A group of study centers in Metro Manila have recently transitioned professional, academic and spiritual programs for students to online in support of those affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Amber Drive University Center, a venue for student activities located at St. Josemaria Escriva Drive, Pasig City, launched their relief program for Brgy. Buayang Bato, a place they used to organize outreaches, catechism sessions and visits to the sick, which has then become “a Covid hazard community.”

“The barangay officials shared with us recently that they are currently struggling with providing help and support for its densely populated community given the increasing number of COVID cases there,” Anthony Lumicao, a staff member of Amber Drive University Center, said in an interview with PressOne.PH.

He believes in the importance of reaching out to the “less fortunate individuals” during this pandemic because “because the gap between the rich and the poor have widened even further.”

“The crisis made us realize that daily wage earners are affected the most and those who are fortunate enough to work from home cannot visibly see the economic divide which the country is now facing,” Lumicao explained.

When asked about the center’s operations, he explained that Amber “pivoted gradually” with the use of livestreaming its activities online, including online masses and prayer sessions.

“Eventually, the formation talks that Amber provides to young people were migrated to the online space via Google Meet or Zoom. Later on, Amber decided to transition its Amber Ideas Exchange sessions with professionals to online webinars,” Lumicao said.

“The activities of Amber were focused on get-togethers with industry and academe professionals called Amber Ideas Exchange as well as outreach activities through catechism sessions, visits to the elderly, and community service projects,” he continued.

© Sarangani Study Center

A similar venue called Sarangani Study Center, located near the University of Santo Tomas, “smoothly transitioned” its student activities to online, including its classes and mentoring on character formation.

“In providing a holistic training to students, [Sarangani] actually helps the school and families of the students. [We] provide classes and mentoring on character formation, and classes on Catholic faith and morals to male students and graduates,” Paul Argamosa, a staff member of Sarangani Study Center, explained in an interview with PressOne.PH.

Argamosa however said that the “technology barrier” is still significant in transmitting the means of formation for both mentors and students since they “don’t fully ‘see’ each other.”

“The center is adversely affected by the lockdown because most of the activities are face to face. Now the challenge is to fully engage the students online,” he explained.

He recognized the need for character formation for both mentors and students during the Covid-19 pandemic, emphasizing on the “virtuous disposition” needed to organize and properly conduct one’s life.

“Character formation has taken a higher level of need because both the mentors and mentees are left on their own. A lot of parameters are suddenly taken out. There are no more physical school[s] and face to face conversations,” Argamosa explained.

© Maynilad Study Center

Meanwhile, Maynilad Study Center, located near De La Salle University along Taft, Manila, focused its online activities on monthly get-togethers, inviting experts and industry leaders for their activities on mentoring and professional formation.

“We organize activities geared towards self-development,” Manfred Salandanan, a staff member of Maynilad Study Center, said in an interview with PressOne.PH.

“One of our key activities are the monthly get-togethers with experts and industry leaders on various topics and as well as talks and mentoring for university students,” he continued.

For Salandanan, the activities are important to the students who lost their usual “face-to-face” interaction with their friends in the university and in the center.

“Time spent before outside with friends or on other activities has been cut. The activities serve as a venue to still have real-time and “face-to-face” interaction with other people,” he explained

“These activities are as important or even more so considering people find themselves having more time for other interests and needing more value-adding activities online,” he continued.

Nevertheless, Salandanan thinks the challenge of keeping the participants’ interest is worthwhile.

“There’s also more deliberate effort from the staff to encourage participation from the participants during the online activities to keep them interested. The guys are also more appreciative of these online interactions considering most if not all are also in isolation.”

The study centers’ spiritual formation is entrusted to the Prelature of Opus Dei, a Catholic lay organization that promotes ‘ordinary holiness’ in the middle of the world. Francis David T. Perez