The Greater Scheme of Things

Address: ADDU Tertiary Faculty Summit.10/4/11

Welcome back to the second semester! Hopefully, the break afforded you some opportunity to rest, recover strength, and to spend quality time with your loved ones and friends! I hope as well that on the Feast of All Saints and the Memorial of All Souls you were able to honor your departed loved ones with flowers, candles, Masses and prayers, and in the company of the saints recall the greater scheme of things.

The greater scheme of things… As we begin this semester, before we return to the lesson preparations, the classroom presentations, the quizzes, exams, and unending chores in coaching, counseling, correcting papers, which can sometimes get humdrum and routine, despite the demanding deadlines we must all meet, it would be good for us all to recall the greater context of our activities, and the greater scheme of things.

What we know from the media and internet provides something of this greater context.

On the Murder of Fr. Tentorio, PIME:
• Murdered on October 17, 2011, just a week after the sem break had begun.
• Fr. Fausto Tentorio, 59, an Italian Missionary priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) for 30 years and based in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Arakan Valley, North Cotabato, was climbing into his vehicle to go to a meeting when a single assailant walked up to him and shot him repeatedly. The assassin then calmly walked to his motor bike and sped away. It was the typical killing method of the paid assassin.
• Fr. Tentorio had dedicated his life to upholding the human rights of the Indigenous people of the Diocese of Kidapawan. He was the coordinator of the Tribal Filipino Program and a fearless advocate of their rights to their ancestral domain. He received death threats but ignored then and got on with his mission defending human rights and inspiring the people.
• The Tribal Filipino Program stood in the way of powerful moneyed mining interests out to exploit land around Columbio and adjacent areas in nearby provinces. The program opposed irresponsible mining especially the plans of Sagittarius Mines Inc. to mine for minerals using an open pit on the lands of the Indigenous People of the Dioceses. The ongoing environmental protection and human rights defense campaign of the Dioceses of Marbel, Digos and Kidapawan has opposed the issuance by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (EEC) without which the huge Tampakan mining project of Sagittarius cannot legally go ahead. The project allegedly endangers huge areas of the environment crucial to agriculture and can cause devastation to the people’s way of life. (Fr. Shay Cullen, SSC.
• The recent decision of government officials to support the establishment of village based militias to back up the private security agencies employed by mining companies has been deplored.

On Mining in Mindanao:
• Pending Minerals Management Bill (a consolidation of HB 206, HB 3763 and HB 4315) in congress to correct the 1995 Philippine Mining Act.
• Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) in South Cotabato, Davao del Sur and Sultan Kudarat is readying to operate in 2015, granting it can get its permits.
• DENR Secretary Ramon Paje sees mining as an economic savior.
• The government is studying how to converge local and national policies on mining, with the impasse over the Xstrata Tampakan project, Southeast Asia’s largest undeveloped copper-gold prospect, worrying prospective mining investors. More than a year after South Cotabato banned open-pit mining, the method to be used at the Tampakan mine, the national government and provincial officials are still at odds on which policy has primacy. The national government insists the mining law, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2004, supersedes any local policy.

On the Peace Process:
• The core issue of the problem is the continuing exertion of the Bangsamoro people – or at least the people who believe they represent the Bangsamoro people – for the restoration of their historical independence. Problems of land, mass poverty, neglect and underdevelopment and other social inequities are problems that need the attention of the national government, but it is the issue of political relationship of the Bangsamoro people with the government that needs serious and immediate attention. Aside from its historical roots, this political matter is perceived by certain quarters as the major cause of other social, economic and religious problems.

On Threats to the Peace in Mindanao:
• October 18, 2011 – 19 AFP soldiers and 6 MILF combatants where killed in Al Barka, Basilan.
• 20,000 people were displaced from their homes in Al Barka, Basilan and Talusan, Payao and Alicia in Zamboanga Sibugay
• MILF faction group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by Ameril Ombra Kato. Before he left MILF, Kato led the 105th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the rebel group’s armed wing.
• Bangsamoro sub-state – Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, a member of the MILF peace panel stressed that the MILF was not seeking a separate state. The only difference is that “the Bangsamoro sub-state will have a different relationship with the central government in terms of political administration. The Muslim substate will not exercise power over national defense, foreign affairs, currency and coinage, and postal services, which the central government exercises. Igbal further added that the substate will not have its own armed forces but instead will have troops for internal security
• Some see the proposal by Moro guerillas to form a sub-state as a duplicate of a previous proposal that was junked by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional (MOA-AD).
• Subanen leader Barahama Amil asked the MILF to forego some areas of Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Norte in its definition of a Moro homeland as these were historically owned by the Subanens.
• All-out Justice – a phrase that gave the public, especially the families of the slain soldiers, something to hold on to aside from all-out war. “It’s not just a slogan. It’s a more comprehensive approach to a historical, structural and more complicated problem of Mindanao, the richest part of the country with the poorest people.” (Sec. Llamas) The phrase also appears to have made it easier for government negotiators to explain the administration’s strategy in pursuing lawless elements while ensuring that the peace process remains in gear.

On Climate Change and Mindanao:
• The country’s annual mean temperature is projected to increase by 0.9 deg C – 1.2 deg C by 2020 and 1.7 deg C – 3.0 deg C by 2050. Higher temperatures are generally expected for all regions of the country by 2050, the rates doubling compared to 2020 level. Warming will be worst in Mindanao, supposedly the country’s food basket. (From the Climate Change Commission’s National Framework Strategy on Climate Change 2010-2020)
• This means today’s 29.9C (85.82F) will be 33.2C (91.76F) by 2050. An air-conditioned room today is 19C (67.82F).
• Change in annual precipitation from -0.5 to 17.4% in 2020 and -2.4 to 16.4% in 2050. Increases in rainfall are particularly evident in most areas of Luzon and Visayas while Mindanao is projected to undergo a drying trend… A general reduction in regional annual average rainfall in Mindanao (~0.5 to 11% by 2020; 2 to 11% in 2050).

On Poverty:
• The Philippines posted a record 7.3 percent GDP growth in 2010, but such growth failed to lift most Filipinos from poverty. The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) reported Tuesday that poverty incidence in the Philippines hit 26.5 percent in 2009. This is little changed from 26.4 percent recorded in 2006 — the last time that a poverty survey was conducted.
• A total of 23.1 million of Filipinos — about a third of the country’s 90 million populace — are still subsisting on below 90 pesos per day. This figure is considered among the highest in Southeast Asia.
• Zamboanga del Norte topped the list with poverty incidence among families at 46%. Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Norte immediately follow the rank with 43.5% and 43.1% respectively. The provinces of Maguindanao (5th) and Sulu (13th) of ARMM got 37.7% and 33% on poverty incidence.
• The actual number of the country’s poor increased by 465,000 families, and by 2.3 million individuals. The additional poor families and individuals live in Mindanao with 430,000 families and 2.4 million individuals. More than half of these families come from ARMM with 146,000 and Zamboanga peninsula with 105,000. (Carina L. Cayon

On the Filipino Youth:
• Filipino family configuration is projected to change with the decline in proportion of intact family households from 83% in 1970 to 78% in 2030 (Racelis and Cabegin, 1998). Female single headed households are likewise to rise from 9 to 12 % for the same time frame. Consistent with this projection, the study shows that only 84% of adolescents have been raised under intact family structures leaving a substantial 16% reared under alternative family set-ups. Similarly, the dominance of the women figure is noted with a considerable proportion claiming to have been raised by mother alone (6.4 percent) or mother and another person (1.7 percent) in contrast with those raised by father only (1.4 percent) or father with another person (0.5 percent). Albeit, intact families will continue to predominate, the considerable proportion of alternative family types suggests a growing number of our youth who will not be reared under the guidance of both parents.
• As the family control over the young people recedes in importance during adolescent years, alternative influences particularly the peers and mass media gain prominence. With the increasing westernization of mass media which threaten traditional values inculcated by the family, its increasing appeal to the young poses serious implications. It is worth noting however, that family values and parental guidance continue to show significant influence in trying to neutralize the effects of media and peers. Particularly, strong, stable and intact family environment of the adolescents tend to diminish the impact of outside influences on the adolescent. In the face of the growing environment threats on the adolescents, it is thus important to further strengthen the family as a primary refuge for the adolescent. Specifically, fathers who are viewed as heads of the family but functionally distant due to their work outside the home should strive for greater involvement in domestic affairs. As role models for their sons, their presence in the home is necessary. (Grace T. Cruz, Elma P. Laguna and Corazon M. Raymundo, Family Influences on the Lifestyle of the Filipino Youth,

We have not yet said anything about the Arab Spring, the European Euro Crisis, and the Occupy Movement. . .

The ADDU Vision

It is in this context which belongs to “the greater scheme of things” that we face the second semester of this year. Blending into this greater scheme is the newly approved vision-mission (V-M) statement of our university – hard copies of which have been distributed to you this morning. You will recall, it was approved formally by the Board of Trustees in its last regular meeting, after it had been approved in referendum by the overwhelming majority of our university community. While no statement can be perfect, I believe this is a powerful statement of our shared spirit. I would like to propose that the difference between our being a great Jesuit university in the global world, or being but a mediocre one in the Third World, will be decided on whether we can all understand, appropriate and live this V-M.

A university is not a thing. It is not an abstract “university-thing” that has a vision and mission. A university is a community of living scholars, teachers, students, administrators and staff that in a context such as we described has a shared vision, and understands its mission as a realization of its vision within a challenging historical context. It is a community of academicians who are trained arduously and variously in a wide spectrum of different disciplines, yet who come together in shared purpose. To the actual historical context today, discussed earlier, of violence against persons who stand up for the rights of the poorest of Philippine communities and for the environment, to the culture of industrial greed and political Machiavellianism that cripple our society, against which we often seem so helpless, to the culture of wanton consumption that is mindless against the realities of climate change, to the world of moral confusion, directionlessness, loss of personal meaning, loss of leadership, we offer today to be a university. Not just any university, but a good university. Not just a functioning university, but a university that is Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino in Mindanao, “engaged in excellent instruction and formation, robust research, and vibrant community service.” It is Catholic because in its pursuit of truth, it proceeds from the heart of the Church – ex corde ecclesiae – which reveals to us eternal Truth and challenges us in history to authenticity, integrity and truth. It is Jesuit because it appropriates – accepts as its own – Ignatian spirituality and the mission of the Society of Jesus today in “the promotion of the faith that does justice, [in] cultural sensitivity and transformation, and in interreligious dialogue” at the frontiers of human society today. It is Filipino because it prepares students to benefit from, contribute to and engage the global world today.


Already, let us pause to admit that the danger in this grand expression of shared vision, is that it be reduced to words, words, words. It is indeed mere empty verbosity, if it is not reflected on, affirmed, accepted, and allowed to become part of that for which you get up in the morning, and about which you lose sleep at night. The university vision is not your spouse, nor is it your children whom you love, nourish and sustain with your lives and in your work. It is not your God, who is the ultimate source of all vision and mission. But in the context which we have described, it is a vision that is much more than mere “making a living,” and certainly much more than soppy, romantic piety. The vision that I hope we can ever more deeply share in our context can – and must – have great costs. Where in Truth we insist on truth and integrity in the various aspects of our challenging context, where none of us are perfect, but where so much is at stake, there will be dangers – of being thrust into zones of discomfort, of being challenged and even sometimes ridiculed for our views, of having to check and re-check our data, theories and convictions, of being harmed physically, or even of being killed – as Fr. Pops Tentorio was. But the vision is of a community of scholars that advances truth where truth is needed indefatigably, no matter the cost.

The ADDU Mission

The elements of our mission underscore that. There are many aspects of this mission. It is open to reflection and interpretation from diverse viewpoints. I wish only to point out a few.

First, we say “the Ateneo de Davao excels in the formation of leaders for the Philippine Church and society, especially for Mindanao.” At the beginning of a semester when once again you will meet scores and scores of students, it would be good for you to reflect on your students, and consider the type of leaders you intend to form. We have seen generations at the ADDU, I am told, where our students were much, much more engaged in a critical confrontation of our context, on local as well as on the national planes. They were inspired by ideals of nationalism, and passionate about the pursuit of justice. How is it in our times? Last semester, I marched with our Samahan when they led the university in the march against extrajudicial killings. I rejoiced that members of the studentry joined in the campaign to gather signatures for a NO to mining in Palawan; they actually gathered more than 16,000 signatures! I do not know whether you think this enough, but I was impressed. The Samahan president of last semester, Mr. Aldwin Dumago, resigned due to a controversy that arose because the Samahan had protested against bullying during the fiesta. There is now a new student council president, Ms. Jubail Pasia. I have pledged to her my cooperation, but wonder whether we had failed the earlier president. I wonder whether we do enough to encourage and support the vision, idealism, generosity and goodness of our youth – even though in their leadership they may as of yet be rough or unskilled.

My point here is that all of us need to reflect on this mission we share of forming leaders for Mindanao and for the Church. We need leaders who understand the history, culture, pressures and tensions in contemporary Mindanao, and who are willing to lead towards solutions in this light; we need leaders of the Church who understand the hunger of peoples for the Truth that the Church offers and who willing to serve people in this light. I think we know that excelling in the formation of leaders cannot just mean generating yes-men and yes-women in a corrupt, confused, consumer world, people trained not to think differently, not to rock the boat, not to think or do anything beyond that which is circumscribed by a “job” description, but to lead by bowing to the lords of oppression and their interests. I think we know that in this generation the media, the internet, and the fascination of new technology can conspire to keep our youth mesmerized in a cyber world of chaotic harmony and escape, so that life commitments and life insights remain sadly superficial? Remember Fr. General Nicolas’ challenge to educators in the world today: the challenge, he said, is to depth – depth of thought and depth of imagination. Without this depth, without this ability and willingness to think and use our imaginations “outside of the box,” how can we at ADDU be excelling in the formation of leaders?

We need leaders who will wage peace in Mindanao, bring the dialogue between the Settlers, the Muslims, and the Lumads forward, lead in the protection of the environment. Forming leaders is part of our mission. When we consider our students or the members of our graduating class, can we confidently say we are accomplishing our mission? Where do we expect them to be after they graduate? Are the personal visions of our students grand or petty, wide or confined, realistic or escapist, rational or mindless, deep or superficial. The formation of leaders, it seems to me, needs role models of leadership and role models of commitment who are themselves persons of vision, realism, rationality, integrity and depth, esp. if we are to excel in leadership formation. It would also need an atmosphere where leaders are afforded space to explore their ideals and commitments, to arrive at a personal core of self-undersanding from which leadership emerges, to explore and experience various causes and networks as they flex their wings in leadership. As we think about building a new ADDU community center, are we prepared to allow our worlds to quake? Perhaps building the community center would not be worth it unless we were!

Second, part of our mission is to promote “communities touched and transformed by the faith, communities of peace and human well being, culturally resilient but able to adapt to the modern world.” We can, of course, begin with our own Catholic Community, and ask ourselves how much we promote community “touched by the faith” right here in our University. We are a university community. But for many of us, we are also a Catholic Community. Already here, we may have a formidable object for mission – where the secularized lives of many have been progressively disengaged from the faith and its normal manifestations. How much are our lives “touched by the faith” – meaning not merely having “come into contact with” but having been “profoundly moved” by the faith, so that we are normally active in a faith community, either here in the University, or in our own parishes, basic ecclesial communities, or faith communities. How much of our community is transformed by the faith, so that they are genuine exponents of peace and human well-being where there is war, killing, oppression and human degradation?

But part of this mission also means promoting communities that are possibly not Catholic; it means sharing of our faith with them – so that they are touched by the message of God. I am not talking about a strategy of proselytization and conversion which can do violence to indigenous cultures. But I am talking about an openness to sharing with these communities of that which is most precious to us, knowing that faith is communicated not by ingenious strategies of proselytization but by the silent action of grace in God’s time and most often today the argument of silent witness. I am taking about touching indigeneous communities through sensitivity to and respect for their cultural traditions and beliefs as “other,” and allowing these to thrive as “communities of peace and human-well-being, culturally resilient yet able to adapt to the modern world.”

It is part of our mission to support these communities in their cultural integrity and desire to survive in our modern world even when, or especially when, the virtual attack on these communities comes from interests that are driven by blinding amounts of money and profit, deception, lies, half-truths and short term benefits. This definitely is what defines the relationship between such as SMI-Xtrata Mines in Tampacan, So. Cotabato and the Bla’ans, where the latter are “convinced” by patronage of local politicians, the promise of scholarships, short-term jobs, contributions to barangay halls, and the like, to consent to a project through which 1600 hectares of primary growth forests would be destroyed to make way for an open pit that in the end shall be 500 has. large and 800 meters deep; here, two major local rivers will feed into a 500 has. dam whose fresh waters will push toxic slurry 100 km away to Malalag in Davao del Sur. It is impossible that the water supplies of downstream communities will not be affected by the hoarding of the fresh water. Next to the fesh water dam, another similarly large repository shall be for toxic mine tailings. Of course, SMI-Xtrata proclaims that it shall mine only according to state-of-the-art international standards in mining, even if these standards are not agreed on internationally by experts in mining, and the whole Tampacan project sits on an earthquake fault.

How help the IPs to be culturally resilient yet adopt to the modern world? This shall certainly be a task for our anthropologists, our sociologists, our experts in development and in law. But perhaps, on the issue again of mining, we must consider it part of our mission in justice to protect the Filipino communities in general, both local and national, from the provisions of the 1995 Mining Act severely skewed in favor or the foreign interest of the mines and the huge collateral “deals” that our politicians can cut in allowing these foreign interests to plunder our country. Since the murder of Fr. Tentorio, Bong Eliab has put up a website which gathers material relevant to mining in the PH. Uploaded there for your appreciation is a piece written by our Dean of Law, Atty, Manuel Quibod, entitled, “Briefer on the Minerals Management Act.” While the Chamber of Mines banners that the PH has 187 billion dollars worth of minerals under its soil, and as the capitalists and certain priests say it is God’s will that these be exploited for this generation and not for future generations, Atty. Quibod argues that the PH actually has no part whatsoever in the minerals that our mined. Taxes and royalties are but earnings collatoral to the actual mined minerals which belong originally to the Philippine State. Incredibly, all legal mining in the PH gives away our minerals to foreigners because that is what our own law provides – even as so many of our people suffer from dire poverty.

Third, it is part of our mission to “engage vigorously in environmental protection, the preservation of bio-diversity, and the promotion of renewable energy.” We need to protect the environment and bio-diversity. The ad of the Philex Mines still running on TV which shows a pick breaking the earth and proclaims – as an animated sapling grows into a tree – that mining is about developing forests, is simply mendacious and counts us all for imbeciles. The long-term effects rather of probable acid mine drainage coming from the mines on our archipelagic environment should be depicted. Meanwhile, we read also about the recent approval by the Davao City Council of the site for the Coal Fired Power Plant even without waiting for the results of the independent multi-sectoral environmental impact study by supposed to be done by Aboitiz, the LGU and concerned groups. We may need the electricity and certainly do not want to be subjected to fabricated brownouts during the Christmas Season, but why did the aldermen not wait for the study? Did they think that it would come out unfavorably for the Power Plant? In this context, we hope to make an important contribution in our commitment to develop and promote new sources of renewable energy – through solar, hydro, and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) technologies. Meanwhile, if you journey to visit Ka Lolong who was captured in the rich marshlands of Bunawan, or the Enchanted River in Hinatuan, or the breathtaking Falls of Tinuy-an in Bislig or the Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel, one impression you’ll get is of overwhelming water resources. But as you visit these natural treasures, your heart will break because of the rampant logging that is all over. On our last trip, on the road returning to Davao from Surigao, we saw as many as six huge trucks filled four meters high with logs. With this activity unchecked, the forests will die. Kill the forests, and you kill the water supply – something we don’t want to happen as global warming heats up Mindanao.

My point in bringing all this out this morning is not to solve all the problems with which we are confronted, but only to give expression to the greater scheme of things. In the context of our world of Mindanao, our V-M is painfully relevant. The problems which we must confront as a university community are palpable and fully engaging. We need to respond to this situation with leadership, knowledge, moral uprightness, technical savvy, courage, vibrant research and relevant outreach. It is in the appropriation of the V-M statement that we open ourselves to greatness as a university in our world today.

Some Structural Changes

In this context, we have implemented certain structural changes in our university. I will not go into the detail of these, as time has been allocated for this later.

Allow me merely to say that in addition to the University Academic Council headed by the new Academic Vice President we have added the University Research Council headed by Ms. Lourdesita Sobreviña Chan and the University Social Engagement and Advocacy Council headed by Atty Arlene Cosape. The move was to underscore that the ADDU is not just a teaching university. It is a university because it is engaged in the discovery and production of knowledge through research. It is a university because it serves its community in social engagement and advocacy. In this context, the functions of instruction, research and outreach are roughly equal in importance, even though admittedly instruction is “more equal.”

Through the creation of the Office of the Deputy Academic Vice President now held by Mr. Elvi Tamayo, and the creation of the Chaplain for Administrators, Faculty and Staff in the person of Fr. Kim Lachica, S.J. we hope to address the pastoral and formative needs of the members of our University Community who are not students. In this context the development of the Samal Project for the Ignatian Formation of the Community has been approved.

We have addressed issues of salary scale. As an outcome of the last CBA, and on recommendation of recognized representatives of faculty, we have sought to correct inequities in compensation, even as we improved incentives for members of our faculty to earn the doctorate. I understand there are questions here. They will be addressed later this afternoon.

Meanwhile, as a University Community, we have much to do in the greater scheme of things. I propose that we come together, united by our shared V-M, challenged by our context, and resolve to be a great University in our Globe today. I propose that in shared V-M, with our new officials and structures, we now come together in shared planning, continuing what was begun last summer in Eden, creating space for the expression of our life passions in this, our university. Let us plan through “excellent instruction and formation, robust research, and vibrant community service” to respond in magis to the challenges of our context. Let us plan in Ignatian spirituality to distinguish ourselves as a University – not because we top surveys, nor enjoy outstanding name recall in Asia, nor because we do things that please people in the First World – but because, in being relevant to our students and our peoples in Mindanao, we are a University responsive to the mystery and challenge of Christ on the Cross, looking at us individually, intimating to us the mystery of God’s heart beating in love for each of us – in his created peoples of Mindanao, in his created mountains and seas, forests and deserts, waterfalls and lakes, in the eagles, the bats, the spiders, the carabao, in the caterpillars and the butterflies.

The Heart of the Greater Scheme of Things

Let me close this address on “the greater scheme of things” by recalling the Song composed by Fr. Johnny Go, S.J. of Xavier School. In the context of personal tiredness in chasing dreams, in routine, in endless requirements, the singer asks, “Does my life still mean a thing in the greater scheme of things?” In honest soul searching, he answers:

“I think I’ll follow the voice that calls within,
Dance to the silent song it sings.
I hope to find my place
So my life will fall in place.

“I know in time I’ll find my place!

“For yours is the voice in my deepest dreams
You are the heart, the very heart
Of the greater scheme of things.”

In context of peoples and communities seeking our professional assistance and help as members of this University Community, in the context of our shared vision and mission, we address our Lord, our King, and say:

“You are the heart, the very heart
Of the greater scheme of things.”

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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1 Response to The Greater Scheme of Things

  1. lydiagoingo says:

    Father, this is a very profound and rich national and local situationer! Thank you for posting it.

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