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School’s out, but students find a way to fill their days



Joaquin Cortes of Project Saludo at the donation tents at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City.

After 29 days of silence on a campus left uninhabited by the Covid-19 global health crisis, the Ateneo administration announced the end of the 2019-2020 school year, as well as the fate of its students. While it is easy to discount the liberal policies of a university as a standard operating procedure, the degree to which my school deviated from conventionality makes taking it for granted incomprehensible for most.

Being one of the only institutions to take such drastic measures, many students feel extremely thankful for the sympathy and understanding that has been given to them, measures guided by the Ignatian ideal of cura personalis, Latin for “care for the entire person.” These policies cater to the most vulnerable students who either have an unstable internet connection, do not have access to technology, or live in locations more prone to the virus. With the policies set in place, students can worry less about academics, pay attention to their mental health, and participate in other activities to stay active and healthy.

Students have resorted to self-initiated activities, such as home workouts, or learning to bake or cook. Home workouts have become a part of my weekly routine. While I set myself a goal at the beginning of the year to increase my muscle mass, the quarantine has made this difficult to achieve with limited home equipment. A friend then suggested these calisthenic workouts that utilize my own bodyweight, a small instance of adapting to a new normal.

Students volunteer

There are a few students who have gone beyond their basic routinary tasks. Joaquin Cortes, a freshman from the management program, started Project Saludo, an independent effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 by providing protective gear to high-risk individuals such as health workers, checkpoint personnel, bank tellers, and grocery clerks. After watching officials on the news drained by the lack of government funds, and the logistical nightmares of responding to a pandemic, Cortes realized it was a call to action. The projects name honors heroes on the frontliners, saludo sa ating mga bayani (“salute to our heroes”).

More than a thousand face shields have been crafted in homes through the support of Cortes’ family and friends. Project Saludo has provided face shields to different checkpoints in Quezon City, and to hospitals like St. Luke’s Medical Center, the Philippine Heart Center, and the Lung Center of the Philippines. While there is overwhelming support for the efforts, the project is logistically a one-man team in compliance with social distancing norms.


Currently conceptualizing more ways to help. Cortes aims to continue with Project Saludo. This drive and motivation are evident in his belief that “once a critical mass is formed with the mindset that anyone can help, a country can be as strong as ever.” He sees Project Saludo as a “catalyst in rebooting the social consciousness” that seeks to inspire his peers to take action as well.

On the air

Complementary to individual philanthropic efforts to curb the virus, projects like So Far So Good: The Socially Distanced Talk Show, intend to report the work of different volunteer workers and leaders. The show is hosted by Raphael Chua, the outgoing president of Kythe-Ateneo, a student organization that advocates for the proper development and wellbeing of pediatric patients, especially those in public hospitals. Given his background in sectoral work, coupled with a desire to spread positivity in these challenging times, Chua offers a “more intimate look at volunteer work that doesn’t just focus on the end product or the achievement, but also on the often-demanding process it takes to get there.”

The show has hosted two guests so far, Peter Gana and Ed Bugia. Gana is a design strategist and one of the people behind Help From Home PH, an innovative online platform for coordinating relief efforts and donations. Bugia is the head chef of Mimi & Bros, a restaurant in BGC. He is currently working with an organization, Frontline Feeders PH, that sends meals to doctors, nurses, residents, researchers, and aides. The show explores how these men utilize their own skills to provide direct support to those on the frontlines, as well as to help flatten the curve.

Chua sees his show running on a regular basis, with interviews set to be posted every Sunday at 9 p.m. Yet it remains challenging to keep a constant stream of guests and topics, since most of his target contributors are those who go out into the frontlines and have sporadic schedules. This does not stop So Far So Good, however, from succeeding, as Chua aims to have buffer episodes so as to be at least an episode ahead every week.

He hopes, one day, to have guests like Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto on his show to discuss large-scale efforts in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

As they are called to be self-directed learners during the enhanced community quarantine, these Ateneans truly know how to make great use of their time, and truly embody the values taught to them. Students give back to the school and to the community by living the Ignatian value of magis (Latin for “more” or “greater”). This refers to an attitude and philosophy centered around doing more than what is expected for God and for others. And thanks to the principled and understanding policies of the school, both men now have the time to help others and have the motivation to make an impact on people’s lives.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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