To prepare the different sectors of the Ateneo de Davao community for a more informed decision regarding the national and local elections in May of 2013, the Arrupe Office of Social Formation (Arrupe) in partnership with the Ignatian Spirituality and Formation Office (ISFO), and in collaboration with the Office of the Academic Vice President (AVP), conducted a community reflection session on 19th January at F-711 and F-712. The one-day session gathered together university stakeholders representing different sectors of the academic community, providing them a common venue for expressing their individual and collective understanding of the sociopolitical, economic, cultural and environmental realities of the day. In the overall scheme, the whole-day exercise was intended to provide a platform for articulating the participants’ reflections on engaged citizenship especially in the context of exercising their right of suffrage. The AVP Fr. Gabriel Jose (“Gaby”) Gonzalez, SJ, Ms. Lilibeth Leh-Arcena and Mr. Ian Clark Parcon of the Arrupe, and Mr. Elvi Tamayo of ISFO, took turns in facilitating the whole-day activity.

Top Level Participation

The community reflection session was participated in by top level administrators coming from the different schools/units representing both basic and tertiary levels, faculty representing both the academic and formation clusters, and students. More specifically, in attendance were the Academic Vice President himself (who played a key role in crafting the module and facilitating one of the sessions); the five deans and three assistant deans representing their respective schools; the assistant to the high school principal for formation and headmaster of the grade school, representing their own contingent; administrators from the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC) and the University Research Council (URC); the Office of Student Affairs (OSA); the Mindanawon; the ISFO and the offices under its jurisdiction such as the Arrupe and its sub-programs such as the National Service Training Program-Civic Welfare Training Service (NSTP-CWTP) and the First Year Development Program (FYDP); the Campus Ministry in the college and grade school; department chairs of Philosophy, Mass Communications and Political Science & History and their faculty; faculty from the college of Nursing, the members of the Ateneo Center for Leadership (ACL) covering both basic and tertiary levels, and no less than the president of the SAMAHAN Central Board herself.

Sense of Owning

The initial group sharing was designed to let the participants identify aspects of the greater social agenda which they could personally embrace as their own. The group discussions that ensued eventually focused on four specific social agenda grouped under the economic, political, cultural and environmental aspects. Following the group sharing was another focus question which the participants answered as regard the extent of their sense of social responsibility vis-à-vis their individual and personal value system, priorities, needs and aspirations, and belongingness or affinity with a particular sector in society.

Contemporary “Hot” Issues

The bulk of the group sharing following the initial salvo on social agenda centered around identifying specific issues of the day that are characterized as “hot,” meaning prevalent and pervasive, urgent, all-encompassing and impactful. The participants then articulated how these issues are connected with the social agenda which they cited in the first phase of the group sharing.

Personal Realizations and Invitations

To cap the series of the guided group sharings, the participants were given the opportunity to articulate their important personal realizations on the multiplicity of issues which surfaced during the earlier discussions. Likewise, they were also given the chance to clarify certain values and priorities, to express affirmations of the same, and even to convey changes in their own personal perspectives as a consequent outcome of the group discussions, if any. As any dynamism of communal reflection would suggest, they were then asked to verbalize what invitation is being accorded to them in terms of their individual and collective responses being stakeholders of the Ateneo de Davao community.

Pinoy Big Voter 2013

The individual and collective sharings laid the groundwork for the introduction of the Pinoy Big Voter (PBB) 2013, the electoral education program of the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB)  presented by Fr. Xavier “Javy” Alpasa, SJ.  SLB is a non-partisan, church-based, Jesuit-led organization that focuses on the promotion of good governance and disaster preparedness. It is lodged as the secretariat of the Task Force 2013 (described in the PBB electoral education manual [2013] as “the biggest nationwide consortium of academic institutions, electoral watchdogs and stakeholders”) with the noble goal of broadening the base for “maximum electoral participation.” Fr. Javy, SLB’s executive director, walked the participants through the history and nature of the SLB as an organization and its role in the greater network of the Task Force 2013. As a way of providing the participants the current zeitgeist, Fr. Javy presented a trenchant national situationer with specific resonances to the contemporary election-related issues of the day. Morever, Fr. Javy used stirring video presentations of the current sociopolitical, economic, cultural and environmental realities as a way of highlighting the important use of digital technology in the promotion of electoral consciousness.

A Call to Action

To complete the module of the community reflection, the participants were later grouped into specific sectors (considered as their natural academic groupings) to engage in actual planning on election-related initiatives and programs, both the immediate and the long-term. The eventual planning session was intended as a measure of their actual engagement and commitment in promoting a more sustainable, mature, and responsive political and electoral education in their own respective spheres of influence (within their specific units/schools/programs) in the Ateneo de Davao community and beyond.

Jumpstart of the University-wide Electoral Engagement

The community reflection is intended as a fulcrum of what will hope to be a university-wide engagement in promoting electoral and political education that looks even beyond the 2013 midterm local and national elections. While observing the proceedings of the day’s sessions, Fr. Javy commended the organizers for truly setting the mood in providing an important venue for communal sharing and reflection, recognized as an appropriate part of the whole process of communal discernment. From the lens of social formation, the design of the community reflection module is a concretization the Ignatian mode of proceeding using the context of electoral and political education. (By M. Isabel S. Actub, Arrupe Communications & Advocacy)