An open letter to Fr. Robert Yap, S.J.

DEAR Fr. Yap,

"We can't stay in the past."

I'm surprised you made this statement in your press conference regarding Xavier's downtown campus as an iconic heritage site and your sale of 67 percent of this hallowed ground.

While heritage sites might come from the past, they are an important and invaluable part of our culture and history. They enrich our lives immeasurably. And, we preserve them because they are an indivisible part of our lives and of our identity. It is for these reasons that there is a big movement around the world to preserve heritage sites. UNESCO alone has come up with thousands of World Heritage Sites.

You defy local and international norms and values with your statement. You stand against a rising tide of preservationists and conservationists who only seek to protect their cherished past and culture from the rape and destruction of crass commercialism.

Contrary to your belief, we do not stay in the past when we preserve and conserve. We simply act as good and dutiful stewards of our precious heritage.

More importantly, I also find it repugnant that you, as a man of the cloth, a Jesuit at that, would make such a statement. Everyday that you celebrate mass, you are reliving the past. Every time you read the Gospel, you are digging into the past. Every time you teach us to follow Christ, you ask us to bring the past into our present lives.

Yet, here you are today, telling us, "we can't stay in the past." If everyone will do as you say, there will be no Church. If all priests were like you, Christianity will wither and die.

Honestly, this is troublesome. While it's a great sound bite, dismissive statements such as this is wrong and won't bring down arguments to protect our heritage site. It seems that in your rush to conclude this fire sale of our heritage site, you have been thoughtless in your language.

What a shame.

I hope you will listen to the lessons of history. They tell us that:

You cannot build the future by destroying the past.

Rightly so. This is because the past is the foundation of the future. Wipe away the past, and you'll have no future. Sure, your grandiose plan to build a campus of the future is truly inspiring and irresistible. But, that doesn't justify the destruction of our heritage site. You, of all people, ought to know that the end does not justify the means. Any man who believes otherwise is morally corrupt.

I am all for Xavier growth and development, but dismembering and selling an invaluable heritage site when Xavier has other resources to finance this campus of the future is incomprehensible. Why not sell instead a portion of El Gaucho, a 104 hectare property in upper Bugo?

I know you will not be dissuaded. Your supposed public consultation is a public relation sham. Even your touted 10 Key Points is self-incriminatory. It shows you are way beyond the planning stage. You are impatient to break ground. Be that as it may, it is important, in the meantime, to expose these twisted values and your tiresome hypocrisy.

You have lost your way.

Cagayan and the Xavier community deserve better.

What a shame.


Kerry Pacana

XUGS '63, XUHS '67

11 August, 2019


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