Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Return of the Jesuits (De Castro,SJ)

Mindanao as Jesuit Frontier: Lessons from History
in celebration of
The 150th Anniversary of the Return of the Jesuits to the Philippines
University Convocation, Xavier University,
Cagayan de Oro
4 September 2009

Three Preliminary Points

There are three preliminary points before I go to the main topic of my talk this afternoon.

1) First, I present the following considerations in the spirit of “tantum quantum,” i.e., insofar as you find this talk helpful in understanding what you are all about as members of the academic community of Xavier University looking to the future. I cannot satisfy all the expectations of all the people gathered here this afternoon, given the limited time we have. Nevertheless, I hope that you may be able to learn a thing or two about the history of the Jesuits in the Philippines and their apostolic work, particularly here in Mindanao, and see what relevance this has for you and the whole academic community of Xavier University.

2) Second, before we begin, let us ask ourselves: what grace do we ask for on the occasion of this university convocation, a convocation we are holding while we continue to celebrate 150 years of the return of the Jesuits to the Philippines? I suggest that we be conscious of the “id quod volo” (the grace to be asked for) of the Contemplatio ad amorem of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Let us “beg the Lord to give us an intimate knowledge of the many gifts received so that, filled with gratitude for all, we may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.”

3) Third and final preliminary point: I would like to dedicate this talk to Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, S.J., Mindanawon par excellence, he who loved this “great island,” Mindanao, he who loved Xavier University to which he dedicated the most fruitful years of his life. He was graciously present at the defense of my doctoral dissertation at the Gregorian University in 2001 and even shared a few thoughts on Jesuit history in the Philippines with the people gathered in that aula. He was always kind and generous with his time, sending me essays that he had written for Kinaadman and other publications. As Series Editor of the Mindanao Studies section of the Ateneo de Manila University Press, I welcomed Fr. Bernad’s book, The Great Island: Studies in the Exploration and Evangelization of Mindanao, which came out in 2004, as the first book published in that series. I thought it was fitting for his book to inaugurate this series which wants to promote a “Mindanao consciousness” among the peoples of this great island, a consciousness “that graciously respects and creatively expresses the irreducible richness and interconnected particularities of Mindanao and its inhabitants.” We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Fr. Miguel Bernad for promoting that consciousness in his life and published works. I believe that this is a legacy Fr. Bernad has left to Xavier University, one that is particularly acute and appropriate given the circumstances of our great island, Mindanao, and the new and challenging frontiers that beckon to us from all directions, especially in the field of basic and higher education.

The 150th Anniversary of the Return of the Jesuits to the Philippines


1. The Function of Story Telling

What do I propose to do at this university convocation? It is rather simple: I will be telling stories, describing in brief narrative form what Jesuits were doing in the past and drawing lessons from these stories for us today. In doing this, I hope to encourage you to tell each other stories as well, stories of the Jesuits you have known, stories about how you and these Jesuits have collaborated in making Xavier University what it is today, and to draw the appropriate lessons from them for the present and for the future. But why should we be sharing stories with each other? What is the significance of engaging in this narrative activity?

In his study of Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy, Richard Kearney helpfully outlines four central tasks of “narrative.”

1) First, he says, we tell stories in order “to realize our debt to the historical past.”

2) Second, Kearney notes that we tell stories in order “to respect the rival claims of memory and forgetfulness.”

3) Third, we tell stories in order “to cultivate a notion of self-identity.”

4) And fourth, we tell stories in order “to persuade and evaluate action.” Implicit in this fourth task, I submit, is a profound engagement with the present and a proleptic concern for the future.

What then are the stories we tell each other as Jesuits and lay partners? What is the context of our story-telling today? I am sure the stories we tell each other are stories that honor the memory of our dead, that are crucial to our understanding of who we are, that enable us to negotiate the rival claims of what needs to be remembered and what needs to be forgotten, and that allow us to gauge in some way how far we have come in our apostolic works and institutions and how far we still need to go, given the shifting frontiers of our changing times. We are perhaps not conscious that these are in fact what we are doing when we engage in story-telling. But the celebration of an anniversary such as the one we have in the return of the Jesuits to these islands 150 years ago very often awakens us to the significance of a basic human need and activity.

2. The Context: General Congregation 35

Not too long ago, Jesuits met in what we have come to know as GC 35. Their primary goal was to elect a new Superior General for the Society of Jesus. That accomplished, they also discussed various crucial concerns that had to do with Jesuit life and mission. GC 35 in fact sets the context for the life and mission of the worldwide Society of Jesus; in doing so, the GC 35 calls us Jesuits, and by extension, you, our lay collaborators, to pay attention to three things:

1) First, we Jesuits need to rediscover once again our charism as an apostolic body of men, i.e., to rekindle in ourselves the Ignatian fire that kindles other fires (that fire is nothing else but the Spirit of Jesus Christ). Jesuits and you, our Ignatian lay collaborators, together need to rekindle in our hearts, again and again and again, this Ignatian fire that kindles other fires.

2) Second, we Jesuits and, in collaboration, you our lay partners need to discover the new challenges to our mission today; we need to hear once again that call that sends us to the new and challenging frontiers of Church and World.

3) Third, we Jesuits need to renew between and among ourselves, and between us and you, our lay partners, deep bonds of friendship.

Fire, Frontier and Friendship: these are the catchwords of GC 35.

It is within the context of this call to rekindle in ourselves that Ignatian fire that enkindles other fires, to discern the new frontiers of our time and to respond to them, and to strengthen and deepen our bonds of friendship, this triple call set for us by the last general congregation, that we are invited to tell our Ignatian stories as Jesuits and lay collaborators, to tell each other our Ignatian story.

Given our limited time, I would like to focus my sharing with you this afternoon on the theme of Frontiers.

“Frontiers” is a beautiful word. It connotes at least three things for me. First, it connotes a world that is familiar to us, comforting, affirming, and nurturing. It is our everyday world, the world of family, friends, colleagues, of our community here at Xavier University as well. Second, it also connotes something that lies beyond that familiar world, something new, something exciting, but also something frightening. Third, the boundary between this familiar world and that which lies beyond it is, precisely, what we know as the frontier. Between the known and unknown worlds lies a boundary, a limit; it is the frontier. This boundary, this limit may be seen as an imprisoning wall or as a liberating gateway. But however it is looked at, the frontier beckons by the very fact that it is there and invites those who are aware of its existence to cross over, to go beyond the familiar and to engage the new, the challenging, and the frightening space that awaits the intrepid adventurer...

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, in his talk to the participants of a recently concluded congress on Jesuit Basic Education, quotes the Holy Father, Benedict XVI:

I think the key to understanding the word “Frontiers” is to return to what the
Holy Father said when he addressed us Jesuits during the recent 35th General
Congregation. Many of you are very familiar with this wonderful speech, when Pope Benedict XVI said to us and, by extension, to all of you: “The Church needs you, counts on you, and continues to turn to you with confidence, particularly to reach the geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach or find it difficult to reach.” (Allocution, No. 2) “The geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach or find it difficult to reach”: these places are our “frontiers.”

I do not pretend to know what these “new frontiers” are for you at Xavier University here and now. A profound and comprehensive discernment is obviously required of those who form the body of stakeholders of this university. Fr. General spoke of the new frontiers of depth and universality to which Jesuits and their lay partners are called; these new frontiers after all are rooted in God who is our ultimate frontier. The Ignatian Exercises and Ignatian spirituality insist on this: God, creator and redeemer, our ultimate frontier, our deepest and most universal frontier, is revealed to us in and calls to us from the new frontiers that beckon to us in this world. But I imagine that in speaking of “frontiers” it is helpful to attend to the following. First, Xavier University as a Filipino, Catholic, and Jesuit educational institution located in Mindanao must define what the “frontiers” are for itself. Second, Xavier University must ask itself what it needs to do in order to help administration, faculty, students and the communities that it serves meet the challenges posed by these new frontiers.

In recognizing and accepting the context set for us by GC 35, I would like to propose therefore the following points drawn from the stories of our past 150 years, for you to recall and to pray over, because after all the notion of “frontier” is an analogous and shifting one and there are lessons to be learned from how Jesuits and their lay partners engaged the frontiers of the past. I have had to limit myself of course to several stories, but hopefully they are stories that tell us the kinds of frontiers that our predecessors of happy memory struggled to engage, with greater or lesser success, given their lights and shadows. We no longer live in that past; but if today we are able to see farther and better than our ancestors did, it is because we stand on their shoulders, the shoulders of the men and women of the past for whom our today was their frontier...

There are two questions that I would like to pose with regard to the theme of “frontiers.”

1) First, in searching the historical past, where can we find some of the “frontiers” indicated to us, particularly those frontiers as collocated here in this “great island” of Mindanao?

2) Second, what lessons can we learn from history that would indicate to us the disposition for and requirements of mission to and service at the frontiers?

Let me insert at this point a summary of the history of the Jesuits in the Philippines from 1859 to the present.

3. Summary of the history of the Jesuits in the Philippines, 1859 to the present.

The Jesuits, who first arrived in these islands in 1581, were expelled from the Philippines in 1768. They would return in 1859 to a country that was quite different in many ways from the one that they had left 91 years before.

On 7 August 1814, Pope Pius VII restored the Society of Jesus to existence in the Universal Church. Close to a year after, the King of Spain, Fernando VII, would authorize the restoration of the Jesuits in Spain; he would allow them re-entry into Spain’s overseas territories several months after.

In 1824 and then again in 1827, requests were made for the return of the Jesuits to the Philippines. In October 1832, the Bishop of Cebu, Santos Gomez Marañon, wrote a letter to the Spanish monarch, asking that Jesuits be sent to work in his huge diocese, which then included the whole island of Mindanao. The aim was “to expand and revitalize missionary work in Mindanao, especially among the pagan tribes.”

After another Jesuit expulsion and restoration, Queen Isabel II formally re-established the Society of Jesus in the Philippines.

And so it happened that, on 4 February 1859, ten Jesuits from the Aragonese, Basque and Catalan regions of the then still one Province of Spain and under the leadership of Fr. José Fernandez Cuevas left Cadiz for the Philippines on board the “Luisita”. On the night of 13 June 1859, they dropped anchor off the city of Manila and would set foot on Philippine soil once again the following day.

[Insert at this point a ppt presentation on Jesuit history from 1859 to the present.]

I. Frontiers: Rizal and the Jesuits in Dapitan (1892-1896)

To go back now to the first of our two questions: what were some of the frontiers that our Jesuit and lay forebears had to contend with, particularly here in Mindanao?

Mindanao: that was the primary missionary frontier that the Jesuits desired to understand and to engage in their return to the Philippines. And Mindanao was a frontier both geographically and spiritually. Gradually but surely spreading themselves throughout the major districts of Mindanao, the Jesuits first of all ministered to the so-called “old Christians,” descendants of Boholanos, Cebuanos, Ilongos, and others who had settled in the coastal areas of the island in an earlier time, particularly in the north. The frontier however was in the more interior places and highlands, along rivers and in valleys ringed by heavily forested mountains and hills. The Jesuits would seek to evangelize the Tirurays, Manobos, Mandayas, Tagacaolos, Mamanuas, Bagobos, Subanons, and Bukidnons... They also tried to bring the sea-faring peoples of Basilan and the Sulu archipelago into the faith: Samals, Yacans and even the Taosugs. The Jesuits, taking over almost all of the existing missions run by the Recollects by the end of the 19th century, characterized their work in the great island as apostolic, because it was work for the Church, patriotic, because it was work for Spain, and civilizing, because it was work for the people. Of this work much has been written.

What I would like to highlight however is something that perhaps might surprise even Jesuits. In an essay entitled “Rizal in Dapitan” that Fr. Bernad wrote for his book The Great Island: Studies in the Exploration and Evangelization of Mindanao, he starts out by distinguishing between the private and public life of Jose Rizal during his time of exile in Dapitan, from 1892 to 1896. He counts as belonging to the private story of Rizal such episodes as his relationship with Josephine Bracken and his correspondence with Fr. Pau Pastells regarding his faith life. He then enumerates five areas where Rizal’s story is clearly a public affair, and it is this area that should interest us at this point. These are:

1) the projects undertaken by Rizal with Father Francisco Paula de Sanchez in Dapitan;

2) Rizal’s innovative approach to education in the school for boys he set up;

3) Rizal’s practice of his medical and surgical profession;

4) Rizal’s social consciousness evident in his commercial ventures;

5) Rizal’s efforts toward relocating the poor farmers and their families who were evicted from Calamba to Mindanao.

If we look closely at these 5 points, do we not see Rizal here engaging the frontiers of human and social life as he saw them in Mindanao by his activities, activities which, if you ask me, are somehow relevant to what Xavier University has been all about in all the years of its existence? Allow me to elaborate a bit on these five frontiers by using Fr. Bernad’s narrative:

1) First: the projects Rizal and his Jesuit friend Fr. Francisco de Paula Sanchez collaborated on in Dapitan were scientific, archaeological, historical, linguistic.

Bernad narrates:

... It must have been...with great joy for Jose Rizal, newly arrived as an exile in a lonely place like Dapitan, to welcome upon his arrival in Mindanao the same Father Sanchez who had helped form him in his youth.

Rizal’s joy must have been all the greater when he found that Father Sanchez had brought along scientific equipment. Among them was a surveyor’s transit, which was to prove useful in their project to construct large relief maps in the town plaza. An aneroid barometer...proved useful for measuring the altitude of a hill. An apparatus for testing the potability of the water was also part of Father Sanchez’s luggage, while another instrument that Sanchez brought, a compass with an accompanying notation on the degree of divergence from the true North, later figured in Rizal’s investigation and trial in Fort Santiago.

One of the projects of Rizal and Sanchez was an archaeological excavation on a hill named Linamon, just south of Dapitan. It had been the site of a native settlement. ... From their aneroid barometer, Rizal and Sanchez had calculated the hilltop to be 324 meters above sea level.

A shallow exaction yielded a treasure, namely, a rough and primitive gold ring with a pea-sized ruby. Thus encouraged, they dug some more and found a tin medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Digging even deeper they found a real treasure trove for archaeologists: broken earthen jars, one of them adorned with the figure of a dragon swallowing the sun (probably intended to represent a solar eclipse). There were also various types of Chinese pottery and a Japanese celadon. After preparing an inventory and classifying the ceramics, Rizal sent the entire find to the Ateneo Museum of Natural History.

During their afternoon walks, Father Sanchez and Rizal went to the seashore and collected four hundred different kinds of shells that they sent to Manila for classification by a conchologist. These shells were later given to the Ateneo to augment its shell collection, which had so entranced the young Rizal as a student of natural history.

The very first project of Rizal and Sanchez together, though, involved looking up the history of Dapitan...

Their interest in local history later led Rizal and Father Sanchez to undertake a comparative study of the local language (Cebuano Visayan) and Tagalog... In (a notebook) Rizal had written his brief but brilliant treatise on the Tagalog language. On the first page was the title and dedication that read:

sobre la lengua tagala
al P. Francisco de P. Sanchez
por su antiguo discipulo
Jose Rizal
en el dia de su Santo
2 de Abril de 1893
Dapitan, Isla de Mindanao

Fr. Bernad comments that this dedication was “a delicate touch, a sign of affection” on the part of Rizal for his old Ateneo teacher, mentor, and friend.

Perhaps the most ambitious project undertaken by Rizal and Sanchez was the construction of a relief map in the plaza at the center of the town of Dapitan. Bernad quotes Fr. Sanchez’s account of the plan and its construction. Though not completed, the plaza relief map was supposed to show Mindanao, Luzon and six of the largest islands in the Philippines (presumably those of the Visayas and perhaps including that of Palawan). Geography here is translated into stone and steel cartography.

I quote this story from the pen of Fr. Bernad because, in its brevity, we see various things: geography, topography, natural history, cartography, archaeology, human history, even linguistics... These projects of Rizal and Sanchez, do they not tell us of Mindanao itself as a frontier of knowledge, of human, social and natural sciences, of disciplined research and investigation? When I was a regent here more than 20 years ago, there were names that stood out in the studies they made on Mindanao: Bernad of course, Demetrio, the Burtons, Madigan, McKeough, Costello, Ledesma, etc. The projects point to Mindanao as a frontier of study.

I dare say that today Mindanao continues to be a frontier of disciplined research in the natural, human and social sciences and their technologies. The problems that beset this great island, particularly those that have brought on the shedding of blood and the impoverishment of many due to social, political, economic, religious, ethnic, cultural differences and to the untrammeled exploitation of its natural resources demand even more intensive and comprehensive studies of Mindanao considered not just in its parts but as an integral whole. Xavier University, more than any other university in this great island, is perhaps in an ideal position to do this. Certainly, the three Ateneos on the island of Mindanao, forming the triple axis of an institutional triangle and closely collaborating with each other, are definitely in the best position to do this.

2) Second: Rizal’s innovative approach to education in the school for boys he set up.

This school has its origin in the “academy on education and fine arts” that Rizal and Father Sanchez conducted on the ground floor of the parish convento after Sunday mass. They wanted to do something for the young people of Dapitan, and so they decided to run what today we would call “seminars” and “workshops” in such areas as drawing, mathematics and geography. After the departure of Fr. Sanchez from Dapitan, Rizal decided to transform the “academy” into a regular school. Again, Fr. Bernad tells us the story:

His was an unusual school in several respects: in its curriculum, in its objectives. And it was also unusual in the sense that the students paid for their board and lodging, as well as for their tuition, not in cash, but with work. They all lived and worked on the farm thereby learning agronomy while also learning to support themselves instead of depending on their parents for their needs.

The school was small, with no more than sixteen boys, who were the sons of some of the principal families of the town. ... The “principal families” of Dapitan were, however, not wealthy, for in another letter to Blumentritt Rizal said, “These are poor but good boys whose parents cannot afford to buy books.” Apart from Rizal’s belief in the value of work, there was a more practical reason for his starting his school: he wanted to give the boys “some work to do.”

From his letters we have a list of the academic subjects taught in his school. Contrary to his own classical training, he did not teach the ancient classics (Latin and Greek). Instead, he taught Spanish and English, geometry and algebra (“up to the first degree of equations”), and geography. It is noteworthy that in the 1890s – before anyone had any inkling that the Philippines would become an American colony – Rizal was already teaching English in Dapitan. He explained the reason: “Por si acaso viajan” – in case they should travel.

In addition to the academic curriculum, his students learned by working on the farm. As the streamlet that ran through the property was too sluggish in the dry season to provide enough water all year round, Rizal and his students constructed a dam with walls of lime, clay, and stone (the ingredients of modern cement). Its base was 2 meters wide so the water dammed up to create a deep pool. When Rizal wrote to Blumentritt in March 1895, the water was 3 meters (9 feet) deep.

The construction of this irrigation dam was done by fourteen- and fifteen-year-old students led by a twenty-year-old foreman. Their biggest project ever, it entailed hard work, but they seemed to enjoy it. As Rizal said, “lo han hecho jugando jugando” (they did it as if they were merely playing).

And so that his students would not get bored with their studies and their work, Rizal even composed a school hymn for them!

Los problemas de ciencias exactas,
de la patria la historia estudiamos,
tres y cuatro lenguas hablamos
acordando la fe y la razón.
Nuestros brazos manejan a turno
el cuchillo, la pluma, la azada,
la piqueta, el fusil y la espada
compañeros de fuerte varón.

We study the problems of the exact sciences,
and the history of our country.
We speak three or four languages,
reconciling Faith and Reason.
With our hands (arms) we handle in turn
the knife, the pen, the spade,
the pickaxe, the gun, the sword –
companions of the brave man.

These lines reveal to us, according to Fr. Bernad, Rizal’s idea of the educated person. They reveal to us in fact Rizal himself. And they reveal to us as well some of his ideas on education.

I myself have questions about the gun and the sword, but in everything else, what Rizal here reveals to us as components of education seem to resonate with some of the programs of a Jesuit university like Xavier. The accent on agriculture and engineering for example... Has not the reputation for excellence of Xavier University been built as well on these twin pillars? There has always been that desire to translate the sciences into practical and effective strategies that produce food and build roads, bridges, dams, irrigation systems, and other infrastructure. Abstract knowledge must issue in programs, technologies and machines. And all because Jesuits like Masterson and their lay collaborators have seen them as necessary for engaging the frontier that was Mindanao...

3) Third: Rizal’s practice of his medical and surgical profession.

In Rizal’s time, health was a major issue and, in many areas far from the major cities of Manila and Cebu, people did not have the proper medical care in easy reach. In Fr. Bernad’s essay, we read:

From 1894 until Rizal left Dapitan a year and a half later, patients came not only from the vicinity, but also from the Visayas – Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Negros, Panay. In one well-known case, a patient came from Hong Kong.

Because patients were generally accompanied by relatives, Rizal allowed them to construct temporary shelters on (his) property. To his brother-in-law he said: “Tengo muchisimos enfermos que vienen de diferentes pueblos, y ahora mis terrenos están sembrados de casitas-hospitales” (I have very many patients who come from various towns, and now my property is sprouting with hospital huts).

It was known that he was an eye specialist, and undoubtedly many of those who came from distant places had eye ailments. (Among Rizal’s extant papers are instructions for a blind man in Cebu.) Nevertheless, many, or, perhaps, most of the patients had other ailments. Rizal had to become a general practitioner.

...Rizal was more successful in more ways than one. Not only did his clinic attract patients from many places, but there was also the fact that he had to practice medicine and perform surgical operations in what might be called “primitive conditions,” without the benefit of hospital facilities and without the aid of a trained nurse.

Possibly, it is...no exaggeration to say that for at least three and a half years, or from 1893 to 1896, Mindanao, particularly Dapitan, became the most famous medical center of the entire Philippine archipelago.

Does Fr. Bernad exaggerate? I do not think so. But it is interesting to note that medicine and public health care were already frontier issues in Rizal’s time in Mindanao. They remain frontier issues in Mindanao even today. It is no secret that Xavier University recognizes this, and not just because the world demand for medical and health care personnel shows no sign of a significant decline but because right here and right now the practice of medicine and public health care remains a vital but unmet need of our people, particularly those in this great island of Mindanao...

4) Fourth: Rizal’s social consciousness evident in his commercial ventures.

That Rizal was a businessman when he was in Dapitan is not a very well known fact about the national hero. That he was a businessman with a social conscience is perhaps even less well-known. Bernad writes:

…Rizal was a businessman, although there was a social angle to his being one. While he was in Hong Kong, Rizal and Jose Ma. Basa had discussed the idea of a Liga Filipina, which Rizal promoted during his two weeks in Manila prior to his incarceration in Fort Santiago. The group’s purpose was to promote self-help and economic progress, the very same ideas Rizal propagated in Dapitan…by actually engaging in business himself. He was concerned that many of the townspeople were poor and that those who were farmers were being exploited by…middlemen who got most of the profits from farm products. Hence, Rizal, for his part, engaged in business to make a modest profit for himself, and also (as he told a brother-in-law) “to help them (the townspeople) a little.”

He had two business ventures, both of them partnerships. One entailed buying abaca and shipping it to Manila, in effect competing with…middlemen. The other venture consisted of fishing and fish marketing, for which the partners bought several boats.

This image of Rizal as a socially-minded businessman, though unusual and perhaps even strange, is attractive and appealing to us today. Rizal was a humanist, but a humanist who was also a realist and a pragmatist: what was also important was helping others make a better life. And this meant paying attention to economic life, to business, to improving standards of living among the ordinary people of Dapitan.

Jesuit schools are known for their management, accounting and business courses. And Jesuit schools are now becoming better known for promoting the social responsibility of business enterprises. To make profit, yes, but to make profit not at the expense of making life more miserable for people; it is to make profit that actually promotes a better life for other people. Given the financial and economic crises of the past few years in the world, the new frontier of doing business that embodies social responsibility is fast becoming familiar because recognized as necessary if we are to survive in a globalizing world. Globalizing business must carry global social responsibility.

5) Fifth: Rizal’s efforts toward relocating the poor farmers and their families who were evicted from Calamba to Mindanao.

Finally, the last activity under our consideration in Fr. Bernad’s essay “Rizal in Dapitan” looks at his efforts to relocate the poor farmers and their families who were evicted from the friar hacienda of Calamba to Mindanao. In the story told by Fr. Bernad,

Rizal came to own three farms in Dapitan. In addition to his seaside homestead in Talisay, where he lived and had his clinic and school, he acquired another piece of property inland, with money he had won in a Manila lottery. The property was located away from the sea, but beside a river that reminded him of his hometown, Calamba. To his family he wrote:

I have bought here a piece of land near a river that is much like the river of Kalamba, the only difference being that the one here is wider and more full, and its waters much clearer. How it reminds me of Kalamba! My land here has 6,000 abaca plants. … The land is fertile. Besides abaca, there is enough land for planting two cavans of corn.

He invited his family to come and live there.

He also bought a third strip of land, much larger and farther from town.

To (this) tract of land…he gave the name “Nueva Kalamba,” or New Calamba. In it he proposed to relocate the poor tenants and families (estimated at three hundred persons) evicted from Calamba in Laguna province.

Bernad says that Rizal had earlier made a

trip to British North Borneo, now known as Sabah, to obtain permission from the British authorities to establish a Filipino ‘colony’ (i.e., settlement). The British authorities welcomed the idea. Sabah, after all, was then very sparsely populated so that there was much virgin land available for cultivation.

The Spanish authorities however would reject this idea. Rizal was then arrested and imprisoned in Fort Santiago and then exiled to Dapitan. It was this concern for the landless farmers of his hometown

that impelled him to buy the large tract of land near Dapitan, naming it “Nueva Kalamba.” Two leaders from Calamba who inspected the place found it suitable. In order not to attract too much unfavorable attention, however, it was decided that the Calamba refugees would not be brought to Dapitan all at once, but in small groups, a few families at a time.

Fr. Bernad then says:

The Revolution, Rizal’s imprisonment and execution and the confiscation of all his properties (by the Spanish colonial government) prevented what would have been a great humanitarian project.

What we find narrated in these pages has been part of the larger history of Mindanao. Mindanao is populated today not only by the Moro communities and the Lumads but by the descendants of migrants and settlers who poured into Mindanao by the thousands in the course of the 20th century. Rizal’s intention was to help the poor tenants who had no land of their own. Migration therefore had a particularly social justice dimension to it. In an excellent article written by Michael Costello, the author analyzes the demographics of Mindanao. In 1903, he notes that the population of Mindanao and Sulu was 670,833, with a density of 6.58 persons per square kilometer!!! (Let me just note that, at the beginning of the 20th century, the population of the country stood at around 8 million inhabitants; Metro Manila at 12 million today had a much larger population than the whole country.) In 1980, the population stood at 10,905,243 with a density of 106.92 persons per square kilometer. In 2000, an internet resource puts the population of Mindanao at 18,100,000 people. I can imagine that today the population of Mindanao has crossed the 20 million mark.

People and natural resources, including land…and the conflicts born out of their interaction, particularly through migration, settlement, displacement of indigenous peoples, etc: Mindanao as a “frontier land of promise” is now a land of bitter contestation and armed confrontation. What role does a university like Xavier need to play in order to move us on the road to peace and sustainable development and progress for all?

In all these five activities of Rizal’s public life in Dapitan, we find frontiers in Research, Education, Health, Business and Migration delineated for us here in Mindanao.

What then are the new frontiers that define Mindanao for us today? What do the men and women of Xavier University think the frontiers are that beckon to them not only here and now but elsewhere and in the foreseeable future?

II. Requirements of Mission to and Service at the Frontiers

From a consideration of Mindanao as frontier engaged in by Jesuits and Jose
Rizal, we now need to consider the relevance of this engagement for us today. What lessons can we learn from Jesuit history in the Philippines that would indicate to us the disposition for and requirements of mission to and service at the frontiers? What virtues were required by work on the frontiers then? What form of these virtues is required by work on the frontiers of today?

1) Generosity

Tamontaca (1861), Pollok (1861), Isabela de Basilan (1862), Tetuán (1862), Zamboanga (1865), Mercedes (1867), Ayala (1870), Bolong (1896), Davao (1868), Sigaboy (1870), Samal (1870), Sarangani (1875), Mati (1886), Peña-Plata (1896), Manay (1897), Dapitan (1870), and from Dapitan, Dipolog and Lubungan, Bislig (1874), Gigáquit (1874), Dinagat (1877), Taganaán (1877), Cantilan (1879), Caraga (1881), Cabuntog (1883), Numancia (1883), Tandag (1884), Lianga (1884), Baganga (1884), Butuan (1875), Bunauan (1878), Talacogon (1878), Játiva (1887), Veruela (1895), Esperanza (1897), Prosperidad (1897), Tolosa (1897), Alubijid (1878), El Salvador (1879), Tagoloan (1887), Balingasag (1887), Jasaan (1887), Gingoog (1887), Sumilao (1889), Linabo (1889), Sevilla (1893), Oroquieta, and Jolo (1878), Cagayan de Oro (1905), Cabadbaran (1913).

In pre-revolution times, thirty-six years after they started the mission of Tamontaca, Jesuits worked in at least 43 missions in Mindanao.

I realize of course that perhaps, for most of us, these are just names, names of towns and villages. But each name tells a story, a story of generous Jesuits, priests and brothers, and their lay collaborators, who labored long and hard to form Christian communities in Mindanao. We are allowed I think to boast: what would Mindanao be without the labor of all those Spanish Jesuit missionaries, and later the American and Filipino Jesuits that succeeded them? What would Mindanao be without Guerrico, Juanmarti, Gisbert, Heras, Urios, et alii? Without Hayes, Shea, Cullen, Krebs, Cunningham and others? Without Raviolo, Leoni, and Moggi? Without Alingal, Pacquing, Dagani, Tapiador, Sanchez, etc.?

Whatever one thinks of the “españolismo” of the Spanish Jesuit missionaries or the “Americanism” of the American Jesuits, no one can seriously dispute the generosity with which they plunged into missionary work in Mindanao.

Before the revolution, a full two thirds of the total Jesuit manpower of the Philippine Mission was assigned to Mindanao. In 1898, out of a total of 167 Jesuits, 60 Jesuits (36 %) were working in the Manila institutions of the Society, and 107 Jesuits (64 %) were assigned to the Mindanao missions. In 1924, Jesuits were responsible for 379 towns and barrios, with a Catholic population of 301,262, and 65 parochial schools. Here the generosity of the Province of Aragon, mother province of the Philippine Mission, must be acknowledged; in 1896, Aragon had 164 Jesuits (16 %) of its men working in the Philippine Mission, with 276 Jesuits (27 %) working in its other mission, Chile-Argentina (for a total of 43 % of Jesuits in mission lands!).

The difficulties that our ancestors had in Mindanao were various. I remember being struck by the frequency with which the word “neurasthenia” appeared in letters written by Mindanao Jesuits to the Mission Superior in Manila. One internet resource defines neurasthenia as “characterized by general lassitude, irritability, lack of concentration, worry, and hypochondria.” The term was introduced into psychiatry in 1869 by G. M. Beard, an American neurologist. Neurasthenia covers a wide spectrum of symptoms, including painful sensations or numbness in parts of the body, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and fainting. Some medical historians believe that neurasthenia may actually be the same as the modern day disorder of chronic fatigue syndrome.” Chronic fatigue syndrome...or, as Jesuit Father Vic de Jesus would put it, GFW, a “general feeling of weakness...” It is classified as a mental disorder triggered by stress or anxiety.

And yet the Jesuits did not allow this or any other reason to induce them to abandon the Mindanao missions. Despite the many problems and difficulties, they remained generous in serving the needs of Mindanao. The one and only time they left the missions was when the Mission Superior compelled them to return to Manila in 1898, after the 2nd phase of the revolution had broken out.
We must ask ourselves this question then: in our present context, what does it mean for us, the men and women of Xavier University, to be generous? What mission frontiers today need our generosity, and what kind of generosity is asked of us?
2) Flexibility
The Jesuit missionary mandate in the Philippines had to do with the evangelization of Mindanao. And yet Jesuits were flexible enough to adjust apostolic goals and strategies by responding to other needs brought to their attention. Thus it came about that Jesuits took on the running of schools as part of their apostolic work.
First example: in 1859, the Jesuits, freshly arrived from Spain, would be requested to take over the moribund Escuela municipal de Manila. This school would be renamed Ateneo municipal de Manila and, after the establishment of American rule, would become a private institution with the name Ateneo de Manila.
This coming year, we therefore also celebrate 150 years of the return of Jesuit education in general to the Philippines and 150 years of the Ateneo de Manila University in particular.
Second example: when the Spanish colonial government finally got serious about setting up a system of primary education for the whole country, a committee was set up. The Superior of the Jesuits then, Fr. José Fernandez Cuevas, presented “a complete plan in harmony with the one used in Spain.” He proposed that a normal school for the training of teachers be established under the direction of the Piarist Fathers (the “Escolapios”). The Queen however decided to assign the Escuela Normal de Maestros de la Instruccion Primaria to the Jesuits instead. And so it came to pass that the Jesuits showed their flexibility once again by accepting the direction of this institution in 1865, an institution that, by 1894, would be raised to the status of an Escuela normal superior. By the time the school lost its government subsidy in 1901, it had graduated 1,693 primary school teachers and 340 assistants, for a total of 2,013 teachers.
From the Ateneo and the Escuela Normal would emerge Filipino nationalists and leaders of the Revolution. It was not quite what the Jesuits intended, but given the circumstances, it was something that Jesuit education nevertheless produced.
The question that we must ask ourselves today then: how flexible are we, the men and women of Xavier University, in meeting the challenges of the times and in serving at the new frontiers opened up to us by Mindanao and the world of today? What kind of flexibility is demanded of us so that we may effectively allocate human and other resources to the service at these new frontiers?
3) Mobility
I am sometimes under the impression that “mobility” is no longer a characteristic of Jesuit apostolic work, due in great part to the on-going revolution in communication technologies. Jesuits seem to be rather immobile, set their whole lives to be rooted in one place.
It is also a mark of institutions, particularly our schools, that they require a certain kind of stability in personnel for them to function properly and efficaciously.
Nevertheless, I have always been impressed by the extraordinary mobility of our men in previous times. It is not unusual to find the Rector of the Ateneo municipal or the Escuela Normal or even the Mission Superior based in Manila to be assigned at some point in his apostolic life to some mission station in Mindanao, and for our men in the Mindanao missions to be assigned to the Manila institutions. Stability of personnel was then much more clearly demanded by the Observatorio de Manila for obvious reasons: scientific work demanded highly specialized knowledge and skills.
Nevertheless, the question remains, given the new frontiers beckoning to us: what kind of mobility and therefore what kind of stability as well are demanded of us, the men and women of Xavier University, by the new frontiers of apostolic work to which we are being invited to respond?
4) Creativity
After the Jesuits first arrived in the Cotabato delta and successfully established a presence there in 1861, they hit upon the creative idea of ransoming the children of slaves from their Moro masters during a time of famine. From these ransomed slaves the “Tamontaca reductions” would rise. Fr. de la Costa tells us this story in his Light Cavalry in vivid terms.
By 1875, sixty boys and thirty girls had been ransomed. With them the Jesuits founded the reduction—now the town—of Tamontaka...
As soon as they were of age, they were free to marry. Marriage constituted man and wife free citizens of Tamontaka. After the wedding ceremony, they were led to the Fathers’ wedding gift: a house, two hectares of land, household utensils, instruments of tillage, food and money until the next harvest.
And then there is the story of the Observatorio de Manila. This venerable Jesuit institution had its beginnings in the scientific experiments that two Jesuit scholastics, Francisco Colina and Jaime Nonell, conducted on the rooftop of the old Ateneo municipal de Manila. With primitive instruments that they themselves made, they sought to measure humidity in the air, plot wind patterns, gauge atmospheric temperatures, and other things as well. The arrival of another scholastic, Federico Faura, would boost the scientific stature of the incipient Observatorio. So much so that, with the assistance of interested businessmen and the Spanish colonial government, the Jesuits would engage in, among other tasks, procuring the latest scientific instruments and indeed inventing them, instruments that for example enabled them to predict typhoons that then never failed to ravage an unsuspecting country, decimate populations and hurt economic life.
The question then that we must pose to ourselves: what kind of creativity is required of us, the men and women of Xavier University, by the new frontiers of apostolic work? Here, it is interesting to note that scholastics such as Colina, Nonell, and Faura were creative, and allowed to be creative, in the matter of starting what would later become the Manila Observatory engaged in the frontier work of predicting typhoons, studying earthquakes, observing the skies and other such things.
It is also interesting to note that Nonell would become later in life an expert in the Spiritual Exercises, so much so that Fr. Louis Puhl, in his “Translator’s Preface” to his The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, would say: “All of the standard commentaries have influenced the translation, but it is not surprising if the influence of Father Jaime Nonell, S. J., is evident at every turn. For many years his books on the Exercises have been the translator’s constant companions, and have been used by him as their clearest and most logical interpretation.” Here was a scholastic-scientist who would also become a master of the Exercises. Here is an example of Jesuit creativity.
5) Openness to New Initiatives
In the aftermath of revolution and war, the Jesuits, much reduced in manpower (some one third of Jesuit manpower would return to Spain, to come trickling back in the next two decades or so), would nevertheless strike out in new apostolic ventures.
The first that must be mentioned is that Jesuits would accept the challenge of chaplaincy work in the Lepers Colony that the American colonial government would organize on the island of Culion. At some point in time, Culion would be the largest lepers colony in the world, with 5,000 lepers needing care and attention. Today we are still there, but now under a different set of conditions. Culion today is no longer a lepers colony but a young and vibrant municipality that has dreams of its own.
Perhaps the most important new initiative that the Jesuits would undertake in post-revolution and post-war years would be that of seminary formation and education.
In 1905, the Jesuits would accept the invitation to run and staff the Colegio-Seminario de Vigan in Ilocos. We would be there for 20 years. Problems with the local ordinary (is this an inevitable part of what it means for Jesuits to serve at the frontiers of Church and world?), among others, would push the Jesuits to leave Vigan in 1925.
The Escuela Normal would at some point be transformed into the Colegio-Seminario de San Francisco Javier, otherwise fondly known as San Javier.
Jeremias Harty, the new Archbishop of Manila, would entrust the San Carlos Seminary to the Jesuits in 1905 and for some 8 years San Carlos would be a Jesuit-run institution. In 1913, the Archbishop would take back his seminary and entrust it to the Paúles or the Vincentians.
In 1915, five years after the restoration of the Colegio de San Jose properties to the administration of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits would finally open the Seminario de San Jose as an apostolic school.
And now, not too far from here, is the Jesuit-founded St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, the theologate of the bishops of northern Mindanao. Though with a diminished presence, Jesuits continue to serve the dioceses of Mindanao through their administration of this important institution for the spiritual formation and theological education of the future priests of the Mindanao Church.
The question that we must pose to ourselves then is this: how open are we, the men and women of Xavier University, to new initiatives coming from sources in Church and society? What kind of openness is demanded of us by the new frontiers of apostolic work on the horizon?
6) Humility, and therefore Collaboration with Others
The post-revolution Jesuit Mission would suffer a rather prolonged manpower crisis at a time when Jesuits had to carry a terrible burden unloaded on them by historical circumstances. The missionary strategy that we insisted on when we first arrived in Mindanao, i.e., that only Jesuits be allowed to work there, and the pride that we took in our accomplishments in the Mindanao missions had to give way to the dictates of humility: there was no way we could continue to work for the flourishing of the Mindanao Church without asking missionaries from other religious congregations to help us. And so it came to pass that in 1908 the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus took over the Surigao and then the Agusan mission fields, the PME of Quebec would take over Davao in 1937, the Columbans would come to northern Mindanao in 1938, and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate would take over Cotabato and Sulu in 1939. We were responsible of course for bringing in the Religious of the Virgin Mary to Mindanao, and in Culion we collaborated with the SPC Sisters.
The question that we must pose to ourselves is this: humbly acknowledging our own limited manpower and resources, how willing are we, the men and women of Xavier University, to engage in genuine and meaningful collaboration with other institutions and groups, not just here in Cagayan de Oro City but across this great island, including the archipelagic sections of the south, so that the challenges of the new frontiers of Mindanao may be met?
III. Final Remarks
Just in passing, I would like to note that the apostolic work engaged in by Jesuits and their lay partners is never without a context, a context that is at the same time ecclesiastical, social, political, economic, cultural and, today more than in the past, environmental. Just to cite a few examples. The Spanish Jesuits and their lay partners labored under the centuries old system of the Patronato real de la Iglesia. To some extent, this limited their vision and would create problems for the Spanish Jesuits when confronted with the rise of Philippine nationalism and its challenges articulated by such as Rizal. The American Jesuits, those that came in the first two decades of American rule and those of the first big group that came to take over the Ateneo de Manila and the Colegio-Seminario de Vigan in 1921, were told to be careful about pronouncing themselves one way or the other with regard to the question of Philippine independence from the United States, a sensitive and thorny political issue.
Fr. de la Costa narrates a story of Faura conversing with Rizal on the occasion of a visit by their famous alumnus and the author of the novel Noli me tangere in 1887: “Father Faura, seeing the dismal change wrought in this gentle boy of ten years ago, now so hard of heart, said in a moment of bitterness a bitter thing. If he was so obdurate in error, the Jesuit said, then the Fathers washed their hands of him, because it was greatly to be feared that he would end his life on a gibbet.” I cannot help thinking that, for as long as Rizal lived (in exile in Dapitan and incarcerated at Fort Santiago) and even as he walked to his execution, the Spanish Jesuits would exert every effort to rectify their virtual excommunication of Rizal.
In 1900, Fr. Algue, with the permission of Mission superiors (but to the distress it seems of the Spanish Superior General in Rome), would allow the American Government in Washington D. C. to publish the two-volume and truly tremendous work authored by Jesuits: El Archipiélago Filipino: Colección de datos geográficos, estadísticos, cronológicos y científicos, relativos al mismo. Entresacados de anteriores obras u obtenidos con la propia observación y estudio, with its own Atlas Filipino, a precious work that obviously interested the Americans because of the variety of maps that it contained, navigational, mineralogical, ethnographic, etc. This work of scholarship was a useful resource for the new colonial masters. It cannot be helped that a scholarly work is used for political and economic ends not intended by the authors.
The new frontiers that are marked out for us by the signs of the times are not free from ecclesiastical, social, political, economic, cultural and environmental determinants. But Jesuits and their lay partners have always been imbued with a certain evangelical and pragmatic prudence that enabled them to divine what was more important and significant in their apostolic work.
Celebrations are expressed in the stories we tell each other as Jesuits and lay partners. As we tell our stories, we pray for the grace of gratitude for all the good things the Lord has done for us in the course of this year of celebration. We pray for the grace of gratitude as well for the great things the Lord has done for us the past 150 years. And as this anniversary year continues to unfold, let us pray then for two things: first, let us pray that we may have the courage to discern the new frontiers of the future, and second, that we may have the right kind of generosity, flexibility, mobility, creativity, openness to new initiatives, humility and collaborative spirit so necessary to our triple task of spreading fire that kindles other fires, deepening our friendship, and engaging the new frontiers of apostolic work to which the Lord calls us.

Antonio F. B. de Castro, SJ
Loyola School of Theology
Ateneo de Manila University Campus
Loyola Heights, Quezon City

pictures of fort pilar taken by Fr.Wilfredo M. Samson

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