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CHAIRMAN'S REPORT TO ROME

 

Paper delivered by
His Excellency Most Rev. Leonardo Z. Legaspi, OP, DD
Chairman
Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education
of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

 


Catechesis and Catholic Education in the Philippines:
The Reality in Context and the Strategic Response
_____________________________________________________

 

“God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel.” This vision of a new and promising horizon I see being fulfilled in Asia, where Jesus was born and where Christianity began (Ecclesia in Asia # 9, paragraph 8). This consoling word from His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, enthused me to share with you the Catechetical and Catholic Education landscape of the Church in the Philippines today. In spite of our troubled world situation and the less-than-rosy picture that I shall outline before you, I feel confident that a reality check is necessary, so that new life and vigor can be infused in all of us in the challenging, evangelizing mission of the church today.

I. The Reality in Context

Three most recent surveys or studies (2000-2001) serve as directional compasses in charting a strategic response to the problems, issues and challenges faced by Catholic Education and the Catechetical Ministry in the Philippines today. They shall be presented in succession, in providing a bird’s eye-view of what I term “The Reality in Context.”

A. Youth Study 2001.

This is a study conducted nationwide by NFO – Trends for the Global Filipino Foundation, the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus and other entities. It sought to profile the Filipino Youth at the beginning of the 21st Century. The study covered home life, friends, lifestyle, hobbies, sources and utilization of money, media exposure, attitudes, beliefs and values. Via multi-stage probability in sample selection, 1,420 interviews were conducted with the youth, ranging from 7-21 years old. The respondents where drawn from the urban and rural settings; these are residents of three major geographical divisions of the country and Metro Manila, the premier and National Capital Region of the Philippines.


Respondents’ Socio-economic and Demographic Profile

The youth respondents are representative of what is popularly known as A, B, C, D, E Socio-economic stratified classes. Forty-seven percent (47%) are male, while fifty-three percent (53%) are female. Twenty – eight (28%) are out-of-school youth, four percent (4%) are married, and seven percent (7%) are in the workforce – involved as farmers, laborers, or craftsmen - to augment the daily family income. If considered as the microcosm of today’s Filipino youth, the profile raises some revealing data for serious examination. For example, almost one-third of today’s youth is out-of-school (28%) for reasons one can surmise as socio-economic in character. Poverty pushes the young to join the labor force, give up schooling, or get involved in petty criminal acts just to tide themselves over.While the young are generally happy, sixty-two percent (62%) are somewhat happy. Their degree of happiness on a ten-point scale is 6.4. Only the AB classes seem to be happiest (8 or higher).

A relative majority is concerned with becoming better people, who are characteristically disciplined, patient, industrious, friendly and vice-free (51% of males and 42% of females). Altering appearance to be more attractive and becoming rich are poor second and third, respectively, in the youth’s ranked preferences.

Professional careers attract the youth of NCR and the upper middle class, gravitating towards managerial, executive positions. Teaching is a popular aspiration among many. Males are attracted to careers in the military service, engineering, and medical sciences. Females opt for the teaching and nursing professions. The downside to this is the fact that twenty-five percent (25%) of youth – respondents concede that their chances are dim in terms of their educational aspirations.

The young are early risers. Twenty-five percent (25%) are up by five a.m. Fifty percent (50%) are awake between five and six in the morning. In effect, seventy-five percent (75%) are up by six a.m. Majority have exercised autonomy at an early age. Mothers have control over those 13 – 15 years in age, but this dwindles to zero over those who are 19 – 21 years old.

The Catholic Church membership is seen to decrease in the next generation. Contrary to popular belief, the Philippines may no longer be a nation of believers. While a large majority (88%) still assert belief in God/Supreme Being, a minority (42%) acknowledges the existence of heaven and, much less, of hell (21%) and the after life (21%). Church involvement among the youth is low at eighteen percent (18%). If they do, they get involved in the Music ministry (81%) and altar/mass service (4%). Priests and nuns are trusted by seventy to seventy-three percent (70%-73%) of the youth, but as they grow in age, they become less trustful of priests and nuns. Surprisingly, the upper class has relatively low level of trust in priests and nuns even if the proportion of believers in this sector is higher than the lower classes. The Mindanao youth are less trustful of priests and nuns.

By and large, the Filipino youth take pride in certain Filipino qualities; they are seemingly lacking interest in national concerns. Eighty-seven percent (87%) worry over environmental problems. A quarter of the youth (24%) are ashamed of politics and corruption in government, the social climate, tardiness, the mañana habit, crab mentality, etc. But given a choice, eighty-two (82%) would still remain Filipinos, preferring it over other nationalities.

The youth survey’s concluding statement profiles the average Filipino youth as a myth in many aspects.

There are actually four defined worlds according to economic levels:

• the upper class who have access to almost everything (AB =1%)

• the middle class who own enough things to make life sufficiently comfortable (C = 5%)

• the lower middle class who have enough access to TV and radio and if they are lucky, a few other facilities (D = 77%)

• the lower class whose homes are so barren, they are lucky to have a radio (E = 17%)

The data also shows fluid progressions as the youth grows older, ushering palpable changes in their behavior and attitudes. For instance, something big happens when they are 16 or thereabouts. At this age, they make great leaps in their experimentations with life. By the time they are 19, they have become cynical about government, politics and life in general.

• It is encouraging to know that the youth weave dreams about their future but, unfortunately, they do not want to continue dreaming because their economic realities put a wet blanket over their dreams and aspirations.

• Their activities are highly functional and are lacking in variety, creativity, play or stimulation. There is a lot of time to gab, eat and just hang around even as they take on big responsibilities at home. They wish, however, that they could have more time for play and leisure.

Reading is not one of their passions. This habit has not been inculcated at home or in school. Moreover, there are very few interesting books to read at home and in school. Libraries are nearby but they do not contain the stuff that would interest the youth. The encouraging statistic is that given interesting books, the youth would be more inclined to read.

• Home and family serve as their refuge but do not sufficiently offer the intellectual and emotional support that they need. Parents, while acknowledged to be good providers, are just equipped to deal with their psychological needs. Parents lack education and may not have the right priorities in life. As such, the youth, especially the older ones, seek deeper intimacies with their parents but end up frustrated. Not that their parents do not care, they just do not know how to address it. The youth say that their parents do not even know how to handle the youth’s exuberance when it comes to their love life. as a result, they run to their friends or peers who they trust with their deepest secrets. From their peers they learn what is the latest and what should what should be fun.

• They hang out with their “barkadas” with whom they develop. We can imagine that there is a lot of interaction and assimilation within the groups. With the “barkada,” the youth develop rituals, manner and ways of conducting or even talking among themselves. It is almost like they are part of a tribe.

• If lucky, the school serves as a surrogate home. They like school not only for the academic merits but also for the socialization that it provides. School allows them to be with people of their age and to listen to mentors who can help process their thoughts and feelings. The importance of good teachers to shower them the understanding and kindness that they seek cannot be overemphasized.

• Media and technology are the other big things in their life with TV and radio having the highest reach. Technology is still a function of class, but the Internet cafés mushrooming in our midst will democratize their availability to the youth. Globalization will happen faster in this generation as the world opens up through media and technology. According to the youth with the Internet, they can learn about anything.

• Sadly, national pride is not leveraged on substantive facts as shown in the youth’s shallow knowledge about history and the country’s heritage. They are not well linked with the community that they are in nor with social and political realities.

 

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