Dateline Manila: The Chavacano Blue Eagles in Metro Manila PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 04 July 2014 11:48

BY Sammy Santos


Two weeks from now, on July 18, 2014, the Ateneo de Zamboanga Metro Manila Alumni Association (ADZMMAA) will celebrate its 25th founding anniversary with a dinner program at the Manila Polo Club in Makati and a large number of Chavacano Blue Eagles based in the capital region is expected to attend.

Last year, then Ateneo de Zamboanga University President Fr. Tony Moreno asked me to write an article about the history of the ADZUMMAA that became part of the school’s centennial coffee table book, “Pro Deo Et Patria: 100 Years of Ateneo de Zamboanga,1912-2012” put together by Ma Christina Canones, Aireen Barrios Arnulco and Monabelle Blanco-Delgado.

To commemorate the AZDUMMAA’s silver anniversary, allow me to present a condensed and updated version of the article so I can share with you, dear readers, this poignant story on how this association of Chavacano Blue Eagles in Metro Manila came into being. Here goes:

That quick exchange of pleasantries in 1989 between two presidents proved providential. It was to be the beginning of a great many endeavors that did not only begin turning around a dwindling student population in the Ateneo de Zamboanga (ADZ) college, but also helped more importantly in acquiring university status.

Fr. William H. Kreutz, who was then president of the AdZ, could not recall details of that conversation but remembered that Engr. Paulino Pe, (HS ’51), who was the president of Ateneo de Zamboanga Metro Manila Alumni Association (ADZMMAA), meeting him for the first time, asked him what the alumni association could do for their beloved alma mater.

“I was rather new in Zamboanga and did not know anything of our alumni in Manila,” Fr. Kreutz said. “Without much hesitation, I told him that we need help for faculty development, to get master’s degrees for our teachers in the college.”

Fr. Kreutz recalled that after some time, Engr. Pe had told him that the alumni association would support two faculty scholars while studying in Manila.

The first two scholars who went under the program did their job and came back (to the AdZ), Fr. Kreutz says. “The Metro Manila alumni (association) has continually taken care of two scholars here in Manila for faculty development,” Fr. Kreutz said, adding that it had been done very systematically thereafter.

Pe had said that he remembered having been told sometime in 1989 that the AdZ was not doing very well. “Student population was dwindling because the school could not afford to hire good teachers,” Fr. Kreutz said.

He also recalled that when he first came to Zamboanga, the AdZ was not facing serious financial problems. “Things were paid off, we were paying our bills, and in that sense there was no financial crisis. We didn’t have extra money, that’s what we didn’t have,” he continued.  He said the school had the money for the usual bills but did not have the funds for faculty development.

“We were appraised by the conditions prevailing at the time,” said Nando Roxas (GS ’52, HS ’56, Col ’62), who became a long-time board member of the association. “Enrollment was at its all-time low resulting in poor revenues, the quality of education had declined, and the school was not attracting new students,” he said, telling of the very first discussion the alumni board members had with then AdZ president Fr. Ernesto Carretero, SJ.

In that meeting, according to Roxas, the board members remembered the fate of Ateneo de San Pablo and Ateneo de Tuguegarao that closed down many years back. “Would Ateneo de Zamboanga go their way? It was bad enough that a once proud learning institution was in the brink of collapse but was harder to imagine being a graduate of a school that was no longer existing,” Roxas said.

Even with the transition of the AdZ presidency from Fr. Carretero to Fr. Kreutz that year, one thing remained clear to the alumni association: that faculty development was to be its thrust.

Thus, faculty development became the ADZMMAA’s reason for being. “We believe that good teachers will raise the standard of teaching. When we have good teachers, people will come to Ateneo,” Pe noted.

Former AdZ President Fr. Antonio Moreno SJ explained that at that time the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) required that full time teachers in higher education should have at least MA degrees.

According to Fr. Kreutz, by the time Ateneo de Zamboanga applied for university status, every faculty member in the college already had a Master’s degree. Today, 99 percent of AdZU’s (adding a ‘U’ for University) faculty has at least an MA, he noted.

The faculty development has enabled AdZU to bring the number of fulltime teachers to a comfortable level, and thus satisfying the CHED requirement, according to Fr. Moreno.

“The Metro Manila group was a kind of a spark that made us see other things. Just that spark in the darkness, then you begin to see a little more. Then you can light a few more candles and then all of a sudden your room is bright. And it started with two little candles there,” Fr. Kreutz said referring to the first two scholars who took the scholarship program.

Twenty-five years hence, celebrating its silver anniversary, the ADZUMMAA has sponsored a total of 15 faculty members of the AdZU— eight in grade school, three in high school, and four in college—in their continuing education. At present, three members of the college faculty are in the program.

The scholarship grant is open to all qualified teachers of the AdZU, with screening and recommendations coming from the Office of the President of the AdZU. The program covers the cost of tuition, books and other materials, and living expenses.

The ADZMMAA then also had its share of challenges, especially during its formation years. Efforts to organize that began in the early 1980s would often lose steam for lack of enthusiasm, direction, and funds to fuel its start.

Retired broadcaster Edwin Fargas (GS ’53, HS ’57, Col. ’61), another ADZUMMAA board veteran, had said efforts were made particularly in 1980 and 1981, but each attempt lost steam before it could take off mainly due to lack of enthusiasm and zeal of the organizers as well as the deficiency of funds and resources to sustain the association.

Pe took a direct hand in setting up the association and provided the needed leadership. Together with a core group, he came up with an interim set of officers on March 11, 1989.

He recalled that at least 32 AdZ graduates who were based in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces comprised its founding and interim officers that included Enrique Lim, Cecilia Tan, Luzviminda Gamboa, Ma. Josefina Gultiano, Limuel Elmidor, Peter Encarnacion, Veronica Yu Asensi, Marilou Evangelista, Cesar Wee Sit, Jaime Villarin, Ramon Lim, Esmeraldo Gollena, Roland Cuartero, Agapito Thelmo, Leocadio Ramos, Paulino Pe, Emmanuel Belen, Jose Nebrao, Vicente Rey Suarez, Emmanuel Mariano, Ramon Bernardo, Ma. Susana Casas, Ann Margaret de Vera, Dalicia Buendia, Grace Altonaga, Cesar Sunaz, Antonio Blanco, Aida Sta. Teresa Gaetos and Monserrat Guingona David.

The ADZUMMAA elected its first sets of officers and were inducted into office by then Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat on July 14, 1989. The officers were Pe, president; Monserrat Guingona David, vice president; Ramon Bernardo, secretary; Enrique Lim, treasurer; the late Jose Nebrao, auditor; Edwin Fargas, PRO; Emmanuel Mariano, legal officer; and Gues Doroja, the late Ramon Lim, Vicente Rey Suarez and the late Cesar Wee Sit, board of directors.

To date, the current ADZUMMAA officers are Paul Pe, president; Domingo A. Doroja, vice president; Fernando C. Roxas, secretary; Cesar P. Suñaz, treasurer; Edwin L. Fargas and Cesar P. Dayagdag, assistant treasurers; Virginia L. Trinidad, auditor; Samuel Santos, P.R.O; Domingo A. Doroja, legal officer; Jaime F. Panganiban, Alfredo B. Suarez and Elaine Javier, directors.

Today, the ADZUMMAA is 700-member strong, still pressing on with its faculty development program, membership drive, fund-raising activities, social gatherings, and sports events.

The ADZUMMAA’s target is to raise at least P200,000 per year to send two scholars under the program, according to Pe. The association has staged raffle draws, bingo socials, and the like to raise the needed funds. The golf tournament has been steadily contributing to the faculty development program fund for the last eight years.

“We are always on the lookout for ways to raise funds,” Pe said as he has thanked the association’s benefactors for their continued support. Even beyond AdZU’s centennial year, celebrated in 2012, the ADZUMMAA shall continue the noble task of contributing to the university’s commitment to excellence.

With the increasing number of teachers availing of faculty development, the AdZU is on course to have well-equipped and competent faculty translating to better education, better competency, and improved quality education.  The university is one of those with highest percentage of faculty members with post-graduate degrees in Mindanao and possibly in the Visayas, as it has continued to make serious investment on this point.