Jose Rizal as a student in Ateneo de Manila and prefect of the Sodality of Our Lady
by Fr. Victor Badillo, S.J.
When the Jesuits returned to the Philippines in 1859, their mission was to work in Mindanao. They were persuaded by the City of Manila to run the Escuela Municipal de Manila, a public primary school. The school was renamed Ateneo when it began offering secondary education in 1865. Incidentally, they also started a second school, the Escuela Normal, to train teachers for the public schools.
In the beginning, the Ateneo accepted only Filipinos (Spaniards born in the Philippines). Later they accepted also Indios. One such was Jose Protacio Mercado. But he enrolled under the name Jose Protacio Rizal, at the advice of his family. He had to dissociate himself from his brother, Paciano Mercado, who had gained notoriety with the authorities with his links to priests who had been sentence to death as subversives.
1872, the year Jose Rizal enrolled when he was 11, was a fateful year. That year Frs. Gomez, Burgos and Zamora were executed for complicity in the Cavite mutiny. It so affected him that later he said, “I would have been a Jesuit today, if I had not vowed to continue the fight of those priests.”
He was quite affected that he, an Indio, 11 years old was addressed
Usted (thou), and not tu (you), by older Spanish Jesuits. He and his elders had always been addressed by the degrading tu, In Tagalog, Ikaw (you singular). Ustedwas equivalent to kayo (you plural) or even siya or sila (he or they). No wonder he loved them. Today’s Filipino Jesuits do not know usted but they never time of praising Ateneans. And the poor boys believe them! Who can blame them? A little girl carried by her mother, on hearing a visitor say, ”What a beautiful girl.” beamed, “More. More.”
At first, he boarded in the houses in Intramuros or with relatives on his
mother’s side. He was free to do what he wanted, socializing etc. But he
decided to enroll as a boarder, knowing what this meant. A restricted life, regulated by bells, telling when to eat, when to rest, when to study. In the study room, he could get free help and individual tutoring from Jesuits prefects. He learned how to concentrate, to compete against himself.
Because knew how to utilize ad lib (free) time, he did not waste time. By
being bound, he became free, free of laziness, of bad habits. He became the Filipino he expected others to be before demanding independence. He lived it. By this he became free to free others. By living a disciplined life, he could do many things. He enrolled in two schools, even three schools in Spain, at one time and excelled in them.
As a sodalist he was expected to do mental prayer at least fifteen minute each day. Prayer was not just an exercise. It meant contact with the divine. It meant knowing Jesus and imitating him. It meant being challenged to fight for the King and not to count the cost. By his performance, he became a Prefect of the Sodality.
Jesuit pedagogy was pauca praecepta, multa exempla, plurima exercitation (few rules, many examples, numberless exercise). And cura personalis(individualized attention).
In liberal education, he met the best thinkers and was inspired to be like
them and even to be better them. That is the purpose of the classics. Not good speech and writing and oratory. The curriculum was graduated, step by step, according to the ability of the student. The Jesuits did not neglect competition, prizes and punishments (jug, the cane, etc).