John Paul Mondejar: Honoring the role of Benilde in his life

Carrying with him the hope that future generations of leaders and diplomats foster a culture of improving upon previous generations (as time and change are constant), John Paul Mondejar—an AB-CDA alumnus and now a professor in the very same program—gives back to Benilde through education.

A Story of Fate and Destiny

John Paul Mondejar knew that he wanted to be a Benildean. From the beginning, he had his eyes set on De La Salle-College of St. Benilde’s Consular and Diplomatic Affairs program (now known as Diplomacy and International Affairs). “This is the program that I want. This is the school that I want—I only took that program, and I only took Benilde,” he said. 

“Was it overconfidence or fate?” He wondered. Although DLS-CSB was his first choice, he had other institutions up for consideration. But, with a place to stay in Taft already, he ultimately decided on what his heart and mind had already wanted from the start. Whilst it is in part fate, on the other side of the coin lies the face of destiny too—a choice confidently made to dare new beginnings.  

Hailing from the Western Visayan province of Iloilo, the very first time John Paul set foot in Benilde was to confirm his slot. When classes officially began a month later, it was not only a new chapter of his academic journey but of his life in its entirety. Apart from being miles away from home, he was learning to live on his own. 

Despite the challenges of a completely new environment, John Paul felt that he belonged. “The welcoming spirit in Benilde made it all very easy,” he shared, adding that the college not only strives to make its students academically excellent but also takes care of all their needs (both spiritual and psychological).

John Paul went on to join student organizations such as the Corps of Diplomats from the then-CDA program and the Benildean Student Envoys—the student group that made him feel further immersed in the charism of La Salle and Benilde. Today, John Paul is a faculty member of De La Salle-College of St. Benilde under the School of Diplomacy and Governance.

“I always say that I owe Benilde a lot. It’s not just once, but twice—as a student, and now as a faculty.”

Benildean Education is Transformative

The Consular and Diplomatic Affairs program opened up plenty of opportunities for John Paul. 

His education was one without borders. It extended far beyond the four walls of the college’s classroom to places like the United Nations Headquarters in New York and Russia’s capital city of Moscow. As a student, he got to attend various conferences including the National Model United Nations (NMUN) and the Russia-ASEAN Youth Summit. 

For John Paul, these opportunities boosted his confidence and enabled him to think faster. “These events were not possible for me if there was no CDA program. They were the ones back then who opened [the doors], which eventually lead on to [my] professional life,” he said. Today, he has kept on his friendships with those he met in a diplomatic school in Russia.

Back home, John Paul owes it to his professors who prepared and trained him well in the field. Among them are Amb. Rosario Manalo, Amb. Luz Palacios, the late Amb. Joe del Rosario. Dean Gary Ador Dionisio, Mr. Alain Austria, Ms. Bebot Lucero, and Ms. Anna Solar. Their training was about developing understanding, efficiency, and putting theory into practice. Past memorizing the what’s, who’s, where’s, and when’s—it dug deeper into the how’s and why’s.

“Their [professors’] training is not just [about] understanding the lesson but also doing it efficiently…the challenges in the field could change overnight.”

Now with the Tables Reversed

As John Paul embarks on the journey of teaching in Benilde, his life experiences as a former student of the institution bestowed upon him a more profound understanding of how to teach and polish his students into becoming future leaders and diplomats. Who he has become today is, in part, the fruit of his professors’ training. With the roles reversed and a new perspective gained, it is now his turn to nurture his students’ potential and help them blossom. 

The times, however, are changing. With that change came innovation and, unfortunately, circumstances beyond human control. When John Paul returned to Benilde as a professor, it was during the term that COVID-19 split the face-to-face experience in half. While he was able to witness how Benilde innovated its campuses, that sadly came to an abrupt end due to forces unprecedented. 

Although the shift online was inevitable, Benilde’s innovative nature made the transition a little easier. “Benilde is always full of surprises. The innovation in Benilde [has] never ceased to amaze me,” John Paul chimed. He explained that even before the pandemic, BigSky already existed; it is the virtual learning platform that students and faculty use.

Even so, John Paul cannot help but notice the difficulties of the online modality—specifically when it comes to showing his students that he cares. “It’s easier to feel your teacher’s care in person,” he said. But, now that we are scattered in different parts of the country and the world, the challenge for him is how to show his students the transcendental spirit of a Benildean while living up to the training of his esteemed professors before him.

“The challenge for us is how one continues to practice excellence, show compassion, and yet still enable and challenge them [the students] to learn, to broaden their horizons.”

Paying It Forward

Nonetheless, whether classes are face-to-face or online, John Paul sees becoming a Benildean professor as a way of paying it forward. “You [professors] trained me well, [and] now that I’m the one in your shoes—or at least I’m wearing your shoes despite how I’m still too small for them—I can still somehow live up to the training that I could help them [the students] too.”

As a professor, John Paul pays it forward through being patient with his students, striving to become a better version of himself, and promoting understanding rather than memorization. “Doing ordinary things extraordinarily well,” is a motto he lives by every day. It is on account of this that he is challenged by our present circumstances to be creative so that his students can still become excellent rational and analytical thinkers. 

When John Paul’s students say they want to be like him, he always responds, “Please, don’t. Be better than me. Because when you become better than me, I have done something good. And if you become teachers or professionals, and those after you are better than you, it means Benilde is doing a wonderful job.” 

“It’s not what you know, but what you can do with what you know – that matters more.”



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