150 The Ateneo Way

30 Aug

Originally published in BusinessWorld Weekender, August 27-28, 2009

ateneo-book-early-eagle-flyer-updated2-230x300FOR MOST of my life, there has always been an Atenean (or two, or three) in the family. My brothers went to the Ateneo Grade School and High School, and one of them went on to Ateneo College and law school. Add to them a younger sister, cousins, and even in-laws, and so when it comes to UAAP games, it’s easy enough to decide which color shirt we’re all sporting. Me? I was partial to green, that being the uniform of the girls across the creek, or brown (my distinctive high school skirt), or even maroon (my university colors), but I married into blue, anyway. My husband, like his paternal grandfather before him, is an Atenean, and like life going full circle, we have a son who wears the blue and white proudly like second skin.

So, imagine, if you can, opening a book filled with pictures and accounts 150 way 01from a time long gone and finding that despite the 100 or more years that separate you from the beginnings of this shared history, you can actually still feel a kinship with them. It’s almost like coming home.

150: The Ateneo Way is a rare coffee-table book that goes beyond mere illustrations and superfluous conversation. As most books of the genre go, it has close to 300 pages of photographs and paintings culled from university archives and carefully preserved collections of Ateneo alumni. But unlike ordinary picture books, 150: The Ateneo Way tells a compelling story, beginning with 10 Jesuit missionaries who braved the harsh oceans and battled high winds to find their way back to the Philippines. Theirs was meant to be a mission of evangelization — to preach the Gospel and convert the heathen in the wild mountains of Mindanao. And yet, this same vision became the foundation of a different kind of life’s work — the education of young minds — and one which will endure 150 years of history and change.

Fr. Jose Arcilla, professor at the Department of History of the Ateneo de Manila University and archivist of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, whittles down more than a century of Jesuit history in the country into a montage of pictures and well-written narrative. His writing, though muted and circumspect, evokes a vividness to the events that transformed society. From the Jesuits’ return to the country in 1859 after almost a century of exile, to their establishment of the Escuela Municipal de Manila borne from the humble Escuela Pia, through wars and strife, transitions and relocations, and innovation and change, Fr. Arcilla deftly threads the history of Ateneo de Manila with the Spirit that fuels the institution.

150 way 02The illustrations, in photographs and paintings, are truly riveting. Readers are most likely to linger on the ones in sepia or black and white as their clarity and sharpness are amazing for pictures of their age. Additional treatment, like isolated color tints over monochromes, enhances the drama and focus of the pictures. From stunning panoramic views of the campuses and their surroundings to up-close-and-personal photographs of generations of men and boys whose lives became the cornerstone of the institution’s history, each and every photograph tells a story unique to its time and age. There is much of history’s painful moments to see within these pages as there is also much joy and celebration found within it, bound, most importantly, with the call to His service.

The book is a product of three years’ labor and collaboration by Fr. Arcilla and editors Alfred A. Yuson and Alya B. Honasan, with a foreword from the President of the Ateneo de Manila, Fr. Ben Nebres. Published by the Ateneo de Manila University and Media Wise Communications, Inc. in honor of Ateneo’s sesquicentennial year, this is perhaps one of the most enduring commemorative legacies of the celebration, one that will carry on long after our own memories have faded away.

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One Response to “150 The Ateneo Way”

  1. NinJas! August 31, 2009 at 10:18 am #

    Fr. Arcilla was one of my favourite teachers, Ate. During my junior year, I even took a class intended for graduate students (History of Colonial Latin America) as an elective. Yes, I am a nerd.

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