Culture and traditions of the Ateneo de Manila

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Culture, sports, and traditions[edit]

The Ateneo de Manila University is active in a number of inter-university sport activities, the most notable of which are the University Athletic Association of the Philippines sporting events. The Ateneo was also a founding member of the National Collegiate Athletics Association in the 1920s.


The word and name Ateneo is the Spanish form of Athenæum, which the Dictionary of Classical Antiquities defines as the name of "the first educational institution in Rome" where "rhetoricians and poets held their recitations." Hadrian’s school drew its name from a Greek temple dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. The said temple, according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, was where "poets and men of learning were accustomed to meet and read their productions."

Athenæum is also used in reference to schools and literary clubs. The closest English translation is academy, referring to institutions of secondary learning. The Escuela Municipal de Manila actually became the Ateneo Municipal only after it began offering secondary education in 1865.

The Society of Jesus in the Philippines established several other schools, all named Ateneo, since 1865, and over the years, the name "Ateneo" has become recognized as the official title of Jesuit institutions of higher learning in the Philippines.

When the United States withdrew subsidy from Ateneo in 1901, Father Rector Jose Clos, S.J. dropped the word municipal from the school name, which then became Ateneo de Manila, a name it keeps to this day. Since its university charter was granted in 1959, the school has officially been called the Ateneo de Manila University.

Lux in Domino[edit]

The Ateneo's motto is Lux in Domino, meaning "Light in the Lord". This is not the school's original motto. The Escuela Municipal's 1859 motto was "Al merito y a la virtud": "In Merit and in Virtue". This motto persisted through the school's renaming in 1865 and in 1901.

The motto "Lux in Domino" first appeared as part of the Ateneo seal introduced by Father Rector Joaquin Añon, S.J. for the 1909 Golden Jubilee. It comes from the letter of Paul to the Ephesians, 5.8: "For you were once in darkness, now you are light in the lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness, righteousness, and truth."

The Lux in Domino Award is a capstone award that requires the crowning achievement of both life and work given to an extraordinary individual who has incarnated in life, and perhaps even in death, in an outstanding and exemplary manner, the noblest ideals of the Ateneo de Manila University.[1]


The seal of the Ateneo de Manila University, standardized and updated in 2004, the 75th anniversary or Diamond Jubilee of the seal's original design, which was introduced during the Ateneo's 70th anniversary in 1929.

In 1859, the Escuela Municipal carried the coat of arms of the city of Manila, granted by King Philip II of Spain. By 1865, along with the change of name, the school's seal had evolved to include some religious images such as the Jesuit monogram "IHS" and some Marian symbols. A revision was introduced in the school's golden jubilee 1909 with clearer Marian symbols and the current motto, Lux in Domino. This seal was retained for 20 years.

Father Rector Richard O’Brien, S.J. introduced a new seal for the Ateneo de Manila’s diamond jubilee in 1929. This seal abandons the arms of Manila and instead adopts a design that uses mostly Jesuit and Ignatian symbols. This is the seal currently used by the Ateneo.

The seal is defined by two semi-circular ribbons. The crown (top) ribbon contains the school motto, "Lux-in-Domino", while the base (bottom) ribbon contains the school name, "Ateneo de Manila". These ribbons define a circular field on which rests the shield of Oñaz-Loyola: a combination of the arms of the paternal and maternal sides of the family of St. Ignatius.

In precise heraldic terms, the Shield of Oñaz-Loyola may be described as: "Party per pale: Or, seven bendlets Gules; Argent, a two-eared pot hanging on a chain between two wolves rampant." In plain English, the shield is gold, and divided vertically. To the viewer's left is a field of gold with seven red bands. These are the arms of Oñaz, Ignatius' paternal family, which commemorates seven family heroes who fought with the Spaniards against 70,000 French, Navarese, and Gascons. To the viewer's right is a white or silver field with the arms of Loyola, Ignatius' maternal family. The arms consist of a two-eared pot hanging on a chain between two rampant wolves, which symbolize the nobility. The name "Loyola" is actually a contraction of lobos y olla (wolves and pot). The name springs from the family's reputation of being able to provide so well that they could feed even wild wolves.

Above the shield is a Basque sunburst, referring to Ignatius' Basque roots, and also representing a consecrated host. It bears the letters IHS, the first three letters of the Holy Name of Jesus in Greek, and an adaptation of the emblem of the Society of Jesus. Many erroneously believe that the Ateneo de Manila seal features the letters JHS. This stems from the peculiar rendering of the letters in the Ateneo de Manila seal. The letter I is drawn in a florid calligraphic style that conforms to the circle’s shape. It therefore appears similar to a J.

Both scalloped and unscalloped versions of the seal are extant. Since scallops are not formally a part of a seal's design in traditional heraldry, they are merely a decorative element applied for aesthetic or nostalgic purposes.

The seal’s colors are blue, white, red, and gold. In traditional heraldry, white or silver (Argent) represents a commitment to peace and truth. Blue (Azure) represents fortitude and loyalty. Red (Gules) represents martyrdom, sacrifice, and strength. Gold (Or) represents nobility and generosity.

Blue and white are also the Ateneo’s school colors, the colors of Mary. Red and gold are the colors of Spain, home of Ignatius and the Ateneo’s Jesuit founders. Finally, these four tinctures mirror the tinctures of the Philippine flag, marking the Ateneo’s identity as a Filipino University.

Marian devotion[edit]

Ateneans value symbols of devotion to Maria Purissima (Our Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion), Queen of the Ateneo. Among them are the rosary in the pocket, the blue October Medal of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and the graduation hymn, "A Song for Mary".

A Song for Mary[edit]

Before the Ateneo de Manila moved to Loyola Heights, the school anthem was "Hail Ateneo, Hail", a marching tune adapted from "Fordham Ram". However, with the campus' move from Padre Faura to Loyola Heights, the school adopted "A Song for Mary", written by Fr. James Reuter, S.J., as its graduation hymn.

Over the years, and without official records reflecting the shift, the graduation hymn eventually supplanted "Hail Ateneo, Hail" and is now widely considered the Ateneo de Manila's alma mater song.

The tune is adapted from Calixa Lavallée's hymn composed in 1880. It is commonly believed that the Ateneo copied the music of Canada's national anthem. But in truth, the Ateneo adopted this tune in the 1950s, long before Canada used the same tune for its national anthem (1980).[citation needed]


The Ateneo has adopted blue and white, the colors of Mary, as its official school colors. Marian blue is traditionally ultramarine, a deep ocean blue tincture derived from lapis lazuli, which historically has been used to color the vestments of Mary in paintings. But since Mary is honored as Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) and Queen of Heaven, various shades of blue, such as royal blue and sky blue, are acceptable shades of Marian blue as well.


Prior to the 1930s, the Ateneo had no mascot. Meanwhile, Catholic schools in the United States, particularly those named after saints, were distressed by the cheekiness with which they were mentioned in newspapers' sports pages. Headlines read "St. Michael’s Wallops St. Augustine’s", or "St. Thomas' Scalps St. Peter’s". It was then agreed that each school adopt a mascot, a symbol for the team which sportswriters could toss about with impunity.

The idea quickly caught on in the Philippines. By the 1930s, the Ateneo had adopted the Blue Eagle as a symbol, and had a live eagle accompany the basketball team.

The choice of the color blue is based on the Ateneo's colors. The choice of an eagle holds iconic significance. It is a reference to the "high-flying" basketball team which would "sweep the fields away" as a dominating force. Furthermore, there was some mythological— even political—significance to the eagle as a symbol of power.

In On Wings of Blue, a booklet of Ateneo traditions, songs, and cheers published in the 1930s, and reprinted in the 1950s, Lamberto V. Avellana writes:

"The Eagle — fiery, majestic, whose kingdom is the virgin sky, is swift in pursuit, terrible in battle. He is a king - a fighting king… And thus he was chosen—to soar with scholar’s thought and word high into the regions of truth and excellence, to flap his glorious wings and cast his ominous shadow below, even as the student crusader would instill fear in those who would battle against the Cross. And so he was chosen — to fly with the fleet limbs of the cinder pacer, to swoop down with the Blue gladiator into the arena of sporting combat and with him to fight — and keep on fighting till brilliant victory, or honorable defeat. And so he was chosen — to perch on the Shield of Loyola, to be the symbol of all things honorable, even as the Great Eagle is perched on the American escutcheon, to be the guardian of liberty. And so he was chosen—and he lives, not only in body to soar over his campus aerie, but in spirit, in the Ateneo Spirit… For he flies high, and he is a fighter, and he is King!"

The eagle also appears in the standards of many organizations, schools, and nations as a "guardian of freedom and truth." Dante in his Divine Comedy uses the Eagle as a symbol of the Roman Empire, which used the bird as part of its standard. The ancient Romans considered the eagle sacred to Jupiter himself. The eagle is often seen as the bird of God, the only bird that can fly above the clouds and stare directly at the sun. This is also why it represents St. John the Evangelist, in honor of the "soaring spirit and penetrating vision of his gospel."

The national bird of the Philippines is, incidentally, an eagle.

Cheering tradition[edit]

The Ateneo de Manila was rather successful in athletics even before the NCAA began. To help cheer the Ateneo squad on, the Jesuits decided that the Ateneo ought to have some sort of organization in its cheering. The Ateneo then introduced organized cheering to the country by fielding the first-ever cheering squad in the Philippines, which is now known as the Blue Babble Battalion.

The Ateneo was a proud pioneer, arguing about how the Ateneo’s brand of cheering is both unique and rooted in classical antiquity. In the 1959 Ateneo Aegis (the college yearbook), Art Borjal argues:

"It all started about 2,000 years ago along the Via Appia in Rome. The deafening cheers of Roman citizens, lined along the way, thundered in the sky as the returning victorious warriors passed by…The type of cheering that the Ateneo introduced was, in a way, quite different from that of the Romans. When the warriors came home in defeat, the citizens shouted in derision and screamed for the soldiers’ blood. To the Atenean, victory and defeat do not matter much. To cheer for a losing team that had fought fairly and well is as noble, if not nobler, than cheering for a victorious squad."

The words of some of the cheers seem incomprehensible or derived from an exotic language. Loud, rapid yells of "Fabilioh" and "Halikinu" to intimidate and confuse the enemy gallery. Meanwhile, fighting songs help inspire the team to "roll up a victory".

A cheerbook, On Wings Of Blue, which contains cheers and notes compiled from since the cheering tradition began before NCAA, was published in the 1930s, and has gone through major revisions, including the addition of the Song for Mary. Some of the cheers, including "Give them the axe", have been discontinued; others, such as "Go Ateneo" and the "Eight-Beat Chant", were added in the last two decades.[citation needed]

Then-student and cheerleader Raul Manglapus composed the fighting song "Blue Eagle, The King" in summer 1938 after the school had officially chosen the eagle as its mascot. It was first sung in front of the Jesuit fathers on June 22, 1939, and made its NCAA debut the same year.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nominations for Traditional University Awards 2011". Ateneo de Manila University. Retrieved June 2011. 

External links[edit]