A Long and Winding Road

October 11, 2018
Coni Tejada

Philosophy Department’s Marc Pasco talks about the how and the why he does what he does.

What is it that they say? ‘To make God laugh, make plans.”  In the case of Marc Pasco, he really must have roared with laughter.
Marc Pasco entered the Ateneo de Manila University as a Legal Management student with the dream of becoming a lawyer someday. By his sophomore year, however, things started to not go as planned when he barely passed his first accounting subject. “Kaya pumasa ako sa Accounting class dahil binigyan ako ng extra work. Tapos nalaman ko, after that, meron pa palang isa pang accounting [subject.] Ayoko ko na ng Legal Management if only for the accounting part. I was interested in the other [subjects] – obligations and contracts (I only passed my Accounting class because I was given extra work. Then I learned that I had to take another Accounting class. I did not like Legal Management if only for the Accounting part. I was interested in other subjects- obligations and contracts)”.
Aware of his limitations, this self-confessed C+ student sought to find out his options. He sought advice at the Guidance Office, asking for a pre-law course that did not involve numbers.   Political Science, Psychology and Philosophy were the courses enumerated.

Marc Pasco has been teaching full time since 2005.

That was actually the first time I’ve heard of Philosophy Narinig ko naman yun pero ang pagkaka-intindi ko noon was pilosopo. (It was the first time that I heard of Philosophy. I knew Philosophy but my understanding of it was someone who was a philosopher).  Editor’s note: While the direct translation of philosopher is pilosopo, in the Philippines, a pilosopo is a common term used to refer to a smart aleck
He made the shift and on his first day as a Philosophy student, Pasco immediately made an impression on no less than the university’s celebrated philosopher Fr. Roque Ferriols. “I didn’t know who Ferriols was so I was late and during that time, my hair was blonde. If you remember Eminem – idol ko si Eminem noon – ginaya ko ang buhok niya.  So imagine, short hair na dapa, na dilaw. So, pasok ako – tapos sinigawan ako ni Ferriols. Sabi niya, ‘Hoy, ikaw!’ So ako kinabahan. ‘Ah, sir.’ ‘Taong Dilaw, bakit ka huli?’ Ganyan. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang sinabi ko. Siyempre, nagtawanan ang mga tao. (If you remember Eminem—he was my idol at the time—I copied his hair style: flat, short yellow hair. I entered the classroom and Ferriols said, ‘Hey, you.’ I was flustered. ‘Yellow person, why are you late?’ he asked. I didn’t know what I said but everyone laughed.)”
The next two years were as normal and as average as Pasco could make them. Content with his C+ and Bs, he stayed clear of reputed professors. Free time was spent with friends at their self-proclaimed ‘squatter bench’ – named for its proximity to the coño bench right outside of the cafeteria where the rich kids hangout. He was simply happy just getting by. Things started to deviate from the script when he somehow managed to write a synthesis paper – a 15-page summary of everything a philosophy major has learned - that turned out to be rather stellar. Entitled ‘Pangugulisap,’ Philosophy Department’s Eddie Boy Calasanz and Fr. Nemy Que bestowed his paper with an A and he was tasked to read it out loud during the celebration of the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Road to Teaching 

But it was Theology Department’s Bobby Guevara who recognized the educator in Pasco.

Despite this vote of confidence from his favorite teacher as well as the success of his synthesis paper, teaching in the Philosophy Department was a long time coming. He is the first one to admit that he wasn’t a celebrated a recruit. In fact, he had to work hard for his spot in the department.
He started out as a graduate assistant, affording him free tuition, as he earned his Master’s degree from the Ateneo. Then he became a teaching assistant to Dr. Gus Rodriguez of the Philosophy Department. He then applied for a teaching job after but was turned down. “I applied for a teaching position after that. I was not accepted and the prevailing opinion was because I wasn’t really the traditional type of person that you would think to fit the bill of a teacher – magulo na yung buhok ko noon, may balbas-balbas, kung ano-ano ang mga damit (My hair was messy, I had a beard and my clothes were put on carelessly).”
Rodriguez hired him again as his teaching assistant for one more year and after which, Pasco applied again for a teaching position. He credits Dr. Rodriguez’s recommendation for his being hired as a full-time teacher but he also managed to get published in the Loyola Schools Review that year. He adds, “If I count correctly, I’ve published around 23 journal articles and three textbooks. Well, three textbooks and two books, well co-authors.”

On Writing 

“Pangunugilsap” has gone a long way from being a requirement for graduation to being published in an undergraduate philosophy journal to being a required reading at the University of Santo Tomas and St. Paul College, Manila. It was one a taste of Pasco’s stream of consciousness writing. “That’s how I normally write especially kung hindi naman research paper. Kung research paper yan, you have to look at notes. Pero kung essay, mabilis talaga ako… Ganoon ang creative process ko and then I rarely edit. Parang akong sinasapian, tapos, tapos na. Ayaw ko na. And then I forget about it. When people ask me, ‘Ano ulit yung sinabi mo doon sa pabaon speech mo? Wala na, tapos na sa akin yun (That’s how I normally write especially when it is not a research paper. For a research paper, you have to look at your notes. If it’s an essay, I write really fast. That is my creative process and then I rarely edit. I’m like a man possessed then when I’m done, it’s over. I don’t look back anymore).”
Why He Teaches

But being a part of the village that teaches students to be better adults is a role he’s quite happy to play. Teaching may not have been in his plans but it certainly brings him much joy now. “Suddenly, [I] found myself enjoying reflecting with my students and I see my students – they’re learning! From me! Natutuwa akong nakikitang namimilosopiya ang mga taong walang ka-alam-alam kasi and then, suddenly become passionate about philosophy. Parang it drives me (It is heartening to know people who are unacquainted with Philosophy suddenly become passionate about it. It drives me to do more).”
Though if there’s one thing that he wants to his students to remember, to take with them after spending a year with him, it is to leave things better than when they found them. “Try and know yourself enough to place yourself in situations where people can benefit from your presence. Learn to prudently find situations wherein people can actually benefit from who you are, from your presence. “
Pasco is currently earning his Doctorate at the Ateneo and now has come to terms with his role as an educator.  “Yun lang ang maganda sa pagiging teacher. Wala kang kargo de konsensya. Pwede kang mamahinga, mamatay na alam mong may silbi ang buhay mo. May mga taong nakinabang sa mga binahagi mo, na maaring nakaimpluwensya sa kanilang buhay – pagpapalaki ng ng mga anak, pagpili ng karera. Kung baga, may legacy ka na hindi lang pera, hindi lang material na bagay ngunit isang uri at paraan ng pag-iisip na humulma sa ilang henerasyon na Aenista na nakilala mo lang ng isang taon pero binaon pala ang mga aral sa classroom (There is one thing good about being a teacher—there is no burden on your conscience. You can retire and die knowing that you fulfilled your life’s purpose. There are people who learned from you, who you have influenced—from the way they chose their careers to how they’ve raised their families. You have a legacy that is not financial or material-based but something more meaningful. You have helped in molding the minds of generations of Ateneans who you’ve only met for a year yet they have held on to the lessons they learned inside the classroom).”