IT WAS just supposed to be a temporary apostolic mission of the Jesuits exiled from China, but the parochial school in 1958 with 9 enrollees is now 60 years old with 2,100 students in its roster.

The community of Ateneo de Iloilo-SMCS—the only Jesuit, Catholic, and Chinese-Filipino school in Western Visayas—will culminate its jubilee year this February 6-9 highlighting its commitment to form leaders who pursue excellence that is ignited by love and service.

“The school has come a long way—from its humble beginnings as a parochial school in Gen. Blanco, City Proper to its new home in the bustling district in San Rafael, Mandurriao; it has become one of the most respected basic education institutions of the region,” said School President Fr. Joseph Haw, SJ.

“This diamond jubilee celebration is for all who had journeyed and who continue to journey with us in this mission to love and serve in all things—in omnibus amare et servire

The festivities will kick off with a motorcade and opening rites in the morning of Wednesday, February 6. This will be followed by invitational games, pet shows, and bands in the afternoon. Food kiosks, fun booths, rides, games, and fairs will be in place for the whole duration of the affair.

February 7 (Day 2) shall be highlighted by the Blue Harvest, a showcase of socio-cultural and contemporary performances from Atenean students, teachers, parents, and alumni. This free-admission showcase of talents shall be held at the school gym. The same day will also feature Zumba, House Cup, E-Games, Sound Trip, and Car Show. Day 3 (February ? of the celebration will focus more on the school’s participation in the city-wide Chinese New Year parade and presentations.

Saturday, February 9 (Day 4), is Family Day themed “Blessed and Loved.” This PTA-sponsored event will start with a community mass and end with a street party. In between, there will be food fest, live entertainment with school local bands, booths, feria, blood-letting activity, and bingo game, among others.

School Principal Dr. Herman Lagon, for his part, said, “Ateneo, first and foremost, is a community with shared Ignatian identity and mission. This is what binds us all and this is why we celebrate our diamond year with much warmth, depth, and gratitude. The grace that we have received for 60 years is a testament that we are indeed in the right direction of concretizing Christ’s mission hoping that our school can be an effective agent in forming heroic leaders for and with others.”

To note, responding to the request from the Chinese-Filipino community in Iloilo, the then Santa Maria Catholic School (SMCS) was established by the Jesuits who were exiled from China. From the small parcel of land donated by the Lopez brothers and the two-storey building that sheltered a squad of students and teachers, the school is now resting in a 7.5-hectare complex with 220 school personnel and 60 sections from Kinder to Grade 12.

ADI-SMCS continues to challenge itself to be one of the leading schools in the region in terms of innovative and integral formation of its students and other stakeholders. It has invested much on faculty development and infrastructure for this purpose earning a reputation to be one of the prime schools in the region in terms of academic excellence and formation. The school is a member of the Jesuit Basic Education Commission (JBEC) and has earned Level II Status from the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAASCU). (Ripples)