By Claudia Liwanag
Images by Enzo Orbeta
Every quality time spent with my family or with friends usually ends up in deeply profound conversations, where you start talking about life’s greater mysteries and question your place in all of it. Whenever I share philosophies for these things I’ve picked up, either in a psych class or theology lesson, I’d hear my family say, “Wow, na-brainwash ka na by THE Ateneo” or “Hanep, magis.” I didn’t even know what magis meant until I realized, and found myself truly seeking for that greater good, I stopped feeling attacked. Because in the lessons taught in its classrooms, Ateneo de Manila has instilled morals and virtues I’ve come to hold deeply in my heart.
Ateneo culture displaces the sort of Socratic tradition followed in other schools. It has allowed me to question things with childlike curiosity because, analogous to faith and in a world where people have replaced faith with science, we have fallen into the errors of rationalism where a person is no longer prompted to be socially responsible, no longer urged to contribute to the transformation of society.
Helping students regain this lost sense of social responsibility is what an education at Ateneo offers. Ateneo has taught me that there is room to change what I thought I knew and understood about the human condition, by discovering and encountering new experiences. These experiences either validate or nullify previously held beliefs or misconceptions about one’s role in society. We are constantly reminded to “think again” in order to guide us toward what could be a more appropriate perception and understanding of reality, about ourselves and about others.
For me, there is no campus that’s more conducive to this kind of learning than the huge expanse of property Ateneo has in Katipunan. It really is such a beautiful campus. I’ve even recently started biking to get to my classes, which is the best decision I’ve ever made! The trees are lovely, the Church of Gesu is majestic—fields of green everywhere! That’s somewhat pretty ironic in a school that’s proudly blue, if you know what I mean.
We also have two gorgeous Rizal libraries, the so-called SOM (short for School of Management) Forest, and a new arts building called Arete, which houses beautiful displays of art and where plays are staged—showcasing some of the best works by Ateneans that I’ve ever seen. And that building itself is already a work of art! I don’t know how many shoots young, aspiring photographers have done there. Then there’s that sizzling sisig place at ISO, a spot with such a great view that makes you feel like you’re in Greece, even just for a moment.
These and many other buildings at Ateneo have seen batches and batches of students come and go, each with a renewed hope they could do something to improve society. Ateneo provides that holistic perspective that bridges the fragmented ideals of the modern world. I guess this is the “brainwash” people talk about. I now realize I shouldn’t put myself at the center of my life, nor should I be at the center of the universe!
You’re not alone in this world. You’re not living in a vacuum. The reason we’ve made it so far as a human race was through coexistence: because we started talking to each other, sharing what we learned about the world with one another, and building this civilization we live in today, together and hand-in-hand.
And so I, have been trying to live my life as a (wo)man for others. My journey toward prioritizing love for one’s neighbors as the love that God demands from us, as well as promoting social justice, ecological sustainability, the development of family and community, has begun. My hope is that I could contribute in the cultivation of a just culture to balance out the evils of prioritizing capital accumulation and the ascendancy of monetary valuation. At Ateneo, we are not just taught to become future leaders, bosses, lawyers, etc. Instead we are taught how to be authentically human—one big fight, not for ourselves alone, but for the rest of society.