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Art in the Ateneo
"What? The Ateneo has a Fine Arts Program! I didn"t know that!" You hear comments like that when the Loyola Schools" Fine Arts Program is mentioned. Somehow in the popular imagination the Fine Arts and the Ateneo are worlds apart. Ateneo that"s for bar topnotchers, basketball teams, civic leaders, philosophers and writers, sensible preachers, managers and scientists.... but the ARTS?

"Yes," you reiterate "the Ateneo does have a Fine Arts Program on the undergrad level and it is entering its fourth year."

Although the Ateneo" began offering a formal program in the Fine Arts at the beginning of a new millennium (Schoolyear 2000-01) the Ateneo is deeply and uniquely rooted in the arts.

A Legacy of Four Centuries. The Jesuits, who took charge of the Ateneo Municipal de Manila in 1859 upon the request of the city aldermen, had a religious founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, who was a personal acquaintance of Michaelangelo. Thus, when the Jesuits laid the foundation stone for their mother church in Rome, the Gesu, this aging maestro personally assisted by going down the trench dug for the church' s foundation. Completed after twelve years after Ignatius" death, the Gesu, following the design of Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola and Giacomo della Porta has been hailed as a "seminal building" of Western architecture. It was the prototype of countless churches built after the Council of Trent and this included the Spanish colonial churches of the Philippines. Churches that we fondly characterize as "Philippine Baroque."

Caravaggio, the Baroque master of chiaroscuro, so wanted to paint for the church that he even went to court for it; and Gianlorenzo Bernini, a personal friend of the eleventh Jesuit General, Gianpaolo Oliva, often visited the Gesu to derive inspiration for his own work.

The Home Front. We learn that in the Ateneo Municipal of Intramuros, "bellas artes" was part of the curriculum. It is no accident then that one of treasures of the Ateneo is a statue of the Sacred Heart carved by Dr. Jose Rizal while he was still a student at the Ateneo. Rizal carved it with a penknife, perhaps the same one he used for sharpening pencils. Rizal attended art classes like all the students of his day. He may have also studied music because the corridors of the Ateneo were lined with pianos for student practice. And he dabbled in theater. As a student in his teens, he wrote Junto al Pasig, a short drama in honor of Our Lady of Antipolo.

At one time Agustin Saez, the director of the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Manila, taught at the Ateneo. This was the time when the Jesuits were planning the San Ignacio. Saez contributed to the plans by designing the altarpieces or retablos of the church. These designs guided Isabelo Tampingo, his uncle Crispulo Hocson, Manuel Flores and their atelier who were commissioned to carve the altars in hardwood, shipped to Manila from as far as Surigao.

When the San Ignacio was blessed in 1889, it was immediately hailed as an "obra maestra," an extraordinary expression of colonial architecture. The church survived the Revolution of 1896, a fire that ravaged Intramuros in 1932 but did not last the conflagration that reduced Manila to the second most devastated city in the world in 1945.

In halcyon years of "peace time", Ateneo was once more at the center stage of the Manila"s art scene when the Ateneo Theater was inaugurated at the Padre Faura campus. The moving force behind the theater was an American Jesuit, Fr. Henry Irwin. Here were heard the metered dialogues of Shakespeare, here was performed the Passion Play, which was both theatrical and religious experience. Here Manila"s elite, including the American governors general and Filipino politicos, like President Manuel Quezon, graced theatrical openings.

During the post-war years, in the graduate school at Padre Faura, painter and philanthropist, Fernando Zobel de Ayala was delivering his lectures on art appreciation and history. His students are recognized as pioneer art critics, among them was Leonidas Benesa and Prof. Emmanuel Torres. When Zobel left for Spain, he bequeathed to the Ateneo a sizable collection of modernist paintings he had acquired, many of which were displayed at the Philippine Art Gallery (PAG) earlier. The Ateneo Art Gallery began modestly; at one time it was housed in two refurbished classrooms of Bellarmine Hall until it moved to the Rizal Library its permanent home for decades. Prof. Torres was curator for many years.

The 1960s and 70s saw the emergence of Onofre Pagsanjan"s Dulaang Sibol and Rolando Tinio"s experimental renditions of classic Greek plays and modern classics like Murder in the Cathedral. Tinio also pioneered the Caf Theater, where an unlikely venue like the cafeteria was used for drama. The Ateneo Glee Club under the baton of Jesuit teachers, like Frs. James Reuter and Antonio Cuna, were delighting Manila with their music.

In the 70s, campus theater moved toward a more widespread use of the vernacular. Tanghalang Ateneo was born. The 70s marked by the First Quarter Storm and the imposition of martial law saw the rise of protest theater in many campuses around the Philippines. In the post-Ninoy Aquino assassination years of the 80s street theater functioned as a vehicle for protest and Entablado was born. As the years passed, more performing groups were nourished on campus, Blue Rep which specializes in musical theater and Company of Ateneo Dancers (CADS), dedicated as the name indicates to dance. Under the guidance of Joel Navarro, the Ateneo Glee Club grew to be a world-renowned choir, bringing home international awards after awards.

Writing was also alive and well, expressed in the campus papers and magazines, like the Guidon, Heights, and the 70s Matanglawin, which promoted the use of Pilipino. In the academic field, the English and Pilipino departments were running classes in creative writing and the Interdisciplinary Program course in aesthetics, art appreciation, and studio art.

In the 90s, the Jesuit apostolate in media was revitalized with the reorganization of Jesuit Communication. Working with the Jesuit Music Ministry and other choirs composed of Ateneo alums and friends, like Hangad and Bukas Palad, JESCOM began digital recordings of JMM music. Recording the remarkable output of liturgical music by Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros, S.J. (himself an Atenean) and of younger Jesuit composers, like Arnel Aquino, Manoling Francisco and Fruto Ramirez, JESCOM discovered that there was a market for such professional recordings. Side by side with audio recording, JESCOM did video productions geared for instruction. A happy marriage of video and audio recordings gave birth to the JMM music video. With more than a dozen audio productions and an equal number of music videos, JMM/ JESCOM creative works are aired over national television and enjoy a brisk sale in Metro Manila Malls.

The Atenean, despite not having a formal arts program, has contributed to the cultural, literary and art scene. Some notable graduates of the Ateneo are: from an earlier generation, Emeterio Barcelon, Sr., poet and writer in Spanish, movie director Lamberto Avellana, statesman and eloquent orator Claro M. Recto, journalist Raul Locsin, historian Horacio de la Costa, S.J., writers Raul Manglapus and Sen. Soc Rodrigo, whose mastery of Pilipino is hard to match; from a later generation National Artist Salvador Bernal; writer Emman Lacaba, singers Basil Valdez, the Apo Hiking Society and the Company; stage actors like the late R.J. Leyran; visual artists, Roberto Chabet, Ray Albano, Boogie Ruiz, Pandy Aviado; directors Johnny Manahan, Leo Rialp and Vit Romero. The list is by no means comprehensive nor complete but it demonstrates that the arts were alive and well at the Ateneo.

The ground was ready for a formal program in Fine Arts. The vibrant art scene on campus was the fertile ground on which to plant the Fine Arts Program. The Fine Arts Program was established to put on a more professional footing the already remarkable artistic output of the Ateneo. The Fine Arts program preserves, nourishes and develops the Ateneo"s tradition of the arts. The Fine Arts program reaches out to the wider community in fostering a living and vibrant cultural scene in Metro Manila.

By schoolyear 2000 the program was formalized with initial offerings in Creative Writing and Theater Arts, and there shortly followed the tracks in Art Management and Information Design.

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