Tulong Dunong, ACIL, ICTUS, and other memories from up the Hill

If I lower my guard and take the comfy view that I am fundamentally defined by where I was schooled, I’d call myself an “Atenean”. When you are an Ateneo alumnus (and specially when you remain on as a faculty member), you usually come equipped with a lot of connections and the frame of mind to segue into “socially-oriented” projects if you wanna go down that path. But then I’m not really one to take “comfy views”. I may be “socially-oriented” but not, by any stretch of imagination, along the lines envisioned by my former Ateneo teachers.

By the time you graduate from the Ateneo High School (AHS), you will have been fully indoctrinated by the Tulong-Dunong (roughly translated “Help with Knowledge”) programme. The “TD” programme involves AHS students going off to disadvantaged public schools one day every week to tutor in Math, English, or Science the handful of elementary school students assigned to them. Participation is a mandatory part of the curriculum from the 3rd Yr to 4th years of high school if I recall right. The ACIL (Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League, I think it is) is an organisation for people who want to get involved in TD-type stuff beyond the mandatory requirements.

Usually high-performing students from these public schools are identified over the course of the programme and granted scholarships in the Ateneo.

At the University of the Philippines, the ICTUS (could be either “Instructional Catechetical Teaching for University Students” or “In-Christ Teaching for University Students”, whatever…) organisation is the counterpart of ACIL within that secular institution. It was founded by Ateneans and seems to be run along a similar ACIL-like doctrine.

It is a model (almost one you can consider a franchise) that is often successfully replicated in many other institutions of learning. Like Media and political influence, it is a channel over which information and knowledge is disseminated. So my view there as far as these things go is that it comes down to the quality of the content transmitted through these channels. You can have a dense and extensive network of channels (read lots of classrooms and teachers in your education system just as there are a lots of newspapers TV shows and entertainment personnel in Media), but if your content is not rich, deep, meaningful, and of the right kind you end up simply mis-educating and mis-informing in a larger and more efficient scale.

I’ve experienced being a member of ICTUS in UP. Nice bunch of folks — but so totally emo. Like in most religious orgs (UP-speak for “organisation”), there are a lot of activities involving open exhibition of religious fervour – the Angelus prayer is observed everyday at the prescribed hour, masses are sponsored by the org at every Catholic “day of obligation”, and lots of other ad hoc prayers are murmured openly (grace before meals, thanking the Lord for little wins, etc.) every now and then. Singing of religious songs continuously emanate from the org Tambayan (a designated hang-out spot within the campus).

Unfortunately, I find that hypocrisy often comes with the territory of an openly religious lifestyle. Being openly religious entails great responsibility. If you can’t back up your open religiosity consistently with a correspondingly pious lifestyle that is seen to be compliant with the dogma of your religion, guess what: you end up with the ironic outcome of undermining the very religion you seek to promote. That’s where Jesus Christ seems to be coming from in his continuous denouncing of the Scribes, Pharisees, and other religious officials during his time.

Catholic dogma is quite clear on a few things. There were three such things that were particularly relevant to me as a late teenager and, later, early twenty-something aspiring (albeit unsuccessfully) to lead the swinging lifestyle of a university student:

(1) The matter of “mortal sins” involving “impure” thoughts and actions (if you know what I mean);

(2) The matter of how sin makes you unfit to commune with the Lord (eat His flesh and drink His blood); and,

(3) The matter of how the only way you can re-establish your fitness to commune with Him is through the onerous Sacrament of Reconciliation.

(Note that like the good Catholic School alumnus that I am, I banged the above away on my keyboard straight off the top of my head without googling one bit of it)

So back then, it was often quite a bewildering experience for me to watch as friends of mine, who just hours or even minutes earlier I had just been exchanging rude stories and jokes with in the Tambayan, lined themselves up at the aisle of our University Chapel waiting for their turn to receive Holy Communion. Was there some kind of express drive-thru Confessional box around the corner I was not aware of?

My own thoughts became even more disturbing to me when I realised that I’d routinely scan the Holy Communion queue towards the end of the mass and think “hey Jojo over there has been bonking Gigi over the last couple of months”. Then I’d go on to think about how I haven’t seen either of them go to Confession lately — or worse have seen them go to confession before every mass they attended.


Suffice to say, there was something quite wrong about the sort of thinking that imprisoned my mind at the time.

My point is (with apologies for having so far digressed and digressed from the digression a few times here), can we always be a hundred percent sure about our personal moral bearings? Is it thine eye that offends? Or is it thine beliefs that make stuff offensive?

Perhaps take a moment to read my recent article Voids in logic and substance simply plugged by the ‘magic’ of ‘People Power’ published on GetRealPhilippines.net, or at least reflect on this excerpt:

What does [the] trend towards increasingly abstracted and simplified representation of ideas, information, and data mean? Hold that thought while we consider the example of something more tangible – the transport and distribution of physical goods in an economy – that we can use to illustrate the point I plan to make.

In the old days when people used to produce what they consume, an “end-product” was not regarded in quite the same way a Twenty First Century tween would see her mug of Starbucks hot chocolate. A subsistence economy consumer would most likely be aware of most of the value of the tangible economic input into, say, the wild pig thigh he is munching into – the hunt, the kill, and the butchering of the beast. The value has substance and is derived from real assets and capital – the hunter’s skill and weapons and the planning that went into the hunt, for example. In contrast, the only palpable source of the value in the Starbucks drink a modern-day city slicker would discern is the brand experience – the stoking on the ego of walking in and out of a trendy establishment, the pride in being seen holding in one’s hand a tall paper tumbler that conspicuously sports the green circular logo. The coffee beans that give the beverage its rich flavour may have come from South America or Africa, the milk accounting for its texture from Australia or New Zealand. None of it matters. Indeed, there is no way the average Starbucks customer could be aware of such details.

We are at an age where we are on a day-to-day and even minute-by-minute basis served up a dense platter of symbolic ideas encapsulated in colourful sensually-appealing icons. And even before the technology was available to package them in the way we now consume them through our whiz-bang electronic devices, such persuasion too
ls have been around for some time and have been just as effective at capturing our sensibilities. The problem lies in the way these packages insulate us from the soundness (or lack of soundness) of the logic in their underlying ideas.

With that in mind, consider now what Inquirer.net columnist Conrado de Quiros says in his latest article Yes, he might:

Noynoy, like his mother, has the power to tap into People Power. That is the one huge ally he would need to fight corruption. That is the one huge ally that will be there to fight corruption.

Cory formally institutionalized People Power – it’s a provision in the Constitution – but never really used it in the course of her term. The provision was left for the politicians to pervert, not least Arroyo who used it to oust Grace Padaca and Ed Panlilio and to try to change the Constitution. Noynoy holds the key to it. If he discovers it, he will raise, like Aragorn who conscripted the dead kings and their legions in “Lord of the Rings,” an army mightier than any of his enemies can muster.

Equipped with the right approach to thinking, some of the right questions may now naturally emerge when faced with the sort of moronism exhibited above. Up to the challenge?

The solutions are obvious!


About benign0

benign0 is the Web master of GetRealPhilippines.com
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15 Responses to Tulong Dunong, ACIL, ICTUS, and other memories from up the Hill

  1. Ryan Bosco says:

    Former Erap Estrada attended Ateneo correct?
    And so did Noynoy Aquino, right?

    Estrada certainly treated Ateneo as if it were Starbucks because not much came out of his presidency.
    I wonder if Noynoy will make something out of his Atenean degree during his term.

    Doesn’t really matter what school one attends. Jesus never went to school. Look at him now. Most Filipinos consider him the son of God. In the Philippines, I notice mostly everybody making such a big deal what school he/she graduated from. When La Salle and Ateneo are on television playing basketball, people really get into it screaming and cheering—even though these fanatics have no relations whatsoever with these schools. Some cheer because it’s trendy to be associated with these schools. Heck, I’ve met people wearing Ateneo shirts and when I ask them if they attend the school, they say they never have nor any of their relatives.

    What’s in a school anyway? Or the brand of coffee we sip when people walk by? The designer shirt we wear with that big logo right smack in the middle of our chest—in sequins!? But I digress 🙂

    Nice article!

  2. t0da says:

    I’ve generally tried to avoid these organizations for the exact same reasons. You would expect that their organization leaders (president, VPs, etc) would be good examples for the rest of the members, but they’re really not different. Good Catholics by day, who knows what to call them the rest of the days.

  3. brianitus says:

    If Noy tried to raise an army of the dead, he might unknowingly uncover the skeletons of Kamaganak Inc. More like Evil Dead to me than Lord of the Rings.

    Anyway, what’s with religion anyway? I know of Catholic lay ministers who behave like meek lambs in church and act like hungry wolves after stepping out. Some Catholics even have the guts to question my spirituality, the very same mutants serving in church. Sheesh.

    Echoing what benign0 said, it’s hard to go “openly religious.” The chance to become a hypocrite out in the open is much much higher.

  4. fullofhatred says:

    will he turn malakanyang into a pinoy MORDOR? hehehe.

  5. Anonylol says:

    >”(2) The matter of how sin makes you unfit to commune with the Lord (eat His flesh and drink His blood); ”

    I remember making a comment about how this was really creepy and likened it to being zombies and how Jesus, from the way he is described by Catholics, is some sort of cosmic zombie.

    Oh the hordes that went after me that day.

    But I was laughing all the way.

    Anyway, I really dislike these organizations that make you wear your religion on your sleeve and say its a good thing. Religion is a private matter, something you should leave at home. If someone whose religion involved male genatalia and he/she made sure to let everyone in a 30 meter radius know about it I wonder how those religious orgs would take it.

    The conversations would be pretty funny I bet.

  6. ChinoF says:

    Reminds me of this fave song of mine:


    Kaharap ko sa dyip ang isang ale
    Nagrorosaryo mata niya’y nakapikit
    Pumara sa may kumbento
    Sa babaan lang po sabi ng tsuper kase me naghuhuli
    Mura pa rin nang mura ang ale

    Banal na aso, santong kabayo
    Natatawa ako hihihihi
    Banal na aso, santong kabayo
    Natatawa ako hihihihi
    Sa ‘yo

    Nangangaral sa kalye ang isang lalake
    Hiningan ng pera ng batang pulubi
    Pasensya na para daw sa templo
    Pangkain lang po sabi ng paslit
    Talagang di ba pupwede?
    Lumipat ng pwesto ang lalake

    Anuman ang iyong ginagawa sa iyong kapatid
    Ay siya ring ginagawa mo sa akin

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  8. J.B. says:

    Just out of curiosity, do Ateneo & UP actually teach students about what is wrong with the country from the oligarchic vantage point?

    From the article above, it looks like they both have good programs for increasing sensitivities to people deprived in life like for example the blend of sectarian purity plus community awareness in reaching out less fortunate pupils.

    I remembered Joaquin Bernas ages ago in his interview reasoned out the want only the “best and brightest” to end up graduating in their College of Law.

    I think Bernas definition of “best and brightest” does not sit well with the seated politicians usually by-product of these institutions who ended up either economic rapist or altogether dumb.

  9. Rob' Ramos says:

    @ J.B.

    We have Liberation Theology. Especially if you get a professor named Bobby Guevara, it actually changes your life, or at least the way you view stuff.

    We also have Immersion, which basically spending a weekend with impoverished communities, part and parcel of LibTheo class. I know, I know, its not enough, but imagine all those rich kids suddenly thrust VERY MUCH OUT OF THEIR COMFORT ZONES.

    Supposedly, the “Core Curriculum” of the Ateneo, at least the one I was taught by the time I graduated in 2000 (its… mutated quite a bit) allows you that kind of discernment, even given that many of those who study in the Ateneo themselves are the scions of oligarchs.

    Again, the operative term is “supposedly.” Certainly, I’ve noticed a… toning down of the coño mentality by the time most Ateneans (again, pre-2000) reach Senior year. I’d like to think there’s an effect.

    But then, my philo mentor, Fr. Luis David, SJ – who introduced me to Plato and his Republic and the horrors of the Holocaust – has this interesting thesis:

    In the Ateneo, at least up to 2000, the biggest org “cluster” was the one called the “Socially-Oriented Organizations.” This is the grouping of orgs similar to ACIL. If you’ve heard of Kythe, that volunteer org for college kids who help take care of kids in the cancer ward, that’s the kind of orgs in that cluster.

    Fr. David pointed out that so many college kids – and not just in the Ateneo, but holds true for nearly all colleges and universities – are active in “socially-oriented” orgs throughout their college life. They are ACTIVE, period. They engage themselves in concerns beyond their books and gimiks. I remember back in Ondoy, thousands of Ateneans volunteered for the disaster-relief ops based at the school, and we have an overflow of volunteers everytime there’s an election and Ateneo is the base for NAMFREL QC.

    Then, Fr. David asks: where do these kids go when they graduate? Why the sudden drop in volunteerism and social activity? Wherefore the Action in the Public Sphere by young men and women who were so ardent and adamant in doing so for four to six years?

    Fr. David said that this is most likely due to the loss of the “support structure” that is their org, or the atmosphere in universities and colleges. When you graduate, unless you’re a “Trust Fund Baby” or Uber Rich Heir with lots of funds and time to burn, most college kids are… enslaved by the Bundy. By the demands of the bottom line.

    They suddenly lose access to that context which made them CARE in the first place. Suddenly, their lives have… different concerns; how can you CARE, if you have deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, and bills to pay?

    @ the College of Law

    Not everyone – indeed, a good portion – that studies there had their undergrad from other schools.

    <– spoken like a true Atenean XD

    @ Communion, Confession, et. al.; an aside

    As an FYI, I remember being taught in Theo class about that wonderful thing from Vatican II:

    You CAN have Communion so long as your sins are not Mortal (like, you know… killing someone. Or adultery. Ata)


    Hell, a Priest can officiate Mass even if he has Venial sins.

    Its in Vatican II, or one of the documents after that.

    My Soph year Theo prof, Rey Aguas (the guy who led the dozen or so Atenean professors who supported the RH Bill) was of the opinion that, Mortal sin aside, you really should take Communion more. Because if you believe that Host is what it is, in Rey's opinion, you need it more than the supposedly-pious.

    • J.B. says:


      The reason for my asking is because a lot of UP students embarked on activism heavily due to constant prodding of their professors especially the pol sci ones what it means to be a skolar ng bayan.

      The rise of leftists from UP had all the blessings from their former/current activists professors.

      If the professors point out the oligarchs rather than the US hegemony the root cause of debacle, perhaps it would bring a new wave change of perspective.

  10. benign0 says:

    If we step back to the more general view that lots of education does not necessarily translate to lots of logic. There are many cases that highlight the imprisoning effect of “too much” education. Nassim Taleb’s book Black Swan makes a case of how highly-educated “economists” and their whiz-bang economic “models” had a lot to do with the blindness the financial community suffered in the months (or more likely years) leading to the financial collapse.

    We can also note how many of the worst leaders and government officials as well as bloggers and journalists who published the most moronic ideas are all highly-educated and becredentialled folk.

    It’s not really the amount of education that counts, but the quality of and approach to thinking a person applies to a challenge or problem. Education provides the data, but the actual software — the thinking — is what processes it (and determines if said data is good or cr@p).

    On another note, consider this phrase:

    Being seen to be religious and being seen to be enjoying a mug of Starbucks latte.

    Stated that way, we can see the common psychological denominator that underpins the power of religion and brand marketing.

  11. Paolo says:

    Oh yes, There will be blood.

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