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The Sesquicentennial of Ateneo de Manila (2009)
Ateneo celebrates 150 years of excellence, spirituality and nation building

On June 14, 1859, 150 years ago, ten Jesuits of the Aragon Province, Spain, led by their Superior, Father José Fernández Cuevas, disembarked from the frigate Luisita. After months at sea, they set foot on their destination, the walled city of Intramuros, where they told the colonial authorities of their very specific purpose “for the missions of Mindanao and Joló.”

They went about their mission with great zeal such that, in the words of Jesuit educator Rev. Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, by the end of the 19th century, the Society of Jesus had taken over all the mission posts of Mindanao and Sulu.

Back in Manila, in the 1850s, there was only one primary school – the Escuela Pía on Calle Real, founded in 1800. In 1859, a group of Manila residents petitioned the Spanish Governor-General for the newly-arrived Jesuits to begin a school. On the strength of a decree from Governor General Fernando Norzagaray, on October 1, 1859, the direction of the Escuela Pía was officially transferred to the Jesuits and the school was renamed the Escuela Municipal. Thus, on December 10, 1859, 23 boys came to class for their first day in the Jesuit-run school. In 1865, the school was renamed Ateneo Municipal de Manila. Jose Rizal, who would become our national hero, graduated Bachiller en Artes Sobresaliente from the Ateneo in 1877.

Sesquicentennial Celebration Kick-Off

On June 14, 2009, the Ateneo community launched the 150th anniversary, or sesquicentennial, of the university by retracing the Ateneo’s journey from its birthplace in Intramuros, Manila to its present main campus in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The celebration started with a Mass at the Manila Cathedral officiated by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and concelebrated by priests from the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus led by Fr. Jose Cecilio Magadia, S.J., Provincial Superior and Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J., President of Ateneo de Manila University. Various activities commemorated and lent new significance to the school’s history through six campuses (Intramuros, Padre Faura, Salcedo Village, Rockwell Center, Eugenio Lopez Medical Complex, and Loyola Heights) and four Metro Manila cities (Manila, Makati, Pasig, and Quezon City).

From 2007 to 2009, a three-year run-up to the sesquicentennial’s culmination was filled with major activities initiated by students, alumni and school units carrying the overarching theme “Celebrating Excellence, Deepening Spirituality, and Building the Nation.” In December 2009, the university heralded the coming of its sesquicentennial through a 15-day countdown packed with an array of activities from free concerts, to lectures, to sports recognitions, to fundraising events, to socially-oriented gatherings.

15-day countdown

Among the highlights of the 15-day countdown were:
o the 14th English in South East Asia (ESEA) Conference which the Ateneo hosted;
o a one-night concert by internationally acclaimed pianist and Ateneo alumnus Raul Sunico at the Church of the Gesù;
o Take and Receive II, a praise concert by Ateneo’s most celebrated music and singing groups;
o the Mt. Apo Sesquidition for the 500@150 Scholarship Program;
o the Ateneo 500@150 Telethon for Scholarships;
o the inauguration of the new Rizal Library;
o the launch of the six-volume “Agenda for Hope,” containing the Loyola Schools’ research initiatives beyond the sesquicentennial; and
o Igkas, a live, multisensory production of the Ateneo High School.
Last but not least was and the Sesquicentennial One Big Night and Grand Alumni Homecoming, which was held at the High School Covered Courts on December 12. Award-winning performing groups:

Ateneo College Glee Club,
Ateneo Chamber Singers,
Ateneo Boys’ Choir,
Ateneo Children’s Theater,
Blue Babble Battalion,
Blue Repertory,
Company of Ateneo Dancers,
Dulaang Sibol,
Entablado,
Indak,
Tanghalang Ateneo and
Teatro Bagong Tao,


gave a spectacular musical which chronicled Ateneo’s 150-year history of excellence, spirituality and nation-building.  The musical was followed by a concert which featured an all-star line-up of alumni artists and bands: Spirit of ’67, Ramon “RJ”Jacinto and the Riots,  Jun “Mr.Shooli” Urbano, Jose Mari Chan, Mid-Life Crisis, Karylle, Rico Blanco, Spongecola, Brigada, Parokya ni Edgar and Rico Blanco. The participation of guest alumni Gabe Mercado, Bill Velasco and Ria Trillo enlivened the two-part concert.

Ateneo’s  sesquicentennial on Dec. 10, was marked by a solemn but well-attended Sesquicentennial Anniversary Mass led by Fr. Jose Cecilio Magadia, S.J. at the Church of the Gesù. The message to all Ateneans was clear: they were not only celebrating the past 150 years, but embarking on their journey into the next 150 years with an even greater commitment to excellence, spirituality and nation-building.




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Sesquicentennial Timeline

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