Multiple ideas ranging from societal, psychological, and cultural dimensions in connection to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic were highlighted during the conduct of Cebu Normal University (CNU)’s Higher Education Connect (HEdConnect) Session 2.

Read related article: [HEdConnect gathers education leaders to discuss the ‘new normal’ in higher ed]

The discussion of the said international webinar dwelt on the Perspective and Implications of COVID-19 in Higher Education Amidst and Beyond. It was held via Zoom last August 14.

The HEdConnect Session 2 was organized by the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Social Science Department (SSD).

CNU Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Daisy Palompon, said the HEdConnect version 2.0 is a sharing of great minds in addressing social, psychological, and cultural implications of COVID-19 in a multi-sectoral perspective. 

Four speakers graced the webinar including Dr. Nicole Curato, University of Canberra, Australia Center for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance Associate Professor; Prof. Randy Pederi, CNU SSD Former Chairperson and current faculty; Dr. Emmanuel Hernani, CNU SSD faculty and CNU Ethics Review Board Chairperson; and Dr. Reynaldo Inocian, CNU SSD faculty and Culture, Arts, and Design Association of the Philippines (CADA-PHI), Inc. Founding President. 

Curato shared about Sociological Perspective and Implications of COVID-19; Pederi on Understanding COVID-19 through the Theory of Suicide: A Social Implication; Hernani on Psychological Perspective and Implications of COVID-19, and Inocian on Cultural Perspective and Implications of COVID-19.

Curato argued that the experience of the new normal depends on who we ask. She also argued if the new normal is indeed new.

She conveyed that the new normal is still under construction and expressed that people should refuse to accept the concept of normal as given.

“When someone says this is typical, we have to be skeptical. We have to ask questions. Who says it’s normal? Who benefits from what’s normal? And who is disadvantaged when we talk about this kind of normal?” Curato said.

“We can think or construct the normal as a time of creativity. The new normal can be a time of solidarity. It can be a time for innovation…I think we can do better if we start thinking about the pandemic from the perspective of the most vulnerable sectors of society,” she said.

“We know what the new normal is now, but we can still make a case for what the new normal should be,” she added.  

Pederi shared his studies on suicide and Emile Durkheim and related it to the situations brought by COVID-19. 

He said that COVID-19 is controlling the tempo of our current situation and many people now encounter the same psychological or emotional conditions with that of the suicide-lost loved ones.

“COVID-19 is no longer a health issue, not even a psychological or mental issue alone. It triggers the whole social system,” he said. 

Pederi said that for him, psychological considerations – emotional, social, mental, spiritual health – must be in place to address COVID-19. 

He said that the COVID-19 pandemic sparks all Filipinos to be reactive and this could be a manifestation of psychological or emotional distress or simply the issue of egoism and altruism or normlessness or anomie and fatalism. 

Hernani talked on mental health amid the pandemic and as a psychologist, he said that he is a proponent of gestalt therapy wherein he would always emphasize holistic, integrated, multifaceted components of dealing with some situations.

He emphasized that people should make use of their resources at home, environment, and community as an asset in coping. 

He also recommends each person to focus on one’s self or being in relation to his or her family, society, school, workplace, and the community to stay grounded as a person.

“In a form of reflection, try to look at it squarely…the positive and the negative side,” he said.

He concluded his discussion by saying that people should look at COVID-19 pandemic from two sides – the crisis, and the opportunities. 

Inocian focused his sharing on culture and cited different studies on how the Filipino culture has developed or evolved through time.

He said that amid this pandemic, culture is always there. 

“It can never be forgotten, so in every aspect of our life at home, while we are experiencing the lockdown, culture will always be part of that experience,” he said

He also shared two perspectives of culture which are the essentialist and progressivist perspectives and said that in practice it will always be a dialectical process in constant dialogue.

He also shared a study that compares how Filipino culture evolved through time and how people weigh its significance.

He also shared a study that ranks existence across different generations and also divulged how the culture of “bayanihan” and “panambal” or healing is relevant in this time of the pandemic.

“Truly, there are many thinkers, philosophers, teachers, experts among us, but let us not forget that after the rigor of accumulation of knowing, follows the mission to challenge and tackle down conditions and stature which are detrimental to human growth and development. After all, our aim to learn is not to simply interpret the world but to change it,” Prof. Jose Fermin Crave, CNU SSD Faculty said as part of his message.

Prof. Mervin Reyes, CNU SSD Chairperson moderated the webinar. A full copy of HEdConnect Session 2 can be viewed at the official YouTube account of the University. (JDF)