This is not just the project of the Jesuits…Ateneo de Iloilo is Iloilo’s Ateneo.” Thus said by Fr. Joseph Haw of the Society of Jesus during the groundbreaking rites of the Administration and Grade School buildings of Ateneo de Iloilo over the weekend at its 7.5-hectare property in Pison Avenue, San Rafael, Mandurriao, Iloilo City.
“Ini (Ateneo project) isa sa mga pwede ipabugal sang ciudad sang Iloilo (This is one that Iloilo City can be proud of),” Fr. Haw, president of the 55-year-old Ateneo de Iloilo-Santa Maria Catholic School, stressed in front of scores of stakeholders which include city mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, Board of Trustees chairman Fr. Antonio Samson, SJ, and provincial superior of the Jesuits in the Philippines Fr. Jose Cecilio Magadia, SJ.
Fr. Haw further said: “But most importantly, this is God's project, and that is why we believe that this building will rise. As we continue this journey, we rely on your constant companionship and support. With God who constantly guides us, and with the prayers of our Holy Mother Mary and the first companions, together we can make this dream a reality.”
Also in attendance to the historical event held the morning of June 1 were school chaplain Antonio Roberto Sian, SJ, KAPIDECO chairman Victor Pison, Ateneo de Cebu president Fr. Manny Uy, SJ, former Jesuit provincial superior Romeo Intengan, Iloilo Multisectoral Business Organization chairperson Fanny Uy, City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council’s Kristin Treñas, BOT member Jose Antonio Chan, RMDA senior architect Lito Mercado, and city councilors Jose Efrain Treñas III and Lady Julie Baronda.
Aside from the AdI-SMCS administrators, faculty, students, and staff, the officers and members of the Ateneo de Iloilo Alumni Association (AAA) and the Ateneo Parents-Teachers Associations (PTA), among many others, also witnessed the event in full force.
The ceremony started with the blessing rites led by Fr. Samson, SJ, followed by speeches coming from Jay Treñas (in behalf of his uncle Congressman Jerry Treñas) and Mayor Mabilog from the local government, and from the school community represented by incoming fresh person Bea Tan. After the ceremonial response from Fr. Magadia, the laying of the time capsule proceeded with the traditional lion and dragon dances silhouetting the whole rites.
“Today is a very important event for us in Ateneo de Iloilo Santa Maria Catholic School,” Fr. Haw said, adding, “this event marks for us the continuation of a journey we have begun six years ago; this event brings us a step closer to the fulfillment of our dream.”
“We are grateful and touched by your overwhelming show of support. Madamo guid salamat sa inyo nga pagbulig kag pagsuporta (Thank you for your help and support). Your presence here shows us that we are not alone in this endeavor—that there are many people who believe in our dream and who are willing to journey with us.”
Mabilog, for his part, affirmed not just the strong support of the Iloilo City government to the project but also the contribution of Ateneo in the overall development of the metropolis. “The fact that we have Ateneo de Iloilo, side by side with its excellent brand of academic excellence and formation of our youth, is a clear testament that we are on our way to being a premier urbanized city in the country.”
He went further by enumerating the Ateneans in the city council, namely himself and city councilor Arman Parcon (graduates of Ateneo de Manila University School of Government), Cong. Treñas (AdMU College of Law), city councilors Lex Tupas and Jason Gonzales (AdMU), and city councilors Baronda and Jay Treñas (Ateneo de Iloilo).
With this, Mabilog implied that to invest in the worthwhile Ateneo project is also to invest for Iloilo.
To note, the master development plan for the Ateneo de Iloilo campus in San Rafael consists of the High School, Grade School, and Pre-School Buildings, covered gymnasiums, an administration building, sports complex, and a church. With the help of donors and benefactors, and with the assistance of the Ateneo Universities, the first phase of the construction project namely the High School Building and the High School Covered Gymnasium were completed in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The High School department transferred to the new site in June, 2010. The Grade School department remained at the old site in Gen. Blanco Street, Iloilo City Proper.
From barely nine enrollees in 1958, only Chinese-Filipino Jesuit school in Western Visayas now serves more than 1,500 students from Kindergarten to Grade 10. With its high academic standard, strong faculty team, modern facilities, and focus on student formation, the school expects to peak at more than 2,100 enrollees when it reaches its full K-12 potential in 2018. (Ripples/Dr. Herman Lagon)