Dear Members of the MC Community,
On behalf of the school’s administrators, I wish to extend greetings of peace and sincere wishes for good health as we start the new year and the second semester.
This year will mark the first year of our new Five-Year Strategic Plan which will end in 2025. The following year—2026—will be the year of commemoration of the arrival of the Maryknoll Sisters in the Philippines 100 years ago. Thus 2021 until 2025 will be truly pivotal, a busy period of changes and challenges that will give us many reasons for a meaningful celebration and thanksgiving in 2026.
The 2020 pandemic has given Miriam College a fillip to accelerate steps to transform it into an institution with re-designed and innovated programs to equip its students to face an ever-changing and uncertain environment in the future. And MC will be a three-campus system in 2023.
To prepare for our new direction in the next decade, two different surveys were done to help us understand fully the context of where MC is. It was surprising that in both surveys done by two different entities and separately conducted among communities around Alviera and in the wide region surrounding Quezon City, Miriam College is “almost unknown” by most of the respondents of either survey. And those in the NCR region who know MC associate it with environmentalism (which ironically has not attracted enrollees for our Environmental Planning Department).
This unexpected and shocking fact has made us realize that Miriam College is a brand “undefined.” That Miriam College is not on the radar screen of most parents and students, and that its “invisibility” in the public mind outside the limited “MC universe” has hampered its growth, has given us the urgency to articulate more clearly the vision of the Maryknoll Sisters and to actualize that vision through a deepened kind of education in our three MC campuses so that Miriam College will be known in the near and far future not through social media uploads but through the “life and work” contributions of its graduates.
Happily, we can blare out that the Maryknoll/Miriam core values of truth, justice, peace, and integrity of creation encapsulate the “eternal message and challenge” of Jesus and Christianity. This is the upside.
Dr John Dominic Crossan (DePaul University, Chicago), in explaining the challenge of Jesus to go and follow Him, said: “A sustainable earth demands a peaceful earth; and a peaceful earth demands a just earth with a fair distribution of all its resources among all its peoples. For we are in the image of a non-violent God (Genesis 1:26-27) whose sun rises alike for all and whose rain descends alike on all.” What a beautiful simple explanation that connects MC’s core values. We should note that the very foundation of the other values is justice, defined as a “fair (or just) distribution of the earth’s resources.” We also find this truth applicable in our homes where conflicts happen when one member perceives a certain situation as unfair or unjust. In society and in the bigger world, this means that without economic and social equity (justice), there cannot and will never be peace and, ultimately, sustainability.
The “downside” (if I may be allowed to use this term) of our core values is this: they are “very inconvenient.” Justice is the hardest ideal to actualize. Students may understand the universal truth in having a just distribution of God’s provisions and nature’s resource for humankind as a basis in attaining peace and sustainability. But taking part in justice’s actualization in a developing society does not naturally flow from an understanding of the justice principle, with counteracting messages focusing on personal success. Nationally we have underscored the idea that we study not just to learn and earn a living, but so that one can evolve into a person successful and perhaps fulfilled. But we have not also underscored the idea that being a successful person should come with being part of a nation transformed.
The Maryknoll/Miriam core values are very inconvenient in that we are tasked not to think of “self” only but also to think of “society or others.” Otherwise, if one just thinks of the self alone, these values are totally meaningless because our core values require their application primarily on society, not just on the self.
This awareness of the personal-national interconnection has been overshadowed by messages encouraging students to excel and to succeed without connecting success to nation-building. For two generations our national conversation has obscured the idea of connecting personal success to the importance of one’s role in developing one’s nation. Like our Western counterparts, we have become narcissistic and individualistic in our view of success, often unmindful that one-third of our countrymen have been wanting for opportunities to improve their lives that can happen only if there is justice.
Thus many of us think that leaving the country to find jobs or another way of life is the better or the only option to a “successful life” while our counterparts in other Southeast Asian countries hardly think of working abroad. Definitely our thinking is a result and a symptom of our political and systemic infrastructural injustice. Others think that our “fluency in English” makes it easy for us to get employment abroad and to attract foreign investments here. It is not so.
It should strongly move us to action when we simply recall that when ASEAN was established in 1967, we were most probably the richest of the five nations that formed it. Fifty years later, when ASEAN-5 had grown to ASEAN 10, we slid down to Rank 7th. Vietnam, which became a member in 1997, overtook us last year in the midst of a pandemic that it triumphantly overcame leaving its economy unaffected. It was not just the war against a pandemic that the Vietnamese have won. They won their wars against China, France, and the United States. They were and are always ready and willing to be inconvenienced.
Their latest war lasted 10 years ending in 1975. It left the country with a poverty rate of 65% (or 2 out of 3 persons) and with a leadership who bore arms themselves during the war, whose means of communication to the outside world were languages of East Europe (formerly communist), not English. But Vietnam developed into a middle-income country in such a short time, and now more developed than the Philippines. How? Through policies based on social cohesion and equity (or justice) which also means that each individual citizen does whatever he can in cohesion with his country and people.
We cannot just leave our country because we do not like it, the way we leave a rental apartment. For the same reason, when Jesus gave us a challenge to go and follow him in establishing God’s kingdom on earth (“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done–as in heaven so on earth”) He did not mean that all we need to do is just to be patient and expect God to do all the work and for Him to end all forms of injustice and oppression through a Second Coming. Or we expect others to do the job and excuse ourselves.
In 1991, Episcopalian Archbishop Desmond Tutu pointed to the essential role of each one in changing our respective societies and in transforming the whole earth: “Without you, God will not do it. Without God, you cannot do it.” God works only in collaboration with us, and without Him whatever worldly success we attain will never bring the kind of development and peace that we aspire to have wherever we are.
Hopefully MC graduates will be shining stars in the firmaments of education, business, health, arts, the social sciences, and diplomacy but not trapped in materialism. Hopefully they will know that success is hollow and meaningless unless one can lift others up, unless one does service to others. Hopefully that through the transformation of our students’ consciousness, and as they collaborate in solving a particular national problem through their particular expertise, they will be guided by a more important star in the galaxy—the constant North Star of Truth (Veritas) that demands a courage to act on principles. And as we finally learn to work in collaboration with God, as we empower our students so they can help the powerless, the North Star will lead us, not only towards a safe island in the middle of a vast ocean, but towards a just, peaceful and a sustainable earth.