Asst. Prof. Philip Van Peel
People who are obsessed with anything that is sweet and delectable would always think about the “sinful” chocolate when they hear the word Belgian. In Silliman University, we have our own flavor of this Belgian treat in the person of Asst. Prof. Philip Van Peel of the English and Literature Department.
It is hard not to notice him when he enters the campus. He drives a big bike, and dons a leather jacket and a yellow helmet. With his height and Caucasian features, people who don’t know him will at first conclude that he is another foreigner in this land. But the moment he starts to open his mouth, people will be amazed that he speaks fluent Cebuano like any native.
“I stayed longer in the Philippines than in the country where I came from,” Philip says.
Born in Leuven (Louvain), Belgium, he had never permanently settled in one area of the country. He experienced living in Ghent when he was still very young and then transferred to a city near Brussels.
When he was only 22 years old, he started his voyage around the globe. Little did he know that this adventure that he had taken would eventually change the course of his life. He first arrived in Sri Lanka, and then went to India, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
In his stop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Philip embraced the life of glitz and glamour as he worked as a print-ad model for sports wear for several months. He landed on the pages of some national Malaysian magazines. He is supposed to pursue this career when he went to Japan, but due to uncontrollable circumstances, instead of having a flourishing modeling career, he became a French language teacher in two institutions of the country: the first school was owned by the National Panasonic Company and the other one was a private school in Kobe.
It was in 1979 when Philip reached the Philippines. Dumaguete City was not even part of his destination as he toured around the country.
“I was taking a boat from Zamboanga to Manila when I met somebody from Dumaguete who told me to go here,” he shares.
Little did Philip know that his side trip to Dumaguete would lead him to stay longer and seemingly permanently in this City of Gentle People.
But what made him stay? “The existence of the university,” he says, and jokingly adds: “The country was named after me, right? So I was pre-destined to come here probably.” He has learned to accept the Filipino culture, and likes the fact that Filipinos have the passion for food. In fact, Dinuguan is his favorite Filipino dish.
Within the same year he arrived in Dumaguete, Philip joined Silliman as part-time French language instructor. He eventually became a regular Literature professor.
Philip obtained his degree in Journalism from Instituut voor Jounalisten van Belgie (Institute of Journalists of Belgium) in 1978 and finished his MA in English Literature in Silliman University in 1985.
He is blessed to have two sons, Algernon (27) and Randolph (21).
Philip has a deep fascination with motorbikes. He was 16 years old when he started driving, and has owned ten motorbikes in total — from Yamaha, Chunlang to BMW. “Driving motorbikes gives me a sense of freedom.”
Let's know Philip more:
Describe yourself in three words.
It is difficult. I would like to think of myself as sort of adventurous and interested in intellectual matters, like Indiana Jones, or something like that.
What is your mantra in life?
“Be reasonable, demand the impossible.”
What makes you laugh/cry?
I am not famous for being sentimental; however, I get more touched by artworks, and something that got to do with relationships. Anything that is humorous makes me laugh, I have a very good sense of humor, I think.
What’s your favorite time/day of the week and why?
Probably the weekend, I can relax a little bit.
What is your favorite hangout place in the University?
The English department office, they have a free internet access, there’s no need to go anywhere else. Plus I can get free stuff from the refrigerator
What makes you blush?
Purely physical, example if I come from airconditioned room then I go to non-airconditioned room or I am under the heat of the sun, that makes me blush.
If you were an actor/actress, who would you be?
Tell us a fact about yourself?
I was the first Belgian development worker to be assigned in Mongolia in 1994 as an English teacher in a state university.
What’s your favorite game growing up?
I don’t like sports very much, except motorcycling.
What is your idea of a relaxing day?
Relaxing day would involve some reading, some internet and play games on internet, and watching TV.
What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
I know a lot of languages: Dutch, French, English, German and Cebuano.
What song best describes the YOU and the life you have now?
I appreciate music but I am not very good at remembering title of songs. I like the songs of Amy Winehouse, I like the Jazzy kind of music.
What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
I make coffee, then I quickly go over my mind of the stuff that I will do for the day, that’s when my mind starts working.
What’s your idea of a family?
The people you feel you belong with.
(NOTE: “Colleague of the Week'” serves as a window into the life of the faculty and staff members of Silliman University. It seeks to showcase colleagues from different departments and units, and present them as “the” faces that form part of the foundation of Silliman. Featured weekly are faculty and staff who have committed themselves to providing members of the Silliman community a campus experience that cultivates competence, character and faith within one and all. We get to know them as people who like any of us also have their fair share of challenges, successes, and an inspiring story to tell. Not all of them may be popular, but not a single one of them lives a life without hope and meaning to share.)