Page last updated at 03:22 Asia/Manila, Thursday, 03 April 2014 PH
I am glad to observe the increasing trend for Philippine universities to internationalize their student body, faculty, curriculum and teaching materials. We have to make sure the millennials--the youth of the twenty first century generation--will shed the parochial, insular, protectionist, and isolationist mentality that was so common among their grandparents and even their parents. The very resistance to amend the constitution to allow for more foreign participation in the Philippine economy is evidence that the wrong kind of nationalism dies hard, the nationalism represented by that very unfortunate remark of a former President that he prefers a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos to one run like heaven by Americans.
When a group of educators and other professionals started the Center for Research and Communication (that evolved into the University of Asia and the Pacific) in 1967, the spirit that inspired us was that of the Founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaria Escriva. As regards internationalization, we were always guided by that point in his best seller, The Way, which stated: "To be 'Catholic' means to love our country, and to let nobody surpass us in that love. And at the same time, it means to hold as our own the noble aspirations of all the other lands. How many glories of France are glories of mine! And in the same way, many things that make Germans proud--and Italians, British, Americans and Asians and Africans--are also sources of pride to me. Catholic! A great heart, an open mind."
The faculty, students, and parents of UA&P are fortunate that over the last seven years, we have had a strong collaborator in instilling in our corporate culture this truly catholic, universal outlook through his teaching, research and publication. I am referring to former German Ambassador to the Philippines, Klaus Zeller, who is now a permanent resident of the Philippines, having married Maria Teresa del Rosario. He just came out with the second volume of his autobiographical account of the way he "crossed many borders to reach home." His books are the epitome of the "great heart, open mind" of which St. Josemaria spoke. In great details, he described his growing up in Germany, the country he loves above all else. At the same time, he describes in glowing terms the many good and beautiful things he came to appreciate in other European countries like France, Austria, and Switzerland. Then early in his diplomatic career, he started crossing borders to Africa and the Middle East. At an accelerating pace, he undertook "travels with a mission" to India, Uganda, the Philippines, Australia and Iran. In all these postings, he was able to appreciate all the good things and noble aspirations of the different races and cultures he encountered. Since he had a universal outlook, every time he crossed borders, he was actually reaching home. He felt at home everywhere because he was never afflicted by the wrong kind of nationalism. He exudes this outlook in all his dealings with the stakeholders of our University. He is a great antidote to the "Filipino First" mentality that has done so much damage to our economy.
His teaching and publications have also come at an opportune moment when we are about to start the challenging task of forging the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. He is the perfect bridge because he reached the peak of his career when the European Economic Community (EEC) brought Europe to an economic level that equaled those of the United States and Japan. He will help our academic community to envision how the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) could learn from the EEC so that in time this common market (sans a common currency) can be strong enough to challenge China and India for economic supremacy in the Asian Century. His stint in this part of the world exposed him sufficiently to such countries as Burma (now Myanmar), Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines for him to contribute important insights into the parallelism between the EEC and AEC. Ambassador Zeller is indeed like manna from heaven in our land that is still struggling to free itself from the shackles of the extreme form of nationalism. I am hoping that he will continue to follow our definition of "retirement", which is to put on a new pair of tires and to go even faster than ever before. I jokingly told him in the launching of the second volume of his book that he always seems to be in a Formula One race like some of his fellow German racing champions. I predict that the second volume of "Crossing Many Borders to Reach Home" will not be the last book he will write. Many more generations of our students can benefit from the erudition, practical experiences and charming personality of Ambassador Klaus Zeller. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.