My problem with the Filipino teaching


My kids are Jewish by their Mum and Protestant by their Dad. Mr Attila was born in a Buddhist country and his sister in a totally secular one. We worked in Muslim and Hindu places and we are currently living on a Catholic island. How could we possibly educate our children in a single religion? if there is one thing I learnt from all those years working in war affected countries, is that education is paramount to prevent violence. Teach your children how to respect each other and the people around them for who they are and to honour all religions – as each is a pathway to the One God.

schoolbookThe Philippines are a Catholic country, even though not formally anymore. But you’ll always be asked “are you a Catholic?”. My natural answer would be “why do you care? does it make any difference to you whether I am Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist or a worshiper of the Sun?“. It is cultural. In any document – even the kids subscription to their sports classes, you ll have to answer their obsessing question “what is your religion?“. It was the same in Thailand and it already used to drive me crazy. I never answered, and I must admit no one insisted on me filling the blank. Asian don’t make fuss. Under any circumstance are you allowed to lose face. Let the foreigners be. They are not here to stay anyway.

This cartoon of a girl praying in a church comes from my daughter’s school book. This is the reading material of a “private and non religious school that respects all faiths“. Wait another month and I know that my son will learn that “G is like God” and God is Christ. Period.

(c) Alice Beasley
(c) Alice Beasley

My toddlers, like all kids of their age are constantly asking questions. They wonders why we don’t go to church, why her friends’ yaya are pregnant again, why so many of her classmates’ fathers are “living abroad“, why there are so many kids barely dressed in the streets and sleeping on carton sheets. All those questions are a chance to talk about respect and understanding. What each of us can do to help, at our own little level.

I do believe in God, but my God has no religion. How we live our religion is far more important than what we say about it.

Did the teachers ever wonder how a Muslim Filipino would appreciate this cartoon? Does it mean that you have to be in a Church to be able to love God? I wish this picture was just used as a basis for discussion to open our children’s minds and hearts.

(c) Gaye Crispin
(c) Gaye Crispin

Why not teaching values instead of religious messages ? You don’t need to belong to a Church in particular to believe and practice integrity, tolerance, caring, compassion and empathy. God to me is in each and everyone of us, he does not belong to a place. The divine is in our heart.

There are lots of Chinese, Japanese and Korean in my kids school. How about learning from each other instead of imposing one single way?

Make children proud to share their culture and where they come from instead of always imposing beliefs. Teach them to discuss, debate, learn from one another instead of always bowing their head. I’d rather open my children’s mind to wonder than close it with beliefs. Our endless discussions about life take lots of my energy and time. But I do believe it is worth the investment.


29 thoughts on “My problem with the Filipino teaching

  1. Just curious, where do your kids go to school? Sometimes I think it depends on the school curriculum (which of course, in one way or another, I assume has to follow the DepEd’s rule/policies). International schools maybe have more freedom? Not sure though.

    1. They go to Cambridge, in Lahug. Which is supposed to be an International school 😛
      I do respect the public curriculum, and I would never criticise the religious teaching of a Catholic school ..if I chose it in the first place.

      1. Thats true. It certainly is a challenge bringing up kids in today’s world. And you are doing a great job at it! 😉

      2. Thanks dear, just trying my best! It is actually super interesting as it challenges your beliefs, constantly. I am so happy they have the chance to be exposed to so many different cultures and grow up with (hopefully) an open mind.

    1. I just wish the system was more laic and respectful of all religions. I am totally laic when it comes to education, I d like my children to make up their mind by themselves after being exposed to as many philosophies as possible..

  2. Another great contribution you are making, dear Estelea! The paragraph below says it all:
    “How could we possibly educate our children in a single religion? if there is one thing I learnt from all those years working in war affected countries, is that education is paramount to prevent violence. Teach your children how to respect each other and the people around them for who they are and to honour all religions – as each is a pathway to the One God.”
    The discussion of all these themes (religion, society, our differences, and our commonalities) with your children is very important -I know that you prioritize such subject.
    Thanks so much for opening the discussion about such interesting and important theme! Take care, my wonderful friend! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much dear Fabio for your kind words. I so wish we could all learn from each other and see religion as a way to link us all, instead of dividing ..

      1. Thanks Fabio 🙂 People should do more instead of criticising each other, and to me religion should be our moral compas, not an instrument of division. The more you travel and live with people of totally different background than yours, the more you realise how rich our word and how we can learn from each other dont you think? Have a beautiful day dear friend!

  3. Well, the problem you mentioned is really not simple at all. If sometimes grown up people cannot find religious balance in their life, then what to talk about children who hardly understand how this big world works! Your are right that God is in us and it can be nice if people remember it when they would like to commit a crime or do something very bad. Children are like a sponge, in their age they take everything as a fact, so you have to be very tolerant with them otherwise you can ruin their perceptions and influence their life very much…I am confused! Topic is really essential…

    1. yes, you rightly said it, kids are like sponges. Hence the importance of teaching them values like respect, tolerance, empathy so they learn to live by them. Kids are repeating what they learn at school and at home, they trust their parents and their teachers.The other day my 4 y.o. daughter told me that her “boyfriend” said he would marry her, but not in the Philippines because they wouldn’t be able to divorce. I was so shocked 😛 so much for romanticism and faith in love! but I guess it is a topic that arose at his home .. Bah, after all, a little bit of pragmatism can’t hurt 😉

      1. Ohh, kids! They are so funny and sometimes look at this world so mature, we can envy them!

  4. “How we live our religion is far more important than what we say about it.” True. And I agree with you — it’s more important, I think, to teach values than to inculcate religious messages. I think it’s the prerogative of schools run by Catholic organizations to include catechism in their curriculum, but those that aren’t Catholic schools shouldn’t be as restrictive, and no school should ever make a child feel left out because he/she has different beliefs. I went to a Catholic elementary school and I think it was good for me, at that stage of development, but I had one Protestant classmate and I always felt sorry for her because our religion teacher was always kind of insinuating that her beliefs were wrong. (For what it’s worth, that’s what some Protestant churches do to Catholics too, so it’s not just a Catholic thing.) What’s ironic — and I only learned this later, when I was in university — is that the Catholic teachings themselves, post-Vatican II, are rather inclusive. I think some schools (and many priests!) in the Philippines didn’t get the memo. 🙂

    1. Thanks dear for sharing your insights! This is actually what I am fearing, that kids feel excluded. It is already hard enough when you dont look like a local, but on top of that if the teachers make you feel even more outcasted because you dont share the same religion, it’s very sad.
      I read somewhere that the religion comes from a Latin word Religare that me linking/uniting people. Too bad the messages had been distorted and reinterpreted to instrumentalize people. Take the story of the Christ with Maria Magdalena, it is all about empathy and respect isn’t it?
      Although I am not a Catholic, I can totally relate with the attitude and the teachings of Pope Francis. His reading of the religion is about love, respect but also responsabilisation. Hope his memos will soon reach as many schools as possible and I am sure he won’t mind if he is not credited 🙂
      Happy Linggo ng Wika !

  5. Hé bien! Le sujet est pour le moins épineux, mais il a le mérite de mettre les choses au clair….ce que tu fais religion, quant à moi, doit se faire au sein de sa famille et non à l’école. Les parents ont un rôle très difficile. Celui d’inculquer aux enfants le respect des autres.c’est le commandement principal.l’ecole a un devoir de neutralité en ce qui concerne les cultes . personnellement nos cours commençaient par une leçon de morale que nous commentions avant de démarrer
    Notre journée. Et ceci dès la maternelle……☆♡☆♡

    1. La laicite à l’école a du bon.. en meme temps, je trouve dommage de gâcher la chance de partager nos cultures. Ce serait tellement bien si les enfants pouvaient célébrer les grandes fetes religieuses de leurs parents en invitant leurs camarades de classes. La religion doit être incluante et accueillante. Quand je vivais au Sudan, j étais invitee tous les soirs de Ramadan chez mes collègues et cet accueil et cette générosité ont marque mon appréciation de leur religion. Pareil chez les indiens notamment 🙂

  6. Lovely article I live in Thailand, but one of the issues I have with USA today is the teaching of religion in public schools Texas I grad from HS small school district great teachers and school. Religion was never taught, That same generation that I am for some reason believe religion, 10 commandments, our government was based on the bible? was taught and should be taught in school WHY? world is crazy and thanks for the topic. jackie

    1. Thanks a lot Jackie! I totally agree with you, and it is so sad to see how religion is instrumentalized nowadays. In countries that are so multicultural, we should focus on what unites us, not what divides us. Unless of course there is a political agenda behind it all. How can politicians make their campaign on associating the Bible with guns? and worse how can people be so narrow minded that they actually support this association? And what s insane is that so many political leaders play the religious card, look at the Buddhists in Myanmar, the Ultra orthodox Jews, the Fundamentalist Muslims.. Wish people remember the words of the Dalai Lama :’ The purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticise others”…

  7. I’m with you on this one. Especially on “my God has no religion” and “the divine is in our hearts” amongst other things. One of your best posts ever! I’m doing a re-blog on this! 🙂

  8. Really thought provoking piece, Estela. I completely agree with you. Interestingly, my parents sent me to Catholic school for nine years because even though they are not religious,they wanted to expose my brother and I to religion so we could know that there were options and choose for ourselves. A lot of people don’t get their thought process, but I’m thankful for my Catholic school education. Not only did I meet lifelong friends there, but I do think my unique experience of growing up in a secular household while attending Catholic school has allowed me to come to a lot of my own conclusions about religion that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

    I do, however, think we as a society spend too much time trying to shove certain ideals down the throats of youngsters when we should be allowing them to live and discover on their own.

    And of course, this whole concept of religion in schools and daily life is something I’m going to have to keep in mind while I’m in Thailand, given that it is a primarily Buddhist country.

  9. Excellent piece, Estelea. I wish the whole world would think like that.
    Organized religion, fundamentalism and dogmatism, put together, has been and continues being a major reason for conflicts, wars and violence.
    We don’t need much to conclude we humans learn nothing from history, and just make new versions of religion ears in each century. See that the current violent wars in Syria, Iraq, and why not mention the endless conflict between Israel and Palestine, all share the same religious motivation. This ISIS group of lunatics is going even further with their primitive behavior.
    Your words of wisdom would serve well to educate all kids correctly about human values, instead of instigating competition between Gods!
    I was educated by catholic parents, studied at catholic schools, and although my parents were very religious, they didn’t discriminate against other religions. Tolerance and respect to others was stronger than their religious beliefs.
    I always rebelled against being obliged to follow their religious beliefs and to go to the too many activities in the church, whereas I wanted to play with my friends.
    When studying about other religions, I loved the story of Luther and had countless arguments with my father about that.
    My parents eventually became Protestants when they found out that the priest that they respected so much, was lending money to the poor illegally and charging exorbitant interest rates. It was a shock!
    Their change set us free from all religious obligations. We said that we would remain catholic just to never again put our feet back in the church.
    That’s the outcome of rigid education.
    I never again joined any organized religion and searched for God through developing spirituality, nurturing human values and living according to them, respecting people and nature and trying to be a good human being and do good for others, and the world I live in. I think I learnt these values at home and also at school. I kept the good part.
    But I’m surely against any form of imposed religious education. It does more harm than good to kids and adults in general.
    Thanks for this wise, insightful words, full of humanity.

  10. Thanks so much Lucile for your very precious comments. I admire your path to more spirituality and how do apply it in your every day life. This is totally inspiring. I do understand how your parents as fellow Catholics must have been shocked by the behaviour of this priest. It shows again that no one earns respect by his clothes or his speeches, but only by his actions.

    “educate all kids correctly about human values, instead of instigating competition between Gods!” is exactly my point. You summed it up perfectly.

    As you say, religion has been so instrumentalized, serving the agenda of crazy fanatic, how come we can not learn from that? The core messages are all the same though, we should stick to empathy, honesty, love and respect of one another. There is so much to learn from our “differences”.

    Although it seems very hard to comprehend for lots of people, It’s not necessary to believe in a god to be a good person. One can be spiritual without being religious, even Pope Francis said that “Some of the best people in history did not believe in God while some of the worse deeds were done in his name”…

    Thanks again for sharing your inspiring views Lucile, always great food for thoughts 🙂 XXX

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