THE importance of the family was brought to the fore during Pope Francis’s recent visit to the Philippines. With hundreds of families from all over the Philippines in attendance, the pope celebrated Mass on January 17 at the venue of the Family Congress.
The National Congress on the Filipino Family, called “Kapamilya Kita,” was held on January 16 and 17 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
The two-day event was organized by the Miriam College High School’s Parents-Teachers Association, in cooperation with the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines and ABS-CBN. Plenary speakers included experts, academicians, “real” families and talents of ABS-CBN. The function was attended by both Miriam College High School students and their parents.
Program registration and opening of sponsors’ exhibits was from 7 to 10 a.m. Presiding the Mass from 10 to 11 a.m. was Rev. Msgr. Gerardo O. Santos, STL, STM, EdD. The congress began with a singing of the Philippine National Anthem by the Miriam College High School Glee Club. A special message from a Miriam College high-school student, Dorothy Rose Palafox, immediately followed.
She urged everyone to “revisit and understand the real meaning of family and bring back the three important words or phrases, which are ‘Thank you,’ ‘Sorry’ and ‘I love you’” to the family.”
Supporting Palafox’s message was the president of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, Bro. Narciso Erquiza Jr., FSC. He stated that “the family is uniquely important to the Church, and, thus, needs to be rediscovered. The family is our source of joy and, yet is also our immediate source of pain.”
Adding to Erquiza’s message and further emphasising Palafox’s points was the president of Miriam College, Rosario O. Lapus, PhD, who believes that “the very strength of a nation is derived from the integrity of the family.” She believed that “Filipino families are faith-driven and faith-centered. It is hard work to put up a family, and we need God’s help.”
The family, the Filipino family, in particular, is something to love and cherish. Ma. Cecilia F. Salapantan, chairman of the North Coast Family Fellowship Executive Council, captured this truth, when she said that “the family is a priceless asset. It is the only place to learn the power of true love.”
The two-day event focused on topics with direct implications on how the Filipino family can be viewed today.
“Paiba-iba Pwede Ba? Our Changing Family Dynamics” explored interfaith marriages and adoptive families—various forms and roles of a father, mother, child and sibling. Panelists for the session were registered guidance counselor (RGC) and family life specialist and resource person Michele Alignay; Mitoy Yonting, first winner of The Voice Philippines, ABS-CBN Star Magic actresses Ella Cruz and Diane Medina, Karla Estrada, a single mom of four and mother of teen idol Daniel Padilla, Chef Tristan Encarnacion, son of gay dad Jun Encarnacion; and Mia Cabalsin, host.
“Siksik, Liglig, at Umaapaw” highlighted family achievements and families of the especially abled and explored role reversals among family members. The discussion focused on matters rooted on the pledges of husband and wife when they tied the knot, expressing their love for and commitment to each other. Guest panelists were Training and Organizational Development practitioner Marie Escueta and her husband Manolo Escueta. Married for 38 years, they are the president couple of Educhild Foundation. Other panelists were Reina Rama, a widow and principal of Miriam College High School’s Academic Affairs; Fatima Soriano, a young lady born blind but is respected as a visionary, who has inspired many both here and abroad for her outlook on life despite her physical condition; and Robert Seña and Isay Alvarez-Seña, singers and theater actors.
“Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo” revisited the family law, considering various points of view on marriage—moral, legal, social, psychological and spiritual, among others. It showed the difficulties experienced by those living with their in-laws, and discussed matters related to building up families by career-oriented parents. Guest panelists were Fr. Henry Bocala, JCD; actress Yayo Aguila; RnB princess singer Kyla, Country Director for International Society for Values Inquiry and guest researcher of Hubei University Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies Dr. Corazon Toralba, PhD; and one of the leading litigation lawyers in the country and first recipient of the writ of kalikasan by the Supreme Court being a strong advocate of the environment, Lorna Patajo-Kapunan.
“Alang-alang sa Bata” focused on solo parenting, families of overseas Filipino workers, rearing children up in the digital age, among others. Session panelists included Dr. Gail Galang, a model, early childhood teacher, empowering school leader, and inspiring mother in an alternative family set-up; Bryan Vincent L. Belen, executive vice president of Diwa Learning Systems Inc., the leading provider of print and digital educational resources for basic education in the Philippines, he initiates the education of the current generation of Filipinos through effective e-learning methods, in collaboration with schools and homes; Kata Innocencio, broadcast journalist, child-rights advocate and television host, Ariella Arida, fashion model and television personality, Miss Universe-Philippines 2013 winner; and Tibbs and Vangie Evalle, marriage experts.
Since the activities for Day One included a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis late in the afternoon at the Mall of Asia Arena, only “Paiba-Iba, Pwede ba? Our Changing Family Dynamics” was done. All other plenary sessions were conducted on the second day.
Facilitating all the discussions held during the two-day gathering was star volleyball player and TV host Gretchen Ho. Gracing the event were song numbers performed by Fatima Soriano, Robert Seña and Isay Alvarez-Sena, and Kyla.
Topics discussed during the congress were relevant to parents and students alike. The way these were presented, however, needed to be improved. Since many, if not most, of the participants were high-school students, more interactive learning techniques should have been employed by the session facilitator and panelists with their participants.
This could be achieved by coming up with more activity-based approaches to introduce topics and summarize discussions. Managing discussion time and devoting more time for the question-and-answer portion, could have been a more effective way of capturing and sustaining the interest of everyone, especially the youth. Such approaches to learning are necessary, especially if the venues, such as that during the event, are cold and thus can result to a sluggish and boring atmosphere.
Times have, indeed, brought about changes in society, both here and abroad, that has affected the family, which is its most basic unit. The dawn of the digital age has carried with it “unforeseen dangers” for adults and children alike if the intelligent and correct use of technology is not immediately introduced and learned in both our families and educational institutions. However, if time-tested values, especially ones based on biblical principles are cherished and practiced faithfully by each Filipino, we as a Christian nation can and will be able to face whatever changes tomorrow might bring to our respective families.
AJ Deocareza / Correspondent