USC mourns Abulad’s sudden passing

Photo credit: RJ Oh, Facebook

Br. Romualdo E. Abulad, SVD, Ph.D. was the former Vice President of Academic Affairs (1999) and former Chair of the Department of Philosophy (2008 to 2013) of the University of San Carlos. He was born on September 21, 1947 and died on December 17, 2019 at the age of 72. His remains lie in the SVD cemetery at the Christ the King Mission Seminary, Quezon City, Philippines.

Br. Abulad SVD, or Bromy as he was intimately called, is a teacher’s teacher. He taught philosophy with a certain rigor and profoundness that crosses the borders of schools and universities in the Philippines. He was a mentor to generations of philosophy scholars and teachers. It was not only in USC, where he served as professor, department chair, secretary to the Board of Trustees and Vice President of Academic Affairs, that his formidable but inspiring presence as a mentor was felt. His influence extended to University of Santo Tomas, his alma mater, where he served as a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and in the Graduate School; in the Ateneo de Manila University Loyola School of Theology where he taught courses in philosophy; in Christ the King Mission Seminary where he was professor and Dean of Studies; in Guang Ming College Buddhist studies program where he was Dean and professor in philosophy; and in De La Salle University where he was the Chair of the Department of Philosophy prior to his entering religious life.

In fact, before his year’s journey around the country to discern his vocation, which culminated in his becoming an SVD brother, he already held an academic stature as one of the leading philosophers in the country. Before he became known as Brother Romy, he was to the philosophical community, Dr. Romualdo Abulad, an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow and an expert in Kant.

Br. Abulad finished his Bachelor in Philosophy at the University of Santo Tomas (magna cum laude), Master of Arts in Philosophy at the Ateneo De Manila University, Master of Arts in Theology at the Divine Word School of Theology, his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Santo Tomas, and his postdoctoral studies as an Alexander Von Humboldt scholar at the University of Hamburg and at the University of Freiburg. From his bachelor’s degree with a thesis on Kant’s ethics, a master’s thesis on Kant’s epistemology, a doctoral dissertation on the links between Kant and Sri Shankaracharya’s psychologies, to his postdoctoral work in Germany entitled “Criticism and Eternal Peace: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason as the Method of Scientific Metaphysics,” he has been ardent in his study of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. For instance, his reason for going to Germany for a postdoctoral fellowship is two-fold: to be able to read Kant in the original German and to verify the accuracy of his reading of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

Considered to be the country’s foremost scholar on the philosophy of Kant, Br. Romy’s academic devotion led him eventually—and logically—to become a pioneer in the thinking of post-modernism in the Philippines. His essay in 2000 “What is Post-modernism?” is a crucial and pioneering work by a Filipino scholar in the understanding of this phenomenon. Throughout his academic life, Bromy has written and published extensively in philosophy. Prof. Alfredo Co, professor emeritus of the University of Santo Tomas, once remarked that Abulad has “the most remarkable body of published articles on continental philosophy and postmodernism.” He is a Filipino thinker and philosopher who articulated and defined directions in understanding Kant and post-modernism in original ways that directly and indirectly shapes the discussion and understanding of Filipino philosophy today and, for sure, in the future.

Whether we agree to Abulad’s theses or not in his several writings on the topic, any discussion on Filipino philosophy would lack any rigor if one does not read and cite him several times. Whether there is a Filipino philosophy or not, which seems to be the perennial question on the subject, there is indeed a Filipino philosopher, and Br. Romualdo Abulad, SVD, to this author’s mind, is one of them. Bromy, however, remained intellectually humble and philosophically sincere. A passionate, devoted, and inspiring teacher, he was always excited in preparing for the courses he teaches in the semester and the courses he would teach in the following term. As a philosopher who reads and writes for life, he loved his coffee and perhaps more his beer. He was accompanied by coffee for matters that require solitary and intense contemplation—in reading, writing, and editing—and by beer when this contemplation saw its profound expressions in the discussion among friends.

Most of all, whether as an administrator, a teacher, a formator, or an editor, he saw all his works as part and parcel of what he considers as his duty and commitment in life. Bromy saw himself as an SVD missionary brother. But he was not a missionary in the usual sense of someone being sent to a mission territory to spread the Word of God; he was, however, a missionary by being an instrument of God to help others, particularly in education, in the seeking for truth and in doing what is good.

Even at the age of 72 he would still be seen going to coffee shops, commuting with a big heavy backpack through the horrendous traffic of Manila, and previously in Cebu. But he did not go to coffee shops to indulge in idle talk or for mere pleasure, he went there to work. Even after his classes until the late evening, he still found time to read and write. He also reviewed and edited papers of students, among others, to help them find their own way, find their own thought, so that they can finally stand on their own. Every paper that came to his desk, Bromy tirelessly read and reviewed them, line by line, even until the late evening, even when he came from classes, and even when he had to go to classes early the following morning. He was disciplined; he was tireless; he was committed. Even after this author attempted to advise him several times not to accept more work, Bromy, with a certain assertion but also with a certain joy and care, would almost always say, “This is mission; I won’t give up.”

He always considered his work duty, he always considered it his mission. As a missionary, he was an instrument of God’s grace. As an instrument of God, his work was a work for God and a work of God. Br. Romualdo E. Abulad, SVD, was a teacher to countless of students in different schools and universities. He was an uncle and a brother. He was a Filipino philosopher. He was a friend. But most of all he was an SVD brother; he was a missionary. That is what his life was, a duty and a mission; his life, indeed, is a testament to what it is to be a Witness to the Word.

by Daryl Mendoza

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