In celebration of the 500th year since the first circumnavigation of the world reached the Philippine archipelago, the Universitas Foundation, Inc. proudly presents “500 years of Nation-building: Understanding the Past, Leading towards a Better Future“, a three-day conference to be held this coming March 16, 18 and 20, 2021.

The conference aims to  facilitate a discussion that promotes the acceptance of the history of the Philippines as the main agent for instilling love for the country. As the saying goes, “you can only love who you know.”

The conference will be broken down into three talks, with particular corresponding themes, to be given by individuals who have had remarkable contribution to Philippine society through their work and profession. To wit:

Dr. Paul Dumol – A historical take on the Philippine quest for nationhood (with a response from Dr. Bernadette Abrera)

It has been 500 years since the Spaniards first arrived in this group of islands we now call the Philippines. Yet, until today what constitutes our national identity is still unclear. Is the term “Filipino” merely a label that we attach to everyone living in this archipelago? Or does it refer to a particular set of genes? Or is it perhaps a particular culture shared by a certain group of people, regardless of place of residence and of ethnicity? These are some of the ways to answer the question of national identity, with each proposition having its own pros and cons.

Renowned historian, educator and playwright Dr. Paul Dumol would help us shed light on this problem by sharing his knowledge of historical sources and how they tie in with our quest for nationhood.

Cardinal Antonio Tagle – Harmonizing the Filipino and Christian identity (with a response from Dr. Jose Maria Mariano)

The introduction of Christianity in the Philippines is also central to the event that we are celebrating this year. The great impact of this religion on our society is indisputable. Today, around 90% of our population are Christians, at least nominally. While the extent to which these people are taking their faiths seriously cannot be mathematically measured, it is undeniable that Christianity has managed to permeate deeply into our culture, so much so that the Philippines has been called many times a “Christian nation”, or even a “Catholic country” .

Is Christianity really integral to our identity as a group? Or is it something that we must get rid of in order to become more fully who we are and to be able to live up to our true potentials?

This quincentennial presents a timely opportunity to reflect more deeply upon the Christian character of our culture and the place of Christianity in our society at large. And to do this, we seek the help of Cardinal Antonio Tagle, a Filipino Cardinal of the Catholic Church who has been the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples since 2019.

Atty. Alex Lacson – Searching for Hope in Ourselves (with a response from Atty. Oliver Tuazon)

This quincentennial is also a good occasion to reflect on our contemporary situation vis a vis progress. The Philippines is one of the first countries in Asia to have seen and gotten a taste of the cultural and technological advancements in the West. The Western (and modern) institutions of government, of law, of economy, and of education, to name a few, have been present in some parts of this archipelago since the Spanish occupation. Yet, one wonders why we seem to be lagging behind our neighboring countries in terms of the current global standards of development. 

 Is there really hope for our country? Is there anything an ordinary Filipino can do to improve our situation? Is the Philippines worth fighting for? To address these questions, we turn to Atty. Alex Lacson, a civic society leader, lawyer, businessman, and a best-selling author.

The 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines finds special consonance with Universitas’ advocacy of forming future leaders for the country, as an understanding of the past is crucial for every Filipino leader. It is from the past that the leader is able to derive insights to be used in forming projects and policies that respect the context, culture and psyche of the people they lead. Most importantly, it is by looking at history that we are able to form leaders with a strong love for country.