By our language, you will know why in our country, no-brainers are “in.”

Not only do we Filipinos cubbyhole scientists as creeps: we use hate speech against those in the business of deep scholarly thought otherwise known as “philosophy.”

It is only in the Philippines where to be a philosopher—a pilosopo—is not an honorific but a pejorative label for the mental malefactor. Philosophizing, pamimilosopo, is cockeyed rationalizing; that a rambling child is told “pilosopo kang bata ka!”

Blame Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, whose character Pilosopo Tasyo plays the oddball idealist. Either Tasyo represents the stereotypes in Rizal’s time—for Rizal too, was a pariah philosopher—or it was a tongue-in-cheek advertising for the expediency of philosophy especially in a hungry country.

Compare: You can go to Starbucks and exclusive coffee shops here drugged and drowsy as long you have the bucks to splurge. In France, you go to the café to talk philosophy over a cup of coffee. France boasts of its Cafe Philo, which has 230 branches around the world, none of them in the Philippines.

Never mind that philosophy is dubbed as the “mother of all sciences,” and to take a doctoral degree is to know the philosophy of your field, thus the title, Ph.D.—Doctor of Philosophy. Look how our palengke is far off from the Athenian agora, or marketplace of both goods and ideas. The palengkera here is just a lousy babbler.

Some say that the Internet is the modern-day hub for philosophizing. But I doubt if Filipinos really spend time discoursing views systematically on line. They appear more to indulge in sensational but insensible blogs and chats on the Internet. We may be a shame to our forefathers, who could understand axioms, recite verses, and pierce through riddles (bugtong) better than Harry Potter.

'Santo subito!'

So what’s up with Philo? That’s a question every Thomasian taking minimal units of Philo (Logic and Ethics) must ask; a question Philo majors figure as the ticket to a thoughtful life.

Once upon a time, UST was renowned for its Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (Philets), which offered undergraduate Litt B. (Bachelor of Letters) programs in Philosophy and Journalism. Because of the potent mix of literature, philosophy and journalism, the college produced media and literary giants who were philosophers and philosopher-greats who were good writers and communicators. Several of the country’s humanists and National Artists came from that bygone school, long before Philo and Lit became the drain and sink of students on college application waiting list.

The curriculum was heavy with literature and philosophy; it basically tried to infuse a framework or system of thought in writing and communication; it also operated by the logic that philosophy—or grand concepts of the mind—should be articulated well in writing and communication. This was the same rationale when the Nobel Prize for Literature was given to philosophers such as Bergson, Camus, Sartre, Tagore, and Russell.

The Philets pedagogy was sound and effective. Writers were trained to think independently, creatively, and profoundly. The Philets Journalism graduates were trained to be conscientious and critical; the Philets Philosophy students were trained to articulate classic concepts through their writings, some of them published in the press.

Nowadays, it seems, our Philosophy and Journalism graduates try to communicate bland and blasé ideas, if they have any idea at all—through the call centers. It is not because full-fledged philosophy and journalism do not make money. It is because we lack the thoughts to produce multi-royalty and globally competitive papers and stories.

Heeding the summons of poetry

Perhaps the erosion of Philosophy in UST could also be blamed on so-called postmodern philosophers (“po-mos”) who harass and pummel—“deconstruct,” they call it—every academic field just for the sake of causing chaos and anarchy, the better to show that no philosophy could hold the center. Yet I have to meet a po-mo who can exist and hold together his nerve center without the benefit of his “deconstructed” text in medicine, science, morality, religion, or law, in a perpetual jetsam of be and not be.

That’s where the experience-backed Neo-Thomism of UST should come in. Arguably, some philosophies are too conjectural and out of sync with living, too dangerous or superfluous for a functional society. Claims like man and woman are just constructs (radical feMANism), things are “wala lang” (nihilism), and good and evil, truth and falsity, depend on taste (“criminalism,” “all-yayism”).

Now by their ways you shall know them. The test of a good philosophy of life hinges on how a philosopher lives his thoughts and contributes to human flourishing, like Karol Wojtyla and Mahatma Gandhi.

Similarly, the test of a school is if it has produced graduates who have contributed immensely to the vigor of thought and the vibrancy of life. So look at what Philets has produced: National Artists Roland Tinio, Bienvenido Lumbrera and F. Sionil Jose; Inquirer publisher Eugenia Duran-Apostol and Malaya founder Jose Burgos Jr. When you combine Literature, Philosophy, and Journalism, it’s like brewing a brain-kicking mix of coffee, sugar, and cream. Philets was a grand café of the mind! With all the mediocrity on campus, it’s sorely missed.

Tomasinong alagad ng mga layuning liberal


  1. When St. Thomas first “christianized” Aristotle, there were many protests. How could a pagan be “The Philosopher”, people asked? What they were missing, is that philosophy is ancilla theologiae! We can benefit from learning many philosophies, absorbing the good, and discarding the bad. John Paull II, certainly did that. For instance, I see clear elements of Henri L. Bergson in the papal anthropological theology, even though Bergson has widely been “condemned” by the Church. What Wojty?a did is exactly what St. Thomas did: he “christianized” Bergson’s “theory of the elan vital and the evolution”! All that was atheistic, of course, he discarded. What resulted, was an amazing summa anthropologiae, that needs to be profundized and rediscovered! I commend Karol Woyty?a for this magnificent effort!


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