

Dr. Portia G. Lapitan, vice chancellor for academic affairs, who gave the inspiration message on behalf of Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr., described Dr. Quebral as a scholar whose knowledge, dedication and passion paved the way for the development of the discipline that UPLB is proud of.

Beginnings of development communication

Dr. Quebral opened her video lecture with how development communication, as a concept, was introduced on Dec. 10, 1971 at an UPCA symposium where she presented a paper entitled “Development Communication in the Agricultural Context.” The paper was later published by scholarly journals. 

According to Dr. Quebral, UPLB DevCom became the core of the first, and at that time, the only four-tiered DevCom academic program in the Philippines and in the world. “Today, there is a DevCom unit in international institutions and communication for development curricula not only in Asia but also in Latin America, Africa, and even in developed countries,” Dr. Quebral said.

Dr. Quebral discussed the following major traits that distinguished the Los Baños DevCom trademark: 1) the human interchange of information; 2) is a confluence of the development and communication processes; 3) end users were the poor and the disadvantaged in a developing society; 4) planned change for the better that started with the basics; 5) unit of study and analysis is more often the community rather than the individual; and 6) nonformal education mainly for out-of-school learners.

She said that the six basics of DevCom still hold true today, with some provisos and caveats. It is “change for the better, best defined by the concerned community with guiding inputs from external sources when needed.”

DevCom defined and practiced

Dr. Quebral has since revised the 1971 definition of DevCom twice, in 2002 and in 2012. With her latest revision, Dr. Quebral puts forth that “development communication is the science of human communication linked to the transitioning of communities from poverty in all its forms to dynamic over-all growth that fosters equality and the unfolding of individual potential.”

CDC deans were also featured in the video lecture to discuss the College’s extension work. Dr. Ma. Celeste H. Cadiz (1998-2006) talked about participatory development communication in natural resource management. Dr. Cleofe S. Torres, (2006-2012), gave an overview of collaborative change communication for Development (CCOMDEV), a global initiative that aims to build various stakeholders’ capacity in communication for agriculture and rural development.

For her part, Dean Velasco (2012-present) shared to the audience CDC’s experience in advocacy, communication and social mobilzation (ACSM) initiatives and extension work in community communication aimed at making environmental messages “more audible to the intended public” as well as strengthen local health and nutrition in LGUs.

Dr. Quebral concluded with a reminder that the discipline should not concern itself with labels but with its essence.

“Development communication has gone by some other tag in the past and may be called differently in the future. Its present name could go out of fashion after a while.  Not likely  to disappear,  though,  is  the  idea  that  underlies  it:  that  the  art  of [human]  communication,  infused  by  social  science  principles, can  be  consciously  directed  towards  improving  people’s  lives. This is the essence of development communication, regardless of how it is labeled or what else may be imputed to it.”

A glimpse into Dr. Quebral’s life and works

Aldo Gavril T. Lim, faculty member at the College of Development Communication (CDC) and executive producer and director of the video lecture, presented an overview of the life and works of Dr. Quebral.

Dr. Nora C. Quebral is a former independent consultant in development communication and the founding president of the Nora C. Quebral Development Communication Center, Inc. She holds a Ph.D. in communications from the University of Illinois and an MS in agricultural journalism from the University of Wisconsin. She graduated magna cum laude in UP Diliman with a BA in English degree.

She worked at UPCA as a copy editor of its technical journal and rose from the ranks and eventually became the director of the Department of Agricultural Communication and the Department of Development Communication from where the CDC started.

            In 2011, she was given an Honorary Doctorate by the London School of Economics and Political Science for pioneering work in development communication. Other awards she received were those given by the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre, St. Scholastica’s College, Philippine Council for Agricultural Resources Research and Development, and Philippine Association of Communication Educators Foundation, Inc.