Concise Paper No. 3

The Social Insights of Jesus Christ

While reading the chapter on Social Conflict, I could not help but notice a similarity between the concepts of making resolutions from social conflicts and the main themes in the subject I teach, Christian Living Education. Perhaps, if Jesus Christ took formal education, he would have enjoyed Social Psychology, because his ideas amazingly echo the findings of different literature about resolving social conflict.

The authors summarized that: “conflict emerges when outcome deprivation is attributed to interdependent other’s intentional actions or inactions”, where it is escalated by the limited cognitive processes that people naturally have. Because of the natural tendency to associate with a group and, in the process, create out-groups, conflicts escalate because of faulty heuristics that influences a person and/or the group to elicit the behavior they assumed the other group was disposed of. Conflict, according to the authors, can work for the benefit of the groups (promoting innovation, creativity, social change etc.) or their detriment (increased experiences of stress and possible violent actions). However, there are ways to resolve these conflicts and one of them is through reconciliation—an evident theme in Jesus’ actions and teachings.

It is interesting to note that according to the doctrines of the Church, Jesus seemed to have arrived at an insight in human relations that Social Psychologists are only beginning to uncover today, that violence is quelled with love and mercy. There is value to this insight because if we look at the socio-historical context in his time, he lived in a nation greatly divided by in- and out-groups (The Roman Conquerors and Tax Collectors, the Elite Pharisees and Scribes, and the Sinners) and is located in a rather extreme climate that instigated conflict. If anyone understood how conflict operated, it was him.

Based on tradition and doctrine, Christ was sent to repair a broken relationship between man and a deity more commonly known as God. His message to the people was a message of hope, a vision of a world where conflicts could not exist and everyone would live in harmony—the Kingdom of God. However, as he described through parables and analogies (harvesting both the weeds and wheat but eventually burning the weeds, or catching a school of fish composed of both the good and bad), this Kingdom is a state where there are no out-groups, and all are simply part of one entity under the leadership of a loving deity called God. Through his life and works he was able to give the people he preached to a glimpse of this Kingdom.

At a time where much of the processes in social conflict was not discussed, but accepted, Jesus’ teachings and actions proved to be counter-intuitive and counterattitudinal for the major groups. In fact, it was this love-rebellion that would eventually get him killed. Among the counterattitudinal acts and ideas he shared, mercy was one of them. The whole of the New Testament spoke of mercy that ranged from parables (The Good Samaritan, The Rich Man and Lazarus, and the Unforgiving Servant) and acts (restoring the health of the oppressed and abandoned, restoring life to those who were physically and spiritually dead). Catechesis would explain that Jesus’ healing of the sick—who were considered sinners or outcasts at that time—was a way of restoring their status in society, a way to include them once again in the in-group in order to be treated more humanely.

Furthermore, he saw the value of non-retaliation as a response to direct or indirect violence when he taught about loving enemies. From a social conflict, he reminds his audience that in order to end the spiral of violence from happening, we need to be aware of our tendency to arrive at hasty but often erroneous attributions of other people’s or group’s action or inaction and their effect on our outcome deprivation. He was reminding them to not let the automatic processes of our own biases cloud the way we evaluate other people’s action or inactions. As stated by De Dreu, studies show that conflicts escalate because of self-fulfilling prophecies that arise from the victim’s evaluation of the possibility of the offender taking advantage of them. The only way to end violence, is not by striking a counterblow, but by responding in a more prosocial but more cognitively taxing manner: with compassion.

Admittedly, this path that Jesus has set out appears to appeal more to those who are prosocial in dispositions, however, this is perhaps where the value of productive conflict comes into place. For those who have a more proself disposition, engaging in meaningful contact with those who have a more prosocial disposition would create opportunities for innovation and creativity. This should hopefully distill any biases against each other which should reveal a bigger reality: we are all human.

To conclude, much of the conflict we experience today is a result of the limited cognitive processes our minds are able to exert. These cognitions create unfounded assertions that often produce actions that will create the perceived assertions of their situations. This makes me wonder if there will ever come a time where people are more aware of their own mental process and cognitive biases and have made appropriate actions avoid and minimize unnecessary conflict. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I was called to this profession of teaching: to help people realize their biases and hopefully let them live lives with less unnecessary conflicts. But I find consolation in the reminder of Jesus that this state of universal conflict resolution will come at the right time, and my efforts today will matter in the facilitation or the prevention of its arrival.

Until that day comes, I am tasked to love and show mercy the best way I can in order to be able to promote a more inclusive community.

Take Home Exam

Imagine that you are writing an advice column about relationships. Make up a problem that someone is writing to you about. Provide an answer based on social psychological theories and research on interpersonal attraction and intimate relationships. Use at least three relevant terms and concepts, and describe the results of at least one study in your answer.

Dear Dr. Guro

I hope that this letter comes to you at a good time. I have a problem: Three years ago I broke up with my, then, 4-year girlfriend because I finally found the guts to admit to her that I cheated on her emotionally. I have no excuse. I made a mistake and I only made it worse by keeping it from her for almost a year. The break up was bad, as you can imagine. We tried to fix things in the months that passed but to no avail. We finally broke it off after six months of trying. But, it didn’t end there.

Ever since then, we’ve been on and off, going out for a couple of weeks then get into a bad fight and not talk to each other afterwards. But after a couple of more weeks, loneliness sets in and I can’t help but try to patch things up with her again. It was my fault in the first place so don’t I owe it to her make her feel better in this post-break up transition? So we’d date and hookup for a couple weeks but she would always bring up the fact that I cheated on her and how she would never have done that to me, and how unfair I was to her. We’d end up fighting. Also, she’d always be checking up on my social network accounts to “keep tabs” but would always complain about the girls who mention me on their posts or who would “like” or even comment on the things I post. Sooner or later, she’d bring up the reason why we broke up and how it was my fault why she’s the mess that she is right now. So we’d end up shouting at each other and leave each other arbitrarily until we (or at least I) can’t bear the loneliness anymore and start communicating again.

It’s tiring. It’s a never-ending cycle. My friends have already ditched me a couple of times because I didn’t want to really break up with her. As much as they wanted to be there for me, they told me that I need to swallow this bitter pill.

I still love her in a way, but I’m not sure anymore if keeping her is still the right thing to do. She’s just too precious for me to just “throw away” like that like what my friends are suggesting. Also, I still feel like I owe it to her to do what she wants because I was the cause of the break up in the first place. I’m still laden with guilt. Any advice from you would be very helpful.


The Cyclist

Dear The Cyclist,

Thank you for your letter and I’ll try my best to share with you what I know.

Based on your letter, you’re in a complicated situation: you’re treating your ex as if she’s still your girlfriend, and you want to know how to stop that already. Rest assured that I am not here to judge why you did what you did that led to your break up, because people are entitled to change for the better. But what I would like to talk to you about is something difficult to do and you must find the right support system to help you with this.

First off, one way to escalate or maintain relationships is through proximity—functional distance, to be exact. It’s how available you are (physically and emotionally) to the person you desire, and the more available you are, the more desirable you become. Even by consistently being there (otherwise known as the “mere exposure effect”) makes you more desirable because you’re familiar. Thus, the cliché “proximity breeds liking”. However, in your case, we need to reverse the process: be un-functionally distant. The proximity you provide is already breeding contempt. You both need time to heal and clear things out in yourselves. Your presence is only bringing up more hurt than good. As hard as it is, you will need to start forgiving yourself for what you did and realize that life moves on. As for her, it will take some time because what you did ran contrary to her schema (or an organized collection of beliefs) of what a relationship should be.

Let’s face it, no one wants to be betrayed and that’s exactly what you did; you went against all her expectations. Just to show you how complex this can is cognitively for her, let me introduce a framework proposed by Ross and Fletcher (1995) that basically showed how people come up with theories that help them explain, predict and control relationships. Everyone does this and, I’m afraid, your ex-girlfriend’s theories about your relationship took a big blow. In essence, there are three layers of theories that we adhere to: the general social theory (how we attribute or explain people’s behavior in general), the general relationship theories (how we construct our beliefs, expectations, and ideal standards about relationships), and local theories (how we understand ourselves in relation to our partners). You mentioned that she kept bringing up what you did and it is precisely because what you did ruined all layers of the theories she adhered to. I can only assume this much from what you’ve read but you seem to be a nice guy in general and therefore nice guys will never do hurtful things (General Social theories). At the same time, because you agreed to be in an exclusive relationship with her, she expected you would not betray the written vows of fidelity (general relationships theories). Lastly, it seems like from your letter and how she treats you, you did not give any clue at all that you were capable of doing such an act (local theory). Therefore, because of the dissonance you’ve created with your action, she will have a hard time moving on from the dissonance she’s experiencing and is probably already doubting herself as a result. Which brings me back to me my next and main point: you need to decide when to close the door for good for other doors to open.

There was a study done by Dailey et al. (2009) about how satisfied couples in on/off dating relationships were in their relationships—they weren’t, at all. In fact, the arbitrary nature of the relationship, where couples would break up and make up, then break up again just to make up again, only gave more ambiguity and distress to the situation. What makes things more complicated, they said, is that bringing up the topic on the current relationship of the status is unpleasant, so couples end up not talking about it and continue down this spiral. They recommended that for those who want to permanently end the relationship, one of them needs to be explicit in wanting to end it—and this is my recommendation for you as well: it’s time to move on.

Proximity breeds liking only when no one in the relationship is hurt. But when someone is hurt, distance is your ally. It takes a while for people to rewrite the thoughts that they have grown used to and we should honor their dignity by giving them the proper space and time to rethink things and to re-evaluate themselves and ourselves as well. If you really love her like what you said, then giving her the  chance to be distant from you, allowing her to finally start living on her own, and allowing yourself to be the better person that you were meant to be as a separate individual from her, should be the most loving thing to do right now. You’re not throwing her away or abandoning her, you’re just sowing her to the ground and away from your arms so that she can properly grow into the person she was meant to be. You just need to trust she can make it on her own.

Then again, like I said, this advice isn’t easy and boy will you need your friends to get you through this. But don’t worry, this too shall pass. Nothing takes forever to finish, and I’m pretty sure love isn’t done with you yet.

I hope his helped and I hope to hear from you soon!


Dr. Guro

Additional Reference:

Dailey, R.M., Pfiester, A., Jin, B., Beck, G., & Clark, G. (2009). On-going/off-again dating relationships: How are they different from other dating relationships?. Personal Relationships, 16(1), 23-47.


"A Faith that leans; not bends." Photograph by Geoff Mercado.

“A Faith that leans; not bends.” Photograph by Geoff Mercado.

How can we more concretely practice our faith today? Well, I have a suggestion: The Jesuit Spirituality asserts that God can be found everywhere and in everyone (omnipresent). However, the usual challenge of this statement is, “Where do we start, if He is everywhere?” I have another idea: We can start to find God in all things through photography.

What people don’t realize is that Photography is a spiritual activity—a reflective process: from taking an image, to selecting, to editing, to taking once again. In fact, Christina Paintner dedicates a whole book (Eyes of the Heart) explaining how photography marries with Christian spirituality. With her help, allow me to show you how this works.


"Sunsets and Clouds" by Geoff Mercado

“Sunsets and Clouds” by Geoff Mercado


Going back to as far as the Old Testament, God is THE initiator: He reveals Himself first and then we respond to this revelation either in His favor or not. As Paintner comments, we “receive images” from around and then we capture these through our equipment. Any photography enthusiast would agree that photography is more than just about taking photos, but it is a way of seeing the world purposefully—it’s a way of life. The trick is to preserve as closely as possible (with the help of a camera) WHAT you saw and HOW you saw it. Photography, then, is knowing how to look for beauty in the ordinary and mundane, showing to others how they [images taken] truly are: “Good” in God’s eyes. Isn’t this what faith is about as well: Seeking God’s presence even in the small and ordinary?

There are many agreed upon rules in photography and I think it would be good to mention one: Perspective. When we do things over and over again and expect to get different results, who are we kidding? Photography is a creative process: always seeking for what’s new, and a literal act of out-of-the-box thinking. Photography, therefore, beckons us to ask “What if?” and then challenges us with “Why not?” (to borrow Fr. Johnny Go, S.J.’s words). Isn’t this what happens in faith as well?


"Distant Horizons" by Geoff Mercado

“Distant Horizons” by Geoff Mercado


Aside from taking photos, the photographic process also includes the selection of images and their editing. Much like the events in our lives, we don’t remember all, but we deliberately try to keep the best ones (whether they were joyous or painful). Especially in street photography, it’s unavoidable to have unwanted elements in your photos (like body parts of people just in the peripheries of the frame). We crop the unwanted elements in order to put more emphasis on the main subject (whatever that may be). Much like in life, we learn to crop off or let go of some things that do not at all relate with our main goals.

In street photography, it’s rather difficult to end up with a perfectly exposed photo unless you’ve undoubtedly mastered your device. But because most of us are not masters yet, we still need to go back to our “darkrooms” and edit the photos as how we saw them when we took them. Normally, the settings we adjust first are Contrast and Brightness (exposure in some editing software) and then the rest of the elements in the photo come after. Much like our faith life, it’s not perfect: we make adjustments to make it more bearable, to make our subject (God) more visible. The end product of these adjustments is to have a processed experience that’s worth keeping and/or sharing with others.

However, I’m afraid that nowadays we have a filter-mindset where we rely more on ready-made presets (filters) to make our photos more compelling than they really are—perhaps similar to how some of us “perform” certain religious rites in order to absolve our sins and leave no follow through after. Filters are supposed to emphasize what is already beautiful in the photo and not replace it, much like how an overt fulfillment of rites or sacraments should further enhance the living faith that is already present, and not replace it.


The Church of the Gesu by Geoff Mercado

The Church of the Gesu by Geoff Mercado


We develop our own style of taking and processing photos which we hope will be accepted enthusiastically by a community—much like how we post for “likes”. Because we invest a lot of ourselves in our photographs just like how we invest much of ourselves in our faith life, it’s difficult to hear feedback from others who also have their own way of doing things. However, corrections are necessary for improvement, lest we end up with our own fantasies of how things should be done. Although there is no one way of doing things, having a good idea of how we’re fairing with others of authority will always be helpful.

Thus, invite comments and start conversations whether it be about how you took and processed your photos or how you live out your faith. Those who allow their works to be examined are on their way to becoming better photographers, much like the faithful. Although the photographer/faithful person is the arbiter of his/her actions, a little guidance shouldn’t hurt and help keep an open mind.

The messy work of reflecting, editing, reflecting and re-editing in photography is the whole experience of our faith lives after all.



Faith, in the strictest sense, is expressed both in our everyday and religious lives. I’m not promoting photography as a REPLACEMENT for religious rituals, but rather as a COMPLIMENTARY activity. For those of us who are still finding our way, photography can be a good starting point. This discipline, after all, is a journey of self-reflection, and with practice, it allows us to see the world in a new light. If we keep at it, sooner or later we’ll start to see how wonderfully made the things are around us, and hopefully through our different lenses, we’ll get to see the most important yet elusive subject of all: God.

Happy shooting and never lose the fire!

On Being A Street Photographer

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There are as many stories out in the streets as there are stars at night, and the street photographer is the one who captures, processes and shares it to rest of us.

The camera was never meant to just take group photos of friends and family, nor was it just limited to taking shots of still-objects. The camera was meant to capture and retell a story. Where else can we find these interesting stories than out in the streets?

Ever since I could remember, I loved people-watching. Being invisible in a crowd and watching them go about their lives was one of the most satisfying past times I ever had. I even developed the nasty habit of suddenly appearing beside friends, usually making them jump out of their shoes. I was a born stalker. Like in this Piattos Commercial, at their expense, I invent hypothetical stories between people I meet in the streets—wondering if they were in a love quarrel or planning a scheme to overthrow the government. After finishing a degree in Psychology, the love for people watching grew even deeper.

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Often I’d get into trouble after returning a camera to its owner who later finds a dozen candid shots of him/her in the camera–both flattering and unflattering. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t let the moment of candidness pass by. We have so many rules on how to behave and how to present ourselves that we forget that we’re human precisely because we can be candid, and that’s why I take those shots: to remind others that they are human (even if they delete it).

Right now I don’t own a typical camera; just a smartphone—and this is what made me love street photography all the more.

In essence, street photography is about capturing “life as it is” in the streets. By “streets” that means the normal, everyday (even mundane) parts of our lives. As a result, street photos may not have any streets in them at all! What matters most is there was no deliberate manipulation on the subject/s and environment—unlike how we take photos in a studio. Street photography is about really capturing the moment as it happens in real life. Think of street photography as a qualitative method of study instead of an experimental one.

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The problem with capturing life “as it is” is not everyone is willing to be photographed candidly. In effect, this genre is subtle and often impolite. This is where smartphones are most useful. Think about it, who on earth would suspect anyone to be a photographer if all they have is a phone? However, the intention of street photography is not to defame anyone but to share a story that they (whether they recognized it or not) were a part of.

This kind of photography is not for everyone (especially for the faint-hearted) because you always run the risk of being confronted. But in the rarest moments that someone does confront you, the best remedy is to simply smile and often they’d let you off the hook.

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Practicing street photography makes you more aware of the elements of good composition at play in the everyday life. In fact, it’s made me realize concretely that everyone was part of a story and what an honor and burden it is to capture and retell that story. However, the difference in street photography is if you’re not fast enough, you’ll miss the moment and it will never come back. How many moments have I missed simply because I had just slipped my phone back in my pocket. But perhaps that’s life: we don’t get it all—one of the key insights you’d come to realize when you practice this genre.

A street photographer, then, does not only capture images, but receives them because of his/her involvement in the everyday lives of others. Being a street photographer is being an active participant in life.

For more of my street photos, you may visit my official website:

Closures and Photos

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It’s bittersweet: I want a break but I don’t want to be distant from friends; more so not see some when I come back. No amount of ceremonies could ever dampen the sting of parting. All I have now is the comfort of knowing that this heart’s sting is evidence of a heart that loved fully. Perhaps, this is what living is about: loving fully. Thank you Xavier School for a colourful school year!

It’s been two years since I was hired and I’ve felt nothing short of love. There’s something about this school. From the speeches of the best teacher awardees, coming to Xavier was accident—an unplanned event in their lives, yet, this unexpected twist turned for the better. Even my favourite professors in college once taught in this school. There’s a certain kind of magic that is unfolding here that makes me want to stay and see what happens next.

The last day of the school year was a day of closures: teachers leaving for whatever reasons, colleagues transferring to other assignments, leaders moving to different levels, and desks being emptied of past assessments and documents. The day was filled with people exchanging kind and parting words with each other and getting through the day. I was not exempted from bidding good friends farewell. How I wish I had another year to spend with them. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to learn to love the others as much as I have cared for them.

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Our principal gave a wonderfully heartfelt but very emotional message to the rest of the community. The normally jolly, quick-witted and enthusiastic administrator was left choking from her own tears as she read her letter. She will be missed sorely—at least I would.

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This summer break is a much needed one. It’s time to recharge, recollect, and reconnect. Hopefully by the time we get back, we’re refreshed, renewed, and fully motivated in making our students the beacons that this dimming world needs.


Disclaimer: I took all the photos except for my photo with the Principal.