VOICE FROM THE SOUTH
By FR. EMETERIO BARCELON, SJ
Looking back to my childhood and youth, there are some things now that I wish I had been taught. In childhood and early youth, the memory is strong and easy to manipulate. I wish I had been taught the language of music so that I could read and write music. There were times that I had tunes come to mind that I would have wanted to record but I had no way of recording it since I did not know how to write musical notes. Musical notes are as simple as the alphabet and numbers. It was a question of having learned to read and write musical notes. We spoke three languages at home – Tagalog, English, and Spanish, so that a fourth language was no difficulty. Also how I wish that I was taught a couple of thousand Chinese characters. I am told that 2,000 ideographs would be sufficient to read a Chinese newspaper. It is a wish that I could have read Chinese characters. It would have opened a whole new world.
In mathematics, I reached a point in which I knew the connection of algebra and geometry in Analytic Geometry. But how I wish I had learned calculus as a youth. I still can learn it as an adult but it would have been much easier to learn calculus in my teens. I know the saying that mathematics is a chain and if one link is missing, it becomes a nightmare. It is important in mathematics that we have someone to talk to on a one-on-one clarification whenever there is something not understood. I was lucky that I had an uncle to whom I could go when I had a problem in mathematics. And later we had a La Salle Brother who on our free day could answer our questions in mathematics. In that way we could pull on the chain of mathematics and not lose a link. As one of my professors in Graduate School used to claim, mathematics was for simpletons, because it was only a repetition of things once we understood the principle. But you must know and understand it then it; was just a repetition again and again.
It seems I had little problem in physics but how I wish I was made to memorize the chemical periodic table and a few basic chemical formulas when my memory was sharp and painless. This would have made chemistry an easy subject to learn and use the rest of my life. Chemistry would have been as easy as learning of arithmetic or the basics of faith. At elevation time at Mass, my mother would whisper to us “My Lord and My God.” We just absorbed that my God came down to earth at Mass without any problem on our part. Explanations came later on. Our faith is that God is our Father and that love must precede power and reason. In the Creed it is: I believe in the Father Almighty.
There is not much else that I could have asked for with respect to my early education besides the language of music, calculus, chemistry, and more explanation of my faith. I wish for our youth that they would learn these things. Maybe I would also include these in senior high. Also they would be taught the rules of double-entry accounting. It is as simple as learning the rules of playing basketball. But they have to learn and the earlier, the better. Finally, learn the rules of fellowship and faith together with patriotism or to sacrifice self for the good of the community.
In a way these are my wishes for the education of our youth. These are my wishes so that our youth will be prepared to face higher education and life. This I believe would make learning and living much easier. I used to make my students follow a rule of studying by themselves for two hours same time and same place five days a week. And this has been a successful formula for scholarship.