By Ronalyn M. Umali
UST’S very own philosopher, “Venerable Master” Alfredo Co, has reached another milestone—he’s the first scholar on campus to receive a tribute in the rare form of a “festschrift.”
A collection of writings by different authors in his honor, the seven-volume compilation titled “Across the Philosophical Silk Road: A Festschrift in Honor of Alfredo P. Co” was launched last December 10 at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex.
“The [festschrift given to the honoree] is an embodiment of an intellectual journey, solid scholarship, passionate study, and a voice to the Asian question,” said Joyce Arriola, chair of the department of Humanities.
The festschrift includes The Blooming of a Hundred Flowers: Philosophy of Ancient China, Ethics and Philosophy of the Human Person, and the Comparative Philosophy and Postmodern Thoughts, with an introduction written by Arts and Letters Dean Michael Anthony Vasco.
Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. said Co may be considered as an “institution” in the University because his presence and profession as a teacher and philosopher are inseparable from Artlets.
“Alfie is a unique specimen of the Thomasian philosopher. He’s a cut above the rest because of his dedication and devotion to philosophy and teaching,” said De la Rosa, who was regent of Artlets in 1984 and friend of Co. “He always leaves an imprint in the minds and hearts of students because of his passion for learning.”
For Clarita Carillo, assistant to the Rector for academic affairs and research, introducing the festschrift in the University’s many traditions is just right for a faculty member who has “realized his dream and fulfilled his duty [as an educator].”
“This festschrift stands for long years of academic odyssey…and for [Co’s] travails and triumphs across a philosophical set road,” Carillo said. She added that the Quadricentennial anniversary is a perfect time not only to celebrate UST’s glorious history, but also to continue the teaching legacy and excellence of the University.
The event was organized by the Department of Humanities and the Office of the Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and Research.
Co has been in the academe for almost four decades with an enduring passion for learning apparent with the way he handled his classes.
“The true task of a teacher is to help the direction of the tender minds without compromising with lies and servitude or reason; without falling into the pitfall of the ignoble, and the horror of what goes below the beautiful in man and in life,” Co said.
At 17, Co was named the Outstanding Chinese Youth in the Philippines by the Republic of China during his sophomore year in high school in Naga City.
His path to “enlightenment” began when Co graduated with a philosophy degree at the then Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (Philets) in 1972, and soon earned master’s and doctorate degrees four years after graduation.
He was just 26 when he got his Ph.D. He took his two post doctorate courses in the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Paris Sorbonne University, and later became a special fellow of the Pacific Cultural Foundation in Taiwan, and in the Intercultural Studies and Research in India.
In 1973, Co started his teaching career at the Far Eastern University, and was invited to teach in Philets by former rector Fr. Frederick Fermin, O.P. in 1975.
Along with luminaries Franck Budenholzer, Juan Luis Scannone, and Jean-Luc Marion, Co was the first and only Asian scholar so far to deliver a plenary lecture at the Conférence Mondiale des Institutions Universitaires Catholiques de Philosophie (COMIUCAP) in 2008.
Co has come a long way in his personal journey for truth and wisdom with these recognitions, but for him, the noble task of being a mentor and a scholar remains “high and elusive.”
“[But] I now feel absolutely freer, and many times more comfortable to come forth to say that if the University has no qualms in bestowing me this honor…I shall not mind coming forward in grace to accept this honor,” he said.
For Leovino Ma. Garcia, president of COMIUCAP, Co is a “gentle mandarin and a true scholar.” Garcia defines “mandarin” as an intellectual whose authority comes from a mastery of a body of text, and an individual who puts a high price on learning and culture.
“Dr. Co has renounced life in an administrative office to take refuge in his study. One may not have the power that comes from an [administrative position], but one can have lasting intellectual and moral influence among [the students he teaches],” Garcia said.
In many years that he has listened to Co’s discourses, Vasco continues to be amazed by the philosopher’s depth of treatment in various topics. He considers Co as the foremost sinologist, and the leading philosopher in the country today.
“One cannot help but marvel at the powerful, profound and very insightful analysis and synthesis that he provides [in discourses],” Vasco said. “What is unique in his style is the combination of deep thinking…with an equal whip of humor. Every grand lecture is a thrilling and rewarding experience to his audience.”
Garcia agreed, saying that many of Co’s students are attached to the professor because he makes them feel viable and special.
“He has made learning a pleasure, a joy, and an adventure. He has taught them to live in amazement, in wonder [and] has opened doors to them, nurturing them not only on intellectual matters but on matters of daily life,” he said.
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