The Gym PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 10 July 2016 14:37

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

The Blue Ghost. Stalag 17. Billy Budd. Our Town. Cisco. To be or NUT to be. Generation Gap.

The Zamboanga Amateur Basketball Association (ZABA). PRISAA basketball eliminations. The Voice of Democracy. Knights of Rizal oratorical contests. All Ateneo Union. Swing Sing. Reading of honors. Graduations. Concerts (Downbeats and Hagibis). Remy Coloma. Pilita Corrales. Pepe Pimentel. Diomedes Maturan. Gen Gerry Roxas. Many more that slip my memory.

Judo tournaments. The Circus. Bozo the Clown. Letran Knights. Mapua Cardinals. Royal True Orange. Meralco Reddy Kilowatts. Yco Painters. Ventures for Victory. Summer basketball league. College intramurals. Media inter-color sports competition. Discos/balls. Countless of other events that evade my mind.

Made of hardwood (narra and yakal) with wooden flooring, the only one such gym in Western Mindanao, The Gym played host to all of the above. It was erected after World War II by the Jesuit fathers. It stood the test of time and sometimes angry Mother Nature. I don’t recall the roof leaking when it rained. As the Rectors and Presidents came and went the school grew – from “sawali” and “nipa” to hardwood, then concrete (the first was the high school building that was built by my father-in-law, Engineer Agustin de Jesus).

The buildings since then have been refurbished and reinforced; new concrete structures were built and the school exclusively for boys opened its doors to the girls. Eventually, it metamorphosed into a university offering medicine and law.

Most of the acacia trees have been felled, to the consternation of the masons, and some pruned. The giant pine trees planted during the time of Gen. Pershing have been axed down to give way to growth. Even the concrete and log benches were not spared.

With the unfortunate fire, the symbol of Ateneo’s might and glory was turned into ashes to the dismay of the alumni and alumnae. With the fire went happy memories – nostalgic events torched in just one hour.

The Speakers’ Club, whose many past presidents are now either lawyers or journalists was located at the second floor of the gym directly above the cantina run by Nor Leon. “Madoya” was our favorite merienda because that was the only thing we could afford from a 25-centavo “baon”. That office was frequently used by the alleged geniuses who did their crossword puzzles in-between classes with their girl friends assisting. Two of them were Vic Solis and Rene Fernandez.

The Gym is gone. In 1963 up to 1966, we sang as Fr. Antonio Cuna conducted with Mr. Selisana at the piano. Mrs. Paciencia Manalac took care of the college voices. We sang for Zamboanga and our alma mater that desired to build a new gymnasium from the money generated from the concerts. Singing in the glee club took us to Isabela and Jolo. But a new gym was never built.

When Cesar C. Climaco was mayor, he had his city engineer declare the gym as a fire hazard. The Jesuits closed the gym for renovation. The wooden flooring was bulldozed and a concrete flooring replaced it. The bleachers and floor area were reinforced with big, strong wood.

The Gym. Above its majestic structure was the school logo, repainted many times over, with the inscription: “Pro Deo et Patria.” Love for God and country is more powerful than reason itself (Amor Deo et patriae, ratione valentior).

God always favored our undertakings: basketball, debate, oratorical contests, declamation, drama. On that floor played many basketball greats and lesser greats: Alfonso “Boy” Marquez (two-time Olympian and two-time world), Cesar “Boy” Ijares, Pedro ”Pete” Alfaro, Vicente “Jun” Largo, Ges Doroja, Junie Orendain, Poderanan, Susing Alonso, Rudy Tangco, Bong Gollena, Lando Cabrera, Boy Marquez (who joined the U.S. navy), Eric Samson and many more who came after them.

The Gym. The instruments that blew sweet overtures and Ateneo’s “Hail…” and “Fly high” composed by Sen. Raul Manglapus also blew their last. Ildefonso Encarnacion must be crying in his grave. He was a great conductor.

Goodbye, Gym. All that is left are memories (“pressed between the pages of my mind and sweetened to the ages just like wine”). Our songs and plays and fund-raising drives didn’t bring you down. Now, the plan of decades will finally be realized. Hail, Blue Eagle, the King.

Erratum: In my last column, the last sentence: “So help AS God” should read “So help US God.”