I don’t buy this whole freedom of expression thing when it comes to speaking up about the RH Bill — not if I were employed by an institution of learning that affiliates itself with the Roman Catholic Church. Those outspoken professors enjoy the great pay (as far as educators go) in schools like the Ateneo, La Salle, and UST because those schools are lent credibility and prestige by their being run by members of European religious orders.
I think whoever authored that infamous article on the UST paper Varsitarian had it right when he or she wrote: “As these professors have chosen to teach in a Catholic university, they must abide by its teachings and beliefs. In the first place, the same is demanded of students.”
I’m not gonna go into the details of what I think about all that because I think Benign0 already delivered my point really well in his article about it…
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For the professors of the UST and other Catholic institutions such as â€œtheâ€ Ateneo de Manila University and, sniff, De La Salle University, their self-imposed aspiration to take a stand for the ideas they are passionate about exacts a far far smaller price: their continued employment.
Instead, I will talk about my own experience dealing with the sort of choices these professors should have been considering as employees of Catholic institutions taking a stand for an issue that goes against the grain of their bosses.
At the State University campus where I went to college, there were two big Catholic ogranizations that were in the business of doing Catholic stuff like praying and singing together, going on retreats, organizing masses for this or that occasion, and going to poor barrios to teach grade school kids. One is composed of members that I’d consider (fairly or unfairly) to be more of the, shall we say, “down to earth” sort. The other was populated more by the brat-pack set — graduates of the same prestigious Catholic high schools that currently have their claws out at one another over this whole RH Bill brouhaha.
The former had their tambayan (“hangout place”) at the top of the steps of the university’s Arts and Sciences building, while the latter took residence in some kind of shed near the campus’s iconic Catholic chapel. I spent a lot of time as a guest hanging out with the latter brat-pack org. What college girl could resist? The place was teeming with Atenistas and LaSallistas, and the cars parked around the area were the sorts of cars you wanted to be seen cruising around in while sitting on the passenger seat (for those with crystal-clean untinted windows) or, at least, getting out of (for those with those naughty one-way mirrored tints). I can’t say I’m proud of the criteria I applied when choosing hangouts as a 19 year-old college student, but I was what I was at the time.
So there I was in-between classes (and even after my last class), enjoying the wit of Jake who was good at doing impromptu stand-up comedy in a thick bisaya accent (despite having lived most of his life in Quezon City) and bumming “blue seal” Marlboro Lights from Ramon who belonged to the Makati carpool set, an elite clique of guys and gals who lived in one of a handful of exclusive fortified villages in Makati. In the background there was always at least one dude or another wistfully strumming or picking notes off a guitar. Other guys or girls would be busy struggling to concentrate on their school books and assignments amidst the din of banter and laughter that filled the tambayan (why they didn’t instead study in a library if concentrating on work was supposedly that important was quite obvious).
It was all fun, games, and lots of flirting interrupted every now and then by clear reminders of what the org supposedly stood for. Lots of rituals were religiously (go figure!) observed. The Angelus was prayed every 12 noon, and some kind of rosary-like prayer was chanted at 3 o’clock every afternoon. Grace was said before meals. A crucifix hung from the wall facing the entrance. At about the time classes are dismissed in public schools around the area, some members would make paalam to go to their turo (tutoring sessions).
Personally, I just disappeared whenever the Chapel gang bowed their heads in deference to their token Catholic rituals. Even back then I had already decided that being too Catholic wasn’t my thing. By then, as a sophomore, I was already taking a couple of calculus courses which were beginning to eat big time into my campus free time. So I wasn’t about to blow an hour of my precious but dwindling tambay time on the almost weekly masses these guys attended. There were, after all, other interesting folks to hang around with in other hangouts just a few minutes’ walk away.
Eventually, reality really bit. One of the members of the Chapel gang finally asked me why, since I hung around there so much, don’t I just apply as a member? That’s when the questions hit me. Did I want to be a member of this org? As in, recite the Angelus every noon time, carry around a rosary in my pocket, say grace before meals, go to more than the one mass I trudge into every week (okay, so I still went to Sunday mass — because my mom would’ve freaked out if she found out I would rather not), and go out to stinky “depressed” neighborhoods most afternoons of a school week pretending that that noble task was what being a member of the org was really all about?
I must have mumbled some of those questions out loud at the time (hopefully not the more irreverent of them) because Lala, the girl who asked me if I’d consider applying for membership, quickly assured me: “No, silly, you don’t have to be that into all that. It’ll be fun!”
But I already was having fun as a non-member hanger-on (a sort of parasite I can admit now). Because there was no commitment to the demands of membership. Maybe the fun would still be there as a member, but the required commitments will have one way or another substracted from that fun. The calculus (as mentioned earlier, a subject relevant to me at the time) was simple: the delta of Fun as a function of X as X approached membership was a negative value. There was nothing in it for me and my shallow ways. And even if I took Lala’s advise and not be too “into all that” as a member I thought, hey, life’s too short to be spending time on something you are not too that into.
So I opted out.
These professors can too — if they decide they are not that into toeing the Catholic line.
Frustrated artist doing geek for a living.