By Dorany Pineda
After 23 years as an economics professor at East Los Angeles College, Aida Z. Caballes is retiring and taking a six month hiatus in the Philippines to work on developmental projects.
On January 1, 1994, Caballes started a part-time teaching position at ELAC.
Within a year-and-a-half, she became a full-time substitute and soon after a permanent, full-time professor.
Before arriving to Southern California, Caballes was at the University of Pennsylvania where she received her Ph.D in economics.
When she finished, she taught at her alma mater and several other institutions. Eventually, though, she decided to move to California because she didn’t like the climate.
“I liked the institution and I enjoyed the very challenging university, but I didn’t like the weather,” Caballes said. “I grew up in the tropics, and I have asthma, and it was so difficult for me during the spring time with all the pollen, so I was always sickly.”
Despite her dislike for the weather, Caballes loved the historical richness of the east coast, and traveled up and down it often.
Born and raised in a well-to-do family in the Philippines, Caballes moved to the United States in the 1970s to work on her graduate studies.
“I’ve always been interested in the issues of poverty,” Caballes said about her interest in studying economics. She added that she was struck by the stark contrast in standard of living between the US and the Philippines, a developing nation.
She wanted to help find solutions to mitigate income inequality. Caballes said that her best memories working at ELAC were her interactions with students, whom she learned a lot from.
She said that the diversity of students she came across during her years teaching really broadened her mind.
“Basically what I learned through the years is that we’re all the same. If you cross that boundary of differences in language and culture, you realize that we want the same things in life. We want education, we want good jobs, we want security, we want to pursue a lot of things for ourselves, our families…and I think that’s very, very important to know,” Caballes said.
Although Caballes will return to ELAC to teach part-time after six months, she plans to spend her free time reading, watching movies, and surrounding herself with animals.
“I really enjoyed (my time at ELAC). It’s been 23 years but it doesn’t feel like it,” Caballes said. “But I need more time for myself. I want to explore new things.”