What would you say when you are about to end a 22 year old relationship?
it is a weird but familiar mix of stinging sadness and profound joy. Sad to end seeing the world through the lens of a formal student but, deep within, there is a brewing sense of joy coming from the idea of the possibilities this education can bring; of unleashing to the world what this institution and its people gave me.
Looking back, I have nothing but immense gratitude to the institution that shaped most of my conscious life – like 85% of my life.
These are scribbles of thought, some random images that emerge when i think of the word “Xavier”.
It was in Xavier when my mom got so excited seeing my first ever test results in Nursery. She fondly recalls that I got all exams, well modesty aside, “almost” perfect and she hurriedly carried me to nearby Dunkin Donuts to celebrate. I think this was the moment when getting good grades was a “good rewarding thing”, thank you for the donuts!
It was also in Xavier where we always get to convince our kindergarten teacher to allow us to play “gira-gira” in the soccer field and innovate our own games.
It was also in Xavier that I look forward to the first week of December. For most of it, it was a carefree experience, going to the science lab, trying the food booth and the fun interactive games. It was walking in the park.
Then as the years progressed, it was also in Xavier days where I observed how my roles also changed. From being a field demonstration dancer in grade school, I then found myself organizing activities in Xavier days during high school and it remained until my college days.
It was also because of Xavier that i got my first talking line in a video ad, during the XU at 75 celebration and my first “ramp modelling” experience which is a stark departure of the “I”.
It was also because of Xavier that I first joined a public demonstration, talked truth to power, immersed with communities in the margins and earn mentors for a lifetime.
And in a lighter note, who would forget those precious moments during the cheer dance competition. Thousands of individual stories get weaved together every year on that faithful day. It is the story of the cheer dancer who spent exhausting months preparing for it. It is the story of the council officer who prepares the face paint for the crowd. It is the story of the freshmen who, for the firs time, saw how the college spirit manifests itself in one beautiful barrage of chants and streamers.
These are just snapshots of thousands of precious images of Xavier seen through my eyes. It is just one in thousands of others. From mundane moments to life-defining or heart breaking experiences, Xavier has her way of weaving together all these randomness into one life narrative that makes you see the deeper nature of things and in the process, inspires you do something in the now. I think that is the magic spell of an Atenean Education. It could not easily be described but i will attempt to capture, at least in 3 points, the ideas that made Xavier what it is in my life.
INTERCONNECTEDNESS: REASON AND SPIRITUALITY
Everything and everyone is interconnected. I felt that this idea was the overarching theme of almost all reflection points delivered by our facilitators. I would often think that this point makes scientific sense. Considering that the universe was a singularity before the big bang, we are after all, in some weird sense, one with everyone and everything, made with the same stardust as the majestic spiral galaxies beyond.
You can see it in the scientific processes from photosynthesis to the water cycle, to social psychology and physics. Beyond this “new-age-ish” undertone, there is a spirituality that springs from it. Understanding this inherent intimacy with nature and with others unleashes an indescribable sense of oneness, of being in a loving, universal family. So treat creation with tenderness and compassion for this is one with us. And that is enough to make me feel so alive and ready for the world.
WHAT IS THE MORE: EXCELLENCE AND MAGIS
It is in Xavier that I somehow realize that education is not neutral. It should not be. It should lead you to become something or in our case, do something for others. Like in any Jesuit Institution, faith plays a central role. And it is no wonder why the University Church is located at the very heart of the campus. It signifies the source and the end of our education.
It is in Xavier that I appropriated my own definition of excellence in the light of faith. Excellence is not so much of an absolute standard like getting “A’s” or being in the top. It is in a greater sense, a lifestyle that spontaneously surfaces if you begin to see beyond the self and more on others and the common good. If your effort is ultimately geared towards the improvement of lives of people, then excellence will naturally surface. This can be seen by countless of students who, even after a tiring day, volunteer to teach basic English to kids in the streets and labor to innovate their teaching day in and day out. This is excellence. This is Magis.
CHARITY VS JUSTICE: THE WORLD AS INTERCONNECTED STRUCTURES
And what is that excellence for? Xavier taught me that education is not just a mere ticket to economic security. Through the programs of engagement and immersion, I have seen the liberating power of an educated mind. It gives dignity. It creates a society that ensures people can live their full measure of happiness. But this education should not just be used as a mere charity work. Xavier taught me to be analytical, strategic and structural in approach. Injustice could not be met simply by giving food every Sunday. It should be accompanied by sustained engagement against the structures of power that perpetuate such injustice. And this is one thing most Ateneans are not comfortable talking about because it dives into the controversial world of power, money and politics. But if we are to expect change for the better, we should involve ourselves into this arena. This is what Xavier made me see.
Xavier is home. And like all explorers of frontiers in this world, they always look forward to that day when they come back home.