Home Op-Ed Columns Opinion on Page One Ateneo, an elitist institution

Ateneo, an elitist institution


If I still had children of school age, I would not enroll them at any Ateneo school, which is elitist.

I became bitter toward Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) after it turned away a student whom I tried to sponsor to study in its high school department.

The student was the daughter of a lavandera (laundry woman) who passed the entrance exams for the AdMU’s senior high school.

She graduated at the top of her class in junior high school at the Rizal Science High School.

Her mother approached me after AdMU would not accept her because she was poor.

I wrote the AdMU high school administration that my foundation would completely support her studies, including buying her textbooks and paying for her board and lodging near the campus.

I pleaded with the school to accept her as, I said, she had the potential of becoming a future leader with her high marks in all subjects, her lowest grade being 95 percent.

Failing that, my foundation enrolled her in a Catholic university in Manila where she is expected to graduate valedictorian this year.

She will enroll as a pre-med student in the same university next school year.

AdMU, which has produced some of the country’s best minds, closes its doors to students whose parents are very poor.

* * *

Lest I be misunderstood, my personal sentiments against the Ateneo school system are not born out of resentment but rather of gripe.

My son Ramon 3rd finished his elementary schooling at AdMU and his son, Zymon, is now a grade school pupil in the same school.

I partly owe my education to the Ateneo school system.

I studied at the Ateneo de Davao for Grade 3, Ateneo de Cagayan for Grade 4, and again, at the Ateneo de Davao for first year high school.

I took a year of college at the Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) in Cagayan de Oro.

If you hear me speak English with a slight American twang, I got it from the Jesuit teachers at the Ateneo of my generation who were Irish-Americans.

So, if I’m criticizing AdMU, I’m doing so as an alumnus of the Ateneo school system.

* * *

Allow me the indulgence of recalling snippets of my stint at the Ateneo.

Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez was in third year when I was in first year at the Ateneo de Davao in 1961.

Rodrigo Duterte was Dominguez’s classmate in second year but was not accepted to enroll in third year because of misconduct.

I remember Sonny Dominguez becoming the pride of the Ateneo de Davao when I was there because he won in the “Voice of Democracy” declamation contest of the entire Ateneo school system.

Sonny went on to become class valedictorian.

Prospero “Boy Nogie” Nograles, former speaker of the House, was in second year high school in 1961. He passed on recently after a lingering illness.

Lawyer Arturo Agudo, who was executive director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government during the time of Secretary Luis Santos, was our class beadle or the one who marked those who were absent or late in class.

Agudo, who now defends poor litigants, lives the Ateneo motto, “a man for others.”

At Xavier University, one of my classmates in first year college in the “X” or honors section, was Estanislao “Tanny” Granados, now a retired Malacañang official.

I remember Tanny being sent out of our class by the theology professor, a Jesuit priest, after he argued that the “seal of confession” was violated during the Spanish period in the Philippines when a friar tipped off the authorities about the confession of a woman about the existence of a secret group plotting a revolution.

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