These last five years, while I was abroad working on a PhD in the Study of Religions, particularly in Chinese Buddhism, I would make the Jesuit community of Xavier School my base every time I came home to do research or attend meetings. When meeting people, I would always be asked if I would be succeeding Fr Johnny Go here at Xavier, and I would always say that No, Fr Provincial Jojo Magadia has other plans for me. My PhD is in fact a preparation for work in the university, and I was quite happy with this plan. Fr Provincial assured me that I would not be running a school. Late last year, however, when it became clear that Fr Johnny Go, after twelve years of innovative leadership here at Xavier, was really moving on, the Provincial called me and asked if I was open to the possibility of working at Xavier.
In keeping with what I thought a good Jesuit must do, I gave him a long list of reasons why I should NOT come to Xavier. It was not the plan; the Jesuits had invested in my training for something else; Fr Johnny Go had accomplished so much here and would be a very tough act to follow, etc. etc. I also shared my long list of reasons with Fr Johnny himself, and he reminded me about a conversation we had more than twelve years ago, when he was working in the field of Church media and was suddenly being asked to head Xavier School. I had told him then, Fr Johnny recalled to me, that he must be open, because we both loved Xavier School and if no one was better qualified, he must set aside his own plans and happily accept the Provincial’s offer. As Fr Johnny reminded me of that conversation from so many years ago, I knew what his conclusion was going to be, and I resolved never to give advice that can boomerang on me.
As you can guess, I expressed my openness to the Provincial, and the Xavier School Board of Trustees subsequently elected me to this post. The past few months have been very hectic as I advanced the submission and defense of my thesis so I could return to Manila and start my new ministry here at Xavier. I must say, however, that though there is still so much for me to learn, I have been met with nothing but goodwill and cooperation by the administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and parents of Xavier School and ERDA Tech. I thank you all for that.
Coming to Xavier is literally like coming home, for not only did I study here, not only is my family from Little Baguio so that I remember walking home from school on many a high school afternoon in the 1980s, but much of what I am today I owe to my education here. Whatever skills I have, my interest in things Chinese, my growth in the Christian faith—the seeds for all these were planted here. There are many moments when I still find myself in awe of the responsibility now entrusted to me. Last week at the parents’ recollection, a parent who is also an alumnus from my time said to me, almost as an aside, “We are praying for you, my friend, so that you can continue the legacy of all those who have gone before you.”
After a few months in my role, I see my task as one of consolidation. As the school, now with campuses here in San Juan and in Laguna, approaches its 60th anniversary in three years’ time, it is important that we renew ourselves in our mission to evangelize the Chinese-Filipino community, so that our graduates will become committed Christians who love their country, who are rooted in the language and culture of their ancestors, and who will harness their skills in the pursuit of justice and development for all. Xavier School’s adoption of ERDA Tech Vocational High School in Pandacan is a concrete manifestation of our commitment to nation-building. In carrying out our mission, we are guided by the rich tradition of Catholic and Ignatian spirituality. As we commemorate St Ignatius these days, we especially remember his Principle and Foundation, the idea that our purpose on this earth is to glorify God by using all the goods at our disposal to serve God. I believe this is the spirit that has led our ancestors in the school to use whatever means were necessary to make the education we offer not only relevant, but also service-oriented.
It is important to remember where we have been, and that is why before our Mass, I invoked the memory of our former School Directors—Fathers Desautels, Zuloaga, and Moran. Father Ampil has literally passed on the torch to me, and we know that Father Go, even if he could not be present today, wishes all of us well. With them I must also mention the long line of lay Principals who are the pride of Xavier School, they who put in such long hours to work with our teachers in delivering the quality of education that we aspire to.
Let me now thank our special guests today, and I begin with the man who taught me Holy Orders and ecclesiology, ordained me to the priesthood in 2004, and then became the star of the TV shows I produced at Jesuit Communications. From calling him Fr Chito, we graduated to Bishop Chito, and now I must say, Your Eminence, Cardinal Tagle. Thank you very much for installing me as School President, and for visiting Xavier School today. We are part of your flock after all in the Archdiocese of Manila, and we stand ready to work with you in the mission of evangelization.
I thank Bishop Pol Jaucian, SVD, and Msgr. Bong Lo, my friends and companions in the Chinese apostolate who have shown much support and appreciation for Jesuit efforts to minister to the Chinese people.
Thanks too to Fr Provincial Tony Moreno, my Fr Socius in the novitiate, for confirming me in my mission here at Xavier,
- to Fr Bert Ampil, School Director when I was in high school, for passing on the torch, and to all the Jesuits who have made the time to be here today. Let me just name some of the communities they represent:
- Fr Joe Quilongquilong and the Loyola House of Studies community
- Fr Rene Repole and the scholastics of Arrupe International Residence who are doing some pastoral work in the school: Yoht, Stanley, David, and Jimmy
- Fr Junjun Borres and the community of San Jose Seminary
- Fr Ben Nebres and the Ateneo de Manila Jesuit Residence Community
- Fr Jett Villarin, President of Ateneo de Manila along with my colleagues from the School of Social Sciences, especially the Chinese Studies units
- Fr Joel Tabora, President; and Fr Mike Pineda, HS Principal, of Ateneo de Davao
- Fr Bobby Yap, President of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro
- Fr Jun Viray, President of Ateneo de Naga
- Fr Willy Samson, Acting President of Ateneo de Zamboanga
- Fr Tony Pabayo, Chairman of the Jesuit Basic Education Commission
- my companions in the Jesuit Chinese-Filipino Apostolate, Fr Ben Sim representing the Jesuits of Cebu, and Fr Joseph Haw from Sta. Maria in Iloilo; Fr Cesar Marin and the parishioners of Mary the Queen Parish
- Fr Mark Raper, President of the Jesuit Conference of Asia-Pacific, Fr Riyo Mursanto, Provincial of Indonesia; and all the other Jesuits and other clergy who are with us today.
I am grateful to the Board of Trustees of Xavier School, led by Mr Johnip Cua, for their confidence in me. I thank Ambassador Bienvenido Tan, Chairman Emeritus of the Board, who welcomed me to my new post with a substantial donation to the XS Educational and Trust Fund.
I thank the Boards of the XSETF and ERDA Foundation, led respectively by Mr Greg Yu and Mr Charlie Yu, for their support. I welcome the Board members of Tiong Se Academy, the oldest Chinese school in the Philippines which Xavier is assisting in academic matters; and the Board of Immaculate Conception Academy, of which I have become a member.
Let me thank too some of our special guests:
- Senator JV Ejercito
- Assistant Secretary Rey Laguda, of the Department of Education
- ang dakilang ina ng San Juan, Mayor Guia Gomez
- from the Chinese Embassy, Commercial Counsellor Wu Zhengping
- our colleagues from other schools in the EDSA-Ortigas consortium (I see Sr Dina Ang of ICA and Dr Sena Camagan of Poveda); our colleagues as well from the federation of Chinese schools
- Ms Annabel Chua and our friends from the Kaisa Heritage Center
- I thank my family for their quiet but constant support;
- and last but not least, the parents, alumni, students, faculty and staff of Xavier School who are here today to show their support; special thanks to all those involved in preparing for today’s activities, you know who you are.
Thank you very much to all of you for coming today, and for sharing this moment with Xavier School. We will all walk and work together to bring Xavier School to greater heights of excellence and service. Salamat po.