You are the light of the earth.

eye of christ

[Homily.  2.8-9.2020.  Assumption Chapel]

Last week we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation.  We recalled how Joseph and Mary, obedient to the law, brought their firstborn child to the temple to be presented to the Lord.  But in entering the temple they encountered the holy man, Simeon, who had been promised he would not die before seeing the Messiah.  Upon seeing the child Jesus he took him in his arms and blessed God saying, “Now Master you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light for the revelation of the Gentiles” (Lk 2:29-32).  Simeon’s recognition of Jesus as the light becomes a leitmotif of the celebration of the Presentation.  That is why we began that celebration with a procession of candles.   The priest blessed these candles, saying, “God our Father, source of all light, today you revealed to Simeon your Light of revelation to all the nations.  … May we who carry them come to the Light of salvation.”  May we who carry them come to Jesus, the Light.   The Feast of the Presentation is the way the Church finally closes the Christmas season; Jesus enters our world as the Light.  We recall the beautiful passage from Isaiah read on Christmas Eve, “The dawn [the Light} from on high shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:78-79).

As the ordinary time has already begun, we have been contemplating Jesus preaching, healing and liberating people from darkness and demons within.   We have seen how Jesus shared his work with others, with people like you and me.  In Mark’s account of the calling of the apostles, which we considered recently in our liturgy, Jesus “called to himself those whom he wanted.  And they came to him” (Mk 3:13).  He said, “Follow me” (Mk 1:17),  and they left their nets or their tax collecting and followed him.  He said, “Follow me.”  “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6)  “I am the gate” (Jn 10:9). “I come to bring life, life to the full”  (Jn 10:10).  “I am the Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11).  And they followed him.  After his baptism, when the heavens opened, the Father introduced him as his beloved Son.  Then, during the Transfiguration, when the heavenly light shone through his humanity, the Father again said, “This is my beloved Son whom I have chosen.  Listen to him”  (Lk 9:35).   Conquering the darkness, overcoming sin and death through his passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus is the Light.  It is this light that rescues us from the shadow of death.  Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, we are baptized into this light.  Called to him, following him, we are called to carry this light into our world.

It is in this context that Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “You are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14).  Having been called to himself, having been invited to follow him, having been baptized into his death and resurrection, he says, “You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;  it is set on a lampstand where it gives light to all in the house.  Just so your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt. 5:14-15).

How then are you as followers of Christ to be light in this world?  Jesus says, “Love one another.  Love one another as I have loved you.  By this shall all men know that you are my disciples” (Jn. 13:34-35).   By this shall you be light in a love-starved world.  How else?  Feed the hungry.  Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked.  Visit the imprisoned.  “For whatever you do – or not do – to one of these the least of my sisters and brothers, that you do – or not do – to me” (Mt. 25: 40.45).   By acting in God’s love and compassion, you are light.   How else?  We can heed the words of the prophet Isaiah in our first reading.  “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn….” (Is 58: 7-8a).  Isaiah says further:   “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, the light shall rise from you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (Is 58: 10).  How else?   Perhaps, be a little less proud, and a little more humble.  Be a little less domineering, and a little more serving.  Remember Jesus:  “Jesus, knowing the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside his garments, took a towel and girded himself.  After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded” (Jn 13:3-5).  Later he said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:13-14).

To let your light shine as a city on a mountaintop, “In your relationships with one another,” Paul says to the Philippians, “have the same mindset as Jesus Christ who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:5-11).

You are the light of the world.  Come to Jesus.  Follow Jesus.  Have the same mindset as Jesus.  And shine.



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Unity or Division Within


[Homily.  Mark 3:22-30.  Assumption Chapel.  Jan 27, 2020.]

We continue with our contemplations of Jesus Christ in Ordinary Time.  We continue to watch Jesus preach, heal and liberate, continuing to beg for the grace that we get to know Jesus more intimately.

Mark’s Gospel moves very fast. Jesus has been clearly distinguished from John the Baptist.  Upon accepting John’s baptism to show his solidarity with persons in need of reconciliation with God and one another, the heavens open and the Father addresses him as his beloved Son.  From then on he preaches, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the Gospel.”  He must have been a spellbinding presence, for when he called apostles like Simon and Andrew, James and John, they left all to follow him.  Mark says people were “astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority.”  After all, he spoke as God’s beloved Son.   He had enough authority to rebuke evil spirits, to exorcise them from the persons they possessed.  He had enough power to heal not only the mother-in-law of Simon, but the many sick and demon-possessed who had been brought to him from far and wide.  Yet even as he healed he was driven to move into the next towns to teach, where he again met people needing healing, like the leper who said, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”   But in all this, Jesus encountered opposition.  In Capernaum, when a paralytic was lowered from the rooftop, they challenged his power to forgive sins.  He was criticized for eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, then for allowing his disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath, and for doing good to people on the Sabbath.   For all these disruptive actions, the Pharisees were already plotting to destroy him.  Yet he continued to heal and to free people of the demons that possessed them.

It is in this context that in our Gospel reading for today  Jesus is accused of casting out demons with demons.  “He is possessed by Beelzebub,” the scribes charge. “By the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”  Jesus responds, “How can Satan cast out Satan?  A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.   A house divided against itself cannot stand. It is wrong therefore that you attribute my work of healing and exorcism to the devil.  That is blasphemous.  The work of God is not the work of the devil.  The work of God, motived by compassion and love, which includes the forgiveness of sins, proceeds through the Spirit.   In believing that his work is the work of the devil, you deprive yourself of the Spirit who can correct your error and forgive your sin.” That is why Jesus warned, “He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is subject to eternal condemnation.”

Perhaps this is an opportunity to know Jesus more intimately.   We notice how he is not divided against himself in accomplishing his mission, even as forces in the world would like to divide him against himself, and even we know from the Gospel that he was tempted to such division.  He knows he is for the people.  He teaches them.  He serves them.  He forgives their sins, even when for this he is attacked.  He eats with sinners and tax collectors and people genuinely wrestling with life before their God, even when there are those who would like to reserve him for the holy, the scribes, the Pharisees and the hypocrites of our world.  He teaches that the Sabbath is made for the people, and not the people for the Sabbath.  For this, they wanted to kill him.

Jesus oneness with himself was real only because he was one with his Father.  The way he treated the ignorant, the poor, the sick, the sinners was one with the will of the Father, just as the way he expelled demons for people with consistent with his and his Father’s Love for the victimized people.  It was that Love, that Spirit, which drove the evil demons out of the people and made him teach, as a criterion for salvation, that whatever we do for the least of our sisters and brothers, that we do to him.

Coming to get to know Jesus in this manner may allow us also to get to know ourselves better in the same way.  Are we one with ourselves, one with Jesus, one with his Father and his Spirit?  Or, in a world of self-interest, greed, power, pleasure, and pride, are we a kingdom divided against ourselves?

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Ordinary Time

homily 2020 fisher of men

[Homily.  Assumption Chapel, 13 January 2019.]

Today, as Taal erupts, Australia continues to burn, and the people of Iran explodes in protest after learning that its military had shot down a Ukrainian plane erroneously, we begin Ordinary Time in this liturgical year.

Ordinary Time is the time outside the Advent and Christmas cycle and outside the Lenten and Easter Cycle.

This year, we will celebrate seven weeks of Ordinary Time before Ash Wednesday.  After Pentecost, we will continue with Ordinary Time in June until the 34th Sunday in Ordinary time at the end of November, the Feast of Christ the King.

Yesterday, our remembrance of the Baptism of the Lord was a celebration of another of the Lord’s major manifestations.  On Christmas, he was manifested to us as Emmanuel, God with us, as a babe in the manger.  On the feast of the Epiphany, he was manifested to us as a Savior not only for the Jews but also for the gentiles represented by wise men of different nations and creeds.  On the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, he was manifested to us by Isaiah as the special “servant of the Lord”, the “chosen one in whom the Lord delights” who will “make justice appear in truth” (cf Is 42:1), “a Covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness” (Is 42: 6b-7).

In yesterday’s Gospel, the manifestation of Jesus continues in his identification with sinners through his acceptance of the baptism of John, despite the initial vigorous objection of John.  Upon his baptism, the heavens open, the Spirit of God rests on him, and the Father manifests from the heavens, “This is my Son, the Beloved, he is my Chosen one” (Mk 1:11).  He is “the new Covenant,” through whom the Father gives himself in love to his people, and through whom the people shall give themselves in love to the Father.  The Christmas cycle brings us to this already startling manifestation.  The Easter cycle will bring us to an even more profound manifestation of this “Covenant.”  It is through the blood of Jesus, the new Covenant, that we are freed from our sins and lifted up to the Father.  We are invited then, as at every Mass: “Take this all of you and drink of it.  For this is my Blood of the new and eternal Covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Outside of the Christmas and Easter cycle, in the ordinary time, we continue with the contemplation of Jesus, the way, the Truth, and the Life, in his preaching, healing and liberating activity on earth.  We are invited to pray for the grace to get to know him more intimately through our contemplations of his mysteries and through our daily conversations with him.  It is in this season that we are invited to enter more fully into the new Covenant, who is Jesus.  As the Father says yes to us in Jesus through the Spirit, so are we invited to say yes to the Father in Jesus through the Spirit.

In the Ordinary Time, we encounter Jesus teaching, preaching, healing and liberating.  Our Gospel summarizes his main message, “The time has come.  The time is now.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Turn away from your sins and believe in the Good News that I bring” (Mk 1:15).  That is no ordinary message.  In this world it is not all injustice, it is not all lies and fake news.  I come to “make justice appear in truth.”  In this world, it is not all darkness for the nations, endless wars, endless recrimination, endless killing, endless pursuit of interests that betray the common good. I come as “a light to the nations to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness.”  Not all accept me.  But to those who do they are empowered to be children of God.

In Ordinary Time we encounter Jesus approaching ordinary fishermen.  “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of women and men” (Mk 1:17).  The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  He sends ordinary people like you and me to enter the field to bring in the harvest.  To bring to Jesus those who sit in darkness, who are disappointed with life, who have been unfairly bypassed, who are convinced there is no forgiveness for their sin.  To bring to Jesus even those who are affected by volcanoes, fires, earthquakes and all the tragedies of the human condition.  Perhaps, today, at the beginning of ordinary time, you may consider his call.  “If you hear his voice,” the Psalmist says, “harden not your hearts!” (Ps 95).  His call is nothing ordinary.  It is, in fact, a great grace.  If you say yes to it, you are in for quite an extraordinary experience.  Through your lives, you will show people God’s kindness.  In God’s kindness, you will be an instrument of their salvation.


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To God’s High Command Your Hearts Bow

altar assumption chapel

[Mass for ADDU Alumni/ae.  Assumption Chapel.  30 December, 2019]

There are many reasons for coming together on this day, the 30th of December.

The first is Sanjo Dakudao.  Without the usufruct agreement with him that allowed us to build on his property in exchange for the use of some of our new built-up space, the new Community Center of the First Companions, the Martin Hall, and this University Chapel would never have been built.  On this day, Sanjo passed away participating in a basketball game.  This fourth anniversary of his death, we recall his memory and his generosity gratefully.

On this same day four years ago, we blessed this University Chapel in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption.  This chapel has since been among the greatest of God’s recent gifts to us in ADDU community.  It is a space that unites us with the multiple cultures of Mindanao.  But it is all the more a space which affords us silence and solitude for prayer to the compassionate Father, or to his Son Crucified for us on the Cross, or to the Spirit that reconnects us with our deepest selves – where our will in discernment is most profoundly conjoined with that of the Father.  This chapel has since also developed a liturgical culture that is solemn yet intimate, communal yet personal.  It is our university’s most sacred space.   Today we remember its consecration four years ago by Abp. Romulo Valles gratefully.

It was to this chapel that our Dr. Arni Clamor came for daily Mass. She always sat in the second row on the left side of the chapel.  From there, between her classes here at ADDU and in the St. Alfonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI), she prayed in silence before her crucified Lord and united herself with the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.  She was a formidable teacher who stretched her students to open themselves to the importance of rigorous theological reflection in today’s world and to be better versions of themselves.  Many of you have been her students or her colleagues.  Yesterday, the Lord called her back to himself.  From this chapel, we now pray for her:  that the Lord grant her eternal rest.

December 30th, of course, is the day of the traditional ADDU alumni and alumnae Homecoming,  the day that Blue Knights all, from all over the world, come home to their alma mater.  Over the years this has happened in many venues: in this Jacinto campus, in the Matina campus, in Azuela Cove, and this evening, again in the Convention Center of SMX Lanang.  Coming home to one’s alma mater is not necessarily coming home to a single place, but coming home to many dear friends and mentors, many precious memories of formation and friendship, of discovery and growth, of dreams and fulfillment.  Ateneans come home to deeply engraved ADDU ideals of excellence and being women or men for others.  But also to one’s personal commitment to faith, as one’s conscience may dictate: for most of us, to the Roman Catholic faith, but for others to other faiths as well. At ADDU there is a cherished value of being strong in faith, fortes in fide, our university motto.  It is in this context that we have decided to restore to the ADDU Annual Homecoming also the opportunity to come home to Ateneo de Davao in this chapel through a Eucharistic Celebration, without which coming home to ADDU would be homeless.   Recalling other ideals of Jesuit education like magis, cura personalis, social justice, generosity, eloquentia et sapientia would have no mooring unless anchored in faith.  At ADDU, education was never only about excellent personal or professional education;  it was also always about education and formation towards being liberally educated persons strong in the faith:  fortes in fide. 

On the fourth day within the octave of Christmas, on the anniversary of the blessing of this chapel in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption, the patroness of the school, it would have been possible for us to offer a votive Mass of Our Lady of the Assumption.  Ateneans know:  “never was it known that anyone who fled to her protection, implored her aid, or sought he intercession was left unaided.”  But, knowing that Mary also always leads us to her Son, I have chosen the votive Mass of Christ the King, since Christ the King is the center of our chapel, and presumably the center of our lives as ADDU alumni.  As Blue Knights we now sing, “Men and women , knights in blue, for Christ, King, fight strong and true. … Let all you knights of Davao to God’s high command your hearts bow…!”   The most appropriate image of Christ the King, as you know, is the Crucified Lord on the Cross.  Hopefully, it is also the image etched in your heart that you take home from ADDU or take wherever life leads you.  On his Cross, he was  lifted up for our sake.  On his Cross, he lifted us to himself, and believing in him he lifted us up redeemed to his loving Father.   That happens at this Mass when he takes the bread, says the blessing, and says, “Take this.  Eat it. Make it yours.  This is my Body.”  Then he takes the cup filled with wine, says the blessing, then says,  “Take this.  Drink this. This is my Blood of the new and eternal covenant poured out for you.”

Coming home to Ateneo de Davao you come home to your response to three questions before the Crucified Lord gazing from his Cross at his image in your hearts from your image indelibly etched in his, “If you have done this for me in love, Lord what have I done for you?  What am I doing for you?  What ought I do for you?”

Remember what the Lord said in our Gospel reading, “Whatever you have done – or not done – to one of these the least of my sisters and brothers, that you have done – or not done – to me” (cf Mt. 25:31-46).

Perhaps, at this Mass, looking at the Crucified Lord, you may with St. Ignatius wish to renew an old commitment you made, long ago.  “Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty.  Take all my will, my mind, my memory.  All things I hold and all I own are thine.  Thine was the gift.  To thee I all resign.”  But also take St. Ignatius’ advice.  Be very, very reverent when you make such an offering of your free will.  God does listen to your prayers.  He does take to heart your self-offerings.  And he does accept them.  And it will cost you.   But for you, it may be the beginning of the ”life to the full” (cf. John 10:10) that he comes to you to bring.


Message to the Alumni/ae of Ateneo de Davao University

I am very happy we have been able to celebrate Eucharist together this morning and now to come together for this sale-salo.  I thank my sister, Lelen, and her team from Knights’ Table for the Yahung Arroz Caldo. Yahung in Ilonggo is an empty bowl.  It is a symbol of ourselves that the Lord fills with his life to the full.  I thank all who have contributed to this celebration of his bounty

I have five points to share with you this morning:

  1. Thank you for coming this morning. Let us make it a habit each year, on December 30, the morning of the day of the ADDU Alumni Homecoming, to come home to this Mass and simple table fellowship.  Strong in our faith, fortes in fide, we come home to the Eucharistic Celebration of our faith to give thanks.
  2. Coming home to one’s alma mater means coming home to the values that have defined us through our education and formation at Ateneo de Davao. For many, this is the challenge to excellence and to being men and women for others.  For others, these are the values associated with being ADDU sui generis leaders:  leaders shaped by vision and mission of the university:  a deep faith, a lived life of faith, a commitment to social justice especially in Mindanao, a commitment to wealth creation and its equitable distribution, sensitivity to cultures, esp. the multiple cultures of Mindanao,  openness to religious diversity and inter-religious dialogue, and commitment to the integrity of creation.
  3. We are interested in your experiences as sui generis leaders and in your feedback, on the education and formation, you received here at ADDU. WE want to know how we can collaborate more in implementing the vision and mission of ADDU.  We want to know how ADDU can help you in implementing your mission as sui generis leaders?   The ADDU Alumni Affairs Office will mediate this ongoing dialogue.
  4. Whether you graduated from ADDU 50 or more years ago, 25 years ago or just within the last decade or so, we are certain you have discovered that learning and the need to learn do not stop with graduation. With rapid changes in science and technology, learning is increasingly less degree centric and more focused on what is actually needed in what you are now experiencing in society.  It is for this reason that ADDU has put up the ADDU-Academy of Lifelong Learning (ADD-ALL) now headed by Ms. Ayessa Velaquez-Pastoril.  We are interested in how ADD-ALL can better serve you.
  5. ADDU was founded in 1948. Last year it turned 70, and today we are launching the collaborative history of ADDU published by Tambara under the leadership of Dr. Rey Pilapil and UPO under the leadership of Mr. Mac Tiu. Over the years, ADDU has grown from a small basic education school for boys to the university it now is.  While today it welcomes any help government can give it through the various educational programs of government that support Filipino citizens in private education, ADDU has always been and always will be a private school, dependent for its services and its growth on the support of the private sector through such as tuition, fees, and donations.  This year, ADDU has started a fundraising campaign to support its further growth.  I would like to invite you to consider its various packages of giving but especially its A-1 scholarship program, by making a commitment, or renewing your commitment, to supporting scholars at ADDU through a one-peso (or more) contribution every day for the rest of your lives.

Finally, in the name of the Jesuit Community and the entire University Community of ADDU, I wish you and all your loved ones all of God’s blessings in the New Year.


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Radiance in the Light of God with Us

christmas eve mass 2019

[Christmas Midnight Mass.  Assumption Chapel. ADDU.  Dec. 24, 2019.]

We began our Mass with a prayer of praise to the Father:  “You make this holy night radiant with the splendor of Jesus Christ….”  The spotlight is on the vulnerable bundle of human flesh and blood in the manger.  But the whole night is radiant in its splendor. And praise is given to the Father.

Let us appreciate this radiant night through some images from Sacred Scripture.

Isaiah says:  “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.  Those dwelling in the land of death’s shadow – light has beamed on them…” (Is 9:1a).  The                               whole enterprise of liberating humankind from the yoke of oppression, suffering, and sin, this is the work of the Father

But this work he doesn’t do alone.  He accomplishes this through his Son.  “You make this holy night radiant with the splendor of Jesus Christ….”

From St. John, we know:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God   And the Word was God.  …  And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:1. 14).

In our first reading, Isaiah says:  “For a child is born to us, a son has been given to us;  and leadership is on his shoulders. And his name shall be called wondrous-councilor, divine father, prince of peace, making leadership abound and peace without end” (Is. 9:5).

In our second reading, Timothy says:  “The Grace of God has appeared, saving all, and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age.” (Tim 2:11).

The Word became flesh through Mary.  Matthew said, “The virgin shall be with child, and they will call him Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us’” (Mt. 1:23).

In our Gospel for this night, Luke said,   “She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for him in the inn.”  (Lk 2:12).

To the shepherds in the field, the angel of Lord, the Father, appeared, and the glory of the Father shone around them.  The holy night became radiant in the splendor of the Father!  But this splendor is reflected in and radiates from the manger.  The angel said, “Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David, a savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2: 11).  But looking at this divine savior in the manger we recall words from St. Paul, “Existing in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped at, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness…” (Phil 2: 7-9).  The glory of God is wrapped in swaddling clothes…

My sisters and brothers:  the radiance of Christmas today that lights up our lives is not just in the artificial Christmas lights that flicker romantically this night and are put away tomorrow.  The radiance of Christmas is instead in the light of  God-with-us gleaned in the lives of people who believe in Jesus and live fully in his light.  One may say it is a product of the Spirit working within us, enlightening us, making us sources of his enduring light in our world.  Sometimes this is very subtle, very silent, at other times it is quite startling, but the light of God-with-us is unmistakable.

I know an erudite scientist who for more than the past year has put a bracket around his professional life to be the primary caregiver in love of his mother as she struggles against a debilitating illness.  Now he also takes care of his ailing father.  He witnesses humbly to the light of God-with-us.

I know a talented craftsman, a maker of fine leather shoes, who instead of devoting his skills to making himself wealthy, spends his life teaching the poor to make shoes in order to help them overcome their poverty through a productive craft.  He is enthusiastic in the light of God-with-us.

I know an engineer whose personal passion is to fight the poverty in Mindanao and to teach students to use renewable energy and innovative technology in this fight.  He has a long way to go, but he doesn’t give up.  He hopes in the light of God-with-us.

I know a talented and popular coach who works double time to be able each week to share his income with his parents, to build them a simple home, keep them happy and healthy, and once a week, on the Day of Lord, to enjoy a meal with them.  He is joyful in the light of God-with-us.

I know a brilliant theologian who has spent many grace-filled years here at ADDU teaching students, young and old, myself included, of the importance of theological rigor and discipline.  She is now dying from advanced cancer yet still gives praise and glory to the God who made her the magnificent person she is.  She is the light of God-with-us.

I know a young Jesuit passionate about helping his students understand the importance of thinking and experiencing out-of-the-box in order to understand the complexity of their subject matter.  He too witnesses to the light of God-with-us.

I know a talented young singer who uses his rare gift of song exclusively to praise and glorify the Lord and to lead others in the praise and worship of God.  He sings in the light of God-with-us.

I know a former high ranking military officer, a fierce warrior of the State, who now spends his time laboring for peace in Mindanao under the aegis of a Fraternity of World Peace and Living Together as inspired by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed Al Tayyeb.  He too is a witness to the light of God-with-us.  I know of hundreds of Muslim students working to contribute to the success of the BARMM in the name of lasting peace in Mindanao.  Their name is Salaam, Peace.  They too witness to the light of God-with-us even as they praise God saying, “Alhamdulillah!”

I know a woman of faith who sits in silent solitude each morning in darkness in order to welcome the brightening Dawn.  She too prays in the light of God-with-us.

I know of hundreds of students, faculty members, retired teachers, administrators, staff members who after the deadly earthquakes last October, but even after the earthquake that hit Padada, Davao del Sur, last Sunday, came together to gather, sort, repackage and distribute thousands of relief packages for those in need.  They too witness to the generous light of God-with-us.

There are many, many more examples I am sure that you are aware of:  How your wife has prepared the noche buena for tonight; how your husband has prepared the Christmas gifts; how your children have prepared special ways of showing their love to you and one another; how you are together this Christmas.  And how you have not forgotten to share of your bounty with others.

The Father makes this holy night radiant with his Son.  To those dwelling in darkness, a light has shone.  This is not fantasy; it is real.  All you need to do is look around.   Or, to look within.  Through the Spirit, may you be especially blessed at Christmas – bathed in the radiant light of God-with-us.   In God-with-us, may you be a blessing for others at Christmas.

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The Dawn from on High


Today we come to the last of our Simbanggabi Masses with thanksgiving and with special joy.  We thank the Lord for the grace of these Simbanggabi Masses.  Every day, God turns the night into day.  You have allowed night turning into day to especially help you with your preparation for the coming of the Lord.

You in your lives know the night:  not just the daily darkness that follows the sunset, but the times when you knew yourselves separated from the Light, through your distancing yourselves decidedly from God, through your turning inward in selfishness, through your actions inconsistent with a relationship with a compassionate Lord. You yourselves have experienced darkness in our world: the violence and death that come with peoples trying to dominate other peoples, with the abuse of political power, with the corruption and decay of practices that used to keep us healthy and whole.  During this Simbanggabi we have not forgotten the darkness.

But during this Simbanggabi we have been reminded of the venerable stories of how God breaks the darkness and turns night into day.  We recalled the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham, the Davidic lineage of Jesus from Abraham to David, from David to the Babylonian Exile, from the Babylonian exile to the coming of the Christ.  We recalled the role of Joseph, how he had to discover that the woman to whom he was betrothed was pregnant, yet accepted that this pregnancy was by the power the Holy Spirit, so bowed to the unfolding of the divine plan.  Then, there were two divine disclosures coming through the Angel, Gabriel.  The first was the announcement to Zachariah that his old and barren wife would have a child;  Zachariah responded in incredulity and cynicism, and for this, he was struck dumb.  The second was the annunciation to Mary, a virgin, that she would bear a child, Jesus, who would be great and called the Son of God;  her questions were of belief seeking understanding, and to the angel, she responded with her “Yes, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”  We recalled how Mary visited Elizabeth, Mary pregnant with Jesus and Elisabeth with John, and how at the coming together of these to woman, the infant in Elisabeth’s womb “leaped for joy” in nearness to the infant in Mary’s womb.  We remembered the beautiful manner in which Mary proclaimed the greatness of the Lord in her Magnificat.  And yesterday we recalled how the old and reputedly barren Sarah, as the angel had foretold, finally gave birth.  There was an argument as to what name the child would have, the relatives suggesting names within the family.  But Sarah said the child should be named according to the instructions of the angel, and when the relatives seemed to ignore her, Zechariah called for a tablet, and in obedience to the angel writes, “John is his name.”  And with that, his tongue is loosed.

Our Gospel for today are the beautiful words of the canticle of Zechariah.  They are words of praise for the God of Israel who comes to his people and sets them free, saves them from enemies who did not share their commitment to serve but one God, and enables them to worship him without fear.  He recognizes the special role the son of his old age, John, will play in preparation for the coming of the Messiah: “You my child shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins.”

Then there follows among the most beautiful of scriptural passages in the New Testament, the announcement of the coming of Jesus in the metaphor of the Dawn.  The words are to be savored in full appreciation of the length of the night, and of the intensity of the darkness with which we must in life contend.  They are to be savored because in this long night we have never been abandoned, we have never suffered alone, because God, the Father, took notice of us and “suffered with” us.

He did not stand aside;  he did not stand apart.  He entered into the lives of his people;  where they suffered poverty, he also suffered the pain of poverty with them. Where they suffered injustice, he felt the sting of injustice with them.  Where they suffered hatred, rejection, and violence, he suffered with them.

That is what “compassionate” means: suffering with us.  “In the tender compassion of our God, in God tenderly suffering with us, the Dawn from  on high shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

In your celebrating Simbanggabi over these past nine days, you have allowed the dawn to accompany you in your preparation for the coming of the Messiah.  Today, we learn, that Dawn is the Messiah.  “…the Dawn from  on high has broken upon us to shine on us who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”   The  Dawn dispels the darkness from your life; even death is no longer darkness but light.  Let the Dawn return you to the joy of the children of the Gospel, and guide your feet in a dance of peace!


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From the Matteo Ricci Program to the ADDU-Confucius Institute


[Address, Inauguration of the ADDU-Confucius Institute, 2nd floor, Finster Hall]

The Vice President of Huaqiao University:  Mr. Zeng Lu
The Head of the Chinese Language and Culture Education of Huaqiao University, Prof. Hu Pei An
Director of Office for the Board of Trustees of Huaqiao University,
Mr. Xiang Shi Min
Director of International Exchange and Cooperation Office of Huaqiao University, Mr. Zhao Xin Cheng
Representative of Huaqiao University to the Philippines, Mr. Michael Zhang
Alumni of Huaqiao University, Mr. Zhuang Jia

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) for the formal Inauguration of the ADDU-Confucius Institute.  Despite the holiday season and the nearness of our celebration of Christmas, I thank you for taking time to celebrate with us on this momentous occasion.

Just one week ago during the International Conference on the Teaching of the Chinese Language in the beautiful city of Changsha in Hunan Province, I signed a Memorandom of Agreement with the Vice Minister of Education Tuan Xuejun that effectively welcomed the ADDU to the Family of Confucius Institutes in the world today.  The experience of that international conference was overwhelming.  I interacted with participants from Malta, Brazil, Madagascar, Georgia, Bali, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia.  There were representations from 550 Confucius Institutes serving some 100,000 million people studying Mandarin in the world today outside of China!

On the Establishment of a Confucius Institute at the Ateneo de Davao University

The establishment of a Confucius Institute in the ADDU actively responds to the need for enhanced instruction in “Mandarin”, the common Chinese language, as well as for increased appreciation of Chinese culture in Davao City and in Mindanao.  This is a demand of the growing cultural, social, political and commercial interaction between China and the Philippines, especially here in Mindanao;  it is a demand also of the Association of Southeast and Asian Nations (ASEAN) which has recently agreed to improve its relationships with China.

Today, we look back with gratitude to November 2018, when the ADDU and Huaqiao University, supported vigorously by Chinese Consul General to Davao Li Lin and Mayor Sara Duterte, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Huaquiao University in Xiamen to work together to establish a Confucius Institute in Davao. I was one of the signatories of that agreement representing ADDU.  The other was Vice President Zeng Lu representing Huaquiao University.  We are very happy to welcome Mr. Zeng Lu to the ADDU today and to the ADDU-CI we agreed together to establish.

In this context, Ateneo de Davao University has the distinction of being the first Confucius Institute in the Philippines outside of Luzon. With the increasing demand for a Mandarin speaking citizenry in the coming years, the curricular offering of Mandarin language and Chinese culture shall address the needs of improved bilateral cultural and economic exchanges between Davao City and Jinjiang City, and China and the Philippines.

The Matteo Ricci Mandarin Program: Precursor

The Matteo Ricci Mandarin Program at the Ateneo de Davao was the precursor of the ADDU–CI.  Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit scientist and theologian who travelled to China in 1582 during the late Ming dynasty, mastered the Chinese language and acted as a bridge between western and Chinese science and culture.   Established in August 2012, the Matteo Ricci Mandarin Program worked closely with the Confucius Institute of the Angeles University Foundation (CI-AUF) in the local promotion of Chinese language and culture. For the past three years, however, apparently due to the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, Chinese volunteers were no longer sent to the Ateneo de Davao University to teach Mandarin language and culture.  The resulting dearth of qualified Mandarin teachers in Mindanao underscored an unfortunate imbalance in the distribution of Confucius Institutes in the Philipines.  There were four Confucius Institures in Luzon, and none in the middle Island group of the Visayas, and as of yet none in the southern islands of Mindanao.  Today, the first Confucius Institute in Mindanao is finally being established in our University.

With the growing need for Mandarin not only as a language of business and communication but also as a language of understanding, friendship and peace in our complex world, the Ateneo de Davao University acknowledges the long-term benefits that students gain through a growing competence in Mandarin and designs its curricula to respond to the challenges of learning a foreign language.

Already today, around 700 college students enroll in Mandarin classes each year with a range of 3 to 12 units depending on the curricular requirement per discipline. In a semester, the Matteo Ricci Mandarin program offers an average of 13-15 classes of Mandarin at 20 – 25 students per class and 4 classes of Mandarin in the summer. Ateneo de Davao University college students who have taken units in Mandarin are also qualified to take the Mandarin Proficiency Exams (HSK) exams. Over the years, students have shown themselves able to pass the HSK on various various levels.

At one point, the Ateneo de Davao University was tapped by the Confucius Institute at Angeles University Foundation to be the test provider for the HSK in Mindanao. During this period, our college students learning Mandarin were required to pass Basic Mandarin, which was included in the computation of the quality point index (QPI) they needed to maintain for retention in the University.

Ateneo de Davao alumni have proven themselves qualified to work competently in the Chinese Consul Generalate Office, while other students from the Business and Accountancy courses who work in banks and business establishments boast of their comparative edge because of their Mandarin-speaking skills. For some, once they pass the HSK, they can opt to participate in higher Mandarin courses in China. Given the current developments and innovation in the General Education Curriculum in the Higher Education sector in the Philippines, the teaching of a Foreign Language is required. The Ateneo de Davao University has required Mandarin in many courses in the School of Business and Governance and certain courses of the School of Arts and Sciences.

Apart from the curricular offering of Mandarin in the University, short-term courses in conversational and business Mandarin have been offered through Ateneo de Davao’s Academy of Lifelong Learning (ADD-ALL). These certificate courses are designed for adults, businessmen, and professionals who are interested to learn Mandarin as a practical foreign language. Mandarin classes are scheduled on Saturdays to address the demand of the corporate world and working professionals. This year, a group of ADD-ALL learners joined a study and cultural tour in Jinjiang, China as an integral component of their Mandarin language sessions and Chinese culture module. More of these types of language and cultural visits to China are now in the pipeline for the Ateneo de Davao Academy of Lifelong Learning, and now, the Confucius Institute at the Ateneo de Davao University.

On ways forward through the new ADDU-Confucius Institute

In the ADDU- CI, we will always be inspired by the memory of the Jesuit scholar, Mateo Riccin China.  But in his spirit of adaptation, we gladly take on the culture of the family of the Confucius Institutes in order to further instruction in the Chinese language and in the best of the Chinese culture in Mindanao and beyond.  Thus as a Confucius Institute – with the vigorous help of our partners in Huaquiao University and the Hanban – we hope:

  • to strengthen our instruction in the Mandarin language in our higher education courses both on the undergraduate and graduate school levels;
  • to continue to serve local government units like the provincial government of Davao de Oro in their desire to learn Mandarin;
  • to serve the Davao business community, especially the Filipino members of this community with Chinese blood and heritage, who wish urgently to learn Mandarin;
  • to support the teaching of Mandarin in the basic education level, first, at Ateneo de Davao, second, at public schools, in Davao, at other public and private schools in Mindanao and in the Visayas, e.g. in Huaming, Bacolod, who is already reaching out to us urgently for trained teaching personnel.
  • To serve interested government units in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the Philippine National Police, the Military and the Immigration Services.
  • To encourage the participation of our students in the Summer and Winter Camps of the Hanban as well as to organize cultural and educational visits to China;
  • To work closely with the Hanban in order establish appropriate standards of external quality control for our teaching programs;
  • To consider seriously in partnership with Huaquiao University the establishment of an ADDU BS in Secondary Education, major in teaching English and Mandarin, in order to begin developing our own teachers in Mandarin;
  • To identify scholars whom we might recommend to Huaquiao university for a four-year scholarship for a Master’s in Teaching the Chinese Language;
  • To act as a safe space for dialogue between academicians and experts to discuss issues of common concern towards the establishment of deeper friendship, understanding, complementary properity and peace between our countries.

Thank you therefore for being part of our celebration!  The establishment of the Confucius Institute at the Ateneo de Davao University shall serve the growing demand in Mindanao and in the Visayas for Mandarin teachers, Mandarin language programs, HSK exams and certifications, spaces for speaking Mandarin in the Philippines, cultural camps and lived experiences of the reality of China.  Given the strategic location of the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City and its influence in the Philippine educational landscape, granting the assistance it needs for qualified teachers from its partners in China, it shall become a dynamic hub for the promotion of Chinese language,  culture, and arts in a significant portion of the Philippines.





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Advent: a Celebration of Hope

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[Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., Homily:  ADDU Advent Thanksgiving Mass. Martin Hall.  Dec. 13, 2019.]

We come together in the Season of Advent.  Advent is a season of waiting.  Advent is a season of celebrating hope.

I say that because between faith, hope, and love, hope is too often the overlooked poor cousin.  At ADDU, we are fortes in fide, strong in the faith, for faith relates us to God, and we are strong in our faith in God.  And looking into the eschatological future, St. Paul says, “Then shall abide faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”  But what do we say of hope?

Advent is the Season of Hope.  In the Philippines, we tend to ignore this season.  Already at the start of September, we begin singing, “Whenever I see boys and girls selling lanterns on the street, I remember the Child in the manger as he sleeps…”  We love the celebration of Christmas with its gift-giving, its special decorations, its media noche, it’s bringing together of family and friends today more and more from all over the world.  And certainly no family, no individual, should be without a joyful celebration of Christmas.

But the value of what we have is most appreciated when we don’t have it.  Like when the water runs out.  Or when the electricity is gone.  How often have we had to say, I hope the water finally comes back tomorrow. I hope the electricity returns!

Advent is the Season of Hope.  It is the Season of Waiting.    Advent recognizes what we don’t yet have, yet celebrates that what we don’t yet have is certainly to come.  We celebrate hope not just because we’re naturally optimistic, not just because my parents or my teachers said so, nor because we trust in our rationality, technology, and power to bring about what we yet don’t have.  Our hope in Advent is rooted in our relationship with God, our trust in what He says, our faith, and our conviction that we are loved.  So even in Advent hope is impossible without faith and love;  but in Advent, we focus on hope.

Especially through the images celebrated during the Advent liturgy!  Let me just highlight a few:

For those of us who think that it is difficult to find the Lord, to find his dwelling, for those of us who think they have no place in his house, look to the highest mountain, Isaiah says:  “In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.  All nations shall stream towards it, many people shall come and say, ‘Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths’” (Is. 2:1-2).

For those of us waiting for the right ruler, one who will not be arrogant in his manner, unjust in his judgments and disrespectful of the Lord, Isaiah says, “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots, a bud shall blossom.  The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him:  a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of good judgment and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord,” (Is: 11:1-2) that is, the fear of separating himself from God, in his policies, the fear of offending the Lord in his care for human beings.

To those who are working and waiting for peace, for a resolution to disputes between nations and peoples, religions and othered religions, for a stop to violence and destruction, sometimes experienced painfully among warring colleagues and officemates, Isaiah says, “Then, the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.  The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest;  the lion shall eat hay like the ox.  The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.  There shall be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.” (Is 11:6-8)

To those who are hungry, who just do not have enough to eat; or to those who have too much to eat, and who are yet hungry,  hungry for understanding among peoples and nations, hungry for life stronger than death, Isaiah says, ”On the mountain, the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich foods and choice wines, juicy rich foods and pure, choice wines.  On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations;  he will destroy death forever.  The Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…” (Is 25:6-8a).

Perhaps such images in the Season of Advent will help you to locate that for which you hope in life.  For life without hope has no depth, no direction, no meaning.  The Season of Advent may help you clarify what the foundation of your hope is – that your dreams may come true, or that your deepest desires might be fulfilled.  Too easily we teach children that their hopes will be fulfilled by a Santa Claus.  Perhaps in a similar manner too easily we teach others and ourselves that our hopes will be fulfilled simply by due diligence and hard work;  we learn to trust in “the system” that puts us to work, the same system that we also learn in experience to mistrust.  Isaiah says, “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is an eternal rock.” (Is: 26: 4)  He says in our reading for today, “I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.  If you would listen to my commands, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea…” (Is 48:17-19).

In God we trust; in his love, we hope; he will not disappoint.  He comes to teach us, to guide us, to redeem us, to lead us up to his highest mountain where the fullness of life is our prize.  This is the Advent hope which we celebrate in God with us:  “For,” as Isaiah says: “a child is born to us, a son is given us, and government rests on his shoulders.  And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is 9:16).





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President’s Words:  ADDU Service Awards, December 13, 2019.

IMG_0746As we close this happy celebration I would like once again to congratulate all our awardees for 10, 15, 20, 25 and 35 years of service in the Ateneo.  Especially warm congratulations and well-wishes for our retirees.  I thank you for your choice to make ADDU the home of your careers.

As attested by your many beautiful statements in the souvenir program, teaching on the basic education level or giving instruction in the higher education level, doing research and responding to needs of the community, or supporting education at the ADDU  through staff work or administrative leadership have not just been a job for making a living;  it has been an opportunity to respond to and live out a vocation,  to grow in one’s personal identity and spirituality, to make friends – even as dealing with the frictions of cooperation and collaboration in daily life has often been challenging.  After all, ADDU is not a fourth-industrial-revolution integrated system of robots;  it is a community of human beings.  Building a communio that is warm, supportive, creative and productive is not only a human challenge;  it is also a challenge of faith, a challenge of responding to the love of God who invites all of us to love one another in our educational service.  In this context, it is a priceless gift.

Recently we had a visitor here:  Fr. Jose Mesa, the point person for basic education of the entire Society of Jesus.  He came here with the notion that “school” means only basic education, and that basic education is a totally different animal from higher education, and never the twain shall meet.  I think he experienced here that in a university such as ours basic education is as integral to the university operation as higher education, and that both find their integration in pursuit of the vision and mission of the school.

I am happy that in May of this year, long before the new document of Jesuit Schools, a Living Tradition was published in November, all of us together have been able to reformulate our vision and mission, articulate and approve a new strategic plan, and identify key result areas and indicators so that we will be able to track our performance as we implement it.

Through this strategic plan – with your help  – we hope to be able to meet the challenge of survival posed by government’s lopsided spending on public education.

With your help, we will not only survive, we will thrive, insisting on teaching our students, and teaching them well; installing quality assurance measures that will allow ourselves and others to know whether what we are claiming for ourselves is really true, or only a figment of our imagination.  After our K-12 reform, in which we are all involved, it was embarrassing to learn that in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2018, of 79 countries when it came to reading, science, and mathematical skills, the PH was at the bottom.  The study also sadly revealed that even the best of learners tested were scoring only average on the global scale.

That ignominious distinction has to be painful to all of us who serve in what the Constitution describes as “a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education” responding to “the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels” where public and private school play complementary roles.  (Art. XIV, secs. 1, 2, 4)

The poor performance has motivated Sec. Leonor Briones to launch Sulong Edukalidad that will review the K-12 program, improve learning outcomes, upskill and reskill teachers, and engage stakeholders for collaboration and support.

For us at ADDU, it will mean checking on the quality of our instruction, making sure that our learners are able to read, comprehend what they read, write, think critically and grow in the scientific and human knowledge and skills that they come to us to learn.  It will mean working together to ensure that our teachers are equipped with the best of disciplinal knowledge and pedagogical skills.

It may also mean contributing to the national educational quality reform, examining critically our educational policies in public and private schools from our own experience and data, even if this implies distancing ourselves from policies of the DepEd or of the CHED whose outcomes are not quality assured.

In the higher education level, after rigorous disciplinal instruction in basic education, it will mean making sure that our students are well exposed to inter- and multidisciplinary learning opportunities so that they can be complex problem solvers, critical thinkers, sources of creativity and innovation, and persons of good judgment.

It is in this context that I thank you today for your ongoing commitment to ADDU.  There is much that has been done; there is much that has yet to be done.  Thank you for being part of it!  Thank you for your ongoing collaboration and support over many, many years.  

Ad majorem Dei gloriam!





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Supporting the Culture of Quality Assurance Prior to Accreditation and Beyond

PhilEd 2019

[2019 Philippine Education Conference, SMX Convention Center]

The Philippine Education Conference for this year “highlights the need for policies and practices that are responsive to the needs of learners [including students] and schools for the development of the education sector.  Specifically, it encourages discussions on operationalizing the complementarity between public and private schools in the areas of educational financing.”   Our topic in this concurrent session is accreditation in the context of the AQRF and the PQF.  My task is twofold.  First:  suggest what policies and practices are needed to provide learners and students the quality education the Constitution states they have a right to on all levels ultimately in the context of the AQRF.   I have five suggestions.  Second:  suggest how public and private schools can help one another in quality assurance.   My general recommendation is, as the title of my talk suggests, to support the culture of quality assurance in the Philippines prior to accreditation and beyond.

Unfortunately, the PhilEd framing of this concurrent session starts us off on a very high level:  that of accreditation and of the AQRF.  The AQRF is a scheme whereby the quality-assured qualifications in one of the member countries of the ASEAN can be compared with qualifications in another ASEAN country.  The AQRF is a method of ensuring comparability of the qualifications we output in our schools with the qualifications of all other countries.  The qualifications we produce such as mechanic, computer technician, engineer, architect, chemist, or nurse become comparable with similarly trained qualifications in other countries.  This allows movement of students and professionals from one ASEAN country to another and the appropriate recognition of qualifications as students continue their studies or are engaged professionally in other countries.

Meanwhile, accreditation is considered a very stringent, and to many, the highest form of quality assurance.  Considering the more than 2000 private schools under the umbrella of the COCOPEA, FAAP states that only 727 have accreditation. The Association of Christian Schools and Colleges –Accrediting Association, Inc. (ACSC-AAI) has accredited 92 (13%), the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) 415 (57%), and the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities’ Commission on Accreditation (PACUCOA) 220 (30%). However, the real number of schools with accreditation is only 665, since 62 of these have some programs accredited by PAASCU and others accredited by PACUCOA and so are counted twice.  665 of 2000 schools is roughly one-third of  COCOPEA schools, which does not encompass all private schools.  For an ecology of QA in the Philippines seeking general comparability of its qualifications with all other ASEAN nations, this one-third is too small.

This considered, my first suggestion is to focus on the cultivation of a culture of quality assurance.  A current policy dispensation which focuses on the rewards of quality assurance in vertical typology (such as the benefits of autonomous or deregulated status for the school and the lessened administrative worries for the regulative body)  or forces a decision in horizontal typology (whether a school shall be a university, a college or a professional institute) even before the school has begun to nurture a culture of quality assurance may discourage rather than encourage the practice of quality assurance.  Focusing on nurturing the culture of quality assurance is necessary.

My second suggestion:  We must agree on what quality is.  There are some who think the mark of a quality school is the high level of tuition it charges.  There are others who think that only big, urban, well-know schools are quality schools.  There are others who think that a small school dedicated to the training and education of indigenous peoples cannot be a quality school.  In PAASCU, our understanding of quality is fourfold and explicit in our mission statement:  “to promote our member institutions’ implementation of their vision, mission and goals, achievement of minimum standards [based on learning outcomes] and evidenced excellence based on learning outcomes, and responsiveness to stakeholders.”  In CHED’s definition of quality in CMO 46 s. 2012, achievement of minimum standards is not part of its definition.  This is merely implied in its standards of excellence.  CHED also omits responsiveness to stakeholders, certainly necessary for compliance with the PQF.   Coming to a working agreement on the meaning of quality that is then reflected in our quality standard on quality assurance would help develop the culture of quality assurance needed in the education sector.

My third suggestion:  Schools should begin the practice of quality assurance long before they are accredited.  Government can begin to recognize and reward schools practicing quality assurance long before they achieve accreditation.  Early on, schools should have articulated their vision and mission well and should be able to evidence how these are being implemented in the culture of the school, including in its academic, research and outreach activities.  Schools should be able to evidence their compliance with minimum academic standards set by the DepED or CHED’s PSGs for programs – PSGs that are calibrated with the PQF.  Schools should show evidenced excellence in at least one academic area achieved through the exercise of academic freedom in the pursuit of their vision and mission.  Schools should evidence their responsiveness to stakeholders, not only industry (as important as industry is and stressed by government) but stakeholders determined by the schools’ vision and mission:  possibly, the poor, the jobless, indigenous peoples, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, the Church, the NGOs.  Government in partnership with the external quality assurance agencies can recognize and reward schools cultivating quality assurance long before they qualify for accreditation.

My fourth suggestion:  The ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework (AQAF) should guide and motivate the schools and the different private accreditation agencies in the country towards a harmonized promotion of the culture of quality assurance in the country (and therefore not only of accreditation);  this needs to include conversations that in academic freedom would strengthen the EQAAs and harmonize the EQA-Standards and Procedures (EQA-SP).  Within the AQAF, it is the school, and not the quality assurance agency, that is the principal driver of quality assurance first within the school and thereafter within the Philippine educational community.  From within, the school decides to offer quality education and to assure itself and others that it is delivering that quality education.  From this decision, it designs and implements its Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) culture.

At a certain level of quality development, the schools reach out to an EQAA to help assure it and others of its quality using respectable world-class standards and procedures (EQA-SP).  Based on these standards and procedures, that EQAA should be able to help the school develop a culture of QA even prior to accreditation.

Part of my fourth suggestion is that EQAAs such as PAASCU, PACUCOA, ACSCU-ACI for different educational levels such as basic and higher education, and different associations of accrediting agencies, like the Federation of Accrediting Associations of the Philippines (FAAP) for private schools, the Accrediting Agency for Chartered Colleges and Universities in the Philippines (AACCUP) for SUCS, and the  Association of Local Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (ALCUCOA) for LCUs, get together to address their differing standards and procedures of accreditation, especially when determining levels of accreditation.  The situation of siloed accreditation processes for different HEI groups (for-profit private schools, non-stock, non profit private schools, public SUCs, public LCUs) and the lack of harmonization between them may favor the interest of the operation of a school or set of schools over the integrity of the quality assurance, and so throw in doubt the validity of the accreditation process itself and the veracity of the quality assured.   It makes it impossible to compare the assured quality of private, state and local colleges and universities in the Philippines, even though we claim comparability with the qualifications of other ASEAN nations through the ASEAN Qualifications Referencing Framework (AQRF).  This is a sorry situation that must be faced not only by the government, but by the educational community of the Philippines.  It is an exigency less of government which can only enforce minimum standards in its regulation of schools, and more of the higher-educational community itself that in academic freedom pursues excellence in chosen academic areas that need quality assurance.  As long as it is not faced, there is no reliable quality assurance mechanism available to ascertain that the public funds spent on SUCs or LCUs would not have been better spent in private schools based on quality.

My fifth suggestion:  with the consent of the HEIs who enjoy academic freedom, government should confirm its adoption of the AQAF as normative for quality assurance for schools in the Philippines and actively participate in its further development and implementation.  The distribution of scholarships, public funding, the benefits of the GASTPE and of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education should be based on the assured quality of the AQAF, giving quality education higher priority to government funding rather than merely whether it is a public or private school.

Finally, public and private schools, e.g. through associations like the PASUC and the COCOPEA, can in true practical complementarity help one another in quality assurance by sharing best practices in internal quality assurance and by insisting that their EQAAs are genuinely external and that their EQA-SPs are truly harmonized with the SPs of other EQAAs in the Philippines and in other ASEAN countries so that the qualifications they output in their schools are truly quality assured.  Genuine quality assurance must eliminate all conflicts in interest.  All may consequently consider and help develop a proposed new policy-standard on quality assurance that focuses primarily on the cultivation of quality assurance and uses an instrument of quality assurance that checks the institutional culture of quality even prior to accreditation. [This instrument is discussed in the concurrent session led by Dr. Gina Montalan.]  Public and private schools may include among their EQA-SPs the exchange of accreditors and the external monitoring of accreditation processes to further guarantee the objectivity of quality assurance.


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