The Ateneo strives to develop students into articulate, creative, and productive persons who are rooted in their own culture, interdisciplinary in their approach, and global in their perspective.
The emphasis on cultural rootedness and global perspective cuts across all levels in the educational continuum at the Ateneo. In the Grade School, Araling Panlipunan is the main instructional vehicle for inculcating love of country. It is taught using creative experiential processes through which the young students draw on the richness and beauty of Philippine culture and history in the process of developing the desire to respond to the challenges the country confronts.
At the college level, through a wide variety of courses and co-curricular activities, faculty and students work together in understanding and enriching Philippine culture while engaging in analytical and creative discourse on the major ideas and methods of inquiry of the global intellectual heritage. The work of Ateneo Professor and National Artist Salvador Bernal at Tanghalang Ateneo exemplifies this.
National Artist and Ateneo alumnus Salvador Bernal has been designing sets and costumes for the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Tanghalang Ateneo, and other prestigious productions. Bernal experiments ingeniously with space and material, making period-pieces look authentic and even lavish while using only ordinary and native materials: bamboo, burlap, rattan, chain links, gauze cacha; even empty water bottles and ballpen cases become elaborate set pieces. As the citation for the National Artist award duly notes, “he exemplified the versatility of Filipino materials for design and proved that the poverty of a production need not imply a poverty of the imagination.”
While a text may be foreign, Bernal masterfully indigenizes it, allowing it to speak more forcefully to a Filipino audience. Shakespeare’s Ilyria in Twelfth Night becomes an indefinite but identifiable Southeast Asian island, and Padua in Taming of the Shrew is turn-of-the-century Philippines.
Sociologist Ricardo Abad, the moderator/director of Tanghalang Ateneo, likewise carefully draws connections between the plays and aspects of local culture and contemporary events. The synergy between Abad’s culturally-rooted directorial vision and Bernal’s designs is what has made Tanghalang Ateneo productions powerful and memorable, continuing the illustrious tradition of dramatics in the Ateneo begun in the early 1920s by Fr. Henry Lee Irwin, S.J., that spans the Grade School’s Children’s Theater and the High School’s Dulaang Sibol.