Funny Opening Prayer by Dr. Sylvia Claudio

Last week, I attended a forum on academic freedom and its relation to RH Bill and the recent Varsitarian hullabaloo. It was a great forum and I got the chance to sit with Dr. Mary Racelis, a well-knowned sociologist from the Ateneo.

What made me laugh so hard was when Dr. Sylvia Claudio of the University of the Philippines led the opening prayer. Well, normally, leading an opening prayer is a ceremonial statement in Philippine program. But, Dr. Sylvia Claudio is an agnostic, and her prayer is really funny.

Here’s a copy from Dr. Claudio’s prayer. Hope you enjoy.

My friends, in honor of our guests, let us pray. But since this is the University of the Philippines you may remain in your seats and choose not to make the sign of the cross or other ritual gestures.

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of Ateneo and La Salle; Guarantor of the CBCP and editorial writers from the Varsitarian; BFF of the Vatican; the alpha and the omega of everyone except for those billions of others who have other beliefs; you whose Sacred Heart bleeds for the Filipino Freethinkers and others of their ilk, hear us Lord.

Guide us today so that we may have peaceful and collegial discussions as true scholars who are committed to serving our society with our expertise.

Bless this coming together of the faculty members of three universities who have chosen to speak out for the reproductive health bill. Reach out to the hearts of other members of academia who disagree with us that they may understand that we would never call for the suppression of their right to free expression.

Please click the tab “superlike” that we are reaching across institutions for the cause of academic freedom. We offer up this effort to you in the belief that this struggle will help other universities, including pontifical ones, to remain as institutions of higher learning, discovery and progress.

We thank you for blessing the Ateneo basketball team last night at the time they needed to prove that not everyone is a coward and a lemon in that school. Please enlighten the community of La Salle to the truth that if they had reached the finals, many RH advocates from UP would have found it difficult to find a team to side with.

We the older people here, also known as professors, thank you also for the most wonderful responses of the students of Ateneo and La Salle to that Varsitarian article. It made some of us weep because we have fantasies that we somehow contributed to the greatness of these students.

Please prevent UP from feeling superior because it is a secular university and no one seems to be upset whenever we say things against religion. As You know, Lord, this doesn’t mean UP’s freedoms are always secure and that we are not called upon to constantly to re-examine the parameters of ethical academic discourse. Besides, UP was at the bottom again in the basketball standings this season.

Please bless the UP College of Law for this venue, the College of Social Science and Philosophy for its co-sponsorship, the faculty members and students from Ateneo and La Salle who are here, the media people whom you will inspire to file stories about this event and the audience herein gathered to hear our most distinguished panel.

We beseech You and all the other Gods that people believe in to make this a safe space for the free exchange of ideas.

Lord, we beseech You to pass the RH bill.

Lastly dear Jesus, if I am to get in trouble for this prayer,  let it not be because I exercised my generic freedom of expression; not because as a teacher of women’s studies I exercised my academic freedom to talk about an issue within my expertise; but because this is being done in a government facility and my praying here violates the Philippine Constitution.


1Slightly modified and edited by the author prior to public posting.

2Sponsored by the Center for Women’s Studies, College of Law-Institute For Human Rights and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines, October 12, 2012).

3Director, UP Center for Women’s Studies. Professor, Women and Development Studies, UP College of Social Work and Community Development.