Silent Nights in the Philippines

I stepped out of my theology class one day feeling heavy-hearted, ashamed, guilty, angry, helpless. We have just seen parts of a documentary entitled “Screamed bloody murder”. The documentary highlights genocides that happened around the world in which neighboring countries turned a blind eye and refused to get involved. One of the survivors of the Genocide during the time of the Nazis claimed, “[The US Government] knew…they just didn’t care.” The indifference to these mass murders resulted to the death of over 6 million Jews during the Nazi regime, 1.5 million people in Cambodia under the regime of Pol Pot, 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda, 1.5 million Iraqi Kurds during the time of Saddam Husein, to name a few. One of the many lines that struck me the most in the documentary was, “How could they?” but oddly enough, the words that play in my head right now are, “How could we?”

Wars around the world are nothing new to us. Just a year ago, the world was debating whether or not to accept the Syrian Refugees who fled their homes after years of civil war that began in 2011. I know that there are a lot of considerations to be factored in such a decision, but really, the bottom line is that people are in need of a safe place to stay in and humanitarian assistance, what other considerations could be more valid than that? Where would they go, if none of us agree to take them in?

This, however, is not about the Syrian refugees or the countries that voted to pullout the UN reinforcements in Iraq while a genocide was taking place. This is about a reality that is perhaps more relatable– a reality that we are all currently a part of, happening around us every day that we turn a blind eye to: the war on drugs.

Before the elections was even officially concluded, summary executions of people who were suspected to be drug dealers and users have already broken out. These killings were justified so long as a cardboard is left hanging on the victims’ necks that reads “tulak ako, wag tularan.” [“I am a drug pusher, do not emulate.”] But what is more horrifying for me than these assassin’s’ stomach for murder is the general people’s response to these bloodbaths, going as far as saying, “dapat lang yan sa kanila.” [“They deserved it.”] The few brave souls who actively show opposition to these murders were bashed, shamed, and mocked. “Sana marape ka” [“I hope you get raped”], they would say, “Kapag narape ang anak mo ‘wag mong tatawagin si President Duterte.” [“If your daughter gets raped, do not ask President Duterte for help.”]

Over the course of the first few weeks, these summary killings were headlines of prominent newspapers, TV news channels, and even the cover page of international magazines. News articles and opinion columns flood our Facebook walls and twitter timelines. The topic is discussed by our professors in class and would always be the main course for lunch or dinner with friends. But like a fashion fad that exited the runaway, the fuss about the killings died. Now, many of us would just scroll past an article of a suspected drug pusher who was killed in the dead of the night, dismissing it as just another one of the casualties in this war on drugs.

I fear for our own indifference. I fear that as each day passes we all get accustomed to these extrajudicial killings and learn to live with it without batting an eyelash. I fear that the culture of violence, of death sentences without due process, of hatred and animosity to the few who decide to speak up will be the culture that our children and little siblings will grow up to. It terrifies me to imagine a day where this culture becomes part of the ordinary, that news channels no longer find it noteworthy to broadcast unwarranted deaths – or even if they do, that people like us will no longer find them disturbing. I shiver at the thought of amigas casually talking about a neighbor who was shot killed because he was a suspected drug addict, all while everyone kept a straight face as one apathetically says, “Oh” as if the incident was bound to happen anyway.

I fear that we’ve grown so used to these news reports about extrajudicial killings that we’ve all become silent and chosen to remain silent. I fear that we’ve chosen to take the easy way out, to turn a blind eye and go back to our everyday lives, living aware but indifferent, as if repeating the history of “knowing but not caring.” I fear that this silence perpetuated and continues to perpetuates these killings. Being silent is similar to saying that the killings are okay, and in that light, we are all accountable for all the lives lost.

The killings are simply wrong, unjust, and disgusting. What has become of our nation to be accepting of such violence?

It bothers me how a lot of people bring up Christian teachings on mercy and forgiveness on topics involving the Marcos family but also actively support the war on drugs. We religiously pray and ask for our own salvation every night before we sleep, yet we point fingers at sinners like ourselves, condemning them and deciding that they are no longer deserving of life. There is so much hypocrisy in rejoicing over news that a former drug-addict has been rehabilitated, turned his life around, and dedicated his life to serve God yet refusing to give others the same chance at a second life.

It’s Christmas season and we are all probably at home with our families, or attending countless parties and reunions, or maybe some of us are out in the malls indulging in great deals from the end-of-season sale. But echoing what Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in his pastoral letter: let us not allow the comfortability of our lives make us indifferent to the bloodbath brought about by the on-going war against drugs. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came down on earth to send us the message of love. As Pope Francis had once said, the lack of love is indifference. Let love and not indifference flourish not only this Christmas season but every day of our lives. Just as Christ has spent his life calling, dining with, and forgiving sinners, let our expression of love be that of mercy – mercy to our brothers and sisters who are in the dark, but who are, just like any of us, are also worthy and capable of redemption.

I’m sharing this quote because I like how Pope Francis puts it,

“I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think — and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.” (Homily of Pope Francis on March 17, 2013)

Around the world with T6

After our accelerated term ended and before we leave for the term abroad (which my Seoul sisters and I will blog about here), our block immediately planned a getaway in the far and green lands of Bataan. The place where we stayed … Continue reading

College 101: What to consider when choosing the right college

It’s that time of the year again when CET results are released online and plastered on huge blackboards that are displayed in campus halls for applicants to know whether or not they have been accepted into the colleges they applied to.  Posts with screenshots of either a P or F (but mostly a P) get hundreds of likes and congratulatory comments that flood up our facebook and twitter timelines.

There certainly are a lot of good colleges to choose from and the number can be too overwhelming. After all the celebrating and grieving comes the harder part: that is.. choosing from among all the options. This decision will basically define the next 4-5 years of your life: the people you will journey with and the opportunities you will encounter.

The list of deciding factors goes a long way so let me highlight the few which I personally believe should be the top considerations when choosing the right college for you:

  1. Your College Major

We are all aware that not all colleges offer the same list of majors which is probably why we take entrance tests to different universities. Often, when we wrote our choices on our college applications, the decision-making process was not as difficult as it is now since the tendency is to choose the course that the colleges claim to be excellent in. Now that you found out that you have been accepted into different colleges in probably different majors (e.g. Journalism in College X and Dentistry in College Y), you probably got even more confused since the question of where to go to is strongly tied to which college major to take.

First, decide on what do you want to major in. Is it Literature? Biology? Engineering? Business? When you finally have one in mind, go through the list of colleges that offer this particular course. With what’s remaining, research on which colleges produced successful graduates in their fields (topnotchers if the course has a board exam). Although some people would argue that the number of topnotchers does not define a college’s excellence in the field, we would somehow get an idea of the rigor of training that the colleges actually provide their students. Also include in your research whether the college is accredited as a center of excellence in the field you want to major in. Being a center of excellence in a particular field indicates that the college has the necessary tools to equip their students with the best training possible.

  1. Location

Okay, this college offers the course you want. The only problem is….it’s a thousand miles away from where you live. Location is another deciding factor since there are students who are not willing to be away from home. It is very important that you discuss the matter with your parents since they will be the ones (I assume) who will shoulder all your housing finances.

Another thing you should consider about the location is security. The college campus may be safe, but since you will not be staying in-campus 24/7, you also have to consider what’s outside. This is all the more important if you will be staying in a dormitory or a boarding house. Consider the distance from the residential area to the campus if the dormitory is outside of school. Consider the pollution. Consider the crime rate. Consider the number of printing and food establishments. Consider the calamity control (i.e. flooding, earthquake faults). All of this will be a matter of concern especially if you will be living on your own.

  1. Extra-curricular opportunities

We all know that building up your resume will not be based entirely on your college degree. Moreover, what you will need in your workplace is far more than just the subjects you took back in school. After-all, college is not just a place where you learn math and research. It is place where you are taught to be more responsible, open-minded, and mature. You are a debater back in high school? Level-up your skills in college. You were cheerleader in highschool? Join the college pep squad!

College should not be seen as a place where whoever you are in high school gets completely wiped out. It should be seen as a place where you discover your skills and/or further enhance them. Research on which colleges give good opportunities for sports, organizations, internships, and the like.

  1. International Relations

Some colleges have strong relations with partner universities and companies outside of the country. This is something to research on if you are looking forward to participating in exchange programs or getting an internship/OJT abroad. In that case, it is important that your college curriculum is acknowledged internationally. This is also very important if you have plans on working abroad in the future.

  1. Finances

Let’s get practical here. You’ve considered everything mentioned above and you’ve finally decided to go to this particular school. But wait, how much money will you need to go to this school?

My dad always tells me that although financing is an important consideration it shouldn’t be the first on the list, otherwise you just might be missing a whole lot of other important information. Take the time to sit your parents down and discuss your plans with them. If they say they can (and are willing to) handle all the finances, then congratulations and welcome to college! If not, don’t fret. Some colleges generously offer scholarships to deserving students. Some types of scholarship cover dorm and book expenses, while others give a stipend or food allowance. Research on how to apply for the scholarship you need and send in all the documents that you think will support your application. Also, check the likelihood of getting one. We all know that scholarships are very limited but some schools give more (or less) grants than others. It is also important to note that there are a variety of scholarships being offered apart from academic scholarship such as the athletic scholarship for example. Most of the time, the college websites include a statistics of their scholarship grants. For instance, 10% of the student populations. However, it is still best to be conservative. That not expect a grant right after submitting your application. Look for other ways you can do to support your finances. Ask help from your relatives or consider a part-time job. Research on government and other community scholarships. Persist and you might just get yourself that precious scholarship grant in the college of your interest.

College is indeed very different from high school. It is like being thrown out in the open, free to make either the best or the most reckless of decisions. It is the time to explore, to discover your own skills and strengths as well as your weaknesses and limitations. You will encounter different types of people from different backgrounds, the most motherly and terror of professors, the smartest kid in the block and the hottest jock in the varsity team. You will surely make a lot of friends who will be part of your wildest and craziest college adventures. You will also encounter sleepless nights, drink endless cups of coffee, and face piles and piles and piles of never-ending work. There might also be a time where you felt that you’ve worked your ass off for that test and still get an average mark. The rest is for you to find out.

One thing I learned from my own personal experience though, is that you are not alone in this journey. Just look around you and realize that all these people are also going through something just about the same. Never be afraid to ask for help and don’t be hesitant to offer help as well. College will be a hell of an experience and I cannot wait to know how yours will turn out to be.

Think I missed something important in the list? I’d love to hear them.

Xxx Tricia