The following Welcoming Remarks were delivered by School President Fr. Aristotle Dy, SJ during the Naming Ceremony for Benito Tan Guat and Ng Siok Dee Ocier Student Leadership Center, Xavier School San Juan last 8 July 2017.
Good morning and welcome to Xavier School. I especially welcome the members of our Board of Trustees led by our Chairman, Mr Johnip Cua, and the Ocier family members—Marian, Willy, Nancy, Jerry, and Henry—and their families and guests, for this morning’s naming ceremony to honor the memory of the Ocier siblings’ parents, Benito Tan Guat and Ng Siok Dee Ocier, also known in Chinese at Go Kok Pok and Tan Siokbee.
These last few days, I have been thinking about the building we are naming today. It is one of the original buildings in the school, and for more than three decades it was known as the Father’s House because it’s where all the Fathers, the priests, lived. Built on the highest point in the campus, near the famous mango tree that inspired our founder, Fr Desautels, to build the new Xavier School here, the structure housed more than 30 Jesuits of different nationalities who served in the school as teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, among other roles.
In recent decades, as the number of Jesuits working in the school dwindled, the building was turned over to the school and the Jesuits kept only the top floor as our residence. At one time, the building was used as the high school Seniors’ Wing, to give the graduating seniors the special privilege of having their own building during their final year in school. More recently, the building evolved into what it is today, a student leadership center that houses the Learning Resource Center or library; computer education department aka NEXT office for New Experiences with Technology; Student Activities Program office; student organizations’ offices; Chinese Center for Cultural Exchange, and a common activity room. I am glad that today, our student leaders who use the building a lot, are present to witness this naming ceremony.
The Jesuits who first occupied the building were migrants. We can even consider them political refugees because they fled China after 1949. They sought exile in Manila but eventually decided to start a school for the evangelization of the Chinese in the Philippines. Through dint of hard work, they worked with their lay collaborators to build up this school into what it is today. After 60 years, we are proud of what we have become and the alumni we have produced. It is time to give back, and this we are trying to do by building a new community in Nuvali and supporting the direct work for the poor of our adopted school, the Fr Pierre Tritz Institute-ERDA Tech.
All of this came to mind as I reflected on the Ocier siblings’ decision to honor the memory of their parents by accepting Xavier School’s invitation to name this building after them. Like the Jesuit founders of our school, Mr Benito Tan Guat and Mrs Ng Siok Dee Ocier also fled China and cast their lot in Manila. While the Jesuits served the Church by educating the young, the elder Ociers raised their five children and established several business interests through their spirit of entrepreneurship. Though they did not benefit themselves from Western-style education, they believed in the paramount importance of education for their children and for future generations.
I find it symbolic that this building that once housed our Jesuit founders will now be named after a lay couple who believed in the Jesuit brand of education and the mission of the Church to evangelize the Chinese community. To me, this naming ceremony symbolizes the passing of the torch from the Jesuits to the laity. It is recognition that our Xavier School mission today and in the future is not led only by the Jesuits. We would not be where we are without the generous support of our lay partners, and today we are thanking the Ocier family for their forward-looking contribution to our shared mission. Not only is this gesture a model of giving back to the community; for our young people, it also models the value of honoring one’s parents, preserving their good name, and appreciating our roots by doing well and doing good.
The Benito Tan Guat and Ng Siok Dee Ocier Student Leadership Center will stand as a constant reminder to the school community that gratitude is the memory of the heart. Gratitude to God and our forebears inspire us to strive for excellence and put all our talents at the service of the nation.
Looking around, I see that many of our guests are also past and present benefactors of the school. I welcome you as well and wish everyone a pleasant morning ahead.
Thank you very much.