Kim’s Dream Orlan Ravanera
Xavier University Creates Knowledge Society
As an alumnus of Xavier University, I am strongly opposing the sale of the university’s 6.3 hectares of the downtown main campus and the 14 hectares of the developed Manresa campus. The cultural image of the university and its legacy in creating knowledge society, not only in the Philippines but in South East Asia, must not be sacrificed to an image of commercialism.
In my sorties around Asia to meet well-known leaders of the cooperative movements in different countries, many of them mentioned that they were graduates of Southeast Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute and recalled their learnings that catapulted them to become cooperative leaders, not only nationally but more so, internationally. They mentioned the highly respected founder of SEARSOLIN, Fr. William Masterson, as well as amazing professors like Arch. Tony Ledesma, S.J. Dr. Anselmo Mercado and Ms. Rachel Polestico, as they recalled the knowledge that had contributed to their becoming effective cooperative leaders.
I just don’t know what to tell them now when we meet again. Will I tell them that the University has been sold and that the remains of Fr. Masterson was unceremoniously dug up in the burial ground in Manresa to make room for condosand commercial buildings? This is difficult to comprehend as the development of Manresa, and its College of Agriculture “was almost, if not all, fully funded by the efforts of Fr. Masterson.” Rachel Polestico mentions this in a letter to Arturo Sosa, the Superior-General of the Jesuits, where she further states “in the beginning, he asked donations from his family, friends, and acquaintances. He said that the first amount of money that he used to buy Manresa and start the College of Agriculture came from his father, who said that the amount would have been Fr. Masterson’s share of his inheritance. Later on, he was able to convince big donors like MISEREOR to fund SEARSOLIN.”
She writes further that “Fr. Masterson made annual what he called a “begging trip” to mobilize resources to support the College of Agriculture’s scholarship program, faculty development, the extensive research and extension work that he launched to serve the far-flung areas of Mindanao, and to start new offerings such as agricultural engineering, marketing and agri-business, rural development communication, food technology. He was urged by MISEREOR to share all these experiences, expertise and philosophy of development and cooperativism with other countries by establishing the Southeast Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN) in Manresa.”
Indeed, through the vision and effort of founders such as Fr. Masterson, Xavier has built a knowledge society through education and capability-building. Xavier has been an instrument in the transformation of people for the planet, prosperity and peace. Those in the margins are being drawn into the mainstream of development process through education. Conscientization acquired through university education has become the path towards rectifying social wrongs through life of service to the communities.
But, the systems and structures breeding poverty, inequity and social injustices are still as formidable as ever. The Jesuit-run university must continue on building a knowledge society through education especially during these most turbulent times when poverty continues to plague communities and families; where climate change threatens humanity.
The Concerned Parents, Teachers, Alumni & Communities (COPTAC) chaired by Dr. Anselmo Mercado expresses its firm collective stand against the Xavier University-Cebu Landmasters Inc.’s Campus of the Future. As the XU-CLI plan now stands, Xavier will be, as Ms. Polestico writes, “working with businesses and the very rich to develop students for the rich and for their businesses. It will be a different kind of education, different from the “cura personalis” that formed us and the mentorship that took us to various meaningful engagements.” It will cause the destruction of the mini-forest in Manresa that will, in turn, cause the extinction of 40 species and the destruction of their habitat. For these and other reasons outlined in COPTAC’s Paper, I urge Xavier to re-visit its plans with CLI and to be open to alternative plans and visions.
The university has produced graduates who have been molded to serve the “least of our brethren” in the spirit of love and service. In creating a knowledge society, to quote Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, communities will loom, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world is not broken down by narrow domestic walls. In that heaven of freedom, my Father, Let my people awake!” Let us now come together to express our love to a university that has molded us to be “men and women for others!” All for God’s greater glory!