Tag Archive | "FF-UPLB"

Meet a Freethinker: Ryan James Amparo

No two freethinkers are exactly alike; a group of freethinkers contains a great diversity of perspectives, so there is no one, official perspective shared among all of them. This makes the freethought community a truly vibrant source of ideas and opinions!

In this light, Meet a Freethinker is our series featuring freethinkers of all backgrounds and perspectives. We want to introduce you guys to the people who make up the proverbial melting pot of this growing movement.

Our next freethinker is Ryan James Amparo. Ryan is the outgoing president of our chapter in University of the Philippines Los Baños. He is a B.S. Chemical Engineering student. He is also a freelance writer, business owner and violinist.

1) How would you define a freethinker?

A freethinker is someone who bases his beliefs and decisions purely on evidence. He doesn’t have to be necessarily an atheist as most people would assume or argue. This is because freethinking is a process, not a conclusion. Faithful (no pun intended) adherence to the rules of logic is what prevents freethinking into becoming free-style thinking, which most people seem to take for granted.

2) What belief system do you subscribe to?

I am an agnostic atheist, and I have been for almost two years now. I have never been religious in my life, and I have never had a religious experience. It’s interesting that, being born into an evangelical Christian family, I’ve noticed that it’s actually the converts who tend to be most religious and fanatical. I think this religious conversion that I’ve never experienced is the reason for my lukewarm attitude toward church.

It’s worth noting though that even though I have been Christian for majority of my life, I have believed in the separation of church and state as long as I can remember. I also never got to believe in ghosts or anything mystical. My father is programmer and we had fairly speedy internet connection at home even when it was still expensive back in the late 90s and early 2000s. He also bought me a lot of educational material, like encyclopedias and books, as a child. I think this early exposure to information is the reason why I became acquainted to secularism and rational thinking earlier than most people.

I became oriented to freethinking when I started reading the works of Ayn Rand about three years ago. I knew she was an atheist, but that never had significance to the then-Christian me. I became an agnostic atheist when I came to watch a documentary by Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. I was instantly convinced that there was no god after watching it.

3) What was the funniest or most interesting reaction you got from a person after you told him or her that you were a freethinker?

I had this classmate once who approached me just after I introduced myself in class and told them that I was a member of FF-UPLB. She told me she used to think FF was like an artists’ collective, and that freethinkers were just another word for an eccentric.

4) In what way has being part of a freethinking community benefited you?

The freethinking community helped me in the communities help best: it made me feel not alone. I used to think that there were only a handful of nonbelievers in the university. Indeed, believing in something unpopular is an alienating experience. FF gave me that sense of community.

5) What was the biggest challenge FF UPLB has experienced so far, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge for me then was finding enough members. According to university rules, we needed at least 15 people to create an organization. This was during the time that I thought that, aside from my co-founders, I was the only secularist in the university. Of course later on, I came to be surprised that there were so many of us.

Currently, the biggest challenge that we face is removing stigma. While the university is fairly more tolerant than the Philippines in general, FF-UPLB still has the image of the stereotypical angry atheist in campus. A lot of people inside the university still think that the group is anti-Christ, which explains really why promotional posters of the group always get vandalized.

6) What are the common issues that freethinking students face?

I think this is with regards to coming out to their friends and family. A lot of nonbelievers in the group are still closeted out of fear of reprimanding from their loved ones. I think FF helps here in part because it fills the gap created by this fear or disconnect with a community composed of friendly, like-minded people.

7) Do you think your chapter could become what it is today if your school were run by Catholic priests?

Yes, I think so. Accreditation and recruitment will be hard, but if the demographics is still the same, why not? After all, I don’t think it’s the supposedly secular environment in the university that precipitated the chapter’s growth. UPLB is far from secular. Teachers and students are evangelizing in class, and prayers to the Christian god are given during every event, among other breaches of secularism. Really, the influence of churches in student affairs can be strongly felt.

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Filipino Freethinkers-UPLB First General Assembly


Location: Student Union Building, Mangga Rd, University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna (Google maps)

Date: Thursday, June 14, 2012

Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm

RSVP on Facebook

Vast tracts of farmland. A university with its own forest reserve with endless fish pens on the side.

The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) does seem an unlikely place to be a haven for several dozens of atheists, agnostics, progressive believers etc. In fact, I thought there would never be any of them in this still very Catholic town turned agriculture research center.

But I was wrong. It’s been half a year already since the first Filipino Freethinkers (FF) meetup in UPLB last mid-December 2011. And since then, we’ve been meeting almost twice a week, and have successfully formed an informal group of devoted secularists, with members from both the academe and the student body.

Arguably being among the most active FF student chapters, for the last 6 months:

    1. we have held a total of 9 meetups, where we’ve intellectually discussed a wide range of topics, from the truth behind conspiracy theories to the viability of interfaith relationships;
    2. we have started a documentary on the spread of pseudoscience within the university;1
    3. we attended a freethought convention, where we met several fellow freethinkers;
    4. we toured our Metro Manila friends around the campus, and went to places that even we haven’t gone to before;
    5. we even held picnics on the campus grounds, and had fun along with it;
    6. and, most importantly, we have built a safe space within the university and its immediate vicinity, where we have actively promoted tolerance and made friendships, regardless of our own personal political ideologies, religious beliefs or lack thereof.

We have so much more to do now that the semester is starting again, and we would love to let you be a part of it.

If you adhere to the ideals of freethought, the separation of church and state, and religious tolerance—or, as we like to put it, reason, science and secularism—you are very much welcome to attend FF-UPLB’s First General Assembly, and be among our charter members.

Don’t worry, membership is free2—I know, that’s how desperate we are to get you—and it’s open to practically anyone, irreligious or not. And what’s best is we don’t haze people! Hooray.

It’s going to be held inside the Student Union Building, UPLB, Los Baños, Laguna on June 14, 2012 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. We shouldn’t be too hard to spot. Just look for a bunch of sexy3 and intelligent people hanging around the first floor of the building. Otherwise, simply look for the FF logo.

See the event page or checkout our Facebook group for more information. Alternatively, you can contact me at 09153707740, or e-mail us at [email protected].

We would love to hear from you.


  1. As much as I would like to say more, I cannot for I fear that it would preempt the release of the said documentary. So just stay curious.
  2. Terms and conditions apply. (I’m kidding.)
  3. Seriously.

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The Filipino Freethinkers Go to Church! And Meet a Carabao with Wings in Los Banos!

This is the group shot from the meetup last February 5:



There were over 80 attendees that afternoon, and our usual haunt at Starbucks Ansons Ortigas was barely able handle all of that sexiness. So, we felt it was high-time to try out a non-commercial venue the next time around, and what better place could there be to house a bunch of heathens for some sweet, sweet sacrilege than this —



For the following Sunday meetup, the Freethinkers went to church. But it was a very special one — the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Makati, which is the home church of FF’s Reproductive Health Advocacy Director Kenneth Keng and his family.  The Episcopalians — basically the Anglican Church when set outside of England — are a more liberal bunch compared to Catholics. They have female and homosexual members in their clergy, and generally have a more progressive stance on social issues.



It’s very refreshing to see a church with a sense of humor.



Kenneth and his sister Michelle were awesome enough to arrange for a meetup in their church’s parish hall, a large room where they usually tag-team as Sunday school teachers.



Lot of great discussions that day. Thanks to the hall’s acoustics, which was an honest relief from all that blender-whirring from coffee shop meetups past, we could easily converse on several rich topics, from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ controversial new advertisement, to the current Republican war on contraception in the US.



Bishop Arthur Jones, the Presiding Rector of Holy Trinity, even dropped by to say hi. We very much enjoyed his short speech about always being inquisitive and open-minded. I personally would like to hear one of his sermons — tales of fire and brimstone they’re likely not.



And it seems the Episcopal god took kindly to us, what with the rainbow that appeared when the meeting was adjourned!




And then Red got insecure and started levitating to put us in our place. We’re sorry we doubted you, Red!



The following day, a few of us from FF’s Coordinating Council made the trek to Los Banos, Laguna to attend the meetup of the group’s burgeoning UP- Los Banos Chapter. Chapter director Api, along with LB Freethinkers Ryan, Peter, JM, and Karl were very, very kind enough to take us on a tour that afternoon. We started at the International Rice Research Institute, where we saw a 6,000-year-old grain of rice at the museum; then visited the UP Carabao Center for a quick snack; then took a leisurely trek by the woodsy roads near the Forestry.



We also saw an Abueva sculpture called the “Pegaraw,” although we were smart-asses and pointed out that the winged beast was more of a Pegasus-carabao hybrid, hence it should be called a Pegabao instead, but Kenneth was obviously delighted by it regardless.



Later that evening, we met up with the rest of the chapter for a nice meetup, where we discussed conspiracy theories, Red’s Satanic Challenge, and the chapter’s exciting new projects, which include accreditation in the university. We had dinner and drinks after, and while we had to head back to Manila at the end of the night, we knew we’d definitely be visiting more and more often. Awesome job, FF UPLB!



And I’m so sorry you had to see that.

Photos courtesy of Frank III Manuel, Patrick Charles Rigonan, and Chris Villanueva Sienna

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