IN FRONT of a stellar assembly of the members of the Ateneo community, alumnus and business magnate Dr. Henry Chusuey shared his Santa Marian pedigree and declared “this Jesuit school has a special place in my heart” during the blessing of the Grade School (GS) and Administration buildings of Ateneo de Iloilo-Santa Maria Catholic School held Friday, December 8, at the Atria Park District, San Rafael, Mandurriao, Iloilo City.
“This is where I started my formal education. This is where I learned the fundamentals of knowledge, as well as the values of loving one’s neighbors and serving the community,” Dr. Chusuey of GS Batch ’68 said, adding, “that is why I am very honored and glad to support the Jesuit’s mission in education through our Alma Mater.”
To note, Dr. Chusuey, a business mogul who owns strings of local and international hotels and restaurants, is the major donor of the school’s Admin Building that was eventually named after him. Scores of other benefactors in attendance, including the representatives of sister Jesuit institutions, have also donated significant amount that helped in the completion of the buildings.
Those who also graced the much-anticipated blessing rites were Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo DD, Jesuit Provincial Fr. Primitivo Viray SJ, school BOT chief Fr. Bienvenido Nebres SJ, City Mayor Jose Espinosa III, school president Fr. Joseph Haw SJ, former school presidents Fr. Salustiano dela Rama SJ and Fr. Manuel Uy SJ. Also in attendance were scores of other Jesuit and diocesan priests, administrators, faculty, staff, and officers and members of the school’s Student Councils, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and Ateneo Alumni Association (AAA).
“It is my wish to see more young people being given the opportunity to pass through this Administration Building and obtain their basic education from the halls of Ateneo de Iloilo. I hope that through this humble donation, I have done my share in the molding of our youth in Ateneo’s seven core values of Competence, Conscience, Character, Compassion, Community, Culture, and Christ-centeredness.”
“I honestly think that if only many of our people imbibe these Atenean values, we can rest assured that our streets will be safer, our environment will be cleaner, our neighbors will be kinder, our public service will be greater, and our economy will be better,” Chusuey further said.
For his part, school President Fr. Haw said: “It was all by God’s grace that the buildings were realized four years after its ground breaking. Both the Grade School building and the Dr. Henry O. Chusuey Administration building are testaments to the school community's total trust in God's providence. We began with very limited resources but with full of trust in God.”
“Since He inspired us to begin this project, we have faith that He will also see us through its completion. This is not a work only of a single person, but truly a fruit of collaboration of many generous institutions and individuals who believe in the Jesuit tradition of love, service, and excellence.”
Fr. Haw said further: “the buildings aim to deliver its promise of providing our stakeholders in particular, and Iloilo City in general, a premier basic education institution that is responsive to the demands of the 21st century learning skills. We continue to upgrade our facilities to allow collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creativity.”
Just this school year, the school has also invested a multi-million project in the upgrading of its online services by capitalizing on high-end internet service and hardware, purchasing one more iPad cart, and putting up two more computer rooms, one of which houses Mac-based platform. It has also kicked off its Learning Innovations through Technology (LITe) Program this year to enhance teachers’ skills in maximizing technology as an instructional tool and boost students’ experience and engagement in class. Value formation, business process, curricular, and pedagogical innovations are also going on in the school’s comprehensive K-12 initiative as part of its continued commitment to educational excellence.
Responding to the myriads of developments happening in school, Grade School Principal Cecilia Japitana considered this occasion as “a fulfilment of all those who came before us and all those who are with us—those who believe in the Jesuit education that we offer here in the region.” He further said, “as our way of giving back is our continued commitment to forming leaders who pursue excellence that is ignited by love and service.”
The ceremony kicked off in the Central Administration building at 4 p.m. Celebrative activities, highlighted by the display of Atenean talents, were showcased in the whole duration of the event that culminated through a dinner party in the Chusuey gymnasium at 6 p.m.
To note, both four-storey structures are situated adjacent to the High School building and the Chusuey gymnasium inside the 7.5-hectare compound of the school. The Administration building houses the main school lobby, offices of the president and other school administrators, accounting and registrar’s offices, and fully air-conditioned institutional library and auditorium which are all on its finishing stage. On the other hand, the Grade School building is currently operational and shelters all the pre-school and grade school classrooms, guidance offices, learning resource centers, playground, multi-purpose hall, faculty room, and consultation stations. In its fourth floor, it also holds the Senior High School (SHS) Grade 12 classrooms, faculty room, science laboratories, and computer laboratories.
This phase of the Ateneo construction project started in June, 2013 with only P4 million, donated by the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus, as a start-up capital. It was eventually sustained by the concerted effort of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, the different Jesuit universities and schools in the Philippines, and institutional and individual donors.
ADI-SMCS, which from nine pupils in 1958 has now grown into a family of 2,100 students and 200 faculty and staff, is a member of the Jesuit Basic Education Commission (JBEC) and has been accredited by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAASCU) since 1995.
A Chinese-Filipino, Jesuit, and Catholic basic education institution, Ateneo started its transfer from its founding campus in General Blanco, Iloilo City to San Rafael site last June, 2010. This happened six years after the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Ateneo and the Pison Family last April, 2004 for the purchase and development of the then 7.5 hectare salt bed. Just this July, 2017 the Ateneo-Santa Maria community has finally held its “Farewell Ceremony” in the “old campus” to ritualize the full transfer of its operation to the “new site.” It will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year.
Currently, the school is preparing for the construction of the Jesuit residence located near the Chusuey gymnasium. Also in its pipeline, according to the school’s comprehensive development plan, are a school chapel, a football field, the SHS building, a swimming pool, and a track and field complex, among others.(Photoes by Jessie Mosquera and Herman Lagon/Ripples)