Casually sitting in the faculty lounge, with a newspaper on one hand and the other holding a cup of coffee, we meet Dante Leoncini, one of the most interesting Philosophy professors in De La Salle University-Manila.
Here, we get to understand Leoncini as both a professor and an over-all thought-provoking individual, who not only understands the mechanics of life, but tries to live it on a day-to-day basis. In this interview, we ask him about his personal history, his role as an educator, and lastly, his view on certain issues affecting our society today.
About Dante Leoncini
“[I] came to study at De La Salle [University], finished Philosophy and Letters (Literature) and Economics,” he says.
Leoncini not only stayed in his field of study, but he also chose to venture into different fields of study, such as aviation and theater, and even kept a sideline hobby of deep sea-fishing. Truly, he is an open-minded and adventurous individual, and his thirst for knowledge only grows as he teaches college students in the University. “It’s not what your students learn from you but what you learn from your students,” he explains.
Additionally, he tells us that he did not always envision himself becoming a professor. “I didn’t choose to teach philosophy, [I] just tried [it] and ended up liking it. [I] never thought I’d be a teacher but [I] enjoyed it,” he says. Moreover, being a teacher has also allowed him to grow better as an individual. “You develop certain values like patience,” he says.
His personal motto and hero
In every activity that Leoncini goes through, he always keeps this phrase in mind: Just keep going. This particular phrase has become his life mantra or motto, and he lives by it in his daily activities. “[You] wake up in the morning, lead an ordinary life, come to school, do your job, read the night before, and check papers. But just keep going and finish what you’ve started,” he says. For him, nothing will satisfy an individual more than accomplishing their daily tasks, duties, or promises.
When it came to discussing his personal hero, Leoncini quickly answered the iconic character, Forrest Gump. He reasons, “He’s a good listener and [he] understands what life truly is. That’s the way people should be. [He was] able to let go so easily not because he lacks love but [because] he just has too much for it”. This answer really surprised us, but it also gave light to the complexity of Forrest Gump’s character and his effectiveness to being a hero. Rightfully so, Forrest Gump is one character that we all can emulate.
On religion and other hot topics
Many students often see philosophy as a rather intimidating field, given the dominance of the conservative Catholic mindset in the country. But for Leoncini, it doesn’t have to be that way. Born and raised a Catholic, he sees religion as something very traditional and close to his heart. He shares, “When I was younger, I didn’t take it seriously, but as soon as I mellowed down, I understood what it was all about.”
Because of the sensitivity of the topic, when asked about how he deals with clashing views between students inside the classroom, he explains that when you deal with religion, you use your heart instead of your mind, so there really is no need for heated debates and intellectual attacks. “When you talk about faith, you leap into the unknown,” Leoncini adds. “Nobody really knows if there’s a god or an after-life, you just have to believe.” He also stresses the importance of laying down the proper foundations before starting a class, which means making it a point to distinguish between “I know”, “I think”, and “I believe.”
Thankfully, today’s present generation has started to become more and more open-minded not only with regards to religion – something that Leoncini is looking forward to – but as well as in other topics such as feminism and the LGBT community. “Male and female should be complementing each other, not competing,” he believes. “Respect is essential in all our relationships, whether you’re dealing with a man, woman, gay, lesbian, et cetera.”
The youth as the future
For Leoncini, the youth’s liberal mindedness is more than welcome to him. Spoken like a true philosophy mentor, he shares, “I like it when people, at a very young age, have a mind of their own.” He points out that we should maximize our freedom of speech and thought – a privilege freely available in this country, but an expensive luxury bound by subversive rules in other places.
Leoncini also believes that a liberal mind is the twin of a decisive mind, both of which hold the key to excellent leadership. “When you get to organize all your thoughts, calm down, and are more careful, you make good decisions. Once you’ve made a choice, you can stick to it,” he explains. And who else does he think would make better future leaders of this country but the youth?
Dante Leoncini alone is a plethora of different characters who has gone through much in his life – from the stage as an actor, the skies as a pilot, to even the ocean as a fisher – to get to where he is today, as Professor Leoncini of De La Salle University. More than just fallacies and theories, he is able to share with his students the philosophy and science of real life.