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Messages - Eduardo (Jay) Olaguer

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Lounge / A Eulogy for My Father, Eduardo Buenaventura Olaguer
« on: August 27, 2017, 01:35:49 AM »
My father is a well-known figure stemming from his days as a freedom fighter during the martial law era. His reputation as a hero is well-deserved, and as his first-born son, I am proud of his exploits on behalf of justice and truth. But there are others who know him in that capacity better than I, for during those years, I was mostly abroad and far from the scene in which the critical events played out. Instead, I would like to speak of my father in a more personal vein.

I will first describe Papa in the context of a journey that we all took as a family during 1970 to 1972, prior to the declaration of martial law in the Philippines. At that time, my father was a scholar at the Harvard Business School. He had been sent to Cambridge, Massachusetts by IBM, as a stepping stone to greater responsibilities within the company. Although Harvard is certainly a demanding institution, my father’s time apart from the corporate rat race gave us a chance to experience life in a different way. During this time, Papa saw to it that we, his children, had a rich set of experiences from which to draw for the rest of our lives.

Left photo: The author’s father, Eduardo B. Olaguer, then 44, was a geodetic engineer and professor at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). Right photo: Jay Olaguer, then 20, was at the time an undergraduate Physics major in the United States. The photo was taken when Jay was interviewed by a Boston media reporter soon after his father was arrested in December 1979 along with several others for alleged subversion against the Philippine martial law government of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

I remember especially the long cross-continental summer trip that Papa instigated, some of which I would later retrace with my own children. I remember that he took my siblings and me to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles, the year the latter team was destined to win the World Series, and to the Boston Garden, to watch the Celtics play, when Dave Cowens and John Havlicek were still in their prime. I remember that Papa, my brother Eric, and I, would animatedly watch TV to see Bobby Orr and the big bad Bruins take on the rest of the National Hockey League on their way to a Stanley Cup in 1972, just before we left the States to return to the Philippines. I also remember the camping trips that Papa would take us on, including one to October Mountain State Forest, during which my sister, Didi, and I got lost following the wrong trail and ended up hitchhiking back to the family campsite. My father did not berate us then, as I had expected, but merely let us learn from our own mistakes.

With regard to the life of the mind, I remember the military history books Papa would buy, which he let me read while still a pre-teen, and which made deep and lasting contributions to my intellectual development. These were books like Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the outbreak of the First World War, and a survey entitled, The Wars of America, which included a description of the so-called Philippine Insurrection, which deeply upset me along with another book on a similar subject entitled, Little Brown Brother. Indeed, I read many selections from Papa’s personal library, even strange and highfalutin books like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s The Divine Milieu, with which I would later disagree. This is one reason why, to this day, I hoard books like a precious treasure trove of knowledge and insight, in the hope that my own children and grandchildren will derive a similar love of learning.

When we returned to the Philippines in 1972, political events cast a shadow on our family life. I remember my father taking me, then thirteen years old, to a talk by former Justice Barrera of the Philippine Supreme Court, warning us of the loss of freedoms that martial law would bring. I would later learn that other controversial figures, some of whom we read about in the newspapers, would show up at our home in the middle of the night. My father would eventually resign from IBM due to his political stance. For some time, my parents continued to send us to exclusive schools, despite the fact discovered by my brother, Eric, that their bank deposit book showed a near-zero balance. But my father was a man of faith, a faith which God vindicated when Papa eventually took on a series of jobs that made him a leader in the business community.

As many of you in the audience know, the Light a Fire Movement that Papa helped to found landed my father in prison for over six years. In 1983, on a summer visit home from the States where I was by then a graduate student, I had the privilege of sneaking an overnight visit with Papa in his jail cell at Bicutan. That visit was the seed of my conversion back to the Catholic faith of my youth, facilitated by some heartfelt dialogue with my father on some very deep subjects, both personal and philosophical.


Fast forward to December 2014, when I was called home due to the discovery of an aneurysm in Papa’s chest, for which he required emergency surgery. Believing that it might be my last chance to see my father alive, I wrote him the following message prior to my visit:

Dearest Papa,

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a formal letter. Since I was informed of your upcoming heart surgery, it occurred to me that time was running out for saying certain things that needed to be said. We are both advancing in years, and neither of us is in the best of health. Moreover, events in the world are rapidly coming to a head. Who knows what the future holds?

The bottom line is that I have never properly expressed my gratitude to you for certain fundamental things in my life, and I did not want the opportunity to pass in order to finally come out and say it. After raising my own children, I am sure that there are some things that they will not likely ever know, much less appreciate, about my love for them. Some of that was my own reluctance to engage in deep emotional exchanges, which has left them with a balance of communication that strongly tilted towards the critical or correctional. They do not know, however, how I had lingered over them as they slept, hoping to freeze the moment… then quietly planted kisses on their foreheads lest their sleep should be disturbed. Nor do they know the times that I had prayed from the heart for them, such as for their relief from loneliness through a new and as yet unknown but wholesome best friend.

You have certainly expressed your love for me in concrete ways that I have learned to appreciate only by becoming a father myself. It is no easy task to provide for children’s upbringing and education, especially through the major crises that life often brings. I am definitely grateful to you for those things, for even material benefits to one’s children do not come apart from the Cross and its ordinary tortures of love. I especially remember how you insisted on regular provision of my foreign remittances throughout college despite the catastrophe of being a political prisoner during those dark years of oppression in the late seventies and early eighties. I also remember how you went out of your way to visit me during your covert trips to the States on behalf of the Light A Fire movement, though I was not quite appreciative then… The most signal memory I have though is much more ancient. I was a Prep student in Ateneo, waiting for you to pick me up from school in the late afternoon, when a group of older bullies stuffed me into a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, then stole my shoes as they taunted me. It still brings on powerful emotions to recall how you rushed out of the car and berated my tormentors, then carried me away in your arms as I cried in pain because of the injustice of my persecution. I regard that childhood memory as something of a metaphor for the crosses of my life, and God’s love and protection of me through Our Lady despite them.

Of the things I am most grateful to you for, the most important are the spiritual lessons that you imparted. Certainly your prayers and sufferings for my conversion as a young adult helped to ensure the fruitfulness of those lessons. In any case, it is to you that I most owe my love of Scripture, my love of the Eucharist, and my love of Our Lady. Those are three enormous gifts that I could never have received without your being my earthly father. I cherished the Bible that you and Mama gave me as an unanticipated and initially underappreciated gift for my 24th birthday when you were still a political prisoner. It was that Bible through which I received a supernatural gift… from the Holy Spirit, even as I opened it seriously for the first time. I also recall how you instructed me when I was yet in first grade how I ought to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament whenever I had the chance. I retained that lesson throughout most of my adult life and continue to practice it. Lastly, it was your own love for the Mother of God that inspired me to turn to Her, particularly in my desire to grow in wisdom and knowledge, and more recently in love and mercy even as I learn only now what truly matters.

I hope I have managed to convey my gratitude and appreciation to you, even if imperfectly and at this very late stage. My prayer to God on your behalf is that He would bring forth the greatest fruit of love and mercy from your life, resulting not only in your salvation and sanctification, but in those of countless souls both within and beyond our family and country of birth.

May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you, my father, as well as the assurance of my own love always and forever.

Your son,


I was indeed proven right about that visit being my last before Papa’s passing away. On the day that I found out about his death, I had a strange premonition. A word from Scripture came to me in my morning Lectio Divina, about the death of King David’s son Amnon at the hand of his other son, Absalom, which included the following verse: “So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And the spirit of the king longed to go forth to Absalom; for he was comforted about Amnon, seeing he was dead (2 Samuel 13:38-39).” I was bothered by the word I was given, thinking that it foretold a family disaster of some sort, a suspicion that appeared to be confirmed by the news of Papa’s death.

On contemplating the word from God, however, I was drawn to reflect on King David’s desire for his son, Absalom, despite Absalom’s guilt, and despite his physical distance from David. Then it hit me that perhaps I was Absalom, and that this was God’s calling attention to Papa’s love for me despite the circumstances that conspired to separate us for so many years. In the end, whatever those circumstances were have been rendered moot by God’s mercy and grace, poured out on my father, and through him on my entire family and yet many more. It is this mercy and grace to which his life and death are a testimony for the generations to come.

Why raps filed vs anti-Marcos freedom fighters in US

Lounge / Re: Open Dialogue: Religions and the Basis for Faith
« on: January 23, 2017, 10:02:07 AM »
Here is another website documenting the history of the Japanese persecutions and Nagasaki's role in it: .

Lounge / Re: Open Dialogue: Religions and the Basis for Faith
« on: January 23, 2017, 09:36:01 AM »
Thanks, Joe, for adding the Japanese painting to my post. That was a nice touch!

Incidentally, I wanted to add a postscript to my reflection. When the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima that helped end the Pacific War in 1945, the hypocenter of the blast was the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, which miraculously resisted the effects of the bomb. Not only that, four Jesuits who occupied the rectory of the church at the time the bomb was dropped did not sustain any injuries other than minor cuts from broken glass. Neither did they come down with any expected illnesses from the atomic radiation. The story is documented at the following website: .

It is also rather ironic that the Japanese worshipped Amaterasu, the sun goddess, and that an artificial sun was dropped, not only on Hiroshima, but also on Nagasaki, the site of the seventeenth century persecutions of Catholics. The site at Hiroshima was marked by a Church dedicated to the Mother of God, whom the Apocalypse describes as clothed with the sun in Chapter 12.

A presentation I gave on Our Lady and the meaning of her Assumption and other spiritual privileges can be found on my website devoted to Catholic catechesis and adult education at That site lists several books I have written on Scripture from a Catholic perspective. My scientific publications, on the other hand, can be found by checking out my LinkedIn or Researchgate websites, including an environmental science book that was just released by Elsevier last month, entitled "Atmospheric Impacts of the Oil and Gas Industry."

Lounge / Re: Open Dialogue: Religions and the Basis for Faith
« on: January 22, 2017, 10:28:15 AM »
Here is a reflection I just gave at my parish entitled "Counseling the Ignorant," which is relevant to the topic at hand:

Instructing the ignorant and counseling the doubtful are two of the seven spiritual (as opposed to corporal) works of mercy. They are important pillars upholding the sanctity of life, especially in the face of the culture of death that has allowed lifestyles in direct contradiction to the norms of the gospel to become the de facto standard of morality. Sadly, contemporary Catholic religious education is an insufficient bulwark against moral relativism, the philosophy that there are no absolutes, that your truth is different from my truth. As a result, faith and spirituality based on God’s revelation are now largely confined to the individual sphere, separate from public life.

The 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki were the first group of Christians to be crucified–and
lanced—in a grim parody of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary

The clash between Christian faith and relativism is illustrated by Martin Scorsese’s newly released film, Silence, about the brutal persecutions of Catholics in Japan during the seventeenth century. In this film, Fr. Rodrigues, one of two Portuguese Jesuits sent to find their mentor who was rumored to have apostatized, is forced to deny the Faith in order to save others from crucifixion and other severe tortures. The Japanese persecutors in the film essentially represent the worldview of today’s relativists who ridicule the uncompromising certainty of believers willing to sacrifice everything for the truth. Despite its disappointing ending, I was deeply moved by Scorsese’s film. My gut reactions were aided by a remote personal connection; my Filipino maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Ruiz. Among the martyrs at Nagasaki in 1637 was the first Filipino canonized saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, who had been part of a missionary expedition led by Dominican friars. When asked to deny his faith so that his life would be spared, Lorenzo Ruiz replied, “I will never do it. I am a Catholic and happy to die for God. If I have a thousand lives to offer, I will offer them to God.” He was then hung by his feet over a pit with his temple slit open. After two days of agony, he died of bleeding and suffocation.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz died giving witness to a faith that the Japanese of the Tokugawa Period regarded as a threat to the integrity of their national culture. In the movie, Silence, there is a scene in which the Japanese inquisitor says to the captured priest, Fr. Rodrigues, “Your religion may be true in Spain and Portugal, but it is not true here in Japan.” Fr. Rodrigues answered, “If our religion is not also true in Japan, then it cannot be true at all, since the truth is the same everywhere!” Therein lies the rub. Almost 400 years after the martyrs of Japan gave their lives in fidelity to the gospel, we have abandoned the catholicity of our Faith and its universal claims in favor of so-called “diversity” and “inclusion.”

Even sex itself has been relativized. The disorder that began in the Garden of Eden, symbolized by Adam and Eve’s eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (which in Hebrew double entendre served as a sexual metaphor), has metastasized in our day not only to the murder of the child in the womb, but even to the debasement of human gender and the very concept of the family. We have thus been beguiled by the devil to become our own gods, and to “call evil good and good evil,” as stated in Isaiah 5:20. This is the substance of anti-Christianity, which is no less than the rebellion of setting up a rival good apart from God in imitation of Lucifer, whom Saul Alinsky described in his book, Rules for Radicals, as “the first radical known to man.” Justice Anthony Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court notoriously wrote in defense of abortion, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

It is not that Catholicism cannot co-exist with diversity; far from it! While all Catholics must acknowledge the same essential truths of the Faith, their experiences and expressions of the Faith may differ, because Truth is ultimately not a mere abstraction, but the Infinite Person of God Who begets an inexhaustible treasure of mysteries in His Word, the depths of which we will never plumb. The devotion to the Holy Infant, or the Santo Niño as He is known in the Philippines and Hispanic countries, is a case in point.

The Filipino devotion to the Santo Niño revolves around a statue of the Holy Infant that was originally designed by Flemish artisans based on a vision by the 16th century Spanish mystic, St. Teresa of Avila. It was brought to the Philippine island of Cebu in 1521 by the explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, and is the oldest surviving Catholic relic in the Philippines. On April 14, 1521, Magellan presented Rajah Humabon, the ruler of Cebu, with the image of the Santo Niño and two other objects of religious devotion as a baptismal gift. Magellan died on April 27, 1521 in the Battle of Mactan. The next Spanish expedition arrived on April 27, 1565 led by Miguel López de Legazpi. His attempts at peaceful colonization were rejected, and so he opened fire on the coastal town that also bears the name Cebu. The town of Cebu was thus burnt down, and in its ruins was found the image of the Santo Niño in a pine box. The statue’s survival was seen as a miracle, and ever since it has been believed to have miraculous powers. A church to house the Santo Niño was built on the spot where the image was found. It was later reconstructed, and Pope Paul VI elevated it to the status of Minor Basilica on its 400th anniversary in April 28, 1965, during which he issued a papal bull for the Canonical Coronation of the statue.

I mention the Santo Niño because of how the Holy Infant reflects the Filipino character in a special way, as well as Jesus’ own saying: “Unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:3).” We Filipinos are generally a very concrete people, not usually given to theological abstraction. Widespread poverty has kept life at a very basic level for the vast majority of my compatriots. Our simple, childlike approach to faith has, despite its lack of sophistication, preserved the Catholic religion in the Philippines for almost five centuries in the face of a very difficult history filled with suffering.

One of those difficult periods of Filipino history was the Marcos dictatorship from 1972 to 1986, during which martial law was declared and many political prisoners were detained and even tortured. Among these political prisoners was my own father, who was eventually released a few months before the People Power Revolution at the request of Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Archbishop of Manila. There was a strange history behind this release, which began around 1983, when a certain image of the Santo Niño in a Manila suburb began to miraculously drip water. A visionary who chanced upon the image one day saw Mother Mary and Jesus, the latter allegedly a young boy with a Prince Valiant haircut and flip-flops typically worn by the poor who could not afford shoes. The boy Jesus spoke in Taglish, the pidgin English used by most Filipinos. Among other things, he prophesied that my father would eventually be released from prison, despite the fact that the Marcos regime regarded him as one of the top threats to the government.

Let us fast forward to today’s dilemmas. The Philippines, like many third world countries, aspires to rapid economic development in order to alleviate massive poverty. But there is a steep price to be paid for such development due to the globalization of the culture of death. In exchange for a piece of the pie, so to speak, the Philippines has had to jettison its public adherence to Catholic morality in favor of birth control and other ills accompanying moral relativism. The Catholic Church in the Philippines has risked unpopularity by sticking to its guns in defense of the Faith, reminding everyone that it was Jesus who said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them (Mt 19:14).” Devotion to the Santo Niño is one of the powerful means that the Church has in teaching the intrinsic worth of children, at a time when populations of developed countries are actually imploding, which may eventually lead to systematic euthanasia of the elderly due to the lack of workers to support them.

In the end, the Santo Niño teaches us that Jesus, the Word Made Flesh, may be gloriously reflected in a unique manner in every race and in every culture. Yet the Incarnation, the doctrine that God became a man, remains a universal truth that men and women everywhere must believe, if explicitly presented with the opportunity. It is not mercy to withhold this truth out of respect for an indigenous culture. Rather it is mercy to teach the ignorant the truths of the gospel in order that they may be saved and their very culture renewed and sanctified. It is likewise mercy to counsel the doubtful to hold on to the Faith for dear life, that they might not sell their souls for the mere trifle of living a few years longer. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Mt 16:25).” It was out of love for God and neighbor that the martyrs of Japan risked their lives to evangelize the Japanese people. And it was the greatest love that they demonstrated in laying down their lives in imitation of Jesus Himself, who said: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).”

Lounge / Re: Open Dialogue: Religions and the Basis for Faith
« on: July 14, 2016, 12:42:15 PM »
Why were the founders or prophets of major religions practically all lone-wolf operators?

I speak for Catholic Christianity, which I regard as the only true religion, though I concede that others may be approximations to the truth to varying degrees. Jesus of Nazareth loved company, so in that sense He was not a lone wolf. However, He did upset the established order of things, and with good reason. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).” The prophets who preceded Jesus were likewise in the minority, because man’s reasoning left to itself will always fall short. Grace is supreme, and without God’s help we perish. Today’s received wisdom regards truth as welling up from below, and that there is protection in numbers. The lone wolf therefore stands against the crowd because grace knows not numbers, but only fidelity to God who reveals the truth to man from above.

Were their visions and trysts with their deity ever independently validated? How and by what means did they take hold as articles of faith in the minds of believers?

Christianity is a supernatural religion, and therefore relies on miracles rather than human wisdom or power to testify that God is truthful when he revealed Himself through Jesus Christ. The Shroud of Turin, the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano, the incorruptible bodies of St. Bernadette Soubirous and other saints, the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima that was witnessed by 70,000 and reported in the secular press of Portugal, all these and many others throughout the centuries ratify the truth of God’s revelation through the Catholic Church.

Use and Misuse / Re: Action vs. Actuation
« on: May 27, 2012, 09:13:57 AM »
Thanks for the response, Joe. Even in the examples you gave, the word "actuation" is not used according to the dictionary definition. In those cases, the word "action" is still more appropriate, in my opinion. One might also use the word "machination" to connote deception.

Use and Misuse / Action vs. Actuation
« on: May 23, 2012, 11:54:04 AM »
I have yet another pet peeve regarding Filipino English. It seems that there is a fetish among Filipinos regarding the use of the word "actuation" as a pompous substitute for the plainer and simpler word "action." My understanding is that "actuation" refers to a causation, which is not necessarily what some Filipinos refer to when they use the word.

Use and Misuse / Inhibit vs. Recuse
« on: May 08, 2012, 11:16:23 AM »
I'm so tired of hearing Filipino newspapers refer to judges or lawmakers as "inhibiting" themselves, meaning that they withdraw from participating in a decision due to a conflict of interest. Why don't they use the word "recuse" instead of "inhibit"? Those who recuse themselves are known as "recusants," like the English Catholics who withdrew from attending Anglican "masses" during the English Reformation.


You have definitely started an interesting discussion. Angel de Dios and I have been conversing off-line, only to find out that we actually agree rather than disagree. As I told him, my vote for K-12 is not a vote for government, which plays too large a role in these matters. The real issue for me is not increased access to education beyond the 10-yr cycle, but the quality of higher education. So in that sense, you and I see eye to eye. More will be gained in the long run by improving the quality of higher education than by increassing access to a diluted program, however many years it consists of. But to do this, you must take away the role of diploma mills in providing what only amounts to remedial education. By insisting on a higher standard of preparation which can be met by less comprehensive and therefore more efficient and less pretentious institutions than the typical Filipino diploma mill university, you free the best colleges and universities to improve course content and opportunities for faculty to use advanced knowledge in a way that makes a difference.

I offer a different perspective from that of my distinguished colleague, Dr. Flor Lacanilao. To avoid making myself the issue, I will at the outset try to satisfy Flor’s  criterion of publication in peer-reviewed journals so that my arguments can be considered on their own merit. By U.S. academic standards, I have only a modest publication record, since I spent over 20 years in consulting, the non-profit sector, and  industry, for which academic publications are not a traditional metric of success. Nevertheless, I have 10 publications in 5 different SCI-indexed journals, half of them within the last five years, and four of them in which I am first or sole author. In addition, I have written as sole author one book chapter in a peer-reviewed technical book series, three science and technology magazine articles, including one on science education, and two scientific manuscripts currently in the later stages of peer review in an SCI-indexed journal. Moreover, although it is outside my area of formal training, I have published five books on Catholic theology, two of them through traditional publishing houses, and another under contract to be published by Angelico Press/Sophia Perennis ( The last has gone through peer review by two academic theologians at established universities.

As for my arguments in favor of the K+12 educational program, I offer these insights based not on controlled experiments, but on personal observation only. First, the quality of today’s science and technology graduates all over the world (especially in contemporary physical science and engineering, and increasingly in the life sciences as well) depends critically on the content of the most common technical pre-requisites: 1) mathematics, including calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, probability and statistics; 2) physics, including mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and elementary statistical and quantum theory; and 3) chemistry beyond the traditional molecular accounting taught in survey courses,  including some of what is otherwise  reserved for intermediate courses in physical and organic chemistry. In today’s increasingly quantitative and computer-driven research environment, these are no longer academic luxuries reserved for a few students, but broad necessities to maintain competitiveness.

Unfortunately, the traditional 10-year Philippine education cycle almost certainly guarantees that Filipino science and technology graduates will not have mastered the prerequisites I listed above, since the academic foundations provided are far too weak to get into the meat of the material with sufficient intellectual rigor. Ideally, students in the sciences should come into college already having been exposed to calculus, but they cannot even begin this subject until the second semester of the freshman year, and in many cases even later. This alone depresses the quality of the main technical courses on which the rest of their careers depend.

The communication skills of most Filipino college graduates, even for those who major in the humanities and social sciences, are also far too depressed for them to be competitive in the global economy. The 10-year pre-university education cycle guarantees this, because mastery of basic grammar, let alone the development of sophisticated writing skills, is not given adequate attention in the already challenging multi-lingual environment of the Philippines. I remember the time  in my senior year of high school at the Ateneo de Manila, when a former UST instructor of English substituted for our regular English teacher for several weeks, and decided to teach us what she had always taught her college freshmen. We were totally aghast, since this was material  we had mastered in Grade 5! In our freshman year in high school we were already reading Thornton Wilder and other similar authors. I am so grateful for the intellectual rigor that my pre-university education afforded me in languages, because professional advancement  in first-world economies, even in technical professions, is so closely tied to writing and oral presentation skills.

In summary, the K+12 educational program directly addresses some of the fundamental weaknesses in the pre-university preparation of Filipino college graduates by providing more opportunity to master basic mathematical, scientific, and language skills at the much higher level demanded by global competition. There may have been many successful Filipinos who were the product of the previous 10-year cycle, but their experience is the exception to the rule.

Education and Teaching / Re: Uncrowding the College Curriculum
« on: March 28, 2012, 10:23:16 AM »
As a follow-up to my previous post, I thought I'd qualify what I wrote by stating that I never went to college in the Philippines, so I lack a first hand perspective on the situation. When I graduated from high school in Manila back in 1976, I had two full scholarships to go to a local university, but I was also offered a scholarship to a technical university in the U.S. and so I opted to go abroad instead. I do recall, however, intensively comparing the course catalogues of several schools both in the Philippines and abroad, and drew my conclusions from that experience. I also spent one U.S. summer teaching half a semester at the Ateneo, and also touring different institutions in the university belt (including sitting in on various classes) together with two of my faculty colleagues. Over the years, I have continued to look with interest upon the Philippine education scene, with the help of the Internet.

An issue which I did not address in the original post of this discussion thread is the high cost of books in the Philippines relative to incomes, especially those not printed on cheap newsprint by local publishers. Perhaps this is a major obstacle to raising the quality of Filipino college curricula, as it may be very expensive for students to purchase large batches of reading material as is done at foreign universites, especially in intermediate courses in the humanities. Maybe this is why institutions would rather rely on more classes with lectures than fewer courses with more reading and small group discussion.

Tech Support / Trouble Posting New Topic
« on: March 27, 2012, 05:49:18 PM »
I had trouble posting a new topic in the Education and Teaching forum. My post does not appear in the list of topics, although it was for a time accessible through the Home page as a new post.

Education and Teaching / Uncrowding the College Curriculum
« on: March 27, 2012, 09:54:04 AM »
One of my pet peeves about tertiary education in the Philippines, and this includes the most prestigious private schools, is the combination of paternalism and the one-size-fits-all approach that results in a severely overcrowded curriculum. I'm all for general education and well-rounded graduates, but the intent is not matched by the results. It's hard to be substantially well-rounded if you spend far more time listening to lectures than poring over an intensive reading list. In advanced countries, four courses a semester is a full load, and five is crowded. In the Philippines, six or seven per semester is the rule.

The K+12 educational reform should help address the problem somewhat by removing the need for remedial courses in the first two years, for otherwise most Philippine colleges offer the equivalent of a high school diploma in an advanced country plus the lower tier of disciplinary requirements in foreign universities. But even the elite private schools with students who have the equivalent of foreign high school preparation have diluted curricula due to the emphasis on superficial comprehensiveness over depth and substance. One solution to this is to insist on a high minimum standard of skills, but to give students more flexibility in how they demonstrate competence. Areas of competence should include:

1) rigorous language and writing skills
2) mathematical analysis
3) historical analysis and cultural awareness
4) scientific literacy.

The student should be able to demonstrate any of these by passing a competency exam with or without taking courses, so as to exploit individual strengths obtained either by initiative or from prior experience. If a student feels weak in any of these areas, then he or she should be able to select a course tailored to his or her interests that conveys the necessary information and skills. This would then allow deeper treatment of fewer subjects in actual course work, including longer and richer reading lists in the humanities and more advanced material in scientific and engineering courses.

Perhaps one reason why the government lacks the energy and initiative to invest in basic infrastructure or implement radical reforms in education that go beyond mere symbolic issues is that government is oriented towards patronage rather than results. Because of this, it is severely bloated with mediocre employees without the knowledge or capacity for innovation. The large number of government staff keeps salaries low and therefore invites corruption, in addition to increasing the burden of useless "processes" to justify their presence.

A possible solution to this problem is to keep a core of high performing government employees and radically increase their pay in exchange for a high level of productivity and zero tolerance for corruption. Everyone else can be farmed off to various temporary government corporations that will have to sink or swim after a few years of subsidy. Moreover, NGOs should be encouraged to keep a watchful eye on government agencies, to the point of maintaining a presence in the government offices themselves, so that citizens can immediately complain about slackers.

I wholly encourage opening up the education sector to foreign investment and ownership so as to rapidly bring Filipino education to international standards. Those who complain that the costs of a university education are already out of reach should be reminded that having cheap diploma mills is ultimately more expensive for the country as a whole, because it generates a lot of unemployable people with substandard skills.

Adding value is SO important, yet Filipino culture revolves around picking low hanging fruit. You see this in our barung-barong style education, which produces so many accountants and business majors, but very few technologists, scientists and engineers who know enough beyond the basics to innovate. Those at the top of the social pyramid prefer "safe" disciplines like law and finance, in which little value is added. Even our best private universities only reinforce the dominance of the risk averse and rent seeking class. Members of this class are little different from their 19th century counterparts who lived off the agricultural labor of others, and who sought only "decorative" knowledge that would distinguish them from the common person, the sort of knowledge vented by bullshit artists at cocktail parties and other social venues of the high and mighty. Until we confront this ugly fact of Filipino culture, we cannot progress beyond our sad and seemingly permanent state of economic disrepair.

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