by Gemma Avisado
It was March of 2007 when I began looking for another degree course to take up for my Ph.D. I was then a doctoral student of the University of the Philippines Diliman under their Philippine Psychology Program. However, I was quickly discouraged by the way that the program was set-up/designed which prompted me to look for another program to pursue.
It was not until July of 2010 that I would find my way to the Asian Social Institute (ASI) Website. After talking with a former graduate of the school, I found myself quite curious about the Applied Cosmic Anthropology (ACA) degree. After a quick survey of the ACA program, I felt that I would be a good fit in the program. However, it was only in June of 2011 that I was able to enrol in the program.
I remember the very first class I had to take which was a Rituals class with Ms. Leah Tolentino. I usually miss the beginning of the semester by a couple of weeks for various reasons and so I was not able to join orientation and thus had quite a culture shock upon entering my first class. “Holy crap! What did I just get myself into?” is an accurate statement of how I felt at that time. But, as destiny would have it, I found myself falling in love with ASI and ACA.
To say that ACA has changed the way I think is an understatement. I was so outside of my comfort zone that I honestly thought of not returning after that first Saturday in class. During the first year in ACA, I was forced to think outside the box. I was deconstructed and reconstructed, broken and put back together. It was quite a painful process for me because I found myself questioning things that I thought were absolute truths. I also found myself being stretched and molded into a person who commits to listen before I judge, to try to understand before I fear, to tolerate if necessary, to accept if it’s true and to say no if it’s not.
But if I was made to think outside the box during my first year in ACA, Dr. Dejillas’ classes during the first semester of my 2nd year in ACA, made me see that there is no box. Dr. Dejillas introduced so many new concepts and topics so bizarre that once again, I found myself thinking whether attending classes during Saturdays were worth it. But then, a curious thing happened to me.
See, during my first year in ACA, I found myself understanding who I am and my relationship with Mother Earth. But during my 2nd year in ACA, I found myself understanding my relationship with the universe. Because, despite the many theories that Dr. Dejillas brought forth in say for example how the universe came to be, instead of shutting my mind from such blasphemous ideas, I found that it actually enriched my own beliefs of how this universe came to be.