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The OBE Scholars of 2016

From L-R: Dr. Jumela Sarmiento, Director of OAA; Nicolas Carunungan; Jean Camille Monje; Ramon Roco, Chairman of OBE; and Dr. John Paul Vergara, VP for Loyola Schools

The Ateneo Alumni Association and the Order of the Blue Eagles would like to congratulate all graduates of batch 2016! We would like to specially congratulate our Order of the Blue Eagles scholars, Nicolas Carunungan (BS MAC)  and Jean Camille Monje (BS MIS- MS CS).
You may know more about them through the narrative of their individual Atenean journeys below. To Nico, Jace, and all other graduates, we would like to wish you a fruitful journey going down from the hill.
Constantly True!

Nicolas R. Carunungan
BS Management in Applied Chemistry 2016

How has your Ateneo education changed you as a person for others?

When I started applying to universities, I was concerned about how my mother would be able to pay for my college tuition fees. While she was an employee of Ateneo and entitled to benefits such as tuition discounts for children, an Ateneo education was still not inexpensive in any way and would still require particular financial sacrifice on her part. I assured myself that I would go to the University of the Philippines if I was not able to pass scholarship applications. Thankfully, I passed and I was able to secure a 100% scholarship. The first main event to affect my decision to enter Ateneo was the scholarship given to me.

I further realized that I wished to attend school in Ateneo because it offered a course that no other university in the Philippines offered: BS Management of Applied Chemistry. In this course, I would be able to study both business and chemistry. Ever since I was a kid, I always loved science. I loved discovering new things and inventing toys to play with. However as I grew up, I realized that I did not just wish to stay in a laboratory working experiments for long hours and creating nothing else but research papers and if I were lucky, prototype inventions. I knew that I wanted to touch people’s lives with my science. I believed that the best way to do this was through a combination of innovation and enterprise. In business, there is a concept called maximizing shareholder wealth. In essence, this means that the measure of a highly successful and powerfully performing business would be one that returns on capital investment several times than when it was started. However, Ateneo calls its students to realize that the true meaning of maximizing shareholder value is when a business or organization is viewed not as the end of an enterprise but when the ultimate shareholders in a business, society and humans themselves, are maximized to their fullest potential.

I took on two senior year projects as part of my degree program and voluntary electives. The first was the School of Management Business Accelerator Program, in which I launched Rough & Tough Heavy-Duty Hand Scrub, a highly effective hand scrub for removing paint or grease from the skin. I also helped launch White Bucket Condominium Cleaners as part of my Strategic Management for Development class. Rough & Tough was aimed at Do-It-Yourself painters and vehicle owners who wished to do heavy work, while White Bucket Condominium Cleaners was a social enterprise employing Gawad Kalinga mothers who needed a steady source of employment. At first, starting up both businesses was tough and frustrating. The challenges of balancing academic work and running two businesses were immense: I had to learn how to manage my time, deal with team members and external parties, and be more responsible for my own growth. However, seeing customers and employees happy, seeing how my science was making a difference through both products and services and the business model allowed me to see that business and maximizing shareholder value is never the invention or the organization. It is about empowering individuals and communities, providing solutions to those who need it most, and making differences in the lives of people.

The Ateneo education is special. It does not only equip students with the skills needed for a career, but it also invites students to reflect on what it means to be a person, then what this implies in living a truly human life. Throughout the years, I was exposed to major subjects such as chemistry, operations, marketing, and finance, but also core subjects such as philosophy, theology, psychology, anthropology, and literature. Of course, the major subjects were excellent. They were fundamental to my growth as a professional. However, it was my core subjects that put my major subjects into perspective. My major subjects are but tools to achieve the greater goal of being truly human and giving context to the humanity of others. As Emmanuel Levinas expounded in his phenomenology of the other, it is other people who give context to our own humanity. It is against the contrast of others that we see who we are. Thus, we are infinitely responsible to ensure that we care for other people.

After the last semester of college, I went on an 8-day silent retreat offered by the university to look back on my college years and understand where God was calling me to serve others in the future. Over the course of the retreat, I went through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the patron saint of Ateneo. From a deep knowledge of God and his relationship with me, to an understanding of sin and wrongdoing, to an intimate colloquy with Jesus and a journey with him from his birth, to his public ministry, to his passion, and finally his resurrection, I prayed over my relationship with the divine, with others, and what vocation I was being called to. It was very clear in my prayers how God showed me how much I was blessed with friends who loved me, a family and college scholarship which provided for my material needs, and teachers in Ateneo who passionately taught me throughout my college years. I truly felt the love from God I had received over the past years through the blessings I had received and the human love I experienced from everyone around me. Coming from this, it was also clear that I was being called towards a vocation in science and technology. The role that they play in the advancement of human rights, human dignity, and the building of communities may not be as direct as the roles that vocations such as medicine, business, governance, or law play, but the indirect contribution they have to society in the form of products and services, as well as employment and growth generated by organizations that seek to work toward building the society of the future are the special paths Jesus calls people such as myself toward. For example, engineers who build roads and bridges or scientists who develop new computers enable people to connect faster with each other and thus contribute to the mobility of a society. People can better engage each other in their activities, and life becomes more meaningful for them. I see myself entering graduate studies in chemical engineering and working in a startup firm as the team’s engineer, bringing emerging technologies out of the laboratory and into the hands of consumers. In a special way, I feel that I am called to work in the food and natural products sector especially with the first and most principal development goal of the Philippines to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty. I feel that I cannot rest well or sleep soundly at night knowing that so many people in the Philippines cannot. My heart burns to be with them, and I believe that through this vocation I can be most relevant to them.

Looking ahead, I know that however much I have learned to care for other people, the path ahead for all of us in all fields will not be easy. To empower people, communities, and ultimately maximize the potentials of Filipinos and Philippine society is my ultimate goal in life. The true meaning of an Ateneo education is that Ateneans are equipped with the heart and skills to go out into the world and create positive change in society. The Ateneo has taught me the real meanings of maximizing shareholder value, infinite responsibility for the other and man-for-others. I look forward ahead, both with nervousness and excitement, to the future of the Philippines. I will definitely fill the next thirty to forty years of my professional and personal lives with the passion for service and the hope of growing towards fullness of life with others in my communities.

Jean Camille D. Monje
BS Management Information Systems-MS Computer Science Specializing in Enterprise Systems 2016

“How has your Ateneo education changed you as a person for others: “My Ateneo Way Journey””

My Ateneo education, or rather, my Ateneo journey, started eight years ago. It was my first day in Ateneo High School. I came from Laguna, and Ateneo High School was one of the biggest culture shocks I’ve had my entire life. The grading system was so different, the subjects were so much harder, and everyone seemed to know each other very well. However, after a term, I managed to adjust.

I think one of the things I appreciated most about Ateneo High School was the Christian Service and Involvement Program. From first year to fourth year high school, we were involved in different programs.

In first year, I remember we were brought to Foundling Home, to see the situation of the kids there. We shared with them our toys and spent the afternoon with them, telling stories and playing games.

In second year, we visited Boy’s Town every Thursday and played with/taught the kids. It sort of was like how we were in first year, but it went on every week for a term. We got closer to the kids and heard their stories.

The Immersion program in 3rd year was very memorable, a select few of us were introduced to a foster family in Bulacan that we had to stay with for three days. I remember being assigned to Sapang Palay F, with a family of seven. The house I stayed in was very modest, and I got close to my foster family pretty well. I got to know their stories; they shared with me their hopes and dreams, their problems and worries.

In senior year, we had Tulong Dunong, or TD was the CSIP experience that I’ll never forget. Tulong Dunong is a scholarship program in the Ateneo High School where AHS students go to public schools around Manila once a week for an entire year and teach students. I remember I was assigned to teach English to eight students in the public high school in SSS Village in Marikina. I still have their letters from our Christmas party then.

Ateneo High School taught me a lot of things, most of all was to go

I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that the Integrated Ateneo Formation (INAF) in the Loyola Schools were almost patterned after the CSIP in AHS, although I wish there was a college version of Tulong Dunong in INAF.

First Year College
As a freshman, we were required to attend INTACT sessions, mostly introductions to Ateneo and Ignatian spirituality. We only had one out of campus session, where we visited Smokey Mountain to see how things were in that area. That activity was an eye opener for most of my blockmates; some have never even ridden a jeep prior to the one we rode in going to Smokey Mountain.

Second Year College
In second year, we had NSTP. This was sort of close to Tulong Dunong, but maybe it was our NSTP venue or program that made it seem less personal and intimate with the tutees. Sadly, the tutees didn’t attend much of our sessions and oftentimes we’d arrive at a completely empty school. NSTP didn’t leave a good memory behind, to be honest. I guess it’s a lesson that sometimes things don’t go as planned, despite the best of intentions.

Third Year College
In junior year, we had JEEP. Different students had different experiences, some became baggers in supermarkets, others were moviehouse ushers, others helped in wet markets, and some others, like us took special projects with the local government. Our group had to help make a system for Barangay Loyola Heights to help with their document tracking. Up to now, they still use the system we made.

Fourth Year College
In my last year in Ateneo, a grand many things happened. This year was the most challenging, academically and spiritually. Despite the workload thesis gave me, I still signed up for the immersion program in New Bilibid Prison. This was an eye opener for me. Before, I had a really negative view of criminals and correctional facilities. I always thought that the death penalty should be reimplemented, especially for those incorrigible of society. The immersion program proved me really wrong. In the three days we spent with inmates and their families, the concept of sin, both personal and the sin of the world was redefined. The experience proved to me that in most cases, crimes are committed because of unjust social structures that oppress the poor. This experience made me question voting for one of the Presidential candidates then, who explicitly stated his plan for mass cleansing of criminals. It also was in my fourth and final year in college and in Ateneo that I found my faith back. Liberation Theology(Th141) helped me find my faith back and apply it, little by little.

Ateneo, both High School and the Loyola schools, taught me a great many things. We are constantly called to go “down from the hill”, and embody the practice and culture of preferential option for the poor as our way to uphold social justice. Ateneo taught me that no one lives for himself or herself alone. We are called to care for those at the edge, ang mga nasa laylayan, of society. It was through Ateneo that I have matured as a person, and as a person­for­others. I am not sure I would have been the same person had I gone to another university.

Here I am, at the end of my journey. I pray that St. Ignatius guide me as I go down from the hill.

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