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1. The Ateneo de Manila University began in 1859 with three Jesuit priests and a brother taking over the Escuela Municipal, a small private school for 33 children of Spanish residents. The Escuela eventually became the Ateneo Municipal de Manila in 1865 when it became an institution of secondary education. In 1901, the American colonial government withdrew government subsidy for the Ateneo. Fr. Jose Clos, S. J. decided to drop ‘Municipal’ from the Ateneo’s official name, and it has since been known as the Ateneo de Manila.

2. Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero and the Ateneo’s greatest student, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Ateneo Municipal. He was one of nine hailed as sobresaliente in his graduating class of twelve.

3. Lux in Domino (“Light in the Lord”, the Ateneo’s motto, is not the school’s original motto. The Escuela Municipal’s 1859 motto was Al merito y a la virtud (“In Merit and in Virtue”). This motto persisted through the school’s renaming in 1865 and in 1901.

4. Fr. James J. Meany, S.J. explains that the name Ateneo is the Spanish form of Atheneum, which the Dictionary of Classical Antiquities defines as “the first educational institution in Rome” where “rhetoricians and poets held their recitations.” He further explains that Hadrian’s Roman school drew its title from a Greek temple dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, where the Encyclopedia Britannica says “poets and men of learning were accustomed to meet and read their productions.”

5. The Ateneo became a university on December 11, 1959, its centennial year.

6. The central symbol of the Ateneo de Manila seal is the shield of Onaz-Loyola, a device used by many Jesuit organizations. In heraldic terms, the shield may be blazoned thus: Party per pale: Or, seven bendlets Gules; Argent, a two-eared pot hanging on a chain between two wolves rampant. In plain English, the shield is gold, divided vertically. To the viewer’s left is a red and gold bendy of seven pairs—seven red bars on a field of gold—the arms of Onaz given in honor of the seven heroes of the family who fought with the Spaniards against 70,000 French, Navarrese, and Gascons. To the right is a white or silver field with the arms of Loyola: a two-eared pot hanging by hooks on a chain flanked by two rampant wolves, also symbols of the ricos hominess or nobility. The name Loyola itself is a contraction of lobos y alla, wolves and pot. The Loyolas were reputed to have provided so well for their own that they could afford to feed wild wolves. 

7. The Ateneo has adopted blue and white, the colors of Our Lady, as its own school colors. The school colors are therefore signs of the Ateneo’s devotion to Mary and its commitment to become, like her, a constantly true and faithful servant of the Lord.

Marian blue, or ultramarine, is the purest and most enduring of blues. It is also the rarest and most expensive of pigments, and exceeds gold in value. The color must be extracted in tiny amounts from crushed lapis lazuli, a gem. Medieval artists therefore reserved blue for the robes of the Virgin and the Child Jesus.

White is also the color of Mary, conceived without sin and clothed with the sun. It is at once colorless and yet bears the entire spectrum of color. White is the color of openness, truth, purity, and hope.
8. The Ateneo adopted the eagle as its mascot in the late ‘30s. The choice of mascot held iconic significance. It was a reference to the “high-flying” basketball team which would “sweep the fields away;” the dominating force in the NCAA. Furthermore, there was some mythological—even political—significance to the eagle as a symbol of power.

The eagle also appears in the standards of many organizations, schools, as nations as a guardian of freedom and truth. It is also worthwhile to note that the national bird of the Philippines is an eagle as well.

The eagle is also often seen as a bird of God, the only bird that could fly above the clouds and stare directly at the sun. In fact, the eagle represents St. John, the Evangelist, in honor of the soaring spirit and penetrating vision of his gospel.

9. In 2000, the School of Arts and Sciences restructured into four Loyola Schools: the School of Humanities, the John Gokongwei School of Management, the School of Science and Engineering, and the School of Social Sciences.

10. The Ateneo Art Gallery, widely recognized as the first museum of Philippine modern art, showcases works by postwar Filipino artists donated to the Ateneo de Manila University from 1959 to 1961 by the late Fernando Zobel de Ayala (1924-1984). An internationally renowned painter and art scholar, Zobel had intended his donation to be the start of a permanent Philippine contemporary collection for the University’s students in the liberal arts. Today, the Gallery is recognized as the country’s primary museum of modern art.

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