Tulong Dunong, ACIL, ICTUS, and other memories from up the Hill

If I lower my guard and take the comfy view that I am fundamentally defined by where I was schooled, I’d call myself an “Atenean”. When you are an Ateneo alumnus (and specially when you remain on as a faculty member), you usually come equipped with a lot of connections and the frame of mind to segue into “socially-oriented” projects if you wanna go down that path. But then I’m not really one to take “comfy views”. I may be “socially-oriented” but not, by any stretch of imagination, along the lines envisioned by my former Ateneo teachers.

kittenBy the time you graduate from the Ateneo High School (AHS), you will have been fully indoctrinated by the Tulong-Dunong (roughly translated “Help with Knowledge”) programme. The “TD” programme involves AHS students going off to disadvantaged public schools one day every week to tutor in Math, English, or Science the handful of elementary school students assigned to them. Participation is a mandatory part of the curriculum from the 3rd Yr to 4th years of high school if I recall right. The ACIL (Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League, I think it is) is an organisation for people who want to get involved in TD-type stuff beyond the mandatory requirements.

Usually high-performing students from these public schools are identified over the course of the programme and granted scholarships in the Ateneo.

At the University of the Philippines, the ICTUS (could be either “Instructional Catechetical Teaching for University Students” or “In-Christ Teaching for University Students”, whatever…) organisation is the counterpart of ACIL within that secular institution. It was founded by Ateneans and seems to be run along a similar ACIL-like doctrine.

It is a model (almost one you can consider a franchise) that is often successfully replicated in many other institutions of learning. Like Media and political influence, it is a channel over which information and knowledge is disseminated. So my view there as far as these things go is that it comes down to the quality of the content transmitted through these channels. You can have a dense and extensive network of channels (read lots of classrooms and teachers in your education system just as there are a lots of newspapers TV shows and entertainment personnel in Media), but if your content is not rich, deep, meaningful, and of the right kind you end up simply mis-educating and mis-informing in a larger and more efficient scale.

I’ve experienced being a member of ICTUS in UP. Nice bunch of folks — but so totally emo. Like in most religious orgs (UP-speak for “organisation”), there are a lot of activities involving open exhibition of religious fervour – the Angelus prayer is observed everyday at the prescribed hour, masses are sponsored by the org at every Catholic “day of obligation”, and lots of other ad hoc prayers are murmured openly (grace before meals, thanking the Lord for little wins, etc.) every now and then. Singing of religious songs continuously emanate from the org Tambayan (a designated hang-out spot within the campus).

Unfortunately, I find that hypocrisy often comes with the territory of an openly religious lifestyle. Being openly religious entails great responsibility. If you can’t back up your open religiosity consistently with a correspondingly pious lifestyle that is seen to be compliant with the dogma of your religion, guess what: you end up with the ironic outcome of undermining the very religion you seek to promote. That’s where Jesus Christ seems to be coming from in his continuous denouncing of the Scribes, Pharisees, and other religious officials during his time.

Catholic dogma is quite clear on a few things. There were three such things that were particularly relevant to me as a late teenager and, later, early twenty-something aspiring (albeit unsuccessfully) to lead the swinging lifestyle of a university student:

(1) The matter of “mortal sins” involving “impure” thoughts and actions (if you know what I mean);

(2) The matter of how sin makes you unfit to commune with the Lord (eat His flesh and drink His blood); and,

(3) The matter of how the only way you can re-establish your fitness to commune with Him is through the onerous Sacrament of Reconciliation.

(Note that like the good Catholic School alumnus that I am, I banged the above away on my keyboard straight off the top of my head without googling one bit of it)

So back then, it was often quite a bewildering experience for me to watch as friends of mine, who just hours or even minutes earlier I had just been exchanging rude stories and jokes with in the Tambayan, lined themselves up at the aisle of our University Chapel waiting for their turn to receive Holy Communion. Was there some kind of express drive-thru Confessional box around the corner I was not aware of?

My own thoughts became even more disturbing to me when I realised that I’d routinely scan the Holy Communion queue towards the end of the mass and think “hey Jojo over there has been bonking Gigi over the last couple of months”. Then I’d go on to think about how I haven’t seen either of them go to Confession lately — or worse have seen them go to confession before every mass they attended.

Shudder.

Suffice to say, there was something quite wrong about the sort of thinking that imprisoned my mind at the time.

My point is (with apologies for having so far digressed and digressed from the digression a few times here), can we always be a hundred percent sure about our personal moral bearings? Is it thine eye that offends? Or is it thine beliefs that make stuff offensive?

I wrote this in an article quite a while back:

What does [the] trend towards increasingly abstracted and simplified representation of ideas, information, and data mean? Hold that thought while we consider the example of something more tangible – the transport and distribution of physical goods in an economy – that we can use to illustrate the point I plan to make.

In the old days when people used to produce what they consume, an “end-product” was not regarded in quite the same way a Twenty First Century tween would see her mug of Starbucks hot chocolate. A subsistence economy consumer would most likely be aware of most of the value of the tangible economic input into, say, the wild pig thigh he is munching into – the hunt, the kill, and the butchering of the beast. The value has substance and is derived from real assets and capital – the hunter’s skill and weapons and the planning that went into the hunt, for example. In contrast, the only palpable source of the value in the Starbucks drink a modern-day city slicker would discern is the brand experience – the stoking on the ego of walking in and out of a trendy establishment, the pride in being seen holding in one’s hand a tall paper tumbler that conspicuously sports the green circular logo. The coffee beans that give the beverage its rich flavour may have come from South America or Africa, the milk accounting for its texture from Australia or New Zealand. None of it matters. Indeed, there is no way the average Starbucks customer could be aware of such details.

We are at an age where we are on a day-to-day and even minute-by-minute basis served up a dense platter of symbolic ideas encapsulated in colourful sensually-appealing icons. And even before the technology was available to package them in the way we now consume them through our whiz-bang electronic devices, such persuasion tools have been around for some time and have been just as effective at capturing our sensibilities. The problem lies in the way these packages insulate us from the soundness (or lack of soundness) of the logic in their underlying ideas.

With that in mind, consider now what Inquirer.net columnist Conrado de Quiros says in his article Yes, he might:

Noynoy, like his mother, has the power to tap into People Power. That is the one huge ally he would need to fight corruption. That is the one huge ally that will be there to fight corruption.

Cory formally institutionalized People Power – it’s a provision in the Constitution – but never really used it in the course of her term. The provision was left for the politicians to pervert, not least Arroyo who used it to oust Grace Padaca and Ed Panlilio and to try to change the Constitution. Noynoy holds the key to it. If he discovers it, he will raise, like Aragorn who conscripted the dead kings and their legions in “Lord of the Rings,” an army mightier than any of his enemies can muster.

Equipped with the right approach to thinking, some of the right questions may now naturally emerge when faced with the sort of moronism exhibited above. Up to the challenge?

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4 Comments on “Tulong Dunong, ACIL, ICTUS, and other memories from up the Hill”

  1. The problem with religion is that it focuses too much on outward appearances and a quid pro quo relationship with God.

    That, somehow, a being so vastly powerful and all knowing apart from being eternal would be assuaged by some trite rite or sacrifice of a being so small and so fragile.

  2. C de Quiros gave an inspiring speech during the funeral of Cory. It was an insight into her private life that many of us hoi polloi didn’t know. There was something saintly about Cory, even if there were hours and hours she wasted playing mahjong. She was simple, sincere, and had an obduracy that was not of course understood. She was a heroic housewife who could be the reason why Ninoy was heroic. She was the reluctant revolutionary leader and subsequently the reluctant president who held on, enduring all sorts of difficulties, till she was no longer needed. De Quiros said his regret was that he discovered the gold in the character of Cory quite late in the game.

    De Quiros was bewitched by Cory’s Magic thereafter. We should not belittle that magic; it made history that made as proud – the People Power. We could underestimate it; but it did carry Noynoy into presidency despite his total incompetence prior to his election. (And he remains much more incompetent after his election.) What de Quiros should realize is that he can’t carry on the ideas or ideals he picked up from Cory by just being blindly loyal to the Aquino or Cojuangco family. That magic had a time and it did have such time. To stretch it into another period of history, he might just be aiding in converting that magic into a curse.

    Probably, it was not magic. Simple minds did their arithmetic. Gloria was intelligent, but she turned out to be a mafia boss, stealing everything that was not nailed to the wall. So why not a simple mind like us to replace Gloria., and Noynoy did indeed had the right slogan: pag walang corrupt, walang mahirap. Unfortunately, it got stuck in being just a slogan. To this day, there is no palpable road map to a sustainable growth. In his SONAs, PNoy talks over an hour enumerating a laundry list of achievements and yet nobody could answer why they had to be done. Was it a necessary project or was it a waste of scarce resources? In short, PNoy has no vision/mission that experts could discern. Priorities are therefore formulated on whether there is sunshine today or rain tomorow. For sure, his economic agenda is a photcopy of Gloria’s. His CCT program is a cut and paste thing where Gloria could accuse him of plagiarism.

    PNoy argues that there s a big diff. He does not pocket any gov money. In fact, if you think about it this is his argument re PDAF DAP and Malampaya. Since I dont benefit from any of these personally, allow me to just work hard, I will decide from the seat of my pants where these funds could be utilized. So all of you, please shut up, you dont know what I am going through, just trust me for I am honest. Well, PNoy, I think you are honest, but your mentality is that of a second grade supervisor in one of the floors of an SM malls. Osmena was diplomatic when he called PNoy hardheaded. For all intents and purposes, he was labelling PNoy a genetically stupid moron hoping there was an intelligent moron. So was Amanpour when she was getting irritated with the answers of PNoy in that interview we all watched. You know of course that Anderson practically called PNoy admin an asinine gov in so many words.

    Many hold to the idea that because of the slogan of Daan Matuwid, we have a Napoles in jail today. They claim that there is a changing mindset within the gov bureaucracy that has allowed such to happen. Maybe, but this is a premature conclusion in the sense that if another Gloria replaced PNoy, corruption will again have its vengeance in the scale never seen before. There simply is no system being put in place to support the slogan. Every business txtbook will tell you that management by slogan is the poorest way of managing. I say then that Napoles is in jail by sheer luck because of Benhur Luy.

    So there was luck, so we think there could still be some magic that could be worked out. I think this is what de Quiros is trying to hang on to. A former communist, he is an idealist and when he loves an idea he holds on to it with his dear life even when underneath the beautiful idea is garbage. He likes PNoy’s slogan so de Quiros matches this with his beautiful prose. But, you can package anything with prose, but if itis garbage, it would still be garbage in and garbage out. He should realize by now that PNoy will never succeed. PNoy has a fundamental flaw, he should not have run for the position. The mere fact that PNoy had the gall to run is already a burden, a load too heavy to carry right from the starting line. And it s getting heavier by the day. No, he wont be able to rally a people power for he has to ask first, and must be asking himself up to now, what a supervisor’s mentality is doing in the positon that needs to be addressed as Your Excellency, not your Your Mediocrity.

    I emphatize with the frustration of the writer of the above article. He searched whether he had the right frame of mind to criticize. Afterall, it is the people that voted and it does not help when supposedly intelligent writers like de Quiros try to perpetuate an anomalous situation. And you look and look and see that PNoy is still popular in the survey. Indeed, that would be frustrating as nobody seems to be listening. But, the point is we cant control many of the influence brought about by education, environment, and people around us. What we can control is how and when to use these influences. For as long as we are honest to ourselves on what is right and act accordingly, what should hold us back. So let de Quiros say his piece and let us say our piece. Who is right, let history decide. This is not fatalism for we are not absolving or withdrawing for what we perceive is our obligation. If indeed we are after what is true, good and beautiful (not the Imelda kind, though…and I am being corny now) we have to share what is in our mind, even when that means being critical. The more we share the more we gat of what is true good and beautiful (hehehe) Those who would not listen to -or are critical of those with- criticisms are in the first place not interested on what a market place of ideas could offer unless it inflates their ego. As one said, Rome sank because it could no longer carry the weight of its narcissists.

    If running for an office of which one is not qualified is narcissism, then we cannot help but be deeply worried about PH.

    1. De Quiros better pray that Binay wins and hires him or his brother because his credibility has been shot to hell already.

      I used to read CDQ frequently and it was the only reason I bought PDI from the news stand.

      Used to.

      I wouldn’t even buy that newspaper again even to wipe dog shit with.

  3. Unfortunately, I had never attended Ateneo High School/University. Neither, University of the Philippines…

    Your religious belief is your business. I respect what you believe. Today is Maundy Thursday…tomorrow is Good Friday…

    You can help people in many ways…you can help your country also in many ways…you can help humanity in different ways.

    Education to me is a lifelong work…you have to make your mind active. Otherwise, it will atrophy. You mind is like any of your muscles. The more you use it…the more it become sharper…look at those YellowTard. They don’t use their minds…now they become Zombies…

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