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TJ Agulto: I’m really jologs |

Young Star

TJ Agulto: I’m really jologs

- Paula C. Nocon of the Philippine Star’s YS -
In honor of this year’s graduates, the next several Bright Young Things will be culled from the most outstanding graduates from the country’s best colleges and universities. More than just academically gifted, these BYTs must be well-rounded, have strong leadership qualities, and should exhibit a strong sense of service. Someday, they might be the torches that will guide us through whatever uncertainty and darkness we might face in the future, just as they are the flames of hope that keep us from despair through the troubled times of today. Congratulations!

Timothy John Mendoza Agulto is on a mission to save the world. And he’s starting nowhere else but with himself.

An AB Psychology major and consistent Dean’s Lister, TJ, 21, has just received the Ateneo de Manila University’s most coveted prize for student leaders: the Vice President’s Award for Service and Excellence (individual).

According to the board of judges, TJ was selected for his work in psycho-spiritual formation through retreats at the Ateneo Christian Life Center, his consistent social work for the urban poor, and for the passionate role he played in organizing Ateneo-based rallies against the Estrada administration, the all-out war policy against Mindanao, and prayer rallies encouraging dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

As he graduates this Saturday, it won’t be long before TJ returns to school as a Christian Life Education teacher at his alma mater, Xavier School. "I’m doing that first as part of the process of finding myself, finding what I really want."

Eventually, he would like to enter — surprise, surprise — the world of politics. "I’d like to run for mayor someday. I think that local governance is where it’s at, more than national politics. You reach people directly, you can do more to empower them, to make their lives better. You can make them feel that they really have a stake in what’s going on around them."

A dreamer who likes to backpack by himself and take lonely strolls in the rain, TJ is about to go down from the hill of Ateneo and to the real world called Life, walking the walk of a Bright Young Thing.

Young STAR: How did you feel about winning this award?

TJ Agulto:
I was completely surprised. I’m glad I got it because I think a lot of Ateneans can identify with me. I’m not really the serious, goody-goody type who wins awards like that. I’m really jologs.

What’s the best thing about your generation?

We’re eclectic. We’re diverse. We express ourselves, our beliefs, our faiths differently. And we’re very skilled in terms of technology.

What’s the worst thing about your generation?

We’re diverse, but we don’t know how to put it all together! We have to integrate somehow, so that it could be easier for us to know where we fit in.

What would you like to do for your country?

I’d like to raise a good family, whom I can teach about a greater consciousness about the country. My mom’s family came from abject poverty, and I see how that has sort of limited their horizons, their worldview.

What’s your dream project?

It’s something that Fr. Bienvenido Nebres (Ateneo president) thought of: It concerns public education. It’s not enough to build classrooms and libraries — we must penetrate the public education system itself. It’s not enough to provide knowledge; we must also give skills. By doing that students tend to believe in themselves more, to dream bigger.

You’ve been blessed with a very good education—Xavier School, then Ateneo. How do you value this?

I’ll paraphrase my Philosophy professor, Dr. Angeles. Jesuit education is about wonder, passion and rigor. The wonder is about finding goodness in the world. The passion is in pursuing that goodness to the ultimate. And the rigor is in the discipline.

What is it about politics that attracted you?

I somehow found the middle ground between my major, Psychology, and my passion, Development Studies, in politics. I think our institutions and systems don’t really match the Filipino psyche. For example, look at the way we eat. We’re communitarian. In the West they’re very linear: appetizer, main course, dessert. With us, we’re salu-salo, we’re more open, we put all viands in one plate. Our psyche isn’t linear, it’s really circular. So we must find a political system that matches that.

What does a guy like you look for in a girl?

I’m a leader type so I’d like to be with a girl who’s like that, too. I’m always attracted to org presidents, project heads. I want to take care of a girl, serve her, be sort of "under." She can be my leader and I’ll just follow!

Who are your role models?

My three Theology teachers: Fr. Dacanay, S.J., Mr. Bobby Guevarra, and Dr. Tina Astorga. I’m very fortunate they became my teachers.

What books have changed your life?

I really love to read, and I wish I had more time for it. Anyway, there are three books that are very dear to me. Emotional Literacy: Keeping Your Heart by Francis F. Seeburger. Through that book I learned that emotional literacy is really more important than IQ. I’m a very intense person, so that book taught me to understand myself better and to channel my emotions. Then, there’s Generation of Giants by George Dunne, SJ. It’s the true story about the first Jesuits in China and how they inculturated themselves into the dynastic system. And then there’s Mother Teresa: In My Own Words. Very inspiring.

What inspires you?

Oh, little things. I used to cut my 7:30 a.m. class when it would rain and eat hot lugaw or drink hot chocolate. I used to walk around the forests in campus by myself and just enjoy the moment. These private moments really make my day.

What would you like to tell the Filipino youth of today?

That we have the capacity to dream. As we grow up we shouldn’t stop dreaming, even though it’s so easy to get jaded or frustrated. And that we should find out what we really, really want first — that each one has a calling and vocation in life and once you’ve found it, that’s your purpose and mission.

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