From Humble Beginnings…
Expelled from China by the Communist takeover, the Jesuits came to Iloilo in 1953 and started their apostolic work among the local ethnic Chinese community as continuation of their missionary work in Mainland China. With the support of the Iloilo Chinese and Filipino communities, Santa Maria Parish under the tutelage of Our Lady Queen of China was established by Fr. Guerrino Marsecano, an Italian Jesuit Missionary.
Jesuits believe that quality education is essential in molding good Catholic Christians. So in 1958, with barely nine (9) students as enrollees, Frs. Andrew Joliet, a French Jesuit, and Santiago Leon, a Spanish Jesuit, acting as Founder/Director and Principal respectively, opened a parochial school that came to be known as Sta. Maria Catholic School (SMCS). With the Holy Mother as patroness, the Jesuits have embarked on a crucial mission of forming the youth of Iloilo. A year after the founding of the school, a two-story wooden building was constructed to provide the students with eight classrooms. In 1962, through the beneficence of Eduardo and Cesar Lopez, part of the school was erected on Lopez brothers’ lot situated across the street.
The school year 1965-66 was a glorious year as SMCS saw the first batch of graduates from the Grade School Department. SMCS accepted its first batch of high school freshmen in school year 1966-67. From its founding until 1967, Fr. Joliet, S.J. had been both Director of the school and the Pastor of the parish. In 1968, the Philippine government recognized SMCS as a Filipino school with a comprehensive Chinese language program. Within the same year, Fr. Felix Maiza, another Spanish Jesuit, became the Principal of the school.
And Tender Years
SMCS held its first high school graduation in March 1970. A total of 18 students received their diplomas. Fr. Maiza, whose short term as a Principal ended in the same year, was replaced by Fr. Albert Ricard, a French Canadian Jesuit who also acted as school Director. From nine pupils, SMCS had an unprecedented rise in the number of students when it accepted a total of 615 enrollees for high school alone. However, due to the decision of the Chinese Provincial Superior to maintain only an elementary school, no freshmen were accepted for the school year 1971-72. As a result, high school enrolment plummeted to 513 and to 481 the following year. When parents of the students protested the phasing-out of the high school department, the Chinese Provincial Superior reconsidered his decision. A year after, enrolment started picking up as freshmen were again allowed to enroll for the school year 1972-73.
In 1971, Fr. Peter Ignatius Li, S.J. arrived to fill in the shoes of parish priest and school Director while Fr. Ricard maintained his position as Principal for seven more years. In 1978, Fr. John Chi, S.J. was appointed Director-Principal of the School.
A donation of 3,600 square meters of land by the Lopez family in June 1972 paved the way for the construction of a four-story concrete building in 1974 to replace the wooden one. The French-German missionary Fr. Arthur Baur, S.J. Superior and parish priest of the Sta. Maria community added a new wing to the school in 1977.
Despite the limitations of a constricted space, SMCS’ physical complex continued to grow under the tenure of Fr. Chi. When ADI-SMCS celebrated its 25th founding anniversary in 1983, various developments such as the construction of comfort rooms, large classrooms and a cluster of offices were undertaken. A two-story structure was also put up to house classrooms for kindergarten pupils. Two years later, administrative offices on the ground floor of the school were renovated and a conference room was added.
To A Renewed Vision
The merging of the China Province Jesuits in the Philippines and the Philippine Province Jesuits in 1988 facilitated the Missioning of Filipino Jesuits to the three Chinese-Filipino schools: Xavier School (San Juan, Metro Manila), Sacred Heart School-Jesuit (Cebu) and the Santa Maria Catholic School (Iloilo). In June 1991, Fr. Renato Puentevella, S.J. succeeded Fr. Chi as Director-Principal. During his five-year term, ADI-SMCS went through the Philippine Association of Accredited Schools and Universities (PAASCU) Preliminary Survey and Formal Survey. The grade school department was granted a three-year PAASCU accreditation in 1995 and the high school department followed suit the following year. Fr. Enrique Ma. Lalana, S.J. was appointed Director-Principal and Fr. Manuel A. Uy, S.J. school chaplain and parish priest in June 1996. In November 1999, SMCS applied for PAASCU re-accreditation and was granted five years.
In the year 2000, Fr. Manuel A. Uy, S.J. assumed the post of Director –Principal. Fr. Robert Exequiel, Rivera S.J. became the school’s chaplain for a year. When Fr. Emerito Salustiano R. de la Rama, S.J. came in 2001, he was appointed Assistant Director and the following year assumed the position of Principal of the grade school department. For the school year 2004 – 2005, Mrs. Aurora de la Cruz was appointed Principal of the high school department.
In the year 2009, Fr. Manuel A. Uy, S.J. was assigned as President of Sacred Heart School in Cebu. This led to the appointment of Fr. Emerito Salustiano R. de la Rama, S.J. as President of Ateneo De Iloilo and the appointment of Mrs. Ma. Nelia P. Emmanuel as Grade School Principal. In the year 2012, Fr. Joseph Haw, S.J. succeeded Fr. dela Rama as the school's 11th President.
Of A Higher and More Noble Dream
With the incessant clamor of SMCS alumni and the local Iloilo community to let their children study in a Jesuit school, a plan for expansion and transfer to a new and better site was imperative.
To be able to answer this call and to better equip the students for the challenges of the future and the society where they will serve as builders and leaders, managers and movers, a great leap forward must be taken. It is an aspiration tempered by a deep faith in the benevolence of the Almighty that whatever endeavor, if undertaken in His name, shall see success and fruition.
In April 30, 2004, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed by Jesuit Father Provincial Romeo J. Intengan, Fr. Manuel A. Uy, S.J. Director of ADI-SMCS, and Mr. Victor F. Pison of the Kauturan Pison Development Corporation (KAPIDECO). Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo of the Archdiocese of Jaro and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, an Ateneo de Manila alumnus, witnessed the MOA signing which formalized the establishment of an Ateneo De Iloilo-Sta. Maria Catholic School (ADI-SMCS) in its new location in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.
Despite Fr. Manuel A. Uy’s transfer to Cebu on June 2008, he continued to be the Project Manager of the new campus. On June 2010, the high school moved out giving enough space for the grade school in the old campus. This gave way to an additional section in grade one and two more sections in first year.
Of Serving and Loving, In All
Ateneo de Iloilo -Santa Maria Catholic School continues its existence; it does so with renewed commitment to its mission: the Christian education and formation of the youth in Iloilo and Panay especially the Chinese-Filipino youth. Thus it strives to endow them with necessary skills and tools for further development of their potentials; to imbue them with values and ideals that reflect a genuine concern for participation in nation-building; and to inspire them by the personal example of Christ our Lord to become “men and women for others” in search for MAGIS, for MORE in service and excellence.