Jesuit priest and prominent philosopher Father Roque Ferriols has died at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City in the Philippines.
The 96-year-old priest passed away on Aug. 15 just a day before his birthday.
Father Ferriols is known as the “father of Filipino philosophy” for teaching the subject in the Philippines’ national language for over 40 years in the Jesuit-run university.
“One of the Ateneo de Manila’s cultural icons who has left an indelible mark on the lives of generations of Ateneans, Padre Roque taught philosophy for over 40 years, established the university’s AB Philosophy degree program and pioneered teaching philosophy in Filipino,” the university’s president Father Roberto Yap said in an announcement on Aug. 15.
Father Ferriols translated the works of ancient Greek philosophers to Filipino by learning Greek himself. Numerous bishops and clergy in the Philippines were among his students.
One of his students, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, paid tribute to the priest.
During the preliminary years of his formation, he was distinguished as an exceptional scholar in Greek and Latin
“I know that he studied and read the works of Socrates and Plato, Thales and other ancient Greek philosophers in Greek, not in English, in order to look for the meaning of Greek words that correspond to the Filipino language, such as alethia, physis, nostos, techne, kairos, etc,” said Bishop David on Facebook.
Bishop David also recalled how his former professor had scolded students who “borrowed” from foreign languages like English and Spanish instead of using Filipino in class.
“He does not like students who are lazy to think. Before we even borrow foreign words in English or Spanish, he taught us to look for the term in the vernacular like Tagalog, Kampangan or any of our native languages,” Bishop David added.
Father Ferriols also studied other European languages to explore the works of French philosopher Gabriel Marcel and German philosopher Martin Heidegger.
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Born on Aug. 16, 1924, Roque Ferriols joined the Jesuits in 1941.
During the preliminary years of his formation, he was distinguished as an exceptional scholar in Greek and Latin while living through the Second World War and the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, according to Ateneo de Manila University’s website.
After the war, he was sent to study theology in Woodstock, Maryland, as was the custom then for Jesuits in the Philippines. He was ordained a priest in New York in 1954. Father Ferriols, called to philosophy, finished his doctorate at Fordham University in New York with a dissertation entitled “The Psychic Entity in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine.”
In 1969, he pioneered teaching philosophy in Filipino as part of his “Filipinization” movement of learning foreign concepts using the vernacular.
Also known as the bishops’ professor, Father Ferriols was the professor of former Manila archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who now heads the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
In 2014, when asked if God had given him the mission to teach philosophy in his lifetime, he replied, “I have many guesses. But what’s important is that God instructed me to do it [teach philosophy], and I am trying to do his will. As Mother Teresa said, God does not look for success. God looks for fidelity.”
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