Am sitting in Las Vegas’ McCarran airport way too early, happy to have participated in the 10th International Convention of the All-Ateneo Alumni Association at the Riviera Hotel.
My sister, Cristina, says that the best international flights are the uneventful ones. I learned the wisdom of that when “the event” of my trip coming over from the Philippines was my lost check-in luggage. Somewhere between Manila and Miami, in the bowels of the airports of Vancouver, Las Vegas or Miami, is my lost, black, upright piece of luggage. After ten days, they still haven’t found it.
Lost: my warm trench coat, my dress shirts, my ties, my clerical attire, my Pacsafe camera bag, my underwear, my gym wear, my slippers, my favorite running shoes and my maintenance medicine. If my doctor finds my vitals all screwed up, I will talk with Manny Quibod to sue.
Thank God for plastic money and helpful relatives! I was able to find what was necessary to attend my nephew, Travis’, formal wedding to Erin, to visit the Illinois Institute of Technology with my niece, Andrea, to eat Japanese Ramen with my brother in Chicago, and finally attend this awesome gathering of Ateneans for all over North America. I have also learned that the “disposable briefs” you can purchase in drugstores in the US are designed neither to be washed nor worn again.
Meanwhile I have inherited the trench coat of the venerable late Toti Juan, thanks to the kindness of Isabel, and I am now wearing my brother’s trousers!
We can say that the alumni gatherings of Atenean have come full circle – at least geographically. The idea of an “All Ateneo” gathering in the USA began ten years ago in Las Vegas. A decade later, after wandering to different regions of the USA and sampling different local flavors of varying alum constellations, it returned this year to Las Vegas. The organizing team led by the Convention Chair, Ramon “Nonoy” Morada, had worked so hard the attendance broke all records; the feedback was generally grateful and positive. All the Ateneo Presidents came, and were given opportunity to present what was going on in each of their Ateneos; the Q&A session with Dado Banatao was truly enlightening; and the presentation on the Milky Way (the stellar constellation, not the candy bar), its Origin and Future, by the youthful Dr. Reina Reyes was awesome. When Dado Banatao expressed his gratitude for the Ateneo de Tuguegarao (AdT), we all regretted it had to be closed ultimately because of an incompatible relationship then between the AdT and the local bishop. But in Dado’s testimony, we also appreciated anew the power of good basic education in the Ateneo tradition. We presidents found a private hour with Dado Banatao so enriching that we have already begun to consider how we can achieve more “depth” in teaching science and technology.
Fr. Herbert Schneider, now heading the Philippine Jesuit Aid Association (PJAA), made a presentation of the help the Jesuits in the Philippines need for their aged and infirm, for their Jesuits in formation, and for non-Ateneo apostolates like the parishes, the social apostolate, the formation work of priests and religious (e.g. San Jose Seminary and Loyola School of Theology) that are all dependent for their funding on the Philippine Province. This time the appeal did not just remain an appeal. Dado Banatao quietly challenged all to give, and committed to match any money raised for the PJAA by the association up to $250,000 in the next five years. As I was leaving the hotel this morning, Engr. Roger Alano of Davao, was already plotting and scheming as to how that amount might be raised in due time.
Yes, I guess I was personally moved. Where the care for the old Jesuit mentors is a genuine problem in the Philippines, it being costly, the assembled Ateneans in North America were showing they cared. I was also moved because soon I will be a beneficiary of this generosity.
Among the most important achievements of the “All-Ateneo” Alumni Convention that had begun in Vegas and had returned to Vegas: the ratification of the Constitution and ByLaws of the Ateneo Alumni Association of North America (AAANA).
For the Gala Dinner and Dance last night, where participants were encouraged to wear “Filipiniana” attire, I could only wear my coat and newly-purchased shirt and tie. It was truly the largest gathering of Ateneo Alumni/ae I’d experienced in the USA, the strongest group still coming from Ateneo de Naga. Specially moving: Nonoy Morada and companions sang an “Our Father” that he dedicated to the Ateneo Presidents, a prayer, I take it, that we might do His will and continue in our positions to work for the Kingdom. Dado Banatao outlined how he is trying to move structures to help the Philippines catch up with the rest of the technology world, before he and Reina Reyes were honored as outstanding alums of our Ateneos. Then, the newly-elected officers of the just-approved AAANA led by President Jun Farrales and President-Elect Roger Alano were sworn in by Fr. Bobby Yap. In entertainment, I was truly impressed by the Itik-Itik, the Binasuan, and the Tinikling, rendered with skill, vigor and joy; I thought the dancers were professionals; in fact, they were alum doctors and nurses! Singing and dancing to the tunes of the 60s and 70s were fun – at least for me and my classmates there!
My plane is about to take off, so let me end with this. Each of the Ateneos had a banner; even the Aquila Legis and the Jubilarians had a banner. But if the present Ateneo de Manila, Ateneo de Naga, Ateneo de Cagayan de Oro (Xavier U), Ateneo de Davao, and Ateneo de Zamboanga had banners, so too did the Ateneo de San Pablo and the Ateneo de Tuguegarao. I held the banner of Ateneo de Davao jointly with Roger Alano, and behind us was the large contingency of the ADDU. ADMU and ADNU had even larger representations. As the Ateneans massed on the dance floor behind their banners, the last banner to be brought in with pride was that of the Ateneo de Tuguegarao. It was carried by Dado Banatao.
That was explained later through a powerful song: “He’s my brother. He ain’t heavy…” Even when “the parents” – the Jesuits – are no longer present, or no longer available – the shared gratitude of alums metamorphoses into shared responsibility and shared concern – not only for one another but for God’s Kingdom in the Philippines. As long as alums do this, the school does not die. It is still held high. And God’s greater glory is served.