Tuesday, October 13, 2009
History of Ateneo de Zamboanga (Arcilla,SJ)
ATENEO DE ZAMBOANGA
José S. Arcilla, S. J.
3 July 2009
I understand there is a minor controversy on the foundation of Ateneo de Zamboanga. Actually, our calendar dates are the result of an error of the 5th century monk, Dennis the Small, whose calculations on the exact date of Easter led to a mistaken date that our Lord was born between A. D. 4 and 7.
To understand the story of Ateneo de Zamboanga, we must keep in mind two things: the Ignatian ideal, and geography.
The Ignatian ideal for schools for externs he expressed in his instructions to the Jesuits who founded the first Jesuit college in Messina in 1534, that they must teach “letras y doctrina cristiana.” The ideal has not changed, and was later formulated in the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum, the constant guide for all Jesuit schools. Did Ateneo de Zamboang fulfill the Ignatian ideal?
Geography tells us that Zamboanga is at the southwestern tip of Mindanao. “Zamboanga,” or “sambo-ang,” is the stake to which a boat is tied when mooring it. Samboangan, then, means mooring place. But before the Castilians arrived, there is no certain information about the place, except some legends still to be analyzed.
The Lutaos, the “floating people,” were its original inhabitants. Some were slaves, other were free tribute-payers to their Magindanao lords, who controlled the Pulangi and enjoyed power over lower lords who, in turn, had vassals on both coasts of the Zamboanga peninsula until Dapitan.
Compared with stormy Surigao, Zamboanga was described as an “earthly paradise,” the source of the “heavenly fruit,” durian, extremely delicious despite its penetrating smell. A Jesuit wrote that one walking along the streets easily knows wher you can find the fruit. The climate was drier here than in Joló, where, in a Jesuit’s words, “heaven sells rain at a high price.” In January 1640, a destructive eruption destroyed two villages about 10 kilometers from Bwayan. It was so loud that people in Manila (actually only Intramuros) mistook it for an uprising in Cavite, while people in Cavite thought there was fighting in Manila. Volcanic ash hid the sun, leaving Zamboanga in total darkness, forcing people to use candles. Believing the world was coming to an end, they prepared to die. The world did not end, and as soon as they could, people shoveled off the thick ashes that had accumulated on their roofs.
In Sibugay, a Pampango soldier came face to face with an unusually huge white monkey. Because it refused to budge and was blocking his way, the soldier tried to frighten it away. But the animal picked up a stick, reared to its full height, and positioned itself to hurl the stick at the soldier. The two grappled together, but the monkey was much bigger, and the poor Pampango turned around to flee, closely pursued by the animal until the camp. Exhausted, out of breath, and scared out of his wits, the soldier fell sick and died three days later.
The Jesuits brought Christianity first to northeast Mindanao in 1595, but lack of men forced them to discontinue their ministry. The Recollects followed them a few years later. From the start, the Manila colonial government was faced with stubborn Muslim resistance, and they wanted to garrison Magindanao. But a Jesuit missionary suggested that Zamboanga was a better choice because of its strategic position. A naval post at the tip of the peninsula could pick off not only the Sulu vintas flying north before the seasonal habagat, but also the Magindanao fleets rounding Basilan Island. In this way, the colonial government hoped to clear the sea.
In 1634, Fort San José (better known as “Del Pilar”) was inaugurated. Workers had come from various Philippine provinces and in due time their distinct dialects merged with Castilian and became Chabacano, the first hybrid idiom in the world.
By 1655, there were two Jesuit mission centers in Dapitan and Zamboanga. We have no time to detail their history, but we may mention that some Jesuits died for the faith.
One of them was a 36-year old Italian Jesuit, Francesco Palliola, assigned to Ponot. In 1648, a Christian apostate snuffed out his life out of hatred, because he insisted on Mass attendance, in their words, “Always Mass, always Mass.”
Fr. Juan del Campo was a 30-year old from Spain, who had been assigned to Siocon. He had converted some of the Subanen chiefs in the mountains, and persuaded them to dismiss their extra wives and live in permanent communities in the lowlands. But the future lay in the young, and he took in some promising boys from Christian families in Zamboanga to raise them as Christians. Ponot was not too far, where some renegade Christians had poisoned the minds of the Siocon elders. Fr. del Campo, they said, was gathering the boys to enslave them. By coincidence, the Manila government needed men for the polo or obligatory public service and fight against Sumuroy in Samar. In 1650, Imutum led his stalwarts who pounced on the Jesuit building a church in Siocon. A well aimed lance opened a deep gash, but the bleeding priest staggered to the river where the conspirators overtook him as he clambered aboard a patrol boat anchored there. They finished him off, as well as a Spanish corporal and five Pampanga troops with him.
Still the missions expanded, until in 1768, the Spanish Crown expelled the Jesuits from all his dominions. The people behind the move soon regretted their action, and petitions for their recall mounted in Rome. Reestablished all over the world in 1814, the Jesuits returned to the Philippines in 1859, and two years later, they opened their first modern mission in Tamontaka, now part of Cotabato City.
In 1862, the barrio La Malama became the civil town of Tetuán, and two Jesuits left Tamontaka to start the new parish of St. Ignatius. Tetuán had no convento, and Don Balbino Natividad offered his house as the priests’ temporary residence. In one month, the people enthusiastically finished a bamboo and nipa shed and, on New Year of 1863, the Holy Eucharist was celebrated there for the first time.
The new parish was soon buzzing with life. Sermons and, catechetical classes followed a regular schedule, Sunday morning Mass was at 8:00 o’clock, and at 5:30 in the afternoon, the bell rang again for the common recitation of the Rosary, followed by another hour of catechism. The day ended with common prayers and devotions. On weekdays, Mass was offered at 6:00 o’clock in the morning, and the common Rosary was recited after the Angelus at 6:00 o’clock in the evening.
The results were soon apparent. Public morality improved, illicit unions decreased, and more people received the sacraments. As the mission diary records, the. first Lent after the Jesuits arrived, there were mission sermons on Sundays, catechetical lessons on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and morning and afternoon daily in the sacristy, examination on the Catechism.
In 1880, a Jesuit wrote from Zamboanga that, if the reception of the sacraments was a “safe index” to public morality, Zamboanga would “not fare too badly. On important feasts, between 150 and 200 went to sacramental confession and received Holy Communion. On All Souls’ Day, about 300, “not only women . .. but also a good number of men.” Two years later in August, a Spanish warship from Joló arrived with troops stricken with cholera. Some recovered, but they had brought a dreaded plague, which, for four months devastated Zamboanga, Tetuán, Mercedes, Ayala, and other places nearby.
In Zamboanga alone, there were days when more than 100 died, and people buried as many as 170. A good number, a missionary wrote, “appeared before God without the help of religion.” At first, the priests stayed up night and day to help the plague-stricken, but exhausted, they, too, were forced to take some rest. People volunteered their help, but fatigued, they collapsed exhausted and many in turn died.
The plague soon ended, and Zamboanga became the most important town in Mindanao. In 1860, the island was divided into six administrative districts under a politico-military Governor. Initially, Cotabato was the seat of the Mindanao government, but in time, Zamboanga expanded and became the capital of Mindanao.
The Bonifacio uprising in Manila in 1896 hardly affected Mindanao. When news of the uprising reached Cotabato, an old man from Zamboanga residing there became furious, calling the rebels ingrates and helpless people without hope.
The Jesuits had intended to remain at their posts, but political uncertainty forced the Jesuit Mission Superior in Manila to recall them. When peace returned, General J. C. Bates, American commander of Mindanao-Joló, forwarded to the Jesuit Superior the petitions from Zamboanga and other Mindanao towns to send the Jesuits back to the towns and missions they had left. The priests, Bates wrote, would guarantee the peace, especially since the Jesuits enjoyed good relations with the Filipinos and the Muslims, and perfectly understood their needs.
All this while there was no talk of opening schools. But by 1906, a new situation challenged the Jesuits. Public schools had opened all over, and volunteer American teachers, not all of them Catholc, doubled as well-financed Protestant proselytizers. Fr Antonio Arnalot wrote about the new problem he faced from the non-sectarian schools. They were, he reported, the cause of religious ignorance and indifference . . . even of contempt for religious issues.”
The people themselves saw the difference, while the Jesuits quickly felt the need to open schools in their parishes. And when they opened parochial schools, these practically emptied the public schools. While hardly 20 children remained in the public school at Ayala, 70 boys and girls were studying at the Catholic school there. A public school in Tumbamor (or Recodo near Ayala where the Muslims repaired their boats) was totally emptied. In Mercedes, the public school pupils transferred to two Catholic schools there, which counted more than 105 boys and girls. At Tetuán, 65 pupils were at the Catholic school two months after it had opened, while the public school had only 12 girls under a Filipino Protestant teacher.
The previous Spanish colonial government had promoted the work of the Church, but the American democratic government, with their tradition of separation of Church and State, was at least indifferent. The American Protestants were actively hostile to the Filipino Catholic priests, and probably because they were fewer numerically, the American Catholics in the Philippines hardly did anything. But against all odds, the Jesuits refused to stop. By 1914 in Ayala, they had reorganized the Hijas de María, which soon formed an Academia de Santa Cecilia to promote liturgical music.
Frank Carpenter, the governor of the newly formed Moro Province, was openly a Protestant and a Mason. But he was friendly to the Jesuits, and assured them of his support. With his official staff, he attended the solemn exequies for the Pope and for the Jesuit Superior General, and even asked permission from the Archbishop of Manila to allow some Muslim sultans and datus to attend the ceremonies. But his friendly attitude was not enough to counter the problem of the youth growing up indifferent to religion, and the Jesuits believed the solution lay in Catholic schools.
Only the public schools could issue the título oficial on completion of studies. In 1916, hoping they themselves would be able to grant this same academic certification, the Jesuits in Zamboanga thought about working to “register or incorporate” their school under the title “Ateneo de Zamboanga.” They also hoped the Jesuit Superior in Manila would assign at least two Jesuit teachers to help them. Then, they could grant primary and intermediate academic certificates, as the public schools. This was how the Ateneo de Zamboanga began.
That year, Bishop Michael J. O’Doherty of Zamboanga wrote to the Mission Superior, Fr. Francisco J. Tena, that he wanted to open a high school “like that of the Ateneo de Manila under the charge of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus.” Initially, there would be only seven elementary grades, and classes would be held at the convento. Financial support would come from a fourth of the parish revenue, donations from Cathlic associations and other sources, and an annual subsidy of P1,000. The diocese would be financially responsible for the school, but academic programs and school discipline would the exclusive concern o the Jesuits. If the Society agreed, the Bishop would grant the necessary license and the land for the building.
The Jesuits accepted the offer, the incorporation papers were drawn up, but there were no funds. Not long after Bishop O’Doherty was reassigned to Manila.
But his plan did not die. In 1928, a group of active Catholics in Zamboanga wrote to the newly named Jesuit Superior, Fr. James Carlin, about a “matter of vital importance, momentous and of utmost importance to the Catholics of this region, and more particularly to the Catholic youth.” Silliman Instittue, a “Protestant institute in the full sense of the word,” had just opened in Dumaguete, and, for lack of a better choice, Catholic families were forced to send their children there. It behooves us, the letter continued, “to counter-check the dangers to which the Catholic youth of Zamboanga is exposed.” At Silliman, the young Catholics, “impregnated with Protestantism,” later spread it around, while the Protestants themselves are “using their best to deviate the Catholic youth.”
Among the signers of the letter, significantly in English, were the leading personalities of the town: S. Mendoza, editor of Voz del Pueblo; José Vicente Mapa, Justice of the Peace; J. M. García, Manager of the local branch of the Bank of the Philippine Islands; J. Arquiaga, lawyer and editor of El Fenix; P. S. Rodríguez, director of the Zamboanga General Hospital; J. S. Álvarez, and Pablo Lorenzo, lawyers and farmers. To a man, they recognized that education was of great service to society and formed its personality. They were convinced that a Catholic school in Zamboanga would preserve and transmit the traditional values civil society develops. And they were willing to pay the price.
The Ateneo would need a monthly budget of P155 for teachers’ salaries: 40 for a teacher of Spanish, 35 for a teacher of English, 10 for an assistant teacher.. Where would the money come from? The men’s section of the Acción Católica donated P15, its ladies’ section 10, the Jesuit Mission Superior another 10, a small amount from the yearly tuition fee of P4, the profits from benefit programs, and a share in the stole fees.
Apostolic reasons, then, were at the heart of the beginning of Ateneo de Zamboanga. Parochial schools had preceded it, but for the first time, the Jesuit Catalogus for 1918 lists the Jesuit Francisco X. Ágreda as a teacher at the elementary school of the “diocesan Ateneo de Zamboanga.” Then in 1925, Manuel Mª Sauras was listed as the director of the parochial school, and the following year, Fr. John J. Monahan, took his place. In 1930, a year after coming to the Zamboanga mission, Fr. Thomas Murray became the director of the parochial elementary and high schools. In 1932, he was writing of the “large and busy” parish of Zamboanga and its barrios, and a “full school – kindergarten, seven grades, and a four-year high school. In the middle of 1931, Fr. Henry L. Irwin relieved Fr. Murray as director of the Ateneo.
Classes were held on the third floor of an office building, formerly a movie house the Jesuit Bishop José Close had bought for P8,000. It had five rooms, and a large corridor was converted into a biology and a physics laboratory, a library, an office, and a convertible assembly hall. The elementary school continued at the convento. For games and recreation, the children had to be satisfied with a rather limited yard adjoining the convento.
At the start of each school day, the high school students assembled for prayers and a hymn in the Cathedral close by. On Sunday mornings, they assisted at Holy Mass as a group, and on First Fridays, all the students were obliged to receive Holy Communion. There was no dormitory in town, and many of the lay teachers were not necessarily models of religious behavior, and this proved to be a drag on the religious life of the school. A letter at this time described the school as “make-shift” with limited funds and inadequate personnel.
Suddenly, on visitation of the diocese, Bishop Clos died in Bohol. Fr. José Roma became the temporary diocesan administrator, and Fr. Murray decided to separate the parochial finances from those of the school. In 1932, the first school prospectus was published in Spanish and English.
Ateneo de Zamboanga, the cover announced, was the “school with ideals,” a Catholic school where knowledge was not enough, for it can be used also for evil. More
respect and affection, and achieve what appeared impossible. In other words, schools were an instrument of evangelization.
Frank Carpenter, appointed Governor of the newly created Moro Province, was openly a Protestant and a Mason. But he was friendly to the Jesuits, and, convinced that cooperation with them would promote his policies, he assured them of his support. With his official staff, he attended the solemn exsequies for the Pope and the Jesuit General, and had even asked the Archbishop of Manila’s permission to allow the sultans and datus to attend the ceremonies. But this friendly atmosphere he created was not enough to solve the problem of he youth growing up indifferent to religion, and the Jesuits found the answer through Catholic education and Catholic schools.
By 1916, the children who attended the parochial schools were forced to study at the public schools, which could grant the título oficial after completeion of studies. Hoping that they could themselves grant this academic degree, the Jesuits in Zamboanga worked to “register or incorporate, as we say here, the school under the title “Ateneo de Zamboanga.” They also hoped the Jesuit Superior in Manila would send them at least two teachers. If the plan succeeded, they believed they could grant primary and intermediate academic certificates, as in the public school. Thus was started the Ateneo de Zamboanga.
A school necessarily implies four things: a program of education, teachers, infrastructure (classrooms, books, etc.) and, money. When established, the “Ateneo de Zamboanga” needed a monthly budget of Ph P 155, just to pay the salaries of the teachers: Ph P 40 for a Spanish teacher, 35 for an English teacher, 30 for a Spanish-English teacher, 10 for an assistant teacher, and 40 for five RVM Sisters at Pilar College for 150 girls. Where did the money come from? Ph P 15 from the men’s section of Asociación Católica, 10 from the ladies’ section of the same Asociación Católica, 10 from the Jesuit Mission Superior, a small amount from the yearly tuition of Ph P 4, the net gain from benefit programs, and part of the stole fees.
These details are not unimportant. Before Rome encouraged Catholic lay action, the people of Zamboanga were already aware of their duty in order to carry out a community project. This is all the more impressive, since books, besides paper and pencil, were freely supplied in the public schools. But in 1932, financial problems stood in the way. Few studied at the Jesuit school, Fr. Irwin noted, and these were reluctant to pay “even the inkimu tuition fee.” And the students were not getting the advantages of a true Catholic school should offer, because of the type of teachers the Jesuit school could afford to employ. And yet college tuition fees totaled only P20 each semester, payable in three installments.
Lack of money frustrated the noblest ideals, and for financial reasons only a limited number could be accepted into the Jesuit school. In the time of St. Ignatius, generous friends funded the Jesuit schools, for example, the first Jesuit school for externs in Messina, Italy in 1534. In 1595, Esteban Rodríguez de Figueroa who died trying to conquer Magindanao, funded the first Jesuit school in the Philippines, the Colegio de San José. But there were no families in Zamboanga who made similar bequests, despite their concern for their children’s education. In 1935, the local newspaper, Antorcha, mentioned that some families wanted Spanish to continue at the Jesuit school, for it was the language in the town and at the Asamblea Nacional. And they preferred their boys to have less time for games, “con tal que estudien y a prendan el castellano.”
Despite its problems, the Ateneo expanded. In June 1938, a night school offered classes in commerce and pre-law, for which the government required a library of at least 500 books on commerce. The official Ateneo fortnightly, The Atenean, came off the press on 22 November 1941, announcing a Christmas literary contest, which one of the students Guillermo Macrohon, won. The paper also described the reception of candidates to the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary (today, Christian Life Communities), a list of the intramural basketball teams, and, of course, the Grade School and High School honor students. And there was a column, “XYZ,” with an unsigned article, which read in part;
If girls would only spend as much time in thinking as they spend
before the mirror . . . perhaps there would be less failures in the
exam, less embarrassing moment in class, and the teacher could
reasonably be proud of his students.
Under Fr. Eusebio G. Salvador, assigned to the Zamboanga mission in 1937,the pre-war Ateneo expanded, with an enrolment of 230 in the Grade School, and 376 in the High School.
Then war came. Ateneo was ruined. When peace returned, Bishop Luís del Rosario, S. J. asked the Jesuits to revive the Ateneo before the Protestants cornered the market. The Jesuits themselves were still recovering from the war, but in 1946, three Jesuits reopened the Ateneo in Zamboanga: Frs. Salvador, who continued as the Director of the school, Kyran Egan, and Cesar Maravilla. In April a year later, the first post-graduation exercises for 22 students from the High School and 26 from the Grade School. Two years later, in 1948, the first two scholastics were assigned to the Ateneo de Zamboanga: Lucio Codilla, to take care of the Sodality (CLC), and Eduardo Hontiveros, the Sanctuary Society and the Glee Club. Finally, in 1949, Rome separated Ateneo de Zamboanga was separated from the Zamboanga mission, and raised its Jesuit community into a “domus reliogosa,” with Fr. Alfred E. Paguia as its first Rector.
We now witness the rapid growth and expansion of Ateneo de Zamboanga. The Bishop approved co-education at the school, and in 1950, the Bishop expressed his wish for a high school and at least two more Jesuits for the Ateneo. There was need to counter the “bad influence” of certain city schools. But there were no Jesuits to implement plans, although in 1952, a college department opened with more than 160 students. Four years later, 20 graduated with Arts degree.
In 1953, a high school class issued it own mimeographed newsletter, Literary Digest, to encourage the students to discuss and discover “budding writers” for the school organ, The Beacon. It asked the English teachers to submit “top-flight themes every third week of each month” to publish in the Digest.
Meantime, what kind of students and graduates did the school produce? In 1948, a Protestant team, “Youth for Christ,” arrived. Its leader, Dr. Robert Cook from Chicago was advertised as the “Foremost Leader of Youth.” The group organized a rally on 29 February, a Friday night, at Plaza Pershing. About 12 select and properly trained Ateneo students stationed themselves at various vantage points in the crowd. Their questions embarrassed the leader, who failed to answer some of their more pointed questions on the bible. One of the unanswered questions was “How do you know the bible is God’s word?” Dr. Cook hastily gathered up his mike and hurried away in his car. The rally quickly melted, Dr. Cooke was never heard of again.
This year, a film from Hollywood, “The Outlaw,” was banded in Manila, but its sponsors took umbrage and asked for a second judgment by a different group of censors. It was approved provided certain sections of the film were excised. Then, in Zamboanga, an alert Ateneo student spotted an announcement that the film was coming soon. He alerted Fr. Cesar Maravilla, the Moderator of the CLC, who immediately went see Mr. Villacora, the proprietor of the theater
The latter, a good Catholic, had already made arrangements to show “The Outlaw” together with a second box-office film. If he cancelled the first, he stood to lose hundreds of pesos. To his credit, Mr. Villacorta agreed to take the financial loss. He could not afford to make enemies of the Catholics in Zamoanga. Two other movie houses agreed to show the condemned film.
Then, a local newspaper columnist wrote:
Who are these defenders of public morals who attempt to tell
the people what can see and what they cannot see on the silver
screen? The movie is a mere cowboy picture with Jane Russell
thrown in. People who have not seen the picture are condemning
it because of the lurid advertisements.
The students, led by their Ateneo mentors, reacted. They checked, and learned that in Manila the Board of Censors headed by the Solicitor General, not the Legion of Decency, had condemned the film. It was not, the Board declared:
. . . the travesty on marriage that the picture conveys, not the
portrayal of lurid scenes, but . . . the government and civic-
minded organizations are cooperating in the nation-wide for
the diminution, correction and possible elimination of the
current problem known as Juvenile Delinquency. The exhibition
of this picture will counteract and destroy totally this joint effort.
The wave of criminality . . . in this country . . . is a factor that
urges the Board to suppress motion pictures that may inflame
the imagination of the misguided youth and may be misinterpreted
as glorification of forces that seek to make law and its representatives
And the Ateneans mimeographed and distributed copies of the decision, making sure the local news reported received his copy. Magnanimously, the admitted never having seen the film himself, but he had written his article on the suggestion of some friends. Fr. Salvador, Superior of the Zamboanga Mssion District, organized a month’s boycott (18 April-18 May) of the theater which had threatened to show the banned film. Result? The file was not shown, a triumph of Catholic action led by the sodalists of the Ateneo.
The Ateneo alumni helped reconstruct the Ateneo, inaugurated with a mammoth parade around the city. Scheduled to start on1 September 1956, the Ateneans began soliciting funds as soon as the parade ended, asking P0.20 from everyone to help fill the ground that would serve as the foundation of the new building. The details of the reconstruction we omit, but we may mention an unexpected difficulty the Jesuits faced when they planned to build the students’ chapel.
By 1958,various projects to raise fund for the chapel had already been started. A group of career ladies, for example, staged a musical program at the mayor’s private lawn in Sta. María, charging P10 from each family that came. Benefit movies also helped raise more money.
Then, in November, the Jesuits received notice that the Claretian Fathers would not object to the new chapel if it was exclusively for the Ateneo students. Building the school chapel would prejudice the interests of the Cathedral parish, for which a fund drive to renovate that façade had already been started. And the Archbishop, it was pointed out had not given any permission for the Ateneo project since he had never been informed about it.
The surprised Jesuits answered that, actually in several previous conversations with them, the Claretians had not objected in any way to the chapel. It was not meant to be a parish and, although with no faculties to administer the sacraments of marriage or baptism, it was hoped rather to help the Cathedral parish. Besides, no one could ban anyone from worshipping anywhere he wanted. The Ateneo chapel fund drive for only to reach P6,000 could not affect the Claretians’ campaign.
A students’ chapel for the Ateneo was justifiable, the Claretians admitted, but it would not do if it became the habitual and ordinary center for religious service. And it would be inconvenient to allow non-Ateneans to fulfill their Sunday obligations there, for the better educated in Zamboanga who could be the best parish helpers, would soon become “stranger” to the cathedral parish.
When it was brought to his attention, Archbishop del Rosario asked the Jesuits to sign a waiver to all their rights. To make sure they acted properly, the latter consulted the canonists.
The faithful, the latter answered, had the right to go and worship in any canonically erected public or semi-public oratory, although owners of a semi-public oratory could at discretion ban certain people from it. Furthermore, exempt religious Orders, like the Society of Jesus, had the right to erect a church or public oratory without the local Ordinary’s license, although its location needed his approval and license. In the Philippines, not only did the Jesuit Provincial Superior enjoy full authority to erect a semi-public oratory, but also all the Jesuit school chapels were semi-public oratories and did not need the Ordinary’s license. No one could ban attendance at any Jesuit semi-public oratories, and no license was needed for a fund drive to build one. Otherwise, it would violate the vow of poverty of members of the mendicant Orders, like the Jesuits.
On the other hand, a canonist wrote that it was “the obligation of priests, especially of parish priests, to look for means so that the faithful cold fulfill their Sunday obligation,” an opinion a Claretian canonist also expressed. The Jesuits, then, in Zamboanga could legally and with full a clear conscience continue their fund campaign and build a school chapel.
Finally, on 28 October 1961, in the presence of a large number of guests and friends, Archbishop de Rosario solemnly blessed the Ateneo students’ Chapel of the Sacred Heart. The dream, first envisioned by Fr. Paul Hugendobler, S. J., and realized in stone and concrete by Fr. Manuel Regalado, was turned into a reality through the united efforts of the Ateneo students, faculty, alumni, friends, and benefactors. Part of the drive for funds was a contest to sell tiles for the chapel, a contest won by Cesar Ledesma, a Grade Six pupil, who project, “”Buy-
And-Sell-A-Tile-for-the Chapel,” earned P500.
.Geradro Madrazo, Jr., editor-in-chief of the Ateneo students’ organ, The Beacon, wrote perhaps the best description of the new chapel:
The new chapel is now finished, a fitting home for Christ the King
. . . built by all the Ateneans, not simply supplying material things
-- but homage and praise. It takes only a few minutes to visit Him,
but what peace and consolation we can derive from that short visit,
and what great blessing He will impart to us.
Another wrote in the same editorial page:
. . . the ultimate aim of the Ateneo is to save your immortal souls.
If one comes to the Ateneo only for the academic subjects . . .
without having learned what it means to be an exemplary
Catholic and without that determination to try to be that kind
of Catholic, you have wasted your time and ours. Remember
that the Philippines is the only Catholic nation in the Orient,
and can only be as Catholic as the Filipinos who comprise it.
As we asked earlier, has the Ateneo followed the Ignatian ideal? At the end of the Vietnam War in 1954, millions migrated to live in the non-coummunist South Vietnam. But they had literally nothing, not even relatives who could have helped them start a new life. Shocked by what he saw, Oscar Arellano, president of the Philippine Jaycees, hoped to do something to help them. Earlier he had already seen in Zamboanga a program called “Help-the-Barrio” Mayor Cesar Climaco of Zamboanga and an Ateneo alumnus had initiated for the poor. Volunteers went to the barrios, and while their children played with the local barrio children, their parents discussed means to improve their living, earn a livelihood, better health habits, etc. When he saw the conditions in South Vietnam, Arellano already knew what to do. He started the well-known “Operation Brotherhood,” which sent thousands of Filipino physicians, nurses, and other volunteer helpers to humanize life in South Vietnam. It is not too far fetched to say that the seed of that work of Christian charity and concern for one’s neighbor came from Ateneo de Zamboanga.
In 1986, the Ateneo awarded diplomas to more than 700 graduates of the three departments of the school. The college valedictorian was Jane Bacar, only the second graduate in the school’s history to receive the highest academic honors, summa cum laude. The commencement speaker began by admitting he was not an Ateneo alumnus, but
. . . I am mighty proud to tell this audience that Ateneans formed
the front line in the past Aquino revolution. Those brave Ateneans
forced the formidable tanks and soldiers of Marcos equipped with
the most modern firearms to turn around without firing a single
shot. The courage and bravery of those Ateneans was the beginning of that triumphant revolution now called the “people power.”
As if it was the thing to do, those Ateneans, not just from Manila, but also from all over the country, who had braved the guns of Marcos, had externalized the Ignatian ideals.
Ateneo de Zamboanga had its share of successes and admirable exploits. Collegiate activities – spots, drama, elocution contest, music – have brought out the best in its students. For seven successive years, its nursing graduates recorded a perfect passing rate in the government exams. Vocations to the religious life have not been wanting. This is as it ought to be. St. Ignatius wanted only the best, and the Jesuits should strive only for the best of their students.
In 1987, Fr. Pedro Arrupe described his dream of what a Jesuit school ought to do, to form “men for others.” Faced with the rapid changes world wide, Jesuit education should form teachers and students deeply concerned with the serious issues of our day. Schools can never be ivory towers, splendid to look at, but isolated and elevated about the real world. Jesuit education should develop a fine sensitivity to the possible effects a school can have on the life of the larger community in which it tries to fulfill its mission. That is why he warned that we must never be “tied down by structures which become real straight jackets, [but] remain flexible and able to changer to meet the pressing human problems and, specifically, to study the dominant ideas that determine the march of history.” His words are famous:
Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-
others; men and women who will live not for themselves but
for God and His Christ – for the God-man who life and died for
all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of
love of God which does not include love for the least of their
neighbor; men and women completely convinced that the love
of God which does not issue in justice for man and women is a