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Conversation with Michael Madriaga — Member, Humanist Alliance Philippines, International

2022-12-13

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/03/04

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you become a humanist?

Michael Madriaga: I was raised in a Roman Catholic household, the eldest among three boys. I spent my early and formative years in a Catholic school as well. I was surrounded by religiosity in almost every facet of my life, but it didn’t stop me from asking questions about the beliefs and traditions that were being taught to me.

“Why do we do the Block Rosary?” “Did we all really come from just two people?” To sate my hunger for knowledge (and perhaps to escape my random existential musings), my parents supplied me with books — volumes of them. I took interest in topics revolving around astronomy and biology.

I also loved to read about beliefs held by various religions outside of Roman Catholicism. I started to compare them with one another. For some reason, however, I could not believe in any of them. I was looking for something tangible to hold on to, something that I could test or examine and prove to be true or false.

I guess this way of thinking eventually led me towards non-belief in general. In the course of this journey, I started to consider that every person is responsible for his or her own actions and that ascribing events or circumstances, whether good or bad, to a supernatural agent is intellectually dishonest.

I saw people as complex individuals who, given the right amount of motivation and opportunity, can excel and be the best that they can be.

Jacobsen: How did you find HAPI?

Madriaga: I found HAPI through Marissa Torres-Langseth a couple of years back. We know each other even before its inception as I was also a member of PATAS (Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society) and it was there that I first learned about secular humanism and its values.

Jacobsen: Why is humanism the right worldview and ethical life stance for you?

Madriaga: Humanism allows us to view various aspects of life outside the rigors of traditions or religious dogma. It espouses value in evidence-based decision making and scientific inquiry. It serves as a bridge, a common ground, where people of various creeds and affiliations can unite and work together for a goal that can be beneficial to everyone.

Jacobsen: What is the best argument for humanism to you?

Madriaga: We progress farther together as a species when we learn to look beyond our individual predispositions and work together to create a better world for our children.

Jacobsen: What was your most moving experience as a humanist?

Madriaga: It was after the Typhoon Haiyan struck Tacloban in November 2013. We lost contact with pretty much everyone in our coastal town in Capoocan, Leyte after the storm knocked out the power and communication lines. I went there in person shortly after the typhoon struck to check on the community and find relatives who we’ve lost contact with.

It was good to know there were zero casualties that time in our area, thanks to the technical information that we’ve been receiving about the incoming storm from friends and relatives who’ve been tracking it as it traversed the Pacific before impact. The concern by the time I arrived was that the relief goods from Tacloban were scarce and took a lot of time to get there.

We managed to organize a small relief effort to provide food and water to the locals with the help of the barangay officials and provide information to their worried kin outside the island that they are safe. The people of that community belong to different faiths and, in the face of adversity, they managed to set aside their differences and looked out for each other.

Jacobsen: What are your hopes for the next few years for humanism within the Philippines?

Madriaga: It may seem like an uphill climb, given the current conditions in this country. Filipinos consider their faiths and political affiliations as part of their identity. Antagonizing them for what they believe in simply won’t work.

To be able to change hearts and minds and for another to consider one’s own proposition, we have to be able to find something that we all can work with. HAPI’s programs such as HAPI SHADE and HAPI Trees are great avenues to reach out to people and inspire them to participate in activities that would enrich the lives of our citizens and of future generations.

Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts?

Madriaga: We can agree to disagree on a lot of topics and concerns, but what matters is how we deal with each other at the end of the day. Let us practice what we preach and put our deeds before our creed. Cheers!

Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Michael.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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