To understand the soul of the Ateneo de Manila University --
what shaped it and where it came from, where it is going and where it can take
you -- it is essential to understand its motto, Lux in Domino, or "Light
in the Lord."
The Ateneo de Manila University Seal
From the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians (5:8), these
words capture the spirit of a way of life which the Ateneo holds up to her sons
and daughters as their best contribution to the work by which God transforms
the world. To be "light in the Lord" in all fullness demands moving
insistently and deliberately towards God as the center of a person's life,
identifying the issues that such a centering poses, and then moving out to the
world to find ever new ways of constructing the edifice, cultivating the
garden, painting the masterpiece, that God is unfolding in one's life.
It is a call to BE that light of the Lord in the world.
The Ateneo de Manila University began in 1859 when Spanish
Jesuits established the Escuela Municipal de Manila, a public primary school
established in Intramuros for the city of Manila. However, the educational
tradition of the Ateneo embraces the much older history of the Jesuits as a
teaching order in the Philippines.
The first Spanish Jesuits arrived in the country in 1581.
While primarily missionaries, they were also custodians of the ratio studiorum,
the system of Jesuit education formulated about 1559. In 1590, they founded one
of the first colleges in the Philippines, the Colegio de Manila (also known as
the Colegio Seminario de San Ignacio) under the leadership of Antonio Sedeño,
S.J. The school formally opened in 1595.
In 1621, Pope Gregory XV, through the archbishop of Manila,
authorized the San Ignacio to confer degrees in theology and the arts. Two
years later, King Philip IV of Spain confirmed this authorization, making the
school a royal and a pontifical university, the very first university in the
Philippines and in Asia.
However, by the mid-18th century, Catholic colonial powers,
notably France, Portugal, and Spain, had grown hostile to the Society of Jesus.
The colonial powers eventually expelled the Society, often quite brutally, from
The Jesuits had to relinquish the San Ignacio to Spanish
civil authorities in 1768, upon their violent expulsion from all Spanish
territories. Finally, under pressure from Catholic royalty, Pope Clement XIV
formally declared the dissolution of the Society of Jesus in 1773.
Pope Pius VII reinstated the Society in 1814, after almost
seven decades of persecution and over four decades of formal suppression.
However, the Jesuits would not return to the Philippines until 1859, almost a
century after their expulsion.
Authorized by a royal decree of 1852, ten Spanish Jesuits
arrived in Manila on April 14, 1859. This Jesuit mission was sent mainly for
missionary work in Mindanao and Jolo. However, despite almost a century away
from the Philippines, the Jesuits’ reputation as educators remained entrenched
in the minds of Manila’s leaders. On August 5, the ayuntamiento or city council
requested the Governor-General for a Jesuit school financed by public money.
On October 1, 1859, the Governor-General authorized the
Jesuits to take over the Escuela Municipal, then a small private school
maintained for 30 children of Spanish residents. Partly subsidized by the
ayuntamiento, it was the only primary school in Manila at the time. Under the
Jesuits, the Escuela eventually became the Ateneo Municipal de Manila in 1865
when it was elevated to an institution of secondary education. The Ateneo
Municipal offered the bachillerato as well as technical courses leading to
certificates in agriculture, surveying, and business.
When American colonial rule came in 1902, the Ateneo
Municipal lost its government subsidy. In 1908, the colonial government
recognized it as a college licensed to offer the bachelor’s degree and
certificates in various disciplines, including electrical engineering. In 1909,
years after the Ateneo became a private institution, the Jesuits finally removed
the word “Municipal” from the Ateneo’s official name, and it has since been
known as the Ateneo de Manila.
American Jesuits took over administration in 1921. In 1932,
under Fr. Richard O’Brien, third American rector, the Ateneo transferred to
Padre Faura after a fire destroyed the Intramuros campus.
Devastation hit the Ateneo campus once again during World
War II. Only one structure remained standing – the statue of St. Joseph and the
Child Jesus which now stands in front of the Jesuit Residence in the Loyola
Heights campus. Ironwork and statuary salvaged from the Ateneo ruins have since
been incorporated into various existing Ateneo buildings. Some examples are the
Ateneo monograms on the gates of the Loyola Heights campus, the iron grillwork
on the ground floor of Xavier Hall, and the statue of the Immaculate Conception
displayed at the University archives.
But even if the Ateneo campus had been destroyed, the
university survived. Following the American liberation, the Ateneo de Manila
reopened temporarily in Plaza Guipit in Sampaloc. The Padre Faura campus
reopened in 1946 with Quonset huts serving as buildings among the campus ruins.
In 1952, the university, led by Fr. William Masterson, S.J.
moved most of its units to its present Loyola Heights campus. Controversy
surrounded the decision. An Ateneo Jesuit supposedly said that only the
‘children of Tarzan’ would study in the new campus. But over the years, the
Ateneo in Loyola Heights has become the center of a dynamic community. The
Padre Faura campus continued to house the professional schools until 1976.
The first Filipino rector, Fr. Francisco Araneta, S.J. was
appointed in 1958. And in 1959, its centennial year, the Ateneo became a
The Padre Faura campus was closed in 1976. A year after, the
University opened a new campus for its professional schools in Salcedo Village,
in the bustling business district of Makati. In October 1998, the University
completed construction of a bigger site of the Ateneo Professional Schools at
Rockwell, also in Makati.
1. Ateneo de Manila University Official Website
read more: Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU)