FOR philosophers like Aristotle and John Locke, human beings are born with a tabula rasa or “blank slate,” which dissembles genuine potentiality that only becomes actualized due to education and experience.
Upon entering the world, people hold nothing but merely a blank slate waiting to be sketched on according to how its author wants it to be. Character, intelligence, success, and personality are determined by how one “writes” his life on the tablet.
Defining the content of one’s personhood requires maturity.
Thus, education plays an important role in nurturing not only a person’s intellect, but his personhood as well.
When I first entered the University, I hoped that it would imbue me with the right kind of learning that woud free me from the veils of ignorance. And yes, UST has done that.
When I was browsing for books in a shop, a man’s shirt caught my attention. Printed on it was Jose Rizal and his remark, “In Ateneo, I spent the happiest days of my life.”
I smirked. The shirt was probably made to bash Rizal’s “other” school—UST. Biographer-historians Leon Maria Guerrero and Gregorio Zaide, among others, say that the national hero was “below his usual standards” while in the University, because the “Dominican professors were hostile to him” and “Filipino students (including Rizal) were racially discriminated.”
It is undeniable that Rizal indeed spent his happiest days at the then Ateneo Municipal, but it does not follow that his worst days took place in UST. Most people would admit that they are most happy in high school, and Ateneo was only a secondary school back then.
In Fr. Fidel Villaroel O.P.’s Jose Rizal and the University of Santo Tomas, Rizal confessed at the eve of his departure from Ateneo, that he was nostalgic for “that spirit of most sweet tranquility in which my soul used to dwell.”
And as Rizal moved out of Ateneo, where all activities were regimented by the Jesuits, and into UST, he underwent a transformation.
It is different in a university. Here, a greater measure of freedom is given to students. And while Rizal experienced a huge transition, he could have found it difficult focusing on his studies, given the usual “distractions of youth.”
Villaroel adds that it was during Rizal’s stay in UST that he had his first courtship — with a lady named Segunda Katigbak. It was a romantic relationship that, perhaps, produced his first heartbreak.
Furthermore, while Rizal had excellent grades in Ateneo, he he did not perform as well in the University where he took up medicine. It might be because his interest was really in poetry and the arts. It was his father’s decision for him to take up medicine.
It is a myth that Rizal was unahppy and shabbily treated in UST. Here, he was granted the rare permission of studying simultaneously the preparatory course to and the first year of medicine, which proves that the Spanish Dominicans did not racially discriminate against him. Rizal also attained the grade, “notable” (very good) during his fourth year, placing him behind Cornelio Mapa who earned the mark sobresaliente (excellent).
He earned a licentiate in medicine at the Universidad Central de Madrid in Spain with the help of the knowledge he had gained from UST.
Rizal might have spent his happiest days in Ateneo, but he must have spent his most meaningful days in UST.
If it was not for my Rizal Course, I could have just fallen for the t-shirt’s uneven claim hook, line and sinker. But because I, a tabula rasa, have been instructed well by a great institution, I have been enlightened from the blunders and unfair declarations of Rizal biographers regarding UST and the Dominicans.
As my junior year starts, I know that this tablet of mine will be continuously inscribed excellently though quality education, helping me in developing moral character and a well-integrated personhood.