The Most Reverend Romulo G. Valles, Archbishop of Davao
The Most Reverend George G. Rimando, Auxiliary Bishop of Davao
Very Reverend Father Xavier L. Olin, SJ, Provincial Superior of the Philippine Jesuits
Commissioner Dr. Jo Mark M. Libre of the Commission on Higher Education
The Honorable Sebastian Z. Duterte, Mayor of the City of Davao
Mr. Benjamin Lizada, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Ateneo de Davao University
Members of the Board of Trustees
Fr Tony Basilio, SJ, Rector of the Ateneo de Davao University Jesuit community
Consul-General Deddy Faisal bin Ahmad Salleh of the Malaysian Consulate
Consul Umi Yanti Febriana Silalahi of the Indonesian Consulate
Consul-General Zhao Xiuzhen and Consul Hong Ming of the Chinese Consulate
Representatives from the US Embassy in Manila
Dr. Allan G. Farnazo, Regional Director of the Department of Education
Mr. Ashary A. Banto, Regional Director of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority
Ms. Maria Lourdes D. Lim, Region XI Director of the National Economic and Development Authority
Partner agencies, communities, and organizations
Presidents and Administrators of Jesuit universities and schools, of the Davao Association of Catholic Schools, of the Davao Colleges and Universities Network
Officials of the University
Colleagues and friends from the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, the Private Education Assistance Committee, the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines, and the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities
Monsignors and brother priests of the Archdiocese of Davao
Members of the Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and students
Friends of the Ateneo and my friends and colleagues
My brother Jesuits
My family from Marikina and Laguna, led by my mother Mrs Herminia San Juan
Ladies and gentlemen.

Good evening to all! Maayong gabii sa tanan, buenas noches a todos, magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat! Thank you for being here tonight. Thank you to those who traveled various distances from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, my family from Marikina and Laguna, my many dear friends, my esteemed colleagues in education and development, our University partners and collaborators, ug tanan mga igsoon gikan sa mga lahi lahing komunidad. My personal gratitude to all of you.

What we celebrate

We are here to celebrate the commencement of a new leadership in Ateneo de Davao University, the fifth president of the university. I am deeply honored and humbled to accept this task and this mission.

My first visit of Davao was in the late 1980s, after my college graduation, and since then Davao has always been a longed-for destination for me and my friends, enigmatic and charming, rich and unique in culture, easy to adapt to, wonderful to love, its colorful native tubaos and malongs in Aldevinco, the iconic social activistic songs of Joey Ayala of the 80s, the majestic Mt Apo, its exceptional fruits, durian, marang and others, the precious Philippine Eagle and waling waling, its very accessible islands and resorts, and most of all, its people, passionate, soulful, intense. Davao. Many years forward, now as a Jesuit, striving to be obedient in mission – who would have thought that Davao will turn out to be my destination and my post, my station and my home? God and the Jesuits have conspired to bring me here. Thank you for your very warm welcome! Daghang salamat for the best wishes. Mabuhay ang Davao!

My road to Davao was marked by milestones which many of you, friends and colleagues, have been part of. My life before I became a Jesuit, in social development circles mostly, my life as a Jesuit, in the places I worked in, in Ateneo de Manila University, in Emmaus Center, in other Jesuit apostolates. Zamboanga shall remain significant in this journey, where, for more than nine years I learned leadership and service amid most challenging circumstances. Zamboanga will ever be special. Thank you to my colleagues and friends from the Ateneo de Zamboanga University.

When I was elected to be the next president of ADDU, like the true Jesuit I sincerely strive to be, certainly imperfect in obedience and trust, yet fully dependent on the grace and mercy of God, I accepted it. Having been part of its Board of Trustees for many years, I had an idea of what I will be facing, in general terms, or in positive terms, maybe too trusting, maybe too naïve, maybe too surrendered that God, who has helped me lead in Zamboanga, will also help me lead in Davao. What I also felt was the honor, the privilege, the trust given me, to receive this mission, to sustain it for the greater glory of God.

And that is what we celebrate today. I believe that more than me, more than the beginning of a new leadership, we celebrate the continuity of mission, the vibrance of this mission, the mission that is Ateneo de Davao University. We can view this continuity in our Exhibits at the back, celebrating our 75 years.

Since its founding in 1948 as an all-boys school, with 202 students, after ten Jesuit Rectors and Presidents, after more than seven decades of Jesuits and lay colleagues working together to produce men and women for others, contributing to social transformation, promoting the faith that does justice, the Ateneo de Davao University has emerged strong, robust and resilient, today with more than 16,000 students, from pre-school to graduate school to law school, as a leading university in Davao, in Mindanao, in the country, and beyond.

My predecessor presidents

This strength of ADDU, my predecessor presidents have made it so. And certainly not only them, but their teams of administrators, faculty, and staff through the years, they made it happen.

In the Presidency of Fr Terry Barcelon, who served for 12 years, the Ateneo de Davao achieved its university status. It mobilized resources from abroad, and forged strong relationships with local government, the university playing a role in local and regional development. Fr Ting Samson, whom I fondly call Tito Ting, and who was President for two eras, totaling 13 years, initiated university planning process, made the university financially strong, ensured quality assurance and accreditation, strengthened the university community by facilitating a process of healing and reconciliation after a difficult labor union and management situation. Fr Ed Martinez, who led for 11 years, envisioned a global university, competitive in its facilities and properties, made ADDU a leading university in Mindanao.

All of them invested in buildings and campuses in response to the rapid growth of student population and the expansion of academic programs. We note too, that all of them had very long presidential terms of more than 10 years, admirable indeed. Whether I too will go also that long, as we Jesuits say, only God knows.

Fr Joel Tabora, my immediate predecessor, my Kuya Joel, educator-administrator-leader par excellence, mentor of many fellow educators and advocates, for 12 years, made ADDU even more formidable. Through the challenges of the K-12 educational reform, the Senior High School installation, the pandemic and online learning, the socio-political upheavals of the nation and the world, Fr Joel led and mobilized the University to be a leader in several aspects: in social justice, in educational policy, in culture and arts, in dialogue and meaningful conversation, in faith formation, in community engagement, in research, in agility during the pandemic, in quality of student and faculty life, in its unique mission focus for Mindanao and the rich diversity of its people – Christian, Bangsamoro, indigenous communities. The depth of substance and spirit is reflected in the beauty and elegance of our facilities, as seen in our university chapel of the Assumption, the retreat center in the island of Samal, in these two buildings we are in, built to foster community spirit, as well as quality of student life.

All four presidents have much to teach me, and these lessons I will keep to carry forward their legacy of excellence, their leadership of service, their lasting love for Ateneo. I want to single out three of these legacies and lessons.

AFIRE Legacy

First, the legacy of AFIRE. AFIRE is an acronym standing for Administration, Formation, Instruction, Research, and Engagement. It emerged from the University strategic planning events during Fr Tabora’s presidency. This framework, for me, crystallizes what a Jesuit university is about, the essential dimensions of Jesuit mission in education. In Fr Joel’s strategic plan, Administation should be transformative, Formation should be integral, Instruction should be excellent, Research and publication should be robust, and community Engagement and advocacy should be vibrant.

I consider the AFIRE framework as very useful for strategy and implementation. Aside from this, AFIRE is also a framework that emphasizes the imperative of integration and alignment. All five components – Administration, Formation, Instruction, Research, and Engagement – must come together in interdisciplinary ways, in multidimensional manner, in multisectoral endeavors. And there lies its power. There lies its impact, when these five components converge. Like the following endeavors, recognized for their creativity, innovation, and impact.

・The RECoDeS project installed desalination systems in Tawi Tawi through the collaboration of our engineers and chemists, promoting renewable energy and responding to water poverty.

・The Ecoteneo forms the university community on research-based environmental practices and climate justice, and partners with government and communities on advocacy and projects.

・The CREATE project leads the research and advocacy for renewable energy harvesting technologies, particularly solar power and ocean renewable energy, supporting the goal of 50% Renewable Energy mix in Mindanao by 2030.

・COPERS mobilizes teams to facilitate Psychological First Aid to aid trauma victims of calamities.

・ADDU established the first indigenous Senior High School among the Tboli communities in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

・The Mindanawon Institute for Cultural Dialogue is home to our lumad students and scholars, deepening their cultural identities and rights.

・ACCESS Mindanao installed immediate internet access to remote and isolated communities in Mindanao using satellite technology, to facilitate delivery of social services like education and health.

・The School of Education and Anthropology Department helped develop culture-based curricula for learning centers in Thailand and Myanmar.

・The Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue for Southeast Asia and the Madaris Volunteer Program launch innovative inter-faith initiatives at all levels from policy to community organization.

・Aerospace engineering explores the cutting edge of innovation and technology that has relevance in social and economic activity and transportation.

・The Center Against Illegal Drugs, the Tropical Institute for Climate Studies, the Ateneo Migration Center, the Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center, the Center for Politics and International Affairs commit the University to addressing contemporary and urgent challenges in multidisciplinary, multidimensional ways.

This AFIRE integration has helped us achieve excellence in performance in our basic education and higher education, in institutional accreditation and autonomous status, in the Law Bar exams, in the board licensure exams in architecture, accountancy, chemistry, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, electronics engineering, mechanical engineering, psychology, social work, secondary and elementary education, civil engineering, and nursing.

Learned Ministry

The second insight is “learned ministry.” The past 75 years demonstrate how ADDU is a learned ministry. The term “learned ministry” comes from the Jesuit 34th General Congregation in 1995, as one of the defining characteristics of the Jesuit way of proceeding, or the way we do things. It therefore describes what we call the Ateneo way, the Jesuit way, the Ignatian way of work and mission.

As “ministry” our work in the university flows from our love and service of God and God’s people. Ministry means work that is spiritual. It echoes what our founder St Ignatius of Loyola stipulated as our fundamental goal: to save souls. The university is thus a means of discipleship, a way of being an apostle, an apostolate, an action to follow Christ, a way of saving souls and bringing them back to God. The summit of university life is thus prayer and worship, which gives the spiritual foundation of all our work in education.
Hence the past 75 years of ADDU have seen how it gave importance to this prayer and worship through liturgies, retreats, recollections, and spiritual programs.

This ministry is “learned,” which means that we use our faculties of learning: our knowledge, our reflection, our analysis, our intelligence, our research. Reason merges with action, understanding with service. Our work is done with deep thought and intellectual rigor. This has guided our crucial decisions like focusing on Mindanao, being of service to the Bangsamoro, highlighting local culture and arts, engaging the city government in various ways like city-wide surveys, our internationalization, our many advocacies like those for the protection of the environment. All these are informed by research and reflection; by science and management, by legal and ethical foundations; all these are borne out of prayer and discernment.

Impelling spirit

Reflecting on learned and discerned ministry, I remembered a book about the spirit behind the founding of the Society of Jesus in 1530, as enshrined in a document written St Ignatius and his companions, submitted to Pope Paul III, the Pope who approved the establishment of the Society of Jesus. The author, Fr Joe Conwell SJ was able to extract and distill the true spirit behind the decision to create another group of men in the service of the Church. He said that it was the “spirit that impels,” or the impelling spirit.

We often speak of the spirit that inspires or energizes. We also speak of the spirit that compels, one that forces us to action out of fear or pressure. The spirit that impels is similar to both, but it stresses on being motivated, positively, by something of great value, by necessity, by inspiration. There is an impetus that impels. And the impetus comes from the Holy Spirit, “passionate, creative, innovative, wildly beyond the rational, propelling, driving, pushing, blowing like an untamed hurricane with no predictable path.”

I believe that the spirit that has driven ADDU, its leaders and its people, through the 75 years, is this impelling spirit. And I believe that this is the same spirit that will drive us toward the future. What do we see in the future of our mission?

We recommit to renewing our mission of education for transformation, with focus on Mindanao, toward the whole country and beyond. The path of its renewal will be as follows.

First, education in complexity. We are faced with a world increasing in complexity, and thus learning in this world has also become more complex. The ubiquity of the VUCA phenomenon of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

The persistence of so-called wicked problems like poverty, inequality, discrimination, conflict, the environment.

The complexity of technology and artificial intelligence and their impact on learning and the future world of work and professions we are preparing our students to face.

The complexity of the youth today, our learners in basic and higher education, their psycho-emotional and mental profile and wellness.

The insidiousness of social media.

The complexity of the terrible and persistent learning crisis afflicting Philippine education.

The challenges that private education confronts and our quest for complementarity with public education.

The complexity of global trends like the use of power and privilege by leaders, tending toward populism and authoritarianism, lies and disinformation, launching a regime of “post-truth,” polarizing diverse populations, causing massive division and conflict leading to war and violence, death and destruction. These global trends undermine rationality and strategic thinking to solve the wicked problems; they erode democracy and freedom; they plunge our world toward darkness and despair, as we are seeing now in Ukraine, Palestine, Myanmar, and in many other places in the world.

We continue to recognize the complexity of Mindanao, its diverse cultures and histories, its “disjointed development, uneven progress, disfigured ecology,” its hope for the elusive and lasting peace and progress through a viable BARMM government, its continuing plight for sustainable development in all aspects: poverty alleviation, support for vulnerable populations like the indigenous peoples, wealth creation and equitable distribution, health care, nutrition, education, housing, human rights, good governance; its persistent plea to be given decisive attention and priority by national government. Mindanao remains to be a priority in mission.

If we educate in complexity, our education will flow with the times, our curricula and learning methodologies will adapt, our programs will remain relevant, responsive, vibrant and effective. We will teach the right courses, we will train our faculty adequately, our students will truly learn, our graduates will have good jobs and enterprises to run.

Education in complexity also means harnessing the timelessness of Jesuit liberal tradition across the disciplines of humanities, philosophy and theology, the social and natural sciences. The Jesuit core curriculum is our heart and soul, our anchor, constant and permanent amid the rapid swirl of change, and we will continue to nurture it.

Second is education in contemplation. Complexity lends itself to contemplation. Contemplation includes discernment. Our context needs to be constantly revisited, reviewed, reflected upon, as individuals and groups, as a university community. Contemplation fosters depth and fights superficiality. It facilitates critical thinking and critical feeling. It elevates our consciousness. As a faith community, we believe in, and rely on, the Spirit inspiring and impelling us according to God’s will. Contemplation and discernment dispose us to change, change for the good, change for the better, change for the greater glory of God.

Third is education in conversation. Conversation and dialogue shall govern how we do education, how we run the mission. The practice of listening and dialogue shall be integral in our processes and systems. These practices build community, which is essential to Christian praxis, fundamental to our Jesuit way of proceeding.

This is the spirit behind synodality, the vision of Pope Francis that is renewing the Church today. In synodality we are all equal in voice and power, we journey together as friends in the Lord, we listen to the Spirit who leads us, we are made humble and vulnerable, receptive in faith and wisdom. Our education is thus challenged to be synodal, and it will be, when we practice collaboration, companionship, when we sustain friendships, when we continue exchanges across disciplines and sectors. The frequent Pakighinabi, or dialogue, events of ADDU are testimonies of this.

Our direction is thus toward education in complexity, contemplation, and conversation. This is what we will pursue together. From this will flow creativity and innovation in our university life: administration, formation, instruction, research, and community engagement. From this will flow the formation of leaders inherent in Jesuit education, the ADDU sui generis leaders, leaders who are aware of their contexts, adaptive, resilient to change, discerning of the promptings of the Spirit and the imperatives of university values, vision and mission; dialogical, democratic, critical, soul-searching, magnanimous, and humble.

The spirit will be impelled by the spirit of God, and will give us the courage we need, the courage of the Blue Knight of ADDU, the very soul and meaning of Fortes in Fide, the fortitude of faith that synthesizes what ADDU is all about, its aspirations, its identity and mission.

To end, as new president, I will continue to work closely with our people in the University, and we will work closely with you, our friends and partners in mission. Together we will depend on the grace of God to bless our ways forward. After this Investiture, we shall gather again, celebrate again, give thanks again, for the next 75 years and beyond, all for this mission called Ateneo de Davao University. For the great blessing of this mission, for the honor and privilege to be part of it, for the unimpeachable power of our faith, our Fortes in Fide, for our people, for the greater glory of God! Amen!

Daghang salamat sa tanan! Thank you very much! Magandang gabi po sa ating lahat!

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