Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What’s your background regarding religion?
Bryan Valentino: I was raised as a Catholic and I got introduced to other religions as well so I’m familiar with how most religions work and what they teach here in the Philippines.
Jacobsen: What was your first introduction to HAPI?
Valentino: I was invited to the group by its first lead convener Mark Janeo. I was a bit familiar to the organization already and I like it because aside from it being a discussion group, there are also some humanist events that people can participate in.
Jacobsen: If you could make one on the spot, what’s the better argument for humanism?
Valentino: My understanding of humanism is that it’s a better approach to a better world because it puts “faith” in or requires human action rather than waiting for a miracle to happen.
Jacobsen: What is the community of humanists like for you?
Valentino: So far it has been fun because there are a lot of people who share the some of the ideals that I have. Also, most of the humanists that I know are people who you can have an intelligent conversation with so it makes me understand the world a little bit more.
Jacobsen: How does religion influence political and public life generally in the Philippines?
Valentino: Religion in the Philippines greatly affected legislation before but I believe Filipinos are slowly becoming more secular in the way they see things. For example, it was unimaginable before for a same-sex marriage bill to be filed in Congress but I think it was early in Duterte’s term last year that someone proposed the bill. Unfortunately it was turned down both by Congress and Duterte but nevertheless, it’s still implied that the people’s opinions are gradually changing for the better.
Jacobsen: What is a major reform Filipino law could undertake to have more equality for the irreligious?
Valentino: I think it would be nice to have the separation of church and state in the constitution clearly defined so that we can demand secularism from schools and not be required to attend or participate in religious assemblies or subjects.
Jacobsen: Does the current government pose a threat to the free practice of humanism in the Philippines?
Valentino: Well, hindrances or challenges have always been there even before the current government came to be such as the lack of laws to enforce secularism and discrimination against the irreligious but with the power of social media and the fact that the technology here in the Philippines is improving, I think we will be able to make more people understand what humanism is faster.
Original publication in Medium.