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Two questions: (1) What does the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) look like and sound like in my school? (2) What do I hope to learn from the workshop?

Hours before our flight to Malaysia, I found myself staring at these questions, still unanswered. I took several sips of my hot chocolate, hoping to find answers to those simply constructed questions. I knew what they were asking for, but I didn’t know what to answer. Several scenes, where I stand frozen and silent in front of the whole delegation, flashed in my mind like photographs. I imagined myself looking ignorant, in front of Fr. Johnny Go, a person I highly respect, just because I couldn’t answer the questions above. I closed my notebook and gave up. 

Two flights, two meals, and several hours later, Ma’am Fredelyn, Ma’am Tyza, and I, representatives of Ateneo de Iloilo – Santa Maria Catholic School, arrived in Chiang Mai. I saw myself patting my pen on the surface of the brown table in my room at the Arrupe residence in the Seven Fountains Retreat Center, while still looking blankly at the dreaded questions on my new seminar notebook. My brain dug around for answers, and like a lighting strike, I finally scribbled sentences on my notebook.

I answered the first question: “The IPP is the mold of our school’s ‘way of proceeding’ – academic and formative. The IPP is present to make sure that our learners not only learn from the experiences designed by their their teachers, but also understand the essence of these experiences.” For the second question, I wrote the most generic answer: “I hope to learn more.” Though unsatisfied with my answers, I closed my notebook, confident that I’d be able to share my answers the next day.

Then started one of the best experiences in my career. Ignatian Initiative for Teacher Excellence (IGNITE) invited teachers and administrators of several Jesuit education schools from eight different countries in the Asia Pacific to Learning by Refraction: Workshop on Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (also called TILT III). The workshop was held at the Seven Fountains Retreat Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I found myself in a sea of Ignatian formators, and right there and then I was thanking Ateneo de Iloilo – SMCS for having brought me here. Not only that, we were being facilitated by three giants in Jesuit education, namely: Fr. Johnny Go, SJ, Ms. Rita Atienza, and Ms. Jennie Hickey. 

Ignatian pedagogy. The entirety of the workshop revolved around this topic. Though very familiar to me as an Ignatian formator, I sometimes found myself unsure of what I was doing. Fr. Johnny started with his lecture on the context of Jesuit education schools in the Asia Pacific — that included Ateneo de Iloilo, of course. When he concluded his presentation, we were asked to roam around the Jesuit Main House hall. This activity triggered one of my greatest fears: talking to complete strangers. 

I mustered up all my courage, and talked to some of the participants — most of them from Indonesia. The surprising thing that happened during the activity was that not once did I open my notebook. Furthermore, I heard myself utter quite several “me toos” during the conversation. Despite living in different countries, working in different schools, and belonging to different contexts, I learned from our conversations that Jesuit education schools experience the same things — IPP and their struggles. From there, I started to quite enjoy the conversation. Sometimes, too much that I had to remind myself not to monopolize the conversation. The conversations were light and non-threatening. We did not feel afraid to share despite the language barriers.

As much as I want to narrate everything that transpired during the workshop, all I wish to write about is the immense gratitude and honor I feel for having undergone several experiences that sparked a once extinguished fire. Before coming to Thailand, exhaustion reigned upon not only my body, but also my mind. However, the past seven days of conversing with fellows in the mission, learning and relearning with experts, walking under lush green trees, chasing rabbits, and hiding from noise provided me an escape. I needed it, and thank God He gave me a such a refreshing and fulfilling retreat. 

The past seven days were jam-packed with discussions, conversations, activities, and learnings. Honestly, I feel sad that the workshop has concluded, just as I started to make new friends and took on new experiences. However, I know that by the time I leave the portals of Seven Fountains Retreat Center, I will be bringing with me a full mind and a full heart. I’ll bring with me my learnings in my carry-on baggage. 

The workshop started with two questions, and it ended with another two: (1) What are your takeaways from the workshop? (2) What are you planning to do afterwards?

My answers are simple: (1) The IPP completely gives identity to Jesuit education, and innovative and enthusiastic teachers must assure proper and meaningful delivery of lessons to students that what aid them to be aware of and to contribute to the betterment of the world. (2) To set the world on fire – and to start that fire in the classroom.


All pictures were taken from the JCAP Education Facebook page