Crossing new frontiers: Ateneo de Naga at 75
NAGA CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – For one school in the heart of Bicol, it all began with a letter.
Monsignor Pedro Santos, first archbishop of Caceres, was concerned about the lack of a prestigious academic institution for the lay people of the Nueva Caceres Diocese. On November 3, 1939, he wrote to Fr John Hurley SJ, then-superior of the Philippine Jesuit Missions, saying that “such a condition cannot but produce a complete lack of Catholic education among our youth.”
Santos invited Hurley to convince the Society of Jesus, known for providing holistic education, to take over the Camarines Sur Catholic Academy for boys, which was being run by the diocese at the time.
“The diocese at present does not possess much in the way of financial means, but gives the land necessary for the school and whatever personal help your reverence may hope to expect from a former student under the fathers of the Society of Jesus,” said Santos.
On May 2, 1940, just half a year later, the Jesuits renamed the school the Ateneo de Naga, with Fr Francis Burns SJ as its first rector. He was with 6 Jesuits.
Such was the beginning of the Ateneo de Naga University (ADNU), which celebrated its 75th founding anniversary on Friday, June 5, with the theme, “Celebrating 75 years of Magis, Living the Spirit, and Forging towards New Frontiers.”
According to Ateneo @75 project director Noel Volante, ADNU’s history shows the university’s efforts to continuously uphold the Jesuit ideal of magis, the philosophy of doing more in the name of Jesus Christ.
On October 26, 1953, the college department opened its doors to its first 5 female students, 20 years ahead of the Ateneo de Manila University. Half a century later, ADNU made its high school department co-educational as well.
ADNU also boasts of the first institutional accreditation status given to a university by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities on May 25, 2009.
The year before, the Commission on Higher Education granted an autonomous status to ADNU.
It is also the first academic institution in the country to offer a 4-year baccalaureate degree focused on 3D animation. With its help, the Ateneo de Zamboanga was able to develop its own multimedia and animation course as well.
“Magis is about doing more, to excel, [going] beyond mediocrity,” said Volante.
“Mediocre ba kung naka-produce kami ng isang Senator Raul Roco? Mediocre ba kung naka-produce kami ng isang Jesse Robredo? Mediocre ba kung naka-produce kami ng isang the late Justice Francis Garchitorena?” he added, citing some of ADNU’s notable alumni. (READ: Remembering Raul Roco and Jesse Robredo's journey back home)
(Would you call it mediocre if we were able to produce someone like Senator Raul Roco? Would you call it mediocre if we were able to produce someone like Jesse Robredo? Would you call it mediocre if we were able to produce someone like the late Justice Francis Garchitorena?)
The university is also home to several topnotchers of licensure and aptitude examinations in several fields.
However, ADNU president Primitivo Viray, SJ said that the university continues to face several challenges after 75 years.
“We’re the only Ateneo left without a [full] grade school…but it’s the dream of many Bicolanos to have a grade school [run by Jesuits here],” he told Rappler in an interview.
In 1941, ADNU elementary school students were transferred to a nearby school run by the Daughters of Charity. It was only in June 2014 when ADNU reopened classes for Grades 1-3.
According to Viray, a new building is currently being constructed to accommodate the rest of the elementary school levels in the coming years.
Right after its 75th anniversary, ADNU will also have to deal with the implementation of the K to 12 Program. (READ: INFOGRAPHIC: 10 things about K to 12)
“We have been preparing for that very difficult transition,” Viray said, adding that ensuring a seamless transition from one K to 12 year level to the next is another frontier ADNU needs to confront.
Despite these, Viray remains hopeful for ADNU. “We may be faced with difficult challenges individually or as a community, but we always trust that it is the work of the Lord,” he said.
“Pope Francis would always say the deep need for depth of reflection and imagination, creativity, that can only come from having an interior life.”
The ADNU community held several activities on Friday, June 5, to commemorate the 75th founding anniversary of the university.
The day began with a Holy Eucharist at the main campus in Barangay Bagumbayan with Archbishop of Caceres Rolando Tirona as presider and homilist. The Mass was concelebrated by Jesuit Father Provincial Antonio Moreno SJ.
The new grade school building in ADNU’s Barangay Pacol campus, named Rev Raul J. Bonoan Campus, after the university’s first president, was also blessed.
It was also here where the commemorative stamp, watch, and special guest book for the 75th anniversary were officially unveiled.
Student-run fairs were also held around the main college building. Several exhibits were opened in the college and high school campuses to showcase the historic milestones of ADNU.
In the afternoon, students, faculty members, and staff personnel bearing balloons, streamers, ribbons, and banners containing ADNU’s achievements paraded around the major streets of Naga City.
The celebration was capped with a student musical show organized by the ADNU Supreme Student Government, featuring performances from students, the Manila-based band Hale, and Apo Hiking Society member Jim Paredes.
“Maganda naman (It’s good). There’s a sense of deep joy and of gratitude for having been made part of the celebration,” said Viray of the outcome of the day’s activities.
ADNU Supreme Student Government president Jenry Celebrado shared the same sentiments. “This event is one of a kind because it’s historical… and it’s a way of building a strong rapport [among] the administration, the student government, and the students,” he said. – Rappler.com