THE USUALLY tranquil halls of the Ateneo Professional Schools (APS) Building in Rockwell bustled with activity last March 12, 2014. The APS prepared for its 40th anniversary celebration, with the President of the Republic of the Philippines, His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III in attendance. Policemen and members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were in the vicinity as early in the morning to secure the area in anticipation of PNoy’s arrival, his second visit to the campus since he assumed the presidency.
The celebration of APS’s ruby year, dubbed as “Four as One: Forming Leaders for Nation Building,” was highlighted by a forum wherein the President delivered the keynote address. According to APS Vice President Antonette Palma-Angeles, the theme reflects the collective nature and identity of the APS and its focus on collectively building the nation.
The commemorative event was graced by Fr. Ramon “Jett” Villarin, S.J., President of the Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU); Dr. Palma-Angeles, Vice President for APS; and the Deans of the four professional schools: Ateneo School of Government (ASOG) Dean Antonio “Tony” La Viña, Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH) Dean Manuel Dayrit, Ateneo Graduate School of Business (AGSB) Dean Alberto Buenviaje, and Ateneo Law School (ALS) Associate Dean for Continuing Legal Education & Research Lily Gruba, representing Dean Sedfrey Candelaria who was in London for linkages-building with other law schools.
Dr. Palma-Angeles gave an account of the history of the APS, followed by an audio-visual presentation of the recent developments in the professional schools. She later on posed these questions to the students: “What for? Why am I here?” as a call for APS students to continue making a difference for the benefit of future generations. She challenged the students in saying that they should not only be learned in the different fields they specialize in, but also to be open minded to the actual needs of their fellowmen, to discover their purpose, and to hone their passion.
A short brick-signing ceremony followed in which the Deans signed four bricks representing each of the four units of the APS. Each brick, according to Dr. Palma-Angeles, symbolizes the laying of the strong foundation for a bigger APS which will start with building a fifth floor and a mezzanine in the Rockwell campus.
Father Villarin then introduced the President for his keynote address. PNoy, at the beginning of his speech jokingly narrated that his speech took about four revisions—which for him was better compared to the 10 and above revisions of his usual State of the Nation Address. In line with his signature style, the President delivered his speech in Filipino. He gave an account of the Martial Law days when he was still a student at ADMU and remembered asking his professor in Constitutional Law, “ano pa ang punto ng pag-aaral ng konstitusyon kung babaguhin rin lamang ito ng diktador na nasa posisyon?” He recalled the moving answer of his professor, “paano natin maitatama ang mga mali kung di niyo malalaman ang pagkakaiba ng tama sa mali?” The President further stressed his point into one of the greatest values that a leader must learn, “hindi pwedeng matalino ka lang, dapat alam mo ang tama sa mali.”
PNoy recognized the importance of adhering to the foremost Ignatian principle lux in domino, “ang pagiging tao para sa kapwa” and further acknowledged that based on his experience on the job, humility has always come in handy. “Kailangan nating tanggapin na ang solusyon sa problema ay hindi natin masasagot ng tayo lamang, kailangan natin ng tulong ng iba,” he stated. PNoy shared that whenever he is faced with crucial decision-making situations, he would “call a friend” to ask for their advice on certain matters beyond his capabilities to know specifically of. He said that part of being Ateneans, and Atenean leaders for that matter, is the ability of asking questions—that “we keep asking and asking in order for us to see the clearer path of where we will lead others.” He maintained, “Mahirap maging tanglaw kung paiba-iba ang direksyon ng patutunguhan.” Taking his cue from the oft-quoted line of eminent Jesuit philosopher Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J., Aquino ended his speech with a challenge to the student leaders, “nasabi na ang dapat masabi, ang nananatili na lamang ay ang magawa ang karamihan rito.”
An open forum concluded the short celebration, in which the APS Deans, as well as some student leaders were given a chance to ask questions to the President. Representing ALS, Cesario Rex Kapunan (3D) asked His Excellency about how to encourage the youth to enter public service despite the rampant corruption situation haunting the government. The President replied, “I think I should throw the question back at you. You are the ones who will inherit that corruption if you will not act. When you see something wrong, you have two choices: One, you stand up and fight against it, and two, you go with it.”