Control Space for Internet Democracy – Today!

PH Satellite 07-2020

We agree we need more Internet connectivity and speed.[1]

The DICT’s National Broadband Plan intends to improve the fiber optic spine of the country to bring us more connectivity and speed – next year.  1B of an estimated 10B project has been approved by Congress.[2]

Trouble is we need the greater speed and connectivity this year.   Banks, BPOs, and schools demand this.

Everybody does.  What used to be a privilege for some, has morphed into a right for all.  Like freshwater, fresh air, electricity, health care, humane shelter, and quality education, what used to be the privilege of the rich is now a right for all.  The right flows from a shared will to create an Information Society “where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities, and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and promoting their quality of life…”[3]  This includes the right to use the internet for education in a pandemic year.

That many don’t have internet access, or that many have it, but have it insufficiently, is not a fault of God’s creation, but a result of human improvidence.  And lack of attention to the social injustices that good enterprises often create.

But it may also be that we are not taking advantage of technology readily available.

In solving the problem of lack of internet access, why crawl, when we can fly?  Why go under the water, when we can go to space?  Why wait till next year for a solution when we can already solve the problem this year?[4]

My suggestion:  control space (outer space!) for greater internet equity.   Control internet technology through satellites for greater internet democracy.   Beyond the limited bandwidth and speeds the present ISPs can provide, harvest today connectivity in appropriate speeds from satellites in space to bring quality Internet service to those who do not have it.  Control space technology to make sure that it is not duopolized by current Internet Service Providers, but used to provide Internet service where it has been notoriously – if not unjustly – weak.  As in Mindanao – and especially the BARMM.

Internet connectivity through communication satellites provides us with the ability to link even the remotest island or town throughout the Philippine archipelago. A single geostationary satellite can cover one-third of the whole planet. That’s more than enough to provide coverage for the whole Philippines and even beyond! By using satellites in space, we minimize the need for transmission towers or even a fiber network, especially if the connection is localized to specific areas such as schools or public spaces. Satellite connectivity truly shines in providing internet access to isolated communities that do not have ground-based connectivity through telcos. The modularity and scalability of the system also allow it to be rolled out very quickly (in a matter of months instead of years!) in many locations as needed. Before the end of the year, we can even have areas linked with the rest of the world when they haven’t been connected for the longest time. And it’s about time!

In a post-COVID world, connectivity is already a necessity, no longer a luxury. It is already a right, not a privilege. Fast deployment, widespread reach, reliable connection, reasonable cost. These things make the satellite connectivity an obvious solution to the increasing need for internet access, especially for education. It was already challenging to ensure quality education prior to the pandemic. This should end now. Those who have not should no longer be penalized by their lack of access.  No student should be left behind, especially if the reason is beyond their control. Quality Education and Reduced Inequalities are two of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. If through the use of satellites we can ensure that we meet these goals, then by all means we should the technology currently available to provide a bright and better future for our youth.

Control space for social justice in internet access and use.  Make sure that the realm of space technology remains in the hands of those passionate for Internet social justice.  So why not forge a public-private partnership between the DICT and those who advocate internet democracy?  Why not design a system where users of internet technology from space become owners of it in using it?   Let schools, even non-stock non-profit schools, invest in this as they would invest in new classrooms, solar panels, and servers, and let revenues improve their scholarship funds or their teachers’ salaries.  But not just schools.  Let the people of the BARMM invest in this resource.  Let those who are to benefit most from internet democracy become co-owners of internet space technology in the Philippines.  For every time they buy load from satellites, let their micro share in owning the technology grow.

If this idea can fly, why not work to put up Philippine satellites owned by the people?  That would bring the cost of internet connectivity from satellites down.   The prospect of putting up satellites in the national interest was why we now have a Philippine Space Agency.  Trouble is, instead of exploring space and its certain benefits, we are happy to crawl.

The result:  they will spend a billion next year on fiber-optic spine.  This year, we will remain frustrated.

Unless we decide to benefit from satellite technology today.

 

 


[1] Cf.: https://taborasj.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/urgent-need-to-increase-internet-connectivity-and-speed/

[2]  Please visit:  https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1073332

[3]  Statement of the World Summit on the Information Society, 2003, quoted in:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_Internet_access

[4] Cf: “The Evolving Role of Satellite Networks in Rural and Remote Broadband Access” OECD Digital Economy Papers, Dec. 2017, No. 264.  “…the report investigates how innovation is changing the role of satellites in extending broadband services to underserved areas in relation to other terrestrial broadband options.” https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/science-and-technology/the-evolving-role-of-satellite-networks-in-rural-and-remote-broadband-access_7610090d-en#page1

 

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Urgent Need to Increase Internet Connectivity and Speed

the Ph Net

At the beginning of the quarantines, Mayor Sara Duterte mandated all schools in Davao to go online.  ADDU complied, and has meanwhile declared that online education is not only a stopgap measure for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, but even belongs to a new normal of blended education in the Philippines where face-to-face learning will always be combined with online learning.  Online learning strengthens the Filipino as a self-directed, self-disciplined learner in the 21st century.  It also frees the teacher of repetitive teaching from yellowed notes, and invites the teacher to coach and coax students towards learning through the creation of creative coarseware.  Students take well to learning through such as gamified instruction.

The fly in the ointment is poor Internet connectivity and speed.  Some students and teachers already suffer from poor internet signals.

The situation only promises to get worse.  The limited bandwidth out there provided by internet service providers (ISPs) already appears insufficient.  Banks, business process outsourcing, and various new forms of online commerce like Lazada and GCash, plus the longtime use by the general population, but especially by the younger generations, of internet for social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and home entertainment such as Netflix, compete for the limited bandwidth.

But for the schools this year, it is online education or perish.  For the teachers, it is teach online or be irrelevant.  For the students, it is learn online, or lose a school year.  But when all the schools begin teaching together online in August, the grim prospect is that all will hurt each other competing for the same limited resource.

Can anything be done to prevent this disaster?

One would be to alert the major Internet service providers, Globe and Smart-PLDT to the increasing demand and request them to provide more access.  The trouble here is that Globe and Smart-PLDT have been aware of the slow connectivity for a long time, and have been too comfortable in their duopoly hold on the market to invest more in greater connectivity and speed.  Internet service in the Philippine, even without the schools increasing demand on bandwidth, is already notoriously slow.

If Ookla’s Global Speedtest is to be believed, for fixed broadband that uses fiber-optic cables, the Philippines has achieved 19.28 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed.  For mobile broadband, on the other hand, it has achieved 14.46 Mbps.  While these are generous figures, global average for fixed broadband is 59.6 Mbps while is it 27.22 Mbps for mobile broadband.  High speed internet is 100 Mbps or higher.  The Philippines at best only achieves 32% of the global speed for fixed broadband and 53.1% for mobile broadband.

Meanwhile, the BARMM is the most underserved region of the Philippines for Internet service.  Using the Measurement Lab (MLab) of Princeton University, Google, Open Technology Institute and Code for Science and Society, a person in Cotabato using either mobile or fixed broadband gets 1.03 Mbps, in Davao he gets 2.57 Mbps on average, in Cagayan de Oro 2.79, in Cebu 2.62, in Bacolod 2.44, in Naga 9.59, in Quezon City 6.04, in Loyola Heights 29, in Diliman, QC, 2.98, in Manila 3.19, in Makati 4.06, in Baguio 4.55, in Cabantuan, 2.67 in Tuguegarao 2.92

President Duterte and legislators are aware of this.  But promises to fix the situation remain promises, and legislation proposed to remedy the situation remains unpassed.

In this context the legislation Bilis Konek proposed by Sen. Ralph Recto (SB 471) and complemented by Congresswoman Vilma Santos-Recto (HB 4367) providing for minimum standards of delivery for Internet Service Providers makes sense.  Internet Service Providers advertise maximums, but fail to commit to minimums.  So when I am promised a maximum of 20 Mbps, but get only 1.0 or even nothing, I have no reason to complain.

Bilis konek provides for a minimum of 20 Mbps for fixed broadband and 10 Mbps for mobile broadband.  But considering the MLab figures, even if it were a consolidated minimum of 10 Mbps, the national situation would be greatly improved.

Considering the impending crisis situation in August, the President ought to consider certifying this as urgent, especially in support of education.

He may also wish to hasten the entry of the third telco, delayed by the pandemic, into the market.  The more telco players in the Philippines, as in Singapore, the better.  LGUs may be instructed to facilitate, not delay, laying infrastructure for these new telcos.

Finally he may also wish to urgently augment internet connectivity, to date mostly provided by sub-marine fiber optic cables, through up-to-date satellite technology.  (He may also wish to examine how the satellites of current programs are dated and low tech.) Expanding connectivity through satellites is the fastest way to provide the nation with greater connectivity and speed.  For an archipelago like the Philippines with many mountainous areas, accessing the internet through satellites would be the fastest way to meet the urgent national need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Five Jesuits Missioned to Europe

Jesuit Saints 2020

[Homily. ADDU Live-streamed Mass. Gospel: Mt. 9:1-8.  July 2, 2020 on the Feast of Saints Bernardine Realino, John Francis Regis,  Francis Jerome, S.J., and Blesseds Julian Maunoir and Anthony Baldinucci, all of the Society of Jesus.]

In our Jesuit university, the Jesuit saints, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St Francis Xavier are relatively well known.  St. Ignatius was the soldier-saint who was hit by a cannon ball.  From his bed of convalescence he was converted from soldiering unto earthly glory to a following of Jesus and to laying the foundations for the Society of Jesus.  St. Francis Xavier was his friend from the time of their studies together University of Paris.  Ignatius would have always wanted him at his side, but he eventually sent on mission to India, the Moluccas, and Japan.  Both were deeply moved by a calling to follow Jesus; both knew the price of this discipleship.  Recall the words from Mark’s Gospel:  “Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will find it.  For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?”  (Mark 8:34-36).

Both Ignatius and Francis allowed this question to change their lives – and change the lives of many others.

That was certainly also true with the less known Jesuits whom we remember today.  They too prayed for the grace of intimacy with Jesus Christ and encountered him personally, as we encounter him in today’s Gospel forgiving the paralytic his sins, reconciling him with the Father, then healing him of his paralysis, his inability to move – or to move on in life.  They responded to his call, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mk 1:17).  They responded to his assurance:  “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all else will be given to you” (Mt. 6:36).

Bernardine Realino graduated with a doctorate in civil law and in canon law at the university of Bologna.  He became a judge and was known for his legal brilliance. But then one day in Naples he made a retreat.  The encounter with God in this retreat changed his life.  In 1564 he joined the Society of Jesus, and was eventually missioned to Lecce in Apulia in the southern part of Italy.  You will recall, the map of Italy looks like boot with a high heel.  Lecce in Apulia is in the lower part of the heel on the  eastern coast of Italy.  Here Fr. Realino preached, conducted missions, taught catechism, and visited slaves until he died at 86.  When he died, everyone knew knew he was a holy man.  One may ask, why would anyone give up a brilliant legal career to care for people?  Bernardine Realino did. 

John Francis Regis did not live as long as Bernardine.  He only lived until he was 43.  He was born in southern France to a mother who was noble by birth.    He was educated by the Jesuits, then joined the novitiate in Toulouse at the age of 19.  While he was still in formation, he already earned a reputation as an excellent preacher and teacher.  After his ordination at the age of 31, he worked with victims of the bubonic plague.  In these victims, after exposure to the bacteria from such as flea bites or handling dead animals, flu-like symptoms emerge. Then swollen and painful lymph nodes develop where the bacteria enter the body.  Bubonic plague killed as many as 50 million people in the 13th Century.  In caring for its victims, John Francis Regis was a 17th century frontliner.   Outside of this work, he worked for the conversion of the Protestants in Western France, the Huguenots.  He worked in hospitals, served the needy and the poor.  He became known especially for his work with women-at-risk.  He built hostels for prostitutes.  Because of his work, many returned to the Faith.

Bernardine Realino was born in Naples and worked in Apulia.  Francis Jerome or Francis de Geronimo was born in in 1642 in Apulia and worked in Naples.  He was he eldest of 11 children, and was educated by Jesuits in Taranto, in Apulia, on the western side of the heel of Italy.  His special abilities were noticed by the Bishop, who sent him to Naples to study theology and canon law.  He was so gifted he was ordained to the priesthood in 1666 when he was still 24 with the special dispensation of Pope Alexander VII for being under the prescribed age for ordination.  As a young priest, he taught the children of the nobility in Naples and earned the reputation of “Il santo prefetto”, the holy prefect.  In 1670, at the age of 28, he joined the Society of Jesus.  He joined as a priest wanting to be sent as a missionary to the Moluccas, Japan or even the Philippines.  But he was ordered by his superiors to stay in Naples, where he stayed 56 years working with laborers and conducting rural missions until the end of his life.

Julian Maunoir joined the Society of Jesus at 19 years of age wanting to go to the Canadian missions.  Among his classmates in his Jesuit school at Rennes were Isaac Jogues and Gabriel Lalemant, who were later numbered among the North American Martyrs.  Julian dreamed of joining them, but as a scholastic he showed a special talent with the Breton language in Brittany on the western coast of France, even made an orthography of this language,  and was able to connect well with the simple people or Britanny.  After his ordination at 31 years of age, he was sent back to Britanny where until he died 43 years later at the age of 87 he evangelized the poor, the peasants and the fishermen.  His dream to work among the Iroquois and Mohawks and Hurons of North America was never fulfilled, but God’s dream for the simple people of Brittany was fulfilled in him.

Anthony Baldinucci was born in Florence and entered the SJ when he was 16 years of age.  He too wanted to be a missionary in Asia, but his poor health prevented this.  He worked in central Italy in the areas of Frascati and Viterbo until the end of his life.  He  became famous for his extraordinary methods of evangelization.  His preaching was simple, vivid, and dramatic, but often preceded by large processions whose participants wore crowns of thorns and engaged in self-flagellation. Anthony himself would also join carrying a cross with heavy chains.  As unusual as this may sound, it moved thousands of people to conversion.  Many processions ended with a burning of “instruments of vice”:  cards, dice, musical instruments, and the like.  People who were moved by Blessed Anthony also found through him a special devotion to Our Lady, Refuge of Christians.

Jesus’ invitation continues today:  Come follow me.  For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?  Follow me not the way you plan to advance yourself, but the way the Father plans to manifest his compassion and his glory in our world today.  Recently we heard, Marcelino Severino who used to teach in our JHS will take perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Jesuit on August 2.  We rejoice.  Till today, there are young men like him who with 11 others from the Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia-Singapore, and China say yes to take up their cross daily and follow the Lord as Jesuits.  But it need not be as Jesuits.  Till today, there are people like you, Christian teachers, administrators, staff and students at the Ateneo, willing to encounter Jesus ever more intimately, take up your cross daily, and follow him.

 

 

 

 

 

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Into a Future of Promise and Hope

Gen Fac Assembly June 2020

[Online ADDU Faculty General Assembly, July 1, 2020.]

Congratulations on your first week of online teaching in all our units!

Only three months ago, we made the decision together to shift from face-to-face (f2f) teaching to go online.  The decision was coerced by the Coronavirus pandemic.  It was based on fidelity to our Vision and Mission.  But it was also based on survival.  If we were to be viable as a multi-level educational institution, affecting not only our students and learners but also our livelihood, we needed to use the technical means necessary to go online.

The shift was awesome.  The adoption of online technology was accepted as a challenge; it awakened many creative juices.  And even though many who were not tech-savvy were truly tested, it saw teachers in all our units, young and old, adapting themselves to the new technology.  Google Classroom, Moodle, and Zoom, long around but erstwhile strangers to most, suddenly became familiar partners in enabling instruction online.  In all the units there was excitement.  Even joy.

First Major University to Shift to Online Education

So after the first week of online education, we can congratulate ourselves for having made the shift.  Online teaching has engendered online learning – with all the amusing accounts of bloopers and gaffes and background images of relatives in various stages of dress and undress, and evidence of auditing dogs and reciting roosters none of whom paid tuition.  We laughed, we smiled, we met one another, we taught, we learned.  With gratitude, we are the first major university in the Philippines to have made the shift online.

Where once we were not sure whether our learners and students and their parents would accept the shift with us, where once we met uncertainty, skepticism, and even protests, we now know that meanwhile, they have.  They accepted that we did not want to wait until August to begin;  they accepted that we did not want to waste valuable time.  So they enrolled.  In the GS, where we initially could not even imagine how online education could take shape we now have  2,664 learners enrolled, in the JHS  1,860, in the SHS 2,971, in the college or undergraduate higher education  6,483, in the graduate school 595, in the College of Law 501.

They enrolled because they trusted we were ready.  They trusted because in many cases you talked to them.  You entered into dialogue with them.  You showed them that online learning, even for the youngest of our learners in K-3, was plausible.  You showed them that in collaboration and partnership this venture could work, this adventure could be life-giving. 

Unprecedented Enrollment Due to Online Platform

But when enrollment began, something unprecedented happened.  And we have come to appreciate that it is significant.  Before, most of our students had come from Davao and various parts of Mindanao.  They were our students because they were willing to come to Davao and join the ranks of students in our Jacinto, Matina, or Bangkal campuses.  But as this enrollment progressed, inquiries, then enrollees, were also coming from other parts of the Philippines: Cabanatuan, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, Metro Manila, Leyte, Negros, Capiz, Cebu.   But also from abroad:  Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Cambodia, Viet-Nam, Myanmar, and Thailand.  Some were foreigners, many of them Filipinos working abroad or children of Filipinos working abroad in Doha, Riad, Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, and even the United States.  Suddenly we had students and scholars attracted to online education because it was available to them where they were.  I am happy that many of them are our alumni working abroad grateful for the opportunity to continue their studies at ADDU.

Online Education Opens Exciting New Possibilities

Meanwhile, as the once intimidating online educational resources become familiar to our faculty, the possibilities of using these resources in a new normal have become clearer.  At ADDU, the infrastructure for online learning had been introduced nine years ago with the introduction of the Moodle learning platform.  In time, in 2017, Google Suite was introduced into our system with the possibility of using Google Classroom.  But actual use was very limited.  There was little motivation to move away from the familiar  f2f learning.  The Coronavirus pandemic changed that.  All of a sudden, we are now using one or the other, if not both.  We have discovered: Online learning can strengthen the learner to take responsibility for learning in a 21st-century environment.   Online teaching can free the teacher from the doldrums of repetitive teaching from yellowed notes.  Online teaching can empower the teacher to create courseware that makes even complex learning fun.  Online learning can tap into rich sources of instructional material already available online.  In using Moodle some of our teachers are gamifying instruction to explore the depths of anthropology or the heights of aerospace engineering.   They are having fun.  But their students are having fun as well!

Blended Learning

For me, therefore, it appears clear that online education – online teaching and online learning – is in ADDU to stay.  Together we have crossed a Rubicon.  Even should the coronavirus one day be finally overcome, we are not looking to a future of going back to just f2f learning.  For all of us, even when our campuses are repopulated anew with students and teachers, online learning will continue to be utilized with f2f instruction in delivering all of our courses more efficiently or more interestingly.  In this sense, the norm of instruction for the future will be blended learning, a blending of f2f instruction with online learning.

Fully Online Learning Towards an AdD Open University

At the same time, an array of courses will be made available that are fully online.  They will be made available because their content allows that with appropriate technology they can be delivered without f2f instruction.  This array of courses will constitute the Ateneo de Davao Open University.  Considering our VM, it would bring our education to people desirous of ADDU education, but who cannot come to Davao.  But it will also bring our education to the peripheries, to where our OFWs are, to the indigenous peoples of Thailand and Myanmar, to Lumad of Mindanao, to the BARMM and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.   It will bring distant persons within reach and your inner desire to teach.

Meanwhile, both blended learning and fully-online learning would be appropriate for lifelong learning in the 21st century.  In the global world, theorists of education have been telling us this for a long time.  At ADDU, we are now beginning to experience this.

An ADDU Brand of Online Courseware

This way into the future would also position ADDU to help the nation’s educators with its own brand of online courseware.  Courseware brings everything that you used to do when preparing and teaching a class: lesson plans or syllabi, books, required readings, assigned activities, etc. and puts it all in software that contains the educational content, instruction, and instructional strategies to be accessed by students through a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.  Our ADDU brand of courseware, combining synchronous and asynchronous learning, must define the essential role of the online teacher, incorporate the importance of experience, reflection, decision, action and evaluation in every course, and the general intention of forming the humane human being in his or her relationship with God and with society.  It must support a strong individual learner but lead that individual to appropriate socialization, the joy of learning from others and the equal joy of contributing to others’ learning.  It must support the development of ADDU sui generis leaders.  This distinctive brand of online courseware, like an excellent wine, must develop over time, with success and ongoing improvement in its enjoyment.  In the end, developed through teachers, instructional designers and learners at ADDU, its taste, its flavor, its bouquet will be undeniably ADDU. 

Consequent Challenges:  Instructional and Institutional

In the hope that you agree with me that this is the direction we would want to take together into the future, the development of online courses, the development of excellent courseware, the development of expertise in using online instructional technology, and the development of university expertise in instructional design to help our professors and teachers develop their valued content, all become a central instructional challenge for the university.

It is however not just an instructional challenge, it is a whole-university challenge to make its various systems, its University Information Technology Office (UITO) with its Management Information System (MIS) and its Technical Services Office (TSO), its administrative structures, its formative services, its library resources, support this development of online educational expertise in an emerging blended-learning and open university.

ADDU Center for Educational Research and Advocacy (ACERA)

Unto this end, we have already organized the ADDU Center for Educational Research and Advocacy (ACERA) through our School of Education and have for now missioned it to help the university in the development of its online education.  Led by Dr. Marleonie Bauyot the ACERA, but with the expertise of the education specialists of our School of Education, we will conduct research and craft interventions to support and evaluate online education at ADDU.  It has already come out with a “Guide to Contribute to the Shift to Online Education at ADDU” and a valuable essay on why face-to-face teaching cannot just be transported into online learning platforms.

In this context, today we wish to announce two important administrative changes in our University.

Assistant to the AVP for Online Education

The first is my appointment of Fr. Ulysses “Ogie” Cabayao, S.J. as Asst. to the AVP for Online Education.  Along with his formal training in Management Information Systems, Fr. Ogie will use his long experience as a teacher using online educational technology in instructing both high-school and higher-education students, as well as his experience as a student going through blended learning at the Australian National University, to help faculty who have formulated their Online Instructional Development Plan now to further develop their courseware. He will pay special attention to faculty who are not tech-savvy.  He will help develop user-friendly templates to gradually improve the culture of online instruction at ADDU.  But he will also explore with faculty – especially with those who are creative, innovative, and adventurous – developing courseware that explores the limits of learning management systems like Moodle.  In his AB anthropology course Fr. Ogie is the “Game Master” who takes his students on a fun-filled adventure that is as enjoyable as didactically powerful.

A More User-friendly UITO

When I first came to ADDU more than nine years ago, I remember students lining up in various lines sometimes for three days in order to enroll.  It was Fr. Denny Toledo who changed that.  Over the past eight years Fr. Toledo integrated the Management Information Systems (MIS), the Technical Services Office (TSO), and the Information Technology Training Services Office (ITTSO) into the University Information Technology Office (UITO).  Under its service to university academics, he has overseen the development through the MIS of the Student Information Services (SIS), the Academic Information Services (AIS) for teachers, and the Academic Information Management System (AIMS) for academic administrators.  Already in 2011, he introduced Moodle to our system;  in 2017  he admitted the Google Suite to the system.  He has given much attention to the security of our integrated IT System, including its well-guarded user portal.  The University will always be grateful to Fr. Denny for this outstanding contribution to its IT infrastructure.  Without this contribution, we would not be able to be holding online classes today.

Considering our current challenge to help all our teachers develop excellent courseware for online education in the ADDU way, I have personally thanked Fr. Denny for his many years of service as UITO director.  I ask that we all thank and honor him for his invaluable contribution to the University.

But today I am replacing him with Fr. Carlos “Charlie” Cenzon, S.J., whose doctoral work focused on instructional technology and the attitude of teachers to technology.

With the appointments of Fr. Charlie and Fr. Ogie to their new positions,  the services of the IT Training Services Office (ITTSO), heretofore led by Ms. Ma Theresa Quindoy, can now be retired.  Its training services to external clients can now be replaced by ADD-ALL; its training services to groups within the university can be taken over by the Asst. to the AVP for Online Education.  We thank Ms. Quindoy for her services to the ITTSO since its inception.   But with the retirement of the ITTSO, she is now freed to render valuable instructional service to Computer Science, especially in the wake of Fr. Charlie now being assigned full-time to UITO.

With these changes, I expect that the interphase between the UITO and the Office of the AVP will become stronger.  The AVP with the Deans and the unit heads must care for the content of instruction, the achievement of government-set minimum standards, the vertical articulation of our instructional services, the integration of our formational interventions with our instructional interventions, the development of the Atenean even online into the sui generis leader that we envision.   Unto the attainment of these ends, the AVP and the unit heads must find in the UITO easy and ready support.

As important as this is, I also expect that the interphase between the UITO and with our individual teachers become more user friendly.  Under Fr. Charlie I expect that the sometimes intimidating technology locked in the UITO and its many systems be unlocked and made more easily available and more easily exploitable to our teachers who need to create creditable courseware or bring them to excellence.

Under Fr. Charlie, the character of the UITO as a service organization should be more felt in the University  –  to the ultimate advantage of our students and learners.  I hope that as we have become a virtual community online the UITO provides the technical environment where that virtual community of service is supported and fostered in service.   This being the goal, all should be able to feel they can come into easy dialogue with the UITO in order to be able to benefit from its service for the service of others.  Through the service of the UITO, all should be able to befriend the technology that allows them to serve better, and all should feel the technology wishes to befriend them.

To where God leads us:  yes!

Together, we are doing something new.  We are responding to a health emergency in our environment that despite the physical distancing has brought us closer together in shared effort and shared accomplishment in our educational mission.  Everyday in our online live-streamed Mass we have prayed that administrators, faculty, staff, and students at ADDU come together to make our online learning successful.  I believe God is answering our prayer, blessing our efforts, and opening new doors to us for greater service.  That greater service would now mean that we continue to be able to come together not just to survive but to thrive, to laugh at our gaffes and mistakes, forgive ourselves and one another our shortcomings, learn humbly from what we are doing, open ourselves to doing what we are doing better, and step gamely together into a future of promise and hope – because this is where God seems to be leading us, and because f2f with God we are willing to say yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ADDU – A Virtual Community Online with a Special Strength

message 04-2020

[Address:  Orientation to AY 2020-21 Online, June 22, 2020]

Welcome to the new Academic Year, 2020-21, at Ateneo de Davao University!

This orientation will peak in the celebration of the Mass of the Holy Spirit at 11:30, over which I am privileged to preside.[1]  So for now I shall be brief.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

There was a point when we thought this academic year would not take place at all.  Just over three months ago, the global specter of the Coronavirus Pandemic began to stalk this country.  With our public health infrastructure so vulnerable, our only national defense against the virus was a campaign to wash hands properly, to practice proper hygienic protocol for coughing and sneezing, and above all to follow appropriate physical distancing.  The general and enhanced community quarantines were imposed to enforce physical distancing.  Rather than overwhelm our hospitals with thousands of coronavirus cases, we were told to stay at home.  It was not an invitation.  It was a mandate.

But the mandate and the general compliance of our people saved many lives.

The mandate to physical distance, and the identification of people above 60 and below 21 as especially vulnerable, had harrowing disruptive effects on our economy.  But also in our schools.  As early as March 10 Mayor Sara Duterte instructed all schools in Davao to prepare for online classes.  The instruction was echoed by the CHED and the DepEd.  President Duterte, wishing to protect the younger generation for the future, declared that for as long as there is no vaccine discovered against the coronavirus disease, there would be no face-to-face classes.

The seriousness of this social distancing is illustrated in the manner in which some countries have relaxed their physical distancing too quickly and are now experiencing a resurgence of infection.  Other emerging economies like Brazil, India, Pakistan, and Chile are now among the most infected countries in the world.  Decades of economic gains are destroyed in but a few weeks of devastation by this virus.

The University Mission Impelled the Shift Online

Early on, when many did not consider this conceivable, our University made the decision to go online.  Early on, our University discerned that the virulence of the pandemic that has since infected some 8,000,000 in the world and cause the death of some 500,000  would not allow a return to the old normal.  If the Ateneo de Davao was to fulfill its University mission to educate on the levels of higher and of basic education, it would have to do so online.  The insight awakened the commitment of administrators, faculty and staff in the GS, JHS, SHS, the schools of higher education, and the college of law to go online.  It was a commitment also motivated by the need to survive in a year of unprecedented disruption, institutionally but also personally.  The commitment had many costs.  It meant overcoming the natural resistance to having to learn a new online learning strategy, becoming familiar with the new learning platforms, recognizing that online pedagogy could not just be a transfer of face-to-face (f2f) teaching habits to an online platform.  It meant relearning how to teach, not from the lecturer’s podium, but from the more empowering role of a mentor, a coach, a learning enabler, using a well-thought-out strategy to enable the student or learner to become an independent and self-disciplined learner; the strategy would not only enable to learner attain the minimum learning outcomes of a given course but transform him or her into an independent learner benefitting from a treasure trove of educational resources available online.  The commitment has had costs, but also brought many joys.  In the GS, it was a joy to learn how to connect with the youngest of our learners and their parents online.  In the JHS, it was surprising to discover how learning mathematics through online games could be fun.  In the SHS, it was moving to learn how formation online could complement effective instruction.   In higher education brought faculties to insight into how the new strategy could enable more effective instruction in humanities and in specialized disciplines even as they could find more time for serious research.

From Dialogue to Partnership

Our higher education students through their student government have meanwhile taken great strides towards overcoming initial apprehensions to online learning through an ongoing dialogue with the administration that has meanwhile turned into a partnership.  [Enrollment…] As far as possible concerns about connectivity and gadgets have been or are being addressed.  Through published primers in academic online delivery in all of our units, there is more clarity on the challenge and method of online education.   The students are to take primary responsibility for online learning through reflected insight into why and what they desire to learn, effective planning, scheduling and self-discipline, and the achievement of targeted minimum learning outcomes of courses step by step.  But unto this end, the students are to interact effectively with their teachers who will coach, coax, and track his or her learning.  The student will manage pressures with the help of an academic mentor and a named guidance counselor.  Academic instruction will be complemented by formative interventions that will care for the student’s relation to God, to his or her family and friends, and to the human family which ADDU by special mission serves, especially here in Mindanao.

In basic education, especially among the youngest of our learners, lively dialogues with parents have resulted in an exciting partnership of teachers and parents for effective continued instruction online.

A Virtual Community Online with a Special Strenth

While ADDU has had for now to abstain from f2f classes and f2f mass gatherings of students, it has not metamorphosed into a faceless, feelingless, automaton functioning mechanistically.  On the contrary, it continues to be a community of administrators, staff, teachers, students, and learners, still smiling, laughing, weeping, and feeling for one another, as together it transforms itself into a community helping each other to pursue truth and learning online.  The past months have seen teachers helping teachers, students helping administrators, parents helping teachers, teachers helping students, and students helping students, all “coming together,” as we prayed every day in our live-streamed Mass, to make our online learning at ADDU successful.  As in the past, it will continue to pursue and deliver truth through pakighinabi sessions, webinars, discussions and debates online and solid academic research.  It will continue to come together to discuss the burning issues of the day, and to formulate shared positions on how to continue to foster peace in Mindanao, promote social justice, and help persons in need.  With the rest of the Society of Jesus in the world, it will continue to participate in the Father’s reconciliation of the human being with himself, of human beings with one another, and of human beings with the environment.  It will continue to lead people to God through the Spiritual Exercises, to promote inter-religious dialogue, to reach out to the marginalized and excluded, to walk with the youth, and to care for the environment.  ADDU will be a virtual community online, but its community will have a special strength.  That strength will come from faith in a God of compassion whose Son’s self-sacrifice expresses the Father’s Love for us all.  The Father’s Spirit gifts us with the wisdom and knowledge that is the heart of this community.  It is a wisdom and knowledge that even online must search for the truth that glorifies God and transforms the world, especially in Mindanao.  Even online, that is our mission and joy.  Face to Face with God, that is our commitment.

 


[1] My Homily at the Mass of the Holy Spirit: https://taborasj.wordpress.com/2020/06/22/on-the-gift-of-the-holy-spirit-and-his-seven-gifts-referencing-ignatian-spirituality/

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On the Gift of the Holy Spirit and his Seven Gifts – Referencing Ignatian Spirituality

holy spirit mass 2020

 [Mass of the Holy Spirit. ADDU Live-streamed Mass, June 22, 2021.] 

The Gift of the Spirit of God

This academic year 2020-21 actually began with the celebration of Pentecost, the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost was a celebration of the Gift of the Spirit of God – the interiority of God – as shared in generosity with us within
and with the universe –
through the mysteries of Creation
and of our redemption through Jesus Christ.
The Love and Compassion of the Father
manifested through the Incarnation, Suffering, Death and Resurrection of the Son,
is shared, preached, and received through the Gift of the Spirit. 

The sanctity of God is shared with God’s people
to share with all peoples and the entire universe
until following the resurrected Lord we are
fully one with God in holiness.
Therein is the fullness of life that Jesus came to bring. 

The gifts of the Spirit are many,
diverse gifts given to us
to help share God’s love and holiness.
Faith comes from the Spirit, so too Hope, so to Charity.
The virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance come from the Spirit.
The “seven gifts of the Spirit” are only seven of these gifts,[1]
seven manifestations of the one Gift of the Spirit
our fumbling attempts to articulate  how,
having received the Gift of the Spirit
we relate to God in the grace of the Spirit
or how, relating to God, we relate to the world in the Spirit. 

A Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino University such as ours –
even in its current mode as a virtual community online –
only functions through the Gift of the Holy Spirit
and through the many gifts he gives us.
In its operation, ADDU
mediates the gift of the Holy Spirit and his seven gifts
as the Spirit transforms us and the face of the earth.
Because each of the seven gifts belong to the one Spirit
they overlap with each other and call forth each other,
just as the invocation of the Spirit calls forth the memory of Jesus
who manifests the goodness and the glory of the Father. 

Gratefully – but not without an overwhelming awe – each of us who believes and follows the commandments of the Lord recalls that the Father, Son and the Spirit from before the foundation of the earth make their home within us, establishing within what is profoundly shared through the Spirit with the human community and the world.

Wisdom

The greatest of the gifts of the HS is wisdom.[2]
All the other gifts are contained in this gift.
Wisdom is the deep realization of our giftedness in God.
It is therefore much more than the wisdom of the sage,
based only on reason and experience.

Wisdom engages the mind:  generating Understanding… of God’s purpose in creation.
Of God’s purpose in creating us.  In creating me.
And pushes me humbly to understand more.
But wisdom also engages the heart:  generating Love.
Generating the sense of Being valued and loved by God.
Wisdom invites, even necessitates, our/my willing to love more.
In Ignatian Spirituality:  All that can be derived from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in insight and in loving is wisdom.  Wisdom gathers in itself the graces of the Principle and Foundation and the graces of the Contemplatio ad amorem.

Today we pray for the gift of wisdom for ourselves, that at ADDU we may as one community mediate the gift of wisdom.

Understanding

Understanding is the Gift of insight into all truths as related to God’s truth, to God’s purpose in creation, in redemption.
It is the Gift of insight into the truth of humanity in its relatedness to God.
It is the Gift of insight into the fullness of all human activity, labor, careers and professions in alignment with God’s purpose.
In Ignatian Spirituality:  Understanding is the
Gift of acknowledging the Kingdom of God, and of understanding our/my role in working for the Kingdom at the side of Jesus Christ.

Today we pray for the gift of understanding for ourselves, that at ADDU we may as one community mediate the gift of understanding.

Counsel

The gift of counsel is a supernatural intuition that enables one to judge promptly and rightly especially in difficult situations.  It is the perfection of the virtue of prudence.  Counsel operates under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to enable one to discover the will of God.  Counsel is what St. John speaks of in his first letter:  “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God…  By this you shall know the spirit of God: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God…” (1 John 4: 1-2).  “You are of God, little children…  We are of God.” (1 John 4: 4.6.)  Counsel consoles us in moving towards God to whom we belong;  it disturbs us in moving away from him.

In Ignatian Spirituality:  Counsel is the gift of being able to discern spirits in the light of the Holy Spirit.

Today we pray for the gift of counsel for ourselves, that at ADDU we may as one community mediate the gift of counsel.

Fortitude

The gift of fortitude is courage, but more than courage.
It is endurance.  It is a willingness to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, no matter the cost.[3]
It is the firmness of mind and purpose required in doing good and
in enduring evil to do good.
In Ignatian Spirituality:  It is constancy in choosing, begging to be received under the Standard of Christ.  It is constancy in praying for humility, and in being given the gift of the Third Degree of Humility.

Today we pray for the gift of fortitude for ourselves, that at ADDU we may as one community mediate the gift of firtitude.

Knowledge

The gift of knowledge is not just the search for and accumulation of truth – that belongs to the basic stuff of any university.  The Spirit’s gift of knowledge allows us to see things from God’s perspective.   It is integral to the gift of wisdom and of understanding.

In Ignatian Spirituality:  The gift of knowledge is the fruit of the Ignatian meditation on the Incarnation:  it is insight into the divine Trinity unfolded, how the Father wills and effects the redemption of the world in Love through the Incarnation of the Son.   The Spirit’s gift of knowledge is the ability to understand God’s perspective through the grace of knowing the Son intimately.

Today we pray for the gift of knowledge for ourselves, that at ADDU we may as one community mediate the gift of knowledge.

Piety

Piety is the gift of reverence in total reliance on God.  Pope Francis says it is recognition of “our belonging to God, our deep bond with him, even during our most difficult and troubled moments.  …  it is that genuine religious spirit that makes us turn to the Father as his children and to grow in our love for others, seeing them as our brothers and sisters.”

In Ignatian Spirituality:  Piety is the fruit of our meditations on the Principle and Foundation, the Kingdom, the Two Standards, the three Degrees of Humility and the Contempatio ad Amorem.

Today we pray for the gift of piety for ourselves, that at ADDU we may as one community mediate the gift of piety.

Fear of the Lord

Fear of the Lord is the gift of love of the Lord.  It is the gift of being awed by the glory and majesty of the Lord, as this is manifest in His self-revelation to us in our history.

It is “no servile fear, but a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace” (Pope Francis).  Out of love for God, it is fear of offending God.

Ignatian Spirituality:  Fear/Love of the Lord is the fruit of the Contemplation ad Amorem.

Today we pray for the gift of Fear/Love of the Lord for ourselves, that at ADDU we may as one community mediate the gift of love of the Lord.

Two concluding notes:

The gift of the Spirit is given to one who has faith in Jesus, through whom we know the Father.  (cf.  Jn 14:17.26)

Through the gifts of the Spirit we live and grow strong in faith – fortes in fide.  That is our special strength as an online virtual community of members  fortes in fide:  strong in the Faith.

Through the gift of the Spirit we know and acknowledge God.  And if we know and acknowledge God, we know and acknowledge the glory of God in faith, we glorify God.

Through the gifts of the Spirit in our community we live to know love and acknowledge God more – magis.  We live ad majorem Dei gloriam – unto the greater glory of God.

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit and his sevenfold gifts, may we have a blessed new academic year!

 

 

 


[1] The biblical references to gifts of the Holy Spirit list more than seven gifts:

  • To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.1 Corinthians 12:8-10
  • The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; – Isaiah 11:2-3
  • But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions ? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.Ephesians 4:7-13
  • For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.Romans 12:3-8

Cf. also CCC: 1831, 1845 in the context of 1803-1829

[2] Cf. Wisdom 9:1-6,9-11; Psalm 107, esp. 43

[3] Cf. Eph. 6: 10-18  “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…”

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Final Vows:  Ongoing Availability to the Lord

Icommp-2911

[Homily:  Final Vows of Fr. Antonio Basilio, S.J., Assumption Chapel, Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 16, 2020.  Gospel:  John 21:1-13]

Tony, the words today from Deuteronomy can apply to you: “The Lord set his heart on you and chose you…because the Lord loved you” (Deut. 7:7-8).  For this, today, we, your brothers, your mother, your family, colleagues, and friends praise the Lord and rejoice with you!

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

As a child, Tony was not unaware of his special gifts that eventually landed him in QC Philippine Science High School. Nor could it be said that he was raised in an extraordinarily pious family.  Yet part of his childhood fantasy was to play priest and say make-believe Masses.

When Tony was in Philippine Science High School getting the rigorous foundational training that eventually led him to his being a nanophysicist today, his competitive nature was whetted when he would represent the school in national competitions.  In this public school, he did not benefit from Catholic religious education classes. But at that time he used to join fundamentalist prayer sessions.  Led by fundamentalists, the young scientist-in-the-making prayed over bible passages and encountered Jesus Christ.  He was struck then by this Jesus, this Word of God, who didn’t need to be with us in this world but made himself available to us to lead us to his Father.

When he took up the challenging BS Chemistry course at ADMU, Tony’s competitiveness continued to work for him.   He knew he was scientifically gifted and he was not shy about shining.  Eventually, he graduated cum laude and departmental awardee.  At Ateneo, he had a girlfriend.  She was a daily Mass goer, and invited her boyfriend to accompany her.   That’s how he became a daily Mass goer, not because of any strong devotion to the Mass, but because he needed to shine with his girlfriend.  A byproduct of this was the personal devotion he developed for the songs and productions of the Jesuit Music Ministry.

After college, Tony’s first job was in junior management of Proctor and Gamble.  This became a turning point in his life.  The culture was very competitive and personally debilitating.  It made Tony turn in on himself and recognize a gnawing emptiness in the harrowing rat race.  What was he making his life subject to?   What were all this competition and one-upmanship making his life available for?  His desolation at his personal situation led him to rediscover the Faith.  From a calling deep within, with roots in childhood fantasies and in HS prayer sessions and in melodies of Bukas Palad songs, his Faith now took on a new seriousness.  He knew he wanted to make himself and his life available for more.  Looking for that “more,” he was inspired by the life of the young Jesuit, Bro. Ricci Fernando, and the story of his self-sacrifice to save the lives of others in Cambodia.

This desire for greater availability for something more meaningful led him to Sacred Heart Novitiate on May 30, 1999 and to his first vows two years later.  For Tony, becoming a Jesuit and taking the vows were a pathway for greater availability for God’s deeper call, now in a community of friends in the Lord.

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If Tony had had his way, in order to be more available to people, he would have studied psychology.  He actually asked for special training in psychology, thinking it would bring him closer to people.  But his provincial superior then, Fr. Romeo Intengan, told him there were enough Jesuits in psychology and too few in the natural sciences; for there is a special need that the Church witness to the world of natural science by scientists of faith.  The motion was seconded by the influential Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, who also argued that going into nanoscience in Taiwan was cutting edge, better than anything Tony might get in a university in the US.  Fr. Jojo Magadia, who was Tony’s rector then, but eventually his provincial superior, agreed.  The result:  Tony’s vow of obedience brought him to the Taiwan International Graduate Program by Academia Sinica. His major was Nanoscience and Technology.

If Tony went to Taiwan trusting in his giftedness as a young scientist and his history of academic accolades in high school and in college, he was very quickly disillusioned.  He was not only in a foreign country, he was in a foreign country that spoke and wrote Chinese.  Sure, the language of instruction was supposed to be English, but that was not the language of life.  And even if PowerPoint slides and papers were dumped on the doctoral researchers in English, the newness of the nanoscience meant there was no easy clarity anywhere.  Tony had to deal with 16 different professors who were all supposedly experts in nanoscience but who all seemed to be speaking different languages, none of them sensitive to our tradition of cura personalis.  Fellow doctoral students were all Chinese who had little concern for the odd-man-out Filipino in the group. The result was a terrible isolation, isolation from the warmth of the Philippines and the security of batchmates far away, and isolation within the circle of esoteric experts and distant colleagues who couldn’t hear his need for help.  The name of the game was to publish a paper acceptable to an international community of nanoscientists, but brave submissions just earned critical remarks, and more submissions earned more critical remarks.  Where was it all going?  When would it all end?  For five long years, poverty was doctoral aridity, chastity, aloneness, and obedience the humbling refusal to say “no more!”   Isolation became desolation and a searing questioning of the God who had brought him there, loss of confidence and near despair.  In time, Tony’s prayer became just a plea to be allowed to go home without being too broken.

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Tony had not kept his predicament secret from superiors.  In his sixth year, Fr. Jojo Magadia allowed him to come home for his manifestation, a bit of rest, then a retreat. During this retreat he was moved by the image of Peter and the resurrected Jesus on the shore of Lake Genesereth.  Peter had fished the whole night and had caught nothing.  Jesus told him, “Cast you net on the other side of the boat.”  Tony replied to the Lord, but I have been laboring for five long years at this and have published nothing… Isn’t it time to give up? But when he heard the Lord say, “Cast your net on thei other side of the boat, he knew the Lord wanted him to return to Taiwan for one last year.

That encounter in prayer with the Resurrected Lord allowed Tony to recover whom it was who was sending him on mission, and in whose power it was that his empty net would be filled.  When he went back to Taiwan all of a sudden his Taiwanese colleages who had next to ignored him in the past years, were suddenly asking him not why he was in nanoscience but why he believed in Jesus Christ; all of a sudden, God seemed to be making use of his weaknesses in nanoscience and within to introduce Himself to this group of young scientists.  Parallel to this he informed his mentor that he needed to return to the Philippines within one year, doctorate or no doctorate.  So his mentor told him to defend his thesis in the following month.  Then suddenly  he learned that the nanoscientific process he had been working on on how to separate hydrogen from water molecules for energy was to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, clearing his way for his doctorate.  In casting his net on the other side of the boat because the Lord said so, Tony was finally coming home.  His erstwhile doctoral aridity would eventually turn into seven peer-reviewed articles.

God manifests himself in signs, even if recognizing them may sometimes be delayed. The night before Tony’s ordination, when his original desire to be available to the Lord would reach a new peak, he was moved by a surge of consolation suddently recognizing the signs of God’s presence along the way.  In playing priest as a child.  In praying with the bible in QC Science HS.  In the music of Masses at Ateneo.  In his discontent at Proctor and Gamble.  The five years of isolation which actually peaked in his questioning God turned now into a deep realization of how during these years he was being kept, and being loved, and being used to make God present in unexpected ways to unlikely people. He realized how his painful wrestling with God had meanwhile turned into a warm embrace.  He was all alone but really never alone.  He was isolated but always belonging to his batch of friends that the Lord had given him, always belonging to the Lord.

It is these experiences that give Tony’s final vows today their special meaning.  The vows are his continued availability to the Lord who does not cease to say, “Cast your net on the other side of the boat.”  Cast your net on the other side of all the many things that distract you from looking at the face of Jesus shining on you in morning light.  Cast your net on the other side of always needing to have It your way.  Cast your net on the other side of always needing to compete to advance yourself.

“The Lord set his heart on you and chose you…because the Lord loved you” (Deut. 7:7-8).

Ultimately, the vows are about love: the generosity of God’s love first in God’s heart, in Jesus’ heart, and about Tony’s heart that prays, “Lord, teach me to be generous, teach me to serve you as you deserve…”  It is about Tony responding to the heart of the Crucified Lord, praying, “Take and receive, Lord…Only your love and your grace.  That’s enough for me.”

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Barnabas, the Apostle

St Barnabas

[Homily.  ADDU Live-streamed Mass.  June 11, 2020]

We celebrate today the Memorial of St. Barnabas.  While Barnabas was not among “the Twelve,” the twelve who among the disciples of Jesus formed the inner circle closest to Jesus, he was an apostle.  Apostle means, “one who is sent.”  The liturgy today, working from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, applies the words with which Jesus “sent out” or “missioned” his Twelve to Barnabas.  “As you go forth, proclaim the message:  the kingdom of heaven has come near…”  (Mt. 10:7).

Barnabas does not appear in the four Gospels, but he appears prominently in the Acts of the Apostles.  He is introduced as a Levite from Cyprus so convinced of the truth proclaimed about the resurrected Jesus that he sells his land and lays the proceeds of the sale at the feet of the disciples.

That in itself is something remarkable, akin to the widow who gave up her everything in her ultimate reliance on God.  We may recall that in the early Church property was held in common and to each was given according to the need of each.    The generous gesture of Barnabas in faith must have distinguished him as a follower of Jesus.  The next we hear of Barnabas, he is introducing Saul to the apostles.

Saul had been feared as a zealous persecutor of those who followed the New Way.  After his dramatic conversion, when he had already begun to preach Jesus as the resurrected Lord, many could not believe it.  They continued to fear Saul.  When he came to Jerusalem to meet the apostles, the apostles feared to meet him, and the community of disciples must have wanted to shield the apostolic leadership from Saul.  But it was Barnabas who brought him to the apostles.  It was because of the trust that the apostles had in Barnabas that they were able to hear from Saul himself how he had been a zealous persecutor of the disciples of Jesus, but how he had been converted, knocked off his horse in an encounter with the Resurrected Lord that changed his life forever, led to his baptism, and his need to preach the Gospel of Jesus.

The community of disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem was at that time the center of the early Church. When it became clear that there were expatriate Jews and non-Jews who believed in Jesus as the Messiah in far away Antioch, the thriving capital then of the Roman Province of Syria, in modern-day Antokya in Turkey, and that these needed proper instruction and guidance in their faith, the community in Jerusalem sent Barnabas (cf. Acts: 11: 22).  So missioned, Barnabas was an apostle. His experience in Antioch was happy and apostolically fruitful, apparently also because of his personality as a believer in Jesus:  “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” (cf. Acts: 11: 23).  “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And a great many people were added to the Lord” (Acts 11:24).  The challenge for Barnabas to care for all of these new believers motivated him to seek help.

He sought that help in an old acquaintance, the person he had introduced to the apostles.  “Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Paul.  And when he found him he brought him to Antioch  There they labored together for a whole year to nourish the believers in Antioch.  And because these believed that Jesus was the Messiah or the Christ, for the first time in Antioch, the believers in Jesus were called Christians.” (cf. Acts, 11: 26).  This year together in Antioch was the beginning of a great apostolic partnership, first with Barnabas leading  Saul, and later Saul, who be called Paul, leading Barnabas.  As the disciples and teachers of the Antioch community gathered and ministered to the Lord, the Acts reports, “the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2).  Then having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them [as is still done today at an episcopal ordination], they were sent out by the Holy Spirit to the distant corners of the known world.  In this manner were both Barnabas and his companion Saul apostles, those sent out by the Spirit to preach the good news.  Both died as martyrs for the faith.

Today, we must consider how we are being “sent out by the Spirit”, the Spirit which sends out from the fullness of the Father and the Son who make their home within us.  From this home within we are sent out to make our world, the world of our family, the world of our work, the world of our university, the world of our city and nation, into the home of the Spirit.  Sent in this manner, we must heed the words of St. Matthew from the chapter of our Gospel reading today:  “I am sending you out like sheep among the wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach in the rooftops.  Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Mt. 11: 36-27).   Is not the Spirit of Jesus and of the Father saying:  I am sending you out today to make peace among your loved ones, to give love to the relative in need, to contribute to ending the pandemic, to labor to make our economy more beneficial to all.  I am sending you out today to say, “Black lives matter!”  Human life matters.  Social justice matters.  The civil rights of persons peacefully demonstrating for justice matter.  The dangerous ambiguity of “terrorism” matters.  The Spirit’s gift of piety is not an external piousness that is showy and soft as of the hypocrites (cf. Mt. 23), but such an inner intimacy with God that one becomes resolute in discerning and doing God’s will.  Jesus who was crucified says, “The student is not above the Teacher nor the servant above the Master” (Mt. 10:24).    Persecution will come.  “You will be hated by everyone because of me” (Mt. 10:22).  But “he who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  He who finds his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt. 10:38-39).  In this light, in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33).

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Holy Spirit: Working from Home with the Father and the Son Within

pentecost 2020

[Feast of Pentecost.  ADDU Live-streamed Mass, May 31, 2020] 

Today’s solemnity recalls the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles.  It is described graphically in our First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles.  “They were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from a sky a noise like a driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then, there appeared to them tongues as of fire and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2: 2-4)

The Birth of the Church

This was the birth of the Church.  The fire of the Holy Spirit filled them.  Then they began to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The powerful wind and the tongues of fire were, I think, outward signs of an interior event.  An interior filling up to fullness.  An interior gathering of a multiplicity and diversity of believers into a shared oneness.  This was the birthing of the Church, the com-unity, the coming into oneness of the disciples of Jesus.   It began as an interior fullness of the Spirit that could not remain interior, but in its fullness burst into outward sharing, into outward proclamation.  That birthing of the Church is not a past event, finished and completed.  But it is an ongoing intervention of God’s Spirit into our lives and our history, enkindling the fire of divine love, reminding people of the Father’s Love we experienced in Jesus Christ, Love that shines in the Light of the Father’s Face,  Love that conquers death to bring Life, Life that transforms us and renews the face of the earth.

The fire of divine Love, the Father’s Love, the Light in the Father’s Face of compassion, the Love that conquers death to bring Life, the Life that transforms and renews, this is all Spirit.  This is so rich, all the images flash and pale in the truth of the Spirit.  We recall the powerful images used by the Prophet Ezekiel:  “The Lord made me walk in a field filled with dry bones in every direction… How dry they were!  The Lord said, ‘son of man, can these dead bones come to life?’  …Then he said to me, “Prophecy over these dry bones:  [Say to the dry bones:]  See I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life!” (cf Ezek 37:1-6).   As the dead bones and dead flesh started coming together, the Lord said, “Prophecy, O son of man and say to the spirit:  Thus says the Lord God, from the four winds, come, O spirit, and breath into this slain that they may come to life…”  (Ezek 37:9).  Later he says to the dead in their graves, “I will put my spirit in you that you may have life…” (cf. Ex 37:11-14).  On Pentecost, from the four winds, the Spirit comes to bring life, not the life the brings people inevitably to their graves, but the New Life won in the Resurrection that brings dead bones from graves to Life Eternal.

The Holy Spirit is Within

Spirit is spirit.  It is interiority.  It is within.  It is the interiority of God.  It is not easy to use images to speak of the interiority of divine Love before all creation, to speak of divine love turned to all of us, but before all of us, truly to each one of us individually and intimately, to speak of divine Love touching us, transforming us from dead bones into women and men alive only in God, in love with God, in love with those whom God loves, into women and men – as the Spirit of God is – for others.  But that is what the Holy Spirit is.  It is in the driving wind, in the quaking earth, and in the burning fire.  But it is also the gentle breeze within (Cf. 1 Kings 19:10-13).

Here, I would like to suggest an image that we contemplated in this Easter Season:  Spirit is our home within.  When we come home, we come not to a physical house, no matter how simple, no matter how ornate, but to a special space of enduring welcome, of love and of ease in love.  The difference between a house and a home is spirit.  It’s the spirit of love within the home, love that creates the life of the family, the caring for each, the joy of welcome, the pain in goodbyes, even the pain in the quarrels and the differences, but the determination to overcome all in love.  The spirit of a person is shaped or deformed by home.  With this experience, when I say I am at home with myself, that too is spirit.   It means I accept myself with all my strengths and weaknesses, my possibilities, and projects, just as I have experienced my mother, my brothers and sisters, my loved ones have accepted me at home.

The Spirit is within.   In John’s Gospel Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may live within you forever – the Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive.” (Jn 14: 17a).  Jesus further says:  “If anyone loves me he will keep my word.  My Father will love him and we will come to make our home with him.  (Jn 14:23).  I am always moved when I think of this, and always convinced I have not yet begun to fathom its meaning.  The Spirit lives within us.  The Father and the Son make their home within us.  And of the Spirit, Jesus says, “He will guide us to all truth” (Jn 16:13).  He will tell us all he has heard from the Son.  The Spirit leads us to understand this incredible relationship with the Father within whose Spirit it was to love us from before the creation of the world and to express his love in the Son redeeming us from our sin and from within lifting us up to the Father.

When the Spirit is sent and received – today Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit!” (Jn 20:22) – the Spirit is being at home with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit making their home with us within.  The Spirit is being at home with the God within whose glory it is to stoop down to wash the feet of his disciples, to wash your feet, and not to consider being God something to be grasped at, but empties himself in obedience to the Father’s love that we may be lifted up, and come home to our God and Creator.

It is from being at home with the glory of God within that the Spirit gives us the gift of wisdom, always to be sensitive to the divine from our hearth within, the gift of understanding, always to understand things from their supernatural purpose, the gift of knowledge, always to see things from the perspective of God, and the gift of fear of the Lord, that is, the gift of wonder and awe at the glory and majesty of God.

The Holy Spirit is Outwardly Manifest

And if the Spirit is truly within, as the Father and the Son are at home within, it cannot help but manifest itself exteriorly, in sharing, in action, in good deeds.  On the first Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Spirit within, they began to speak in tongues, needing to preach and share of the fullness within.  Under the guidance of the Spirit they would now bring the Good News to others, in bending down to wash the feet of others, in loving others perfectly as Father loved us perfectly, in readiness to sacrifice themselves for others as the Lord sacrificed himself for us all, and even in enduring persecution.   Jesus predicted rejection and tribulation:  “If they have persecuted me, so will they persecute you.  You will be scattered.  But courage!  I have conquered the world,” he said.  From the fullness of light within needing to engage the darkness and ambiguity of the world, the Spirit gives the gift of counsel, prompt and right judgment in difficult situations, the gift of fortitude, courage, and endurance in standing for what is right in the sight of God, and the gift of piety, the total reliance on God that keeps us resolute in whatever we must do.

This year, in celebrating the Paschal Mystery and especially the mystery of the Resurrection, because of the coronavirus pandemic we have worked from home.  Pentecost gives us a new meaning of working from home within.  The Father, Son, and the Spirit at home within breathe new life into our dead bones, lift up our drooping spirits, remind us of how much we are loved individually, and as his community of believers despite all our foibles and all adversity unto eternal life.   At home with God within, we receive the Spirit’s gifts that renew the face of the earth.

 

 

 

 

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A Letter to ADDU Parents in Partnership

From Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J.

Fr Joel 001This year will be remembered as the year the global Coronavirus Pandemic changed our lives.  It will also be remembered as the year Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) shifted to online education.

The Coronavirus

To date, the Coronavirus worldwide has infected, 4,137,143 people, killing 285,760. In the Philippines it has infected 11,096, killing 726, many of them doctors and nurses.   In Davao Region, it has infected 90 people as of April 11, 2020, 74 of which are in Davao.  In Davao, it has killed 14 people.

The Coronavirus could have killed more.  It could have killed more of our relatives and friends.  It could have totally overwhelmed our relatively weak public health infrastructure to handle the many cases.  But our government and our health officials on national and local levels acted resolutely.  The quarantines imposed stopping travel from infected areas, prescribing the isolation of the infected, contract tracing, strict social distance, frequent handwashing, the use of face masks and proper cough and sneezing etiquette lessened the pressure on our front-liners and saved countless lives in our vulnerable archipelago.   Until a vaccine is developed, the quarantines and social distance are our only defense against the killer virus.

ADDU Shift to Online Education

With the early impositions of quarantine, Mayor Sara Duterte declared, “All public and private educational institutions should prepare for online enrolment and the possibility of online classes for the months of April to July 2020” (E.O. 20, March 26, 2020).  As the Coronavirus, however, began to affect more and more countries, including our own country and city, while the possibility of a vaccine was foreseen only for 2021 or beyond, it became very clear to us at ADDU that the only way to continue our mission as a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino University for Mindanao was online.

ADDU administrators, faculty, and students came together to make the shift.

Planning of online classes and training of faculty began immediately.  As of today 593 of our teachers have been trained in using two major online learning platforms, Google Classroom and Moodle.  Training of other teachers is still ongoing.

On March 26, top administrators came together with top leaders of the Samahan ng Mag-aaral ng Pamantasan ng Ateneo de Davao, the student government of undergraduate higher education.  The Samahan expressed their apprehensions to online learning.  Administration answered with its general plans of online learning.  It was clear, things would not always be perfect.  But problems could be met through dialogue and concrete action.   A partnership was forged between the administration and the students for online education.

On April 2, the Academic Vice President issued a Primer of Academic Policies for Online Undergraduate Education based on close consultation with academic administrators.  Using this as a base, similar Primers were formulated by the Senior High School, the Junior High School and Grade School by April 27.   The Primers prescribe an Online Instructional Delivery Plan for each course, how the instructors are to upload course material, interact with the students, assess their performance, and how the classes are to be monitored for quality.   The classes must achieve if not surpass the minimum standards in learning outcomes prescribed by the CHED or the DepEd for the class.  In basic education, the primers also define the role of the parent of the responsible adult in the learning process of the child.

The academic program is complemented by online programs of the chaplain, campus ministry (now: cyber-ministry), formation and guidance online.  Our aim is not to create internet nerds, but to develop professionally competent whole persons fortes in fide – strong in faith.

Summer classes commenced on April 22.  1722 students enrolled in 178 classes involving 90 instructors.  As a result of our dialogue with our students, home prepaid WiFi devices of Globe and Smart were distributed despite the enhanced community quarantine to each of the students.  Apple iPADs, solicited from donors, were loaned to scholars and financially challenged students.  Computer loans were extended to students.

It was reported on national news that Ateneo de Davao University was the first to shift to online classes due to the Coronavirus crisis.  We enjoyed the support and the praise of the City of Davao, the CHED, and the DepEd.  We have begun enrolling students from outside Davao and from other countries.

Meanwhile, university research and outreach, as essential to the life of a university as instruction is, will continue.   Part of the research agenda would be the process documentation of the shift to online learning, research on the experience of teachers and students in this shift, and studies on best practices in the world with which ADDU might benchmark and improve its delivery.

Outreach would continue to respond to the needs of front-liners in the war against the Coronavirus, advocate social justice, inter-religious dialogue, peace in Mindanao, and the value of such as Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si.  We will now also advocate Internet access as a human right, and in our new normal of pervading quarantines, encourage community quarantine enterprises (CQE) “from home”.

A Stronger Ateneo de Davao University

In all this, we are not saying we do not value traditional face-to-face instruction.  We do.  We value deeply how learning is especially in Philippine culture encouraged by healthy socialization.  When the pandemic is overcome, we will go back to them.

But even as we go back to them, we will be different.  We will be stronger because of what we now confidently undertake.  We will then have access to a treasure of global learning resources that are already available.  Our teachers will be practiced in accessing them.  They will increasingly understand how digital instruction is best applied in our Mindanao context.   We will blend face-to-face learning with online learning and move in the direction of an open university.

We will also be dealing with a stronger student.  They shall be students more in touch with their driving desires in learning, able to set learning goals for themselves, understand their personal paces of learning, work with competent coaches to encourage and guide their learning to success, even as they are formed in moderating screen time, social skills, social values and in leadership skills.  Our students will know how to use digital learning resources not only for their sojourn at the Ateneo, but for life-long learning.   This is extremely important as the world of academe merges with the world of work – and responds to the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.

All this will enfold.  We are excited.

Partnering with Parents to Keep their Children Studying

Even as we know that as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic many of our parents are hurting.  The crisis has adversely affected the entire Philippine economy, even as efforts to restart the economy now are fraught with serious dangers.  For without a vaccine, our major protection against infection is physical distancing.

Before the crisis, our Board of Trustees approved an increase of from six to ten percent for SY 2020-21 in tuition and fees.  A day before yesterday, our Board of Trustees met online in order to help our parents.  They resolved, first, to revise the budget to cancel the increases in tuition and fees.  Secondly, in the context of the present shift to online learning, they resolved to allow management, depending on the needs of the units, to discount fees from 15% to 23%.   Without the scheduled increases in tuition and fees, this means that parents would be paying from 21% to up to 33% less than what ADDU had planned to charge for this academic year.

All this, however, had an adverse effect on our four unions.  Our collective bargaining agreements commit the university to regular across-the-board increases.  These increases are sustainable only through increases in tuition and fees.

Yesterday our administration met with the leaders of our four unions.  I deeply appreciate that understanding the situation, our union leaders magnanimously agreed to support the resolutions of the Board, thereby accepting that for this academic year they are giving up their across-the-board increases.

Even as we have cancelled our  6% to 10% scheduled increases in tuition, the schedule of discounts on fees based on academic levels is as follows:

ADDU Discounts 2020

It may be appreciated that in order to further help our parents who may need this, the enrolment of students or learners at Ateneo de Davao this year can succeed on as low as ten percent down payment of assessed tuition and fees, with the balance payable before the final summative exam for the enrolled course.  The final exam can be taken at the end of the course, or postponed to up to one year after the end of the course.

We offer these substantial reductions to you in partnership.  We value your valuing education for your children even in a crisis such as this.

In partnership, we ask that you appreciate that these reductions are not without risk for us.  Our salaries depend on tuition payments; salaries cannot be paid in installment.  Our ability to carry out our university mission depends on fees.  In partnership we ask:

Enroll your children now.  Classes in SY 2020-21 begin on June 22.  Enrolment is ongoing.  Please do not delay till the end of the enrolment period which is ongoing and ends absolutely on June 27.  We have an array of online payment options.

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But we realize that online paying takes time.  Because of this, we ask you to enroll your children now.

For your convenience, we are also setting up a drive-through payment option where you can pay us in cash while ensuring your safety and health as well as our employees.

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If you can pay in full, please pay in full.  If you can pay in part, pay the largest part that is possible to you.  This will help us to welcome those who can only pay in small parts.  For those that pay in part, our Finance Office will remind you of the other part that needs to be paid. 

Thank You for Your Continued Trust

Your trust in the Ateneo de Davao way of education has allowed ADDU to educate generations of Ateneans since 1948.  Thank you for your continued trust.  Thank you for your prayers.

We face an exciting year.  Our time-tested basic education programs, and our higher education courses in humanities and letters, social sciences, computer studies, natural science and mathematics, accounting, business management, entrepreneurship, education, nursing, engineering, architecture, and law will continue.  We are continuing our aerospace engineering course now under the chairmanship of the renowned astrophysicist, Dr. Rogel Mari Sese.  As announced earlier, we are launching programs in BS Data Science, BS Robotics Engineering, AB Development Studies, and AB Anthropology.    But with the professional courses we will continue to form our students in humanities and in leadership – fortes in fide, strong in faith – the Ateneo de Davao way.

With prayers,

JET-sign joel sign with name

 

 

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