“Do We Have Enough Salt and Light?: Animating Teaching and Learning”

“Do We Have Enough Salt and Light?: Animating Teaching and Learning”

By: Dr. Betty Cernol-McCann
| President, Silliman University

University Christian Life Emphasis Month  
Faculty and Staff Convocation, 14 January 2019

Scriptural Readings

Matthew 5:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Romans 12:1-2 New International Version (NIV)

A Living Sacrifice

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.



This year’s UCLEM has a theme: “Sent to make a difference.”  Oftentimes, we hear the phrase “Make a difference” to the point that it sounds like a cliche. But, if we give it further thought and serious reflection, we may want to go in there and see the difference we all can make. When life gets complicated, it’s time to step back and go to fundamental questions. In journalism and writing style, in research and police investigations, in project development and management, and more so in reflecting on the direction our life is taking – both personal and professional – we can benefit from the 5Ws and 1H as we reflect on the role we play as the salt of the earth and the light of the world:

Who can make a difference?

What difference can we make?

When do we make a difference?

Where can we make a difference?

Why do we have to make a difference?

How can we make a difference?

I am sure each one of us can arrive at answers to these questions. Each one of us can make a difference if we care about the vision of this our Silliman beside the sea. Each one of us can identify in what area we can contribute. Each one of us has an idea when and where we can make a difference. We can even state why we need to make a difference. And even how we can bring about a desired change.

We know these things, but there is a wide gap between what we know and what we do. And in the process of doing, we have to cherish and value what we are to act on to carry out a sustained action.

We, the Salt of the Earth and Light of the World

In the recent December break, Dennis and I joined the Cernol clan on a 5-day land trip in Northern and Central Luzon where we visited old churches; took a calesa ride on cobblestone streets; saw displays of religious relics as well as mementos of an infamous political leader, numerous windmills, a viaduct that makes for an imposing landscape; and oh yes, got a taste of bagnet, empanaditas, and several versions of pinakbet. As we traveled along a coastal community, I saw rows and rows of bags of salt for sale, some labeled ‘natural’ and others labeled ‘iodized.’ My younger brother, whose wife is a community health worker, informed us that there is high incidence of goiter in that part of the country and iodized salt is a simple and practical way for people to get sufficient iodine from their daily diet. Iodine is an important micronutrient needed by the body to achieve optimum mental and physical development.

Did you know that pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 1188 signed in 2006, every fourth week of January has been declared as Goiter Awareness Week (GAW) to intensify public awareness on the prevention and control of goiter and other iodine deficiency disorders (IDD)? Last year’s theme,”Goiter Sugpuin, Isip Patalinuhin, Iodized Salt Gamitin,” encouraged the utilization of quality iodized salt in households and food establishments throughout the country.

But what might it mean for us to be called “salt of the earth”? Much has been said about the properties and importance of salt. Salt provides taste and flavor; salt preserves; salt heals. What is green mango without salt? What about bulad prepared to the finish with just the right amount of salt? What about saline solutions to get us hydrated?

In this academic community by the sea, can we find in ourselves just the right amount of salt to flavor and sustain our work as students, faculty, staff, and administrators?

Providing flavor and taste in the work we do should mean more oomph in our teaching, more customer satisfaction in the services we provide at our respective units. Let’s have repeat customers who also invite others to join us because they have had pleasant experiences with us.  Let’s have customers who come back for more because they’ve had a good taste of the life here and the services we provide. In effect, we want to pass the ‘taste test’ that will make our customers patronize our product, so to speak.

In another dimension, being the salt of our community means we have the ingredient to preserve our values, our institutional characteristics that define us as an institution— our Silliman spirit, our whole- person approach to education, our valuing the environment. With the right amount of salt in us, we preserve knowledge, we value the past and at the same time take in new directions and approaches, all with a grain of fortified salt. Having the right amount of salt in us can also make us active agents for healing and restoration in our relationships here and in the greater community.

Going back to our December break escapade, the Luzon trip brought us up to Baguio’s winding and narrow road at the end of the day, during those hours of pitch-black darkness. Two days later, the Cernols came down from Baguio in the dark hours of very early morning. You can imagine how many times I behaved as a backseat driver, pressing my foot hard on the floor each time we faced the blinding headlights of an oncoming car, or when we drove through an area where the light was too dim and an animal suddenly crossed the road or another vehicle overtook us. In a way, that’s how it usually is in our personal and work life. Some of us come across as a blinding light, nakakasilaw. The intensity of their light is so much that in reflex we squeeze our eyes shut and, in the process, do not really see what is there to see. Some of us try to work in dim light, lowbatt. We need to recharge in order to have more power or intensity to fully function and be heard or seen. In effect, we need to calibrate, to modulate our light so that we can become significant additions to the pool of lights in our community of learners.

Scripture says we are the light of the world (more specifically, of the academic world). As Rev. Wella reminded us at the 9:30 morning service yesterday, our light can be used to dispel darkness, to reveal what may not be known; to awaken us out of our ignorance, or to warn us of what is likely to happen so we can be adequately prepared. Light directs us to pathways to reach our direction; allows us to adapt to a changing environment; makes us observe new and better ways of doing things. Light can be in the form of new knowledge, a view through the lens of our colorful and vivid past, or recognition of our ability to value factual information over unfounded perceptions. The methodologies of research, use of digital tools and internet-based learning, collaborative learning, partnerships, and networks are some ways we can receive as well as give light in this global,  and ever-dynamic world of education.

At our own academic community by the sea, do we have sufficient light to provide enlightened options, while treasuring nuggets of wisdom from the past and viewing in a better light lessons of yesteryears as these apply to current contexts? Or do we have sufficient light to search actively for new knowledge, to illuminate the issues and realities we now face? Or, do we enlighten others by sharing our tools of the trade and knowledge generated from various studies— to elevate the status of our own human environment of students, faculty, staff, and administrators?

On another note, our eco-friendly Christmas tree has been up for over a month. On top of that tree is a yellow star that symbolizes the light offered to us as a guide in our search for the personal meaning of Christmas. As we are about to take that star down, have we received enough of the gift of life and light so that we can continue to carry on our life directions – our  personal resolve and our professional commitment?

Let us be living sacrifices – not lifeless, not lacking of energy, not perfunctory, but rather ones who exude radiance, enthusiasm, passion as would be expected of all who were created in the image of God.

We are to be a living, animated sacrifice – not bored, spent, wasted, wallowing in a near-death state in our personal and professional lives.

We have been gifted by the sacrifices of our early mission workers. We are now the recipients of all that had been good, and true, and lovely, and praiseworthy. By our own living sacrifices as members of the Silliman community, let us continue to pass on these positive virtues to the next generation of Silliman learners.

Let us continue to give of our best to the Great Teacher, source of our life and being.

Concluding Statement

On this the celebration of the University Christian Life Emphasis Month or UCLEM, let us recommit ourselves to be the salt of this our part of the earth. Let our presence and contribution in this our world of work and service bring about the needed kick and flavor that will offer joy and delight to those who come to our table of service. Let us be the right intensity of light that will illumine and brighten one another – the illumination that’s just right to highlight and intensify the best in ourselves and others.

UCLEM is simply a marker of our several faith events in this university. But our Christian commitment is to be steadfast and consistently applied in our daily life and in our work.  Indeed, we are “sent to make a difference.”

Silliman by the sea, so apt a description of the university as it points to the fact that by our very own location, we are privileged to breathe in the salt from the sea air. It is our calling and a mandate that as we receive the salt, we should also freely and generously give salt to others.

Our boulevard daily offers us the breathtaking Dumaguete sunrise. Symbolically, the sunrise allows us to receive the light at the break of dawn so that we can be the privileged ones to share the light – the same light to illumine our way and path of service.

We are the fortified salt, we are the glorious light; let us offer our talents our life of service and leadership freely and generously to this our academic world.

Please, pass the salt. And, walk in the light.

So be it.