Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas

Article excerpt

The University of Santo Tomas (UST) hosted the 5th International Conference of the South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion (SSEASR), an affiliate of the International Association of the History of Religions (IAHR) under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This year's gathering brought together scholars, writers, artists, and the religious for a four-day conference on May 16-19, 2013 at the UST Thomas Aquinas Research Complex Auditorium.

Sen. Edgardo J. Angara, chair of the Senate committee on Education, Arts and Culture, and chair of the committee on Science and Technology delivered the Keynote Address on "Healing, Belief Systems, Cultures and Religions of South and Southeast Asia" during the Opening Ceremonies. Rev. Fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, OP, rector of UST, and Dr. Amarjiva Lochan, president of SSEASR, delivered the Welcome Remarks.

In the words of Fr. Dagohoy, O.P., "The current post-modern imaginary calls for the debunking of grand narratives and the loosening of categories which somehow leads to variegated forms of relativism and secularism. The close examination and interrogation of this present ideological template by nations, races, and institutions puts a temporary halt to various truth claims that characterize this great divide which involves those who strictly adhere to age-old ideals and spiritual aspirations and those who are bereft of any belief system. Today, there is a need to reconfigure these secularist concepts and transform them into a more meaningful framework in order to articulate differing views as well as to determine a point by which scholars can meet, agree, theorize, and to a certain extent, provide directions for future discussions."

Furthermore, he said that: "The 5th SSEASR is a venue for an academic and cultural exchange to provide a unified voice for numerous platforms and cross-disciplinal approaches. The subjects for discussion categorically render the central or the interstitial, with an interesting interplay among personal, political, and universal truths breaking down all barriers and separatist ideas. This intellectual sojourn is an avenue to celebrate similarities and differences, explore the collective and the distinct, and to understand the universal and the unique."

Dr. Lochan shared that "South and Southeast Asia have a unique blend of the continuity of the past in its present. With a great history, the interaction between the two regions dates back to the third millennium, B.C." He added that "while the new religions contributed much to the cultures of Southeast Asia, the natives of these lands had their own cultures prior to the advent of these religions. What are the values and practices of these indigenous cultures? Were these cultures enriched or hampered by the advent of the new religions ? Has there been an enculturation of these religions both in the South and Southeast Asia? Traditional cultures have taken thousands of years to evolve and are worth preserving, since they are the carriers of the accumulated wisdom of the people since Antiquity. …