‘Hanapin ang katotohanan!’
“Hanapin ang katotohanan! Kahit na mahirap, manindigan para sa katotohanan (Search for the truth! No matter how difficult, stand up for what is true)!”
The preceding call to action could have easily come from a recent political rally. Except that it did not. It was uttered by a frail 95-year-old retired teacher who has completely lost his eyesight and has been bedridden for years.
Still, notwithstanding his physical condition, the iconic brilliance of Fr. Roque J. Ferriols, SJ continues to dazzle in 2019. The legendary pioneer of Filipino philosophy could not have chosen a better audience to issue such marching orders. After all, those who came to greet him on his recent birthday at the Loyola House infirmary were mostly teachers, a great number of whom he had personally taught over the years. His timing was just as impeccable, as he delivered the above exhortation after the teachers took turns greeting him.
More than being society’s go-to for equipping our children with the knowledge and skills to earn a living, teachers ultimately partner with parents to help our youth pursue the truth about who they are and what they ought to do. This partnership is premised on the proverbial saying that goes: “Madali ang maging tao. Mahirap ang magpakatao (It is easy to be born human. It is difficult to become truly human).”
More to the point, we rely on teachers to empower our children to imbibe the spirit of the Enlightenment. In the words of the philosopher Immanuel Kant: “Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your intelligence.” In the context of our time, Kant might as well have said, seek the truth by putting to question what is and what should be, instead of blindly following misplaced warnings about straying into activism, sedition and rebellion.
Without a doubt, facilitating such pursuit of the truth is hard. This is why teachers dedicate many years of study toward masteral, doctoral and even postdoctoral work. In between, they engage in research and writing, mindful of the dictum to “publish or perish.” In classrooms and auditoriums, they contend with the numerous distractions that plague the attention span and the mental health of their students; they have to compete with the overtly consumerist status quo and the countless manufacturers of fake news in an increasingly disruptive Vuca (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world.
It is one of life’s mysteries that society continues to have such a low economic regard for teachers. “Limot na bayani (forgotten heroes)” was how the folk-rock band Asin used to sing about them in the ’70s.
Despite all these, teachers choose to teach. I suspect this is because during their moments of solitude, they know that in the end, what is at stake is not just their academic careers and paychecks. Neither is it just about the honors and grades earned by their students, nor the material wealth these young people would one day acquire or even create to live the good life. More importantly, I believe it is because they know that what is at stake is nothing less than the formation of “the hope of the motherland,” as Jose Rizal put it.
On the day our teachers have succeeded in unleashing the potential of our youth, they shall have empowered our young people to truly imbibe the Socratic dictum about the examined life.
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Von Katindoy teaches philosophy at Ateneo de Manila University.
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