The theme for this year’s Miss Silliman pageant was changed by the Miss Silliman Committee (MSC) after the Silliman University (SU) Church questioned the implication of the word “apotheosis.”
From its original theme, “Embodying the apotheosis of a Silliman woman,” the theme was changed to “Embodying the epitome of a Silliman woman.”
On a letter by Dr. Dennis T. Solon, a faculty of Divinity school, the Greek word “apotheosis” in theology roughly means “a post-mortem deification of a human being or elevation to a divine status” and that it was used historically to elevate Roman leaders or emperors so that citizens may honor and worship them as divine.
“I was wondering then if the highly theological and controversial terminology, apotheosis, would fit to our basic understanding of what a Silliman woman is in a solidly Christian academic institution. In addition, I am not sure if winning (or being part of) a Miss Silliman pageant could already merit apotheosis,” it stated.
Solon described the use of apotheosis for the pageant theme as questionable and objectionable, and offensive to the university’s motto of “Via, Veritas, Vita.”
Rev. Dr. Noriel C. Capulong, interim-senior pastor of SU Church, said one of the main concerns of the Church now is the meaning and message the theme conveys to the public given that SU is a learning institution rooted in Christian tradition.
He added that the message should be “to follow the Lord Jesus Christ who taught humility and servanthood rather than to aspire for greatness and elevation above all others.”
Meanwhile, MSC chair Hanz Denzil Villahermosa said the committee did not intend to use the word “apotheosis” in the biblical context, but instead the other meaning it possessed.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary apotheosis has two definitions.
The first definition is the perfect form or example of something, and the second is the elevation to divine status. According to Villahermosa, the former definition is what they intended to use.
“It’s like making that person the standard for a particular thing. That’s why we really limited it to the level of a Silliman woman,” Villahermosa said. “We’re not saying the apotheosis of a Siliman woman to a God. Whoever wins Miss Silliman will be the highest example of what it is to be a Silliman woman.”
Villahermosa said he was able to explain his side to Capulong last August 3 (Thursday) after he was informed about Solon’s letter.
“I told [Capulong] that when [the committee] was conceptualizing the theme, we wanted it to be a sequel to the theme three years ago which was ‘Recalling the Quintessence of a Silliman Woman.’ For this year’s theme, we only replaced the verb with ‘embodying’ and the noun with ‘apotheosis’ which is closely related to ‘quintessence’,” he shared.
Villahermosa clarified that while the theme was originally his idea; the decision to push through with it was collective. He pointed out that he first consulted his advisers before the theme was released.
However, after the Church questioned the theme, MSC agreed to replace the word apotheosis with “epitome”.
“I decided that it doesn’t change the meaning as long as it is able to provide the same message we want to send out to people,” Villahermosa said, “It’s better to fix problems now than at the end of the pageant, and so we are changing the word [apotheosis].”
According to Villahermosa, the word “epitome” is very timely since the theme for the theme-wear portion of the pageant is “epitomical goddesses of virtues.”
Furthermore, he shared that although he recognizes his lapse on the process, he regrets nothing because his prior decision in choosing the theme was reasonable.
“I recognize that lapse, but I was also just practicing my profession,” he added. “As an English teacher, I know that a word can have different meanings based on context.”
Villahermosa then said that despite the change, he is still satisfied with the committee’s decision.
“At the end of the day, we are one Silliman community, one with our mission and vision,” he said,” And if the church feels that the word [apotheosis] is not aligned to what the university is trying to impress on the entire community, then we would adjust to that.”