HUNDREDS OF members of the Atenean community have witnessed the historic unveiling of the giant St. Ignatius statue in the façade of Ateneo de Iloilo-SMCS in San Rafael, Mandurriao district, last July 25.
“This is, unless proven otherwise, the biggest St. Ignatius statue in the world,” said by internationally acclaimed sculptor Ed Defensor during the inaugural rites. “This is also one of the few images that shows the younger and more historically accurate version of the founder of the Society of Jesus when he offered his sword to the Lady in Montserrat in 1522 in his early 30s after his spiritual conversion.”
Defensor, the creator of the 9-foot-tall, 12-foot-wide kneeling St. Ignatius, also said that the statue is “Iloilo’s pride.” Equating its distinction with the Lin-ay sg Iloilo bronze (also his masterpiece) now resting in the apex of the Iloilo City Hall building. The art history professor from University of the Philippines expects that the statue will eventually become a tourist destination. “It will remind and inspire people of the spirituality of St. Ignatius and the contribution of Ateneo in the realm of youth formation.”
The monument is also embellished with two large relief sculptures placed at the opposite sides of the 6-foot base of the giant statue. The relievos narrate the spiritual journey of the former proud Basque soldier who eventually became the defender of the Catholic faith and a big influence behind numerous Jesuit schools and educational institutions worldwide.
The statue is the brainchild of the late Francis Treñas, a graduate of Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and former member of the Ateneo de Iloilo-SMCS Board of Trustees. With his fellow ADMU alumni based in Iloilo, an amount was raised to jumpstart the project. He was represented by his wife, Dr. Kristin Treñas, and son, city councilor Jose Efrain Treñas III (a graduate of ADI-SMCS), during the inauguration ceremony.
For his part, ADI-SMCS president Fr. Joseph Haw told the Ateneo community, “I hope and pray, as we gaze unto this image of Ignatius, we may all be reminded to do our own oblation of self, uttering the same words he wrote in the Spiritual Exercises: ‘Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.’”
Fr. Haw also thanked the “generous initiative” of the ADMU alumni that made possible the installation of the statue.
He enumerated the donors of the new Iloilo architectural icon, namely: Romeo Aquino Jr, ADI-SMCS BOT member Erwin Elechicon, Juan Carlos Guadarrama, Melchor Tan, Rafael Javellana, Gerardo Taruc, Celso Javelosa, Luis Tinsay, Jose Perpetuo Lotilla, Ma. Corazon Segovia, Estefano Segovia, Maria Corazon Segovia, Maria Luisa Segovia, the late Francis Treñas, congressman Jerry Treñas, Jose Mari Treñas, and city councilor Jason Gonzales.
Together with students, parents, teachers, staff, alumni, and friends, also in attendance were Atenean city councilors Julie Grace Baronda (Ateneo de Iloilo alumna) and Lex Tupas (ADMU alumnus), ADI-SMCS Alumni Association (AAA) president Jake Borres, group of local artists, and members of the school’s Board of Trustees, among others.
Before the unveiling rites, a community mass was held in the school gym presided over by Fr. Haw, with his Jesuit brothers, Fr. Ruben Orbeta and Fr. Rodney Hart—school chaplain and assistant chaplain, respectively—and Fr. Guy Guibelondo of the Mary the Queen Parish in San Juan, Metro Manila.
In his homily, Fr. Guy stressed St. Ignatius’ education philosophy that boils down to the synthesis of magis (Latin for more) and service. He said that Ateneo education challenges everyone to be excellent in all fields possible but all these would make no sense if they are not translated in service to others.
“If you are good in academics, smart ka lang, if you are good in sports, magaling ka lang, but what St. Ignatius invites us to do is to sharpen and eventually share our gifts to the poor…this is the Ateneo way,” Fr. Guy stressed, highlighting the school’s motto, In Omnibus Amare et Servire Domino (In All Things, Love and Serve the Lord).
Induction of the officers of the AAA, and the Parent-Teacher Associations of the High School and Grade School departments was also incorporated in the community prayer service.
After the mass, the unveiling rites of the St. Ignatius statue followed suit. Thereafter, the community was treated with a simple arroz caldo and pandesal snacks while a blood-letting drive was held to cap the morning affair that forms part of the month-long celebration of the St. Ignatius Feast.
So far, the commemoration of the life and contribution of St. Ignatius, the school’s patron saint, has already launched the Ateneo de Iloilo’s Blue Spoon Feeding Program and Zero Waste Management Drive. It is set to conclude on July 31 with an outreach kick-off initiative to the three public grade schools in Mandurriao district.(Herman Lagon/Magis)