Interview with Jean Karla M. Tapao — Member, Humanist Alliance Philippines, International
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you find HAPI?
Jean Karla M. Tapao: HAPI was introduced to me by Ms. Marissa T. Langseth, the founder of HAPI (Humanist Alliance Philippines, International). I have known her for years because of my brother, who is an atheist and activist.
Was there a family upbringing within a religious framework?
Tapao:Yes. I was born as Catholic but I was raised an agnostic. My parents are both Catholics. We usually go to church every Sunday, I read biblical books and I do pray etc… but I was raised as an agnostic maybe because I love science since I was in grade school and my Science teacher was really good in Science and I was surrounded by people who have different views and beliefs about life. I have a catholic sister but she converted herself to Muslim religion, I have two catholic brothers, who are faithful but not really religious, and the person who introduced to me the world of science, my atheist brother. So, because of that, I have learned a lot of things not only about religions, politics and science but also to be a humanist. My siblings and I were living in one roof since birth so even though we have different views and beliefs we make sure our limitations to maintain the harmony and strong bond in the family.
How did you come to formally claim yourself a humanist if at all?
Tapao: Since I was young, my family and I are already helping the needy but it’s not only about helping and it will never end there. Everyone could become a humanist but the consistency of being a humanist is a life time action. I am a humanist in mind and heart and that’s the most powerful key that I have right now. I want to open the hearts of every one to humanism because being a humanist could change the world.
What seems like the summary statement on a good humanist or humanist ideals?
Tapao: A good humanist for me could help the people in short period of time but humanist ideals is for a lifetime. To inspire everyone and to continue what we have started could make a lot of changes. We, as humanists of HAPI can do good without divine interference.
How does science provide a more robust and reliable framework and epistemology for understanding the world than religion?
Tapao: To be available to compare both sides, we should have a great knowledge about science and religion. Science is based on reality and it was undergo through process with facts and evidences. If we only engaged in one side, it is really hard for a person to defend his or her side to particular matter, it’s just like you are closing your life in one box, but once you go beyond, you gain more knowledge and better understanding to your questions and it became clearer and clearer and that’s the time that you can tell which is reliable or not.
How does religion influence politics in the Philippines?
Tapao: People are molding their lives according the way they wanted to be. What I am trying to say is, if we go back to the history of religion and politics in the Philippines, you can see the changes. We all know that most of the population in the Philippines are Catholics. To be able to have what you wanted in life, you must have the courage to fight for it because of the surrounded obstacles, and that courage will lead you to build your own power, the power to create new ideas, environment and people. Once you get that power it will spread into different angles, it could be good or not. The current situations we are facing right in the Philippines were brought by our own history.
Could the government ‘crack down’ on irreligious activists and humanists?
Tapao: Yes, if they wanted too. Government has the most powerful weapon in the world but without its people it will be useless.
What are your hopes for the coming years of the irreligious movement in general and the humanist movement in particular?
Tapao: As a humanist, we know what is wrong and what is right, we know how respect other’s views and beliefs, and even though we are different from one another we should know our own boundaries. If I can live with harmony in one roof with my Muslim sister, Catholic brothers and Atheist brother so why can’t do it in our own country?
We cannot have the changes we are aiming right now but I am hoping that today’s little steps could make everyone happy in the future. :)
I am Ms. Jean Karla M. Tapao, a Teacher, a Girl Scout master and a HUMANIST.
Tapao: Thank you Scott. :)