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Friday, June 19, 2009

 

BIG DEAL
By Dan Mariano
The Ateneo in Rizal

 
Last Sunday, the Society of Jesus observed the 150th anniversary of its return to the Philippines.

Before 1859, the Jesuits had been away for nearly a century. They had been expelled from Spanish colonies—as well as those of France and Portugal—because, as one writer put it, “they actively educated and empowered the colonized people.”

But the trauma of their expulsion in 1768 did not, as it were, mellow down the Jesuits. Even after the Society was “rehabilitated,” a Jesuit education—based on Ratio Studiorum—remained a liberating process most especially for the indio that Leon Ma. Guerrero would later call “The First Filipino.”

Today, June 19, marks the 148th birth anniversary of Dr. Jose P. Rizal. While he was educated in several schools both here and abroad, it is with what in his time was called the Ateneo Municipal de Manila that the National Hero is most closely identified.

This bond between Rizal and the Jesuits is documented by the American professor Austin Craig in his book Lineage, Life and Labor of Jose Rizal, Philippine Patriot: A Study of the Growth of Free Ideas in the Trans Pacific American Territory. First published in 1913, Craig’s opus is still regarded as one of the most comprehensive biographies of Rizal.

The following excerpts from Craig’s book illustrate the seemingly umbilical attachment between Rizal and the Ateneo.

In Chapter 5, “Jagor’s Prophecy,” Craig wrote:

“Rizal’s own recollections speak of June as being the date of the formal beginning of his studies in Manila. First he went to San Juan de Letran and took an examination in the Catechism. Then he went back to Kalamba and in July passed into the Ateneo, possibly because of the more favorable conditions under which the pupils were admitted, receiving credit for work in arithmetic, which in the other school, it is said, he would have had to restudy. This perhaps accounts for the credit shown in the scholastic year 1871-72. Until his fourth year Rizal was an externe, as those residing outside of the school dormitory were then called. The Ateneo was very popular and so great was the eagerness to enter it that the waiting list was long and two or three years’ delay was not at all uncommon.”

___

“Besides the interest he took in clay modeling . . . Rizal was expert in carving. When first in the Ateneo he had carved an image of the Virgin of such grace and beauty that one of the Fathers asked him to try an image of the Sacred Heart. Rizal complied, and produced the carving that played so important a part in his future life. The Jesuit Father had intended to take the image with him to Spain, but in some way it was left behind and the schoolboys put it up on the door of their dormitory. There it remained for nearly twenty years, constantly reminding the many lads who passed in and out of the one who teachers and pupils alike agreed was the greatest of all their number, for Rizal during these years was the schoolboy hero of the Ateneo, and from the Ateneo came the men who were most largely concerned in making the New Philippines . . .”

___

“The Ateneo course of study was a good deal like that of our present high school, though not so thorough nor so advanced. Still, the method of instruction which has made Jesuit education notable in all parts of the world carried on the good work which the mother’s training had begun. The system required the explanation of the morrow’s lesson, questioning on the lesson of the day and a review of the previous day’s work. This, with the attention given to the classics, developed and quickened faculties which gave Rizal a remarkable power of assimilating knowledge of all kinds for future use.”

___

“The story is told that Rizal was undecided as to his career, and wrote to the rector of the Ateneo for advice; but the Jesuit was then in the interior of Mindanao, and by the time the answer, suggesting that he should devote himself to agriculture, was received, he had already made his choice. However, Rizal did continue the study of agriculture, besides specializing in medicine, carrying on double work as he took the course in the Ateneo which led to the degree of land surveyor and agricultural expert. This work was completed before he had reached the age fixed by law, so that he could not then receive his diploma, which was not delivered to him until he had attained the age of twenty-one years.”

___

In Chapter 10, “Consummatum Est,” Craig wrote:

“The journey from the Fort to the place of execution, then Bagumbayan Field, now called the Luneta, was on foot. His arms were tied tightly behind his back, and he was surrounded by a heavy guard. The Jesuits accompanied him and some of his Dapitan schoolboys were in the crowd . . .

“The route was along the Malecon Drive where as a college student he had walked with his fiancée, Leonora. Above the city walls showed the twin towers of the Ateneo, and when he asked about them, for they were not there in his boyhood days, he spoke of the happy years that he had spent in the old school. The beauty of the morning, too, appealed to him, and may have recalled an experience of his ’87 visit when he said to a friend whom he met on the beach during an early morning walk: ‘Do you know that I have a sort of foreboding that some such sunshiny morning as this I shall be out here facing a firing squad?’”

dansoy26@yahoo.com

   
 

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