When Manny Pacquiao declared his intention to run for Congressman of the first district of South Cotabato and General Santos City, he met such an intense opposition to it. Some of his well-meaning friends did so because they knew better - that Manny was being manipulated by some quarters to do so. However, my take on the majority of those opposed it did so because of their compartmentalized thinking. They love Manny as a boxer and therefore he should remain a boxer. In fact, Manny was criticized for excelling in billiards and going into commercial breeding of fighting cocks. Now with the poll winners declared, Manny is back in boxing and everything's well again with the world. Or so it seems...
I ran into trouble with a nosy neighbor recently. After spending five years of bearing children, she finally got ligated and now has plenty of time in her hands. Bored after taking care of her kids' meals, changes of diaper, milk formulas, bathing and putting them to bed, she has turned her eyes on me, particularly my garden which remains lushly green in spite of the heatwave and El Nino. Whenever I ask some teeners to cut the grass in my garden and trim the branches of the Chinese bamboo, Dama de Noche and Ilang-ilang, she would find a way to talk to them to tell me that I ought to cut down my trees because she considers them an eyesore. I told the teeners to tell her that she should add more hollow blocks to the wall dividing her house from mine so she won't see my plants and trees. Her yard boasts of a wide bermuda grass lawn and no plant taller than these grasses. The trouble is she has already compartmentalized me in her mind as a slob, lazy and too poor to hire a gardener to maintain my yard. She imagines my yard as a breeding ground of snakes and other creepy crawlies which might harm her and her kids. She forgets that her house was built on and near a dry creek riddled with warrens of mice and snakes.
In our University, we have a summer program called College Bound Program, an affirmative action program meant for incoming freshmen who come from the cultural communities and those who are products of poor barangay high schools. It aims to prepare them in English and Math so that when they start their freshman year, they are as able and competent to tackle these subjects with the rest of the freshmen. Some teachers refuse to teach in this program because they have compartmentalized the students under this program as slow learners and underachievers. The fact is some products of this program graduated with honors.
One major reason why I left my former school employer was that no matter what I did, I could never attain its mission statement: to develop the entire person of each of my students. How could I if I was not even treated as a whole person by the administrators? I taught business subjects because it was my field of specialization as a management major in college. But I was also a self-taught writer and journalist. I was a fairly good emcee and singer.
During my employment at that school, my feature articles and stories got published in national magazines and newspapers. I was told by the ranking and promotion committee that these outputs weren't given any point at all because their subjects were not related to my field of specialization. [Memo to me: Stop writing! Concentrate on just being a good management teacher!] From that time on, I turned down those who woud invite me to emcee or render an intermission number during school programs by claiming that emceeing and singing were not in my field of specialization. So they should get English/Filipino/Music teachers to do so.
During the March 1988 solar eclipse seen in General Santos City, I self-published a brochure Everything You Wanted to Know about Eclipses. The college dean told me it was a waste of time and money because it wasn't directly related to my field of specialization. So I told her jokingly, So Ma'am, you want me to change its title to How to Manage a Solar Eclipse or A Feasibility Study of Solar Eclipses so I could claim that it's directly related to my field of specialization?
A year earlier, the school invited resource speakers from De La Salle University to conduct a seminar-workshop on The Art of Questioning in our school. Classes were not suspended; not all teachers were required to attend it, only the Education teachers. So the school spent thousands of pesos for the speakers' airfare, room and board and honoraria to teach Education teachers the art of questioning which they already knew as part of their college education. The rest of the faculty had to wait for those who attended to do an echo seminar. Shouldn't the seminar be for those teachers with no Education units who could really benefit from it? Why should they be given an echo seminar when they could have attended the same seminar conducted on campus?
Akin to stereotyping, compartmentalized thinking has been long declared by social psychologists as responsible for closing the minds of people and distorting their vision of reality. By conveniently putting people in neat categorized boxes, we seem to see order in the world as we know it. In reality, stereotyping and compartmentalized thinking kill whatever creativity, skill, and initiative people around us inherently have. I dread to see the day when and if these deadly duo will get a stranglehold on us.