Ateneo's History
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October 09, 1997
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Ateneo de Manila University

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The Intramuros Years

Father Jose Fernandez CuevasIn 1859, ten Spanish Jesuits headed by Father Jose Fernandez Cuevas arrived in the Philippines. Though their orders were to evangelize our Muslim brothers in the south, a petition by the Spanish residents urging them to run a school was endorsed by the then Governor-general Norzagaray. Such petition was forthcoming given the widespread reputation of the Jesuits as excellent educators. Father Cuevas humbly accepted the request and on December 10, 1859, the Escuela Municipal under the administration of the Jesuits opened. It had an initial enrollment of 33 boys mainly from the peninsulares and illustrado families of Manila.

Six years later, in 1865, the Escuela Municipal was raised to the status of a secondary school. It was also given approval to add a five-year program leading to the Bachillerate. Courses in music and arts were also taught, and subsequently technical courses were added, leading to certificates in Agriculture, Surveying and Business. More significantly, in this year, the school came to be known as the Ateneo Municipal de Manila.

The martyrdom of Fathers Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez, and Jacinto Zamora in 1872 became a turning point in Philippine history as it was one of the main sparks that lit the fires of the Philippine Revolution. One of those affected by this event was young Jose Rizal who entered the Ateneo during this year

Jose Rizal

At the turn of the century the new American regime brought about changes in the Ateneo. In 1901, with the withdrawal of the city subsidy, the Ateneo became a private institution and dropped the word "Municipal" from its official title. By 1908, the Ateneo was recognized by the American colonial government as a college. A Bachelor of Arts degree and certificates in various disciplines were permitted to be conferred to eligible graduates. In 1921 the American Jesuits of the Maryland-New York Province replaced the Spanish Jesuits as teachers and administrators of the Ateneo. With this transition English replaced Spanish as the medium of instruction. The school was also reorganized into the typical American high school and college. Eight years later, on June 2, 1929, the maiden issue of the Guidon was published. After these events, a more liberal Ateneo began to emerge.

In 1932 an unfortunate event happened. A huge fire engulfed the Ateneo destroying all its buildings. A spark that started in a store at the corner of Real and General Luna streets in Intramuros precipitated an inferno that found its way from the Public Works Building on Arzobispo street to the Ateneo. In a matter of minutes, the whole campus was razed to the ground leaving nothing except for the Blessed Sacrament and the priceless relics of Rizal saved by the heroic dash of a group of alumni. Fortunately, there were no lives lost. And even if the students were left with no buildings, the indomitable Ateneo spirit continued to live on. After this loss, the Ateneo transferred to Padre Faura which at that time housed San Jose Seminary.


The Padre Faura Years

The 1940s tested that same fabled Ateneo spirit. World War II became a period of sacrifice for most Ateneans. Whether it was by participating in anti-Japanese propaganda or fighting the invaders as guerillas, Ateneans showed exceptional heroism which helped in resisting the Japanese forces as well as in winning our liberation. Notable figures include Cesar Basa who, despite being outnumbered by Japanese warplanes fought with great courage and Manuel Colayco, Guidon's first editor-in-chief, who was killed by a land mine while leading American liberation forces in taking over the University of Santo Tomas. Several other Ateneans fought bravely for their country, and their patriotism was to inspire generations of Ateneans to come.

The Padre Faura campus was not spared from the massive devastation wrought by the war. In 1945, the school temporarily reopened in Plaza Guipit, Sampaloc while the Padre Faura campus was being rehabilitated. A year later, the Ateneo returned to Padre Faura.


The Loyola Heights Years

In January of 1952, the College and the High School transferred to the present campus in Loyola Heights. Two years later, the Grade School followed. The transfer to Loyola Heights signified a new era for the Ateneo. With its peaceful, conducive, and unspoiled environment, Ateneo's formative mission of molding men and women for others was to continue. It was a wise move, for the urbanization of Manila was inevitable along with the distractions that came with it. On its centennial year of 1959, the Ateneo was granted a charter by the Department of Education declaring it a university. The following year was also significant for the first Filipino rector of the Ateneo, Fr. Francisco Araneta, S.J., assumed office.

The 1960s saw more buildings added to the sprawling campus. In 1961, the Science Building and the Manila Observatory were built. The Chemistry building along with the Eliazo Hall, which replaced Bellarmine as the college dormitory, were constructed in 1965. A year later, Loyola House of Studies was completed and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences transferred to Loyola Heights. A progressive labor policy by the administration was also implemented in this era. In 1964, family allowance benefits complemented the social security benefits that employees were receiving. The administration's labor-friendly stance also allowed the creation of the Ateneo de Manila University Employers and Workers Union in 1966 without opposition. Following this, the Administration signed a collective bargaining agreement with the newly formed Union in 1967. A year later, the University adopted the CEAP Retirement Plan to ensure financial security to its employees even after serving the Ateneo.

The turbulent 70s was characterized by an increasing nationalistic consciousness that swept throughout university circles in Manila. Student activism was at its height with Ed JopsonAteneo at its forefront. Two notable student activists who headed the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) were Ronaldo Puno and Ed Jopson. They represented the sentiments of the studentry against the mounting oppression and suppression of civil liberties that preceded the imposition of Martial Law. The Student Council was not spared from the influence of subversive elements. It questioned the positions held by the American Jesuits in the University and called for the use of Pilipino as the medium of instruction. The Guidon, which supported the Student Council, was published in Pilipino. A significant event took place in 1973 when the College of Arts and Sciences became coeducational. That same year, the Padre Faura property was sold and the Graduate School of Business as well as the Law School transferred to the Ateneo Professional Schools building in Makati after its completion in 1977.