Experience teaches us

Lumad children calls for Education Department to help stop attacks in schools. (Photo by Karlo Manano / Grabbed from Bulatlat.com)
"Life is a journey in time; the longer we have journeyed, the more we are, through our experiences, acquainted with the reality which is life. Experiences teach."

These are the words of Dr. José M. de Mesa in his paper, Buhay, Karanasan, Aral at Turo: A Filipino Hermeneutics of Experience.

Although experience can be relative, one can still say that, depending on one's experience, one's level of maturity can be gauged, and for those whose life is a conscious journey towards experiencing God, one's relationship with his God can be shaped accordingly.

Visiting the lumads of #Manilakbayan2015 in Liwasang Bonifacio, I was puzzled and offended when one visitor whispered to his companion and expressed how he was offended at the fact that one of the lumad children was calling for the President of the country to rescind government order and memorandum that legitimizes military and paramilitary encroachment and encampment in school grounds.
Apparently, he thought, why on earth would such a boy, and a lumad at that, who evidently has no way of knowing what he was talking about since it is not in their vocabulary and capacity to know such things as laws or complicated concepts like capitalism, would be talking about legal documents? Unless his mind has been poisoned by ideologues, who may be using them to advance whatever agenda these ideologues may have.

I completely understand this young man for how could he grasp and appreciate the situation of the lumad boy when he is but shielded in the comfort of a well-guarded university or a comfortable home where everything is provided.

Perhaps, this is the wisdom of the words of Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, secretary for the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, when he said that he does not believe in the immersions of seminarians because it is mostly experiments and not a genuine immersion into the lives of our poor, oppressed, exploited, and marginalized brothers and sisters.

Experience teaches us, yes, this is but a very common adage that may just be a cliché, but as Dr. de Mesa aptly puts our common understanding on this, "we cannot have an experience of a reality which we have not actually undergone, borne, suffered, coped with or weathered (dinanas) for good or ill."

But I could not also discount the experience of the young university student, for however absurd or insensitive it may be, respect for such an experience must be accorded, for each of us have different interpretations of our experiences based on our own understanding of such, and, so, no interpretation of such can either be right or wrong, it's simply a matter of perspective.

When we use our experience and our interaction with people, nature, and events as a way of experiencing God, as a mediator in our theologizing, in our quest to understanding the magnanimity of God, then we become gifted with an understanding that is grounded in reality, an understanding that is more genuine and credible. But first, for such an experience to be truly genuine, we must let go of our biases and open our minds to the possibility of the new experience. We must learn to let go of what we have learned in the past and try to embrace a new learning.

Now I am faced with a dilemma. When comments and views endanger the lives of others, in this case the lumads, as such a comment do not only vilify the lumads but they also legitimizes and support the line of thinking of the military and para-military groups who implied in a Congressional hearing that the reason why such people as Emerito Samarca, whom alleged killer Datu Jumar Bucales of Lianga accused to be poisoning the minds of the lumads to eventually recruit them to the people's movement, are being targeted. Does one then have the right to rebut the other's interpretation of his experience? Now, what if the person is too closed minded and would just not accept any other interpretation other than his?

Perhaps this is where the concept of pagdama as interpretation would fall, which as de Mesa would point out is how we "Filipinos make sense of reality." So, experience must then reach the affective level and not just the rational-logical level for one to be able to fully appreciate it. And perhaps even have a god-experience that would mediate enlightenment and conversion.


  1. Tribo,I do not know exactly what is your situation in the teaching . I am wondering if you are a philosophy teacher . In any case you use easily of words such hermeneutic which would become quickly hermetic ! But you use it very well .:)
    About immersion of the seminarians ., you say experience teaches. By experience do you speak of trials or simple practice . the word scientist experience can have another meaning . It is called experience all practice tending to bring a proof a scientist hypothesis is wrong .
    But I am not a philosopher !! :)
    In friendship

  2. Hi Michel, no I'm not really a Philosophy major but we often use the term hermeneutic (interpretation) in our discourses in our theology classes, most probably because our theology are tightly tied with philosophy (sad to say)... as for experience, it would be by practice... i mean using our five senses to observe and be in the situation, be in the shoes of the people and the community you are immersed in... but when His Eminence Archbishop Carballo said that immersions are more experiments than really being with the people, he meant just that, "trials"....


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