Ateneo Municipál de Manila

Aka Ateneo de Manila University. Turned over to Jesuit administration by the city of Manila in 1859, the Ateneo Municipál was a school for boys. Initially, the Jesuits hesitated taking charge of the school as they were returning to the Philippines after more than eight decades of absence to take charge of the Mindanao missions. (The Jesuits were expelled from the Philippines in 1768). The instructions they received stipulated that they were to ask explicit permission from higher superiors should they commit themselves to education. The city council prevailed upon the Jesuits to take charge of the school then called Escuela Pia. With the necessary permissions secured, Fr. José Cuevas accepted the school and in December 1859, the Jesuits began instruction in a modest building along Arsobispado St. near the archbishop’s residence.

Founded and supported by the city, the school was allowed to bear Manila’s coat of arms. The institution began as a boarding school but started accepting day boarders. Her illustrious alumnus, José Rizal, began his studies as a day boarder and only in his second year did he become an interno or boarder.

This school was later expanded with the addition of a preparatory college that prepared students for studies in the university, offering such courses as pre-law, surveying and mechanics.

From 1879-1888, the college church of San Ignacio was built beside the Casa Mision and on a piece of property cut from the archbishop’s own garden. The city council allowed the Jesuits to build a bridge over Anda to connect the Casa Mision, which was their residence with the school and dorm.

At the turn of the century a third floor was added to the school buildings and in the early 20th an elaborate entrance was designed and executed by Isabelo Tampingco. A fire that ravaged the southwestern quadrant of the city in 1932 damaged the Ateneo. The fire occurred at night, and the student boarders and the Jesuits had to save as much as they could of the Ateneo. The student boarders moved to Ermita, where the Jesuits had built the Escuela Normal de San Francisco Xavier for the education of teachers and had transferred the Manila Observatory.

The San Ignacio saved from fire became a quasi-parish to which was assigned its own pastor. The San Ignacio continued with its ministry in Intramuros, popularizing devotion to the Sacred Heart and membership in the Sodality of Our Lady.

With American colonial rule, the Ateneo lost its government subsidy and perforce dropped the adjective municipál from its name. During the first two decades of American rule, the Ateneo pioneered in introducing English as medium of instruction among Catholic schools. By the 1920s, administration of the Philippine mission had transferred to the American Jesuits and so did the Ateneo.

During World War II, the Ateneo moved its quarters to different parts of the city while trying to maintain a semblance of normality. By the end of the war, the buildings at Ermita, along the road now named after the Jesuit founder of the Manila Observatory, Fr. Federico Faura, was in ruins. In 1951, the Jesuits transferred the Ateneo to Loyola Heights, in Quezon City, where it has remained. In 1959, Ateneo became a university.

The Ateneo archives in Quezon City preserves documents and pictures relating to the Ateneo in Intramuros, among them are award-giving programs which list prominent Ateneo alumni of the Spanish era like José Rizal. A Tampingco screen saved from the San Ignacio church, decorated with carvings in the round of acanthus leaves and braided rope, is in the Ateneo’s Rizal Library.

The Intramuros site of the Ateneo is partially covered by the Department of Tourism’s Clamshell, a site for regional exhibits and events.

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