12 October 2009

Why I'll Always Be Proud of Ateneo (I)

12 October 2009

MOOD | proud of my alma mater
CRAVING FOR | a new pair of glasses + a new television (got it!)
RANDOM | when did the expression 'bitter ocampo' become, like, uso?

Ateneo just won the Men's Senior Basketball championship a few days ago. Another sweet, delicious victory. With the Seniors grappling their way to claim the judo top spot, the Juniors grabbing the basketball, judo, and swimming championships, and the sweet surprise that was the Cheerdancing Competition, my alma mater is on a roll as she celebrates her 150th year. With such wonderful feathers perched on our cap, it's quite difficult not to be proud of one's university, no?

But that's not exactly one of the prominent reasons why I'm proud of my school. For one, I'm not a sports fanatic. I don't even know what an "assist" is, for Pete's sakes. And for another, my interest only extends to a vague, general idea of what's going on in the UAAP basketball world. If you ask me who the starting five are, I'm going to look at you and blink. And blink. And blink. It's not my thing, in other words, and I'm cheering for the team because it's the Ateneo team.

So what is it? What prompts me to be very vocal about my affiliation with the school? What drives me to return to that campus on the hill to rejuvenate my tired spirit, my weary body? What inspires me to write again and again about why I'll always be proud of being an Atenean? Let me count the ways.

ONE | Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights. Katipunan was my world back then. The campus was my backyard. Having no close relatives in Manila, I had to stay in the dorm inside the school. For four years, my entire world was compressed in one little corner of Loyola. Little, yes, but that was one special corner.

In that little corner, lush rolling green fields lay. Trees adorned the sides of streets like sentinels watching over their wards. The red-bricked buildings stood proud amidst the concrete and the grass, each within a stone's throw from each other (save for Bellarmine, which was perhaps two stones' throw away). The roads, expansive and inviting; the paths, well-trodden and worn.

Outside, the entire strip was adorned with every possible necessity a student might have. Hungry? There was always KFC at one end, and McDonald's on the other. Hungry and with extra money? There's Kamirori if you were craving Japanese, and back then, The Barn for something more Western (Bo's Coffee now stands where this resto once was.). Internet cafes were dime a dozen. Rustan's Fresh was the grocery of choice, but if you were willing to move further for something cheaper, Shoppersville was just a tricycle ride away. Churches, banks, some tarot reading-- that little nook had it all.

Could you blame me if I just wanted to stay in?

TWO | Philosophy + Theology. These two branches of learning are unique to the university in that they're part of the core curriculum. Each and every student that passes through the gates of Ateneo has to take these subjects as early as their sophomore year, and will continue to do so until they graduate... four Philo subjects and four Theo subjects later. That's a lot of core curriculum.

I've got no regrets taking these subjects. I have had no complaints.

Philosophy pushed me to think over and beyond the conventional. It gave me the opportunity to inspect myself and the way I interact with the other; it provided me with the means to dissect what is truth and what is merely a semblance of the truth; it guided me to analyze religion in unbiased means and through a framework that is perhaps antithetical to its essence; and it enticed me to look at ethics as not merely guidelines to live by, but as a dynamic area of exploring one's purpose in life.

Theology, on the other hand, told me that yes, it is okay to question your faith. It is imperative to find reason behind the faith that we keep. While it is inadequate to reject religion outright with no reason or rhyme, it is also equally appalling to embrace it without knowing why you're doing so. Blind obedience is just as bad as stubborn rebelliousness.

The biggest personal thing I got from studying these subjects? Surprising myself. The human mind does work its wonders when given the right pressure and the right environment, and Ateneo is a perfect breeding ground. I'm proud of my school because it gave me the avenues to be proud of myself.

(To be continued.)

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