When an ending is a beginning

As the year drew to a close, I had the chance to revisit the story of the female fighter pilot Nicole Malachowski for a short talk. As the son of a military aviator, I know how tough it is to become one. That was why Malachowski’s story of proving her teacher wrong — that only boys could become fighter pilots — once lent itself to an employee campaign promoting Women’s Day. Back then, I naively thought that because my former company and many other corporations celebrated women achievers every year, the women’s movement must be making a lot of headway in Philippine society.

Beyond The Ghetto (BTG) corrected my naivete. Apparently, much still remains to be done in the field of philosophy given the historical dominance of male philosophers. In its website, BTG describes itself as “a sub-group of the Philippines-based Women Doing Philosophy … dedicated to celebrating the works of women philosophers and promoting their presence in the philosophy classroom.” While most of its webinars feature women philosophers, it continues to open its doors to others who are supportive of its advocacy.

To be sure, I did not attend BTG webinars to smash the patriarchy. I went because I wanted to enrich what I could teach after not being in a classroom for years. Providentially, this was around the same time that the Ateneo offered the Adaptive Design for Learning or ADL to help its faculty cope with the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Through the help of fellow teachers I worked with in the ADL, I managed to enhance my course design. More to the point, the ADL’s emphasis on connecting with the context of my learners solidified my resolve to use Inquirer op-ed pieces as fulcrum texts for my main readings. These included pieces by Mabeth Bonga, a Saudi-based OFW; Angela Fabon, a law student; Dr. Kay Rivera, an Inquirer columnist; Christine Magpayo, a teacher; and Christopher Maboloc, an ethics professor.

For its part, BTG introduced me to women philosophers who enriched my course syllabus. Michelle Walker’s defiant advocacy for philosophizing to resist the pace identified with corporations reinforced Martha Nussbaum’s opposition to economic growth as the sole criterion of development. Susan Neiman’s reminder not to be in a hurry to figure out what life should be about tempered Ramon Reyes’ challenge for students to grapple with their existential cross-points. Kate Manne’s insights on women victimized by misogyny made Paul Ricouer’s reminder to follow the example of the Good Samaritan more urgent and compelling.

What I did not quite expect was how a number of the talks and essays authored by BTG women philosophers would also resonate with me as a person.

When I read “How to be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life,” I was struck by a reference that Massimo Pigliucci made regarding the academic community. Writer and professor Butch Dalisay hinted about it in some of his essays, albeit in jest. But it was the talks by Tracy Llanera and Leslie dela Cruz that made me realize that the academe is not the paradise I thought it was when I rejoined it in 2019. Fortunately, the Stoics’ dichotomy of control continues to serve me in good stead, as does the idea that more people are talking about it now.

This was why I appreciated Cassie Teodosio’s recommendation of Susan Neiman’s “Why Grow Up?” Indeed, “courage is required to live with the rift that will run through our lives, however good they may be: ideals of reason tell us how the world should be; experience tells us that it rarely is.”

Lastly, Jean Tan’s insights on how humans continue to discriminate between the rich and the poor even in the very act of grieving for those who perished during the pandemic bolstered my insight earlier provoked by my philosophy class under Fr. Louie David and the talks by Danna Aduna and Veniz Guzman: We do not only need more women’s voices in the academe, we need more women’s voices in the political arena.

And so even as this year is ending, I realized that my act of rediscovering philosophy is only beginning. Which is just as well. After all, as the philosopher Hannah Arendt once shared with her students: “Action, with all its uncertainties, is like an ever-present reminder that men, though they must die, are not born in order to die but in order to begin something new.”

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Von Katindoy is a teacher and a student based in the metro.

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