By Michael Aaron Gomez
Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) President Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J., and President Prof. Xu Xipeng of Huaqiao University in Xiamen City, People’s Republic of China, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Agreement (MoA) last 13-14 November 2018 in Jinjiang and Xiamen City, signaling the start of cooperative ties between the two universities. The MoU is aimed toward “cooperation in promoting both academic research and enhancing educational opportunities for students.” The signing of these agreements coincided with the agreement made by Davao City mayor Sara Z. Duterte and the mayor of the Municipal City of Jinjiang Zhang Wen Xian to forge a bond between their cities as sister cities.
The agreement signed by Fr. Tabora and Prof. Xu was titled “Jointly Establishing Confucius Institute Between Huaqiao University, China, Ateneo de Davao University, Philippines.” The agreement aims to “enhance Sino-Philippine friendship, cultural and educational exchanges between the two countries, meet the needs of the local communities to learn Chinese language and culture in the Philippines and promote Chinese teaching.
Once instituted at the ADDU, the Confucius Institute will be the only such institute south of Luzon. It will actively promote the learning of Mandarin and Chinese history and culture in Mindanao. It will promote cultural exchanges and tours between China and the Philippines.
Dean Jenner Chan of the AdDU School of Business and Governance (SBG), and Dr. Maricar Panda, Director of the AdDU Matteo Ricci Institute, joined Fr. Tabora as representatives of the Davao City delegation.
The delegation also made a visit to the Yangzheng Middle School of Jinjiang, which is dubbed the “Number One” middle school for the elite junior and senior high school learners in Fujian Province.
Relatedly, Jinjiang also bears historical significance for it is the home of the ancestors of Dr. Jose Rizal and the home of most of the “taipans” in Philippine business.
The Chinese Consul General in Davao, Hon. Li Lin, actively facilitated the cooperation between the Ateneo de Davao and Huaqiao Universities.
Fr. Tabora expects that the arrival of Mandarin teachers from Huaqiao University may make it possible to offer courses in Mandarin not only in higher education, but also in basic education. Today, in the Ateneo de Davao, some one thousand students in the SBG already study Mandarin on three levels, but improved proficiency requires learning at earlier ages and more exposure to Chinese culture.