Fernando Hofilena, MD, Lux-in-Domino Awardee (26 Dec 1919 to 10 Jan 2012)

Fernando P. Hofile?a, M.D. (December 26, 1919 – January 10, 2012)

Fernando “Doc” or “Nanding” Hofile?a, M.D., Ateneo alumnus HS ’37, AA Pre-Med ’39, academician, administrator, pediatrician, child
psychologist, writer and Lux-in-Domino awardee, passed away on Tuesday, 10 January 2012, at the age of 92.

His remains are at the Rolling Hills Memorial Chapel, 27 Lacson St., Bacolod City, until 16 January 2012, Monday. Interment will be on 16 January after a 9:00 AM Mass at the Rolling Hills Memorial Park Chapel.

Lux-in-Domino Awardee
15 July 2008
Henry Lee Irwin Theatre, Ateneo de Manila University

Students who have entered the hallow halls of the Ateneo leave with a seed planted in their hearts that contains the possibility of service, generosity and greatness, all for the greater glory of God. St. lgnatius of Loyola recognized that for the seeds to grow into a generous heart, they must be nurtured by God’s grace. There are those who have answered the call to serve so completely that their spirits become pillars of light that shine upon the rest of humanity and make us know that God truly is present in our lives. Today, we honor such a man – a man who has embraced service again and again with courage and trust in God’s love. This man is Dr. Fernando P. Hofile?a.

Dr. Hofile?a was born in Bacolod City on December 26, 1919 to Atty.
Roque Hofile?a and Angeles Puentevella. He was an exemplary student at the Ateneo de Manila, finishing High School in 1937 with First Honors and graduating from his Associate in Arts – Pre Med, summa cum laude in 1939. He pursued his medical degree at the College of Medicine of the University of Sto. Tomas. His studies were interrupted in his third year of medical school when the war broke out in 1941. He set aside his stethoscope and books to fill his politician father’s shoes and became acting mayor of Free Silay when his father was incapacitated by a venomous insect bite. He was only 22 years old. When the war was over he finished medical school and in 1952 was given a Fulbright grant to specialize in Pediatrics and Child Psychiatry in New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Upon his return he shared his expertise in a multitude of ways. Besides opening a private practice, he taught mental hygiene in infants and children in the graduate schools of the Ateneo, UST and La Salle. He also began a child guidance clinic in the outpatient department of the UST hospital. He gladly accepted the offer of the Principal of La Salle Grade School, to begin a consultancy in Child Development in the La Salle Grade School. He wrote the chapter on child psychiatry in the textbook of Pediatrics by Fe del Mundo and wrote a column, “A Page for the Young at Heart” in the Manila Bulletin. ln the 1980s he shared his knowledge and recounted his experiences in his practice in schools, and in various symposia and seminars in and outside Metro Manila through his own weekly column “Child Care” in the Times Journal. At this time he was also a lecturer at Miriam College.

One of his most significant accomplishments is his contribution to the field of special education in the Philippines. Fresh from his studies broad, he chose to serve as pediatrician and clinic head of the special child study center, the first school for special children in the Philippines. Ten years later, the Center developed into the St. Joseph of Cupertino School for Retarded Children, the initial project of the country’s first Foundation for Retarded Children. lt is now known as the Cupertino Center for Special Children.

Dr. Hofile?a’s accounts of the Cupertino School emphasized the generous spirit of his fellow pioneers and the interactions between Cupertinians and Ateneans in arts and crafts. His writings brought attention to the inspired partnership between faculty members and students as they began programs such as music therapy, theatre therapy and therapeutic sports. He also defined a modern concept of volunteerism, set down a profile of the Filipino down syndrome, and developed the first curriculum for trainable retardates, providing researchers, doctors and the general public a window into the world of special education.

Dr. Hofile?a also explored his artistic self. He also took an interest in the cultural growth of medical and nursing students. With the intention of enriching their educational experiences, he wrote and directed four full-length plays about the lives of nurses and doctors. These plays are Vignettes from the Medical World, The Best Words, Curse or Blessing, and Carry the White Lamp.

His delight in performing in plays and operettas as a child in Silay grew into a passion for dramatics and oratory as a student of Ateneo and UST and motivated him to be involved with the publications of the Ateneo Children’s Theatre, Dulaang Sibol and Tanghalang Ateneo. His love affair with the Ateneo Glee Club began in the 1950s when he lent his tenor voice to their ensemble. ln 1978, he accepted their invitation to become their moderator. His presence and support moved the Ateneo Chamber Singers, a choir formed by alumni members of the Ateneo Glee Club, to ask him to be their moderator as well. His love for the arts, commitment to excellence, and faith in the Lord have inspired the members of these groups to be generous themselves.

His artistic spirit constantly finds new ways of expressing itself as when, at the turn of the millennium, he rediscovered his poet’s pen when he saw the exhibit of paintings by a former patient of his, Joven lgnacio.

Dr. Hofile?a took on another role that chronicled the spirit of Atenean service. As part of the Atenean Heroes Memorial Committee, he brought honor not only to Ateneo war heroes but also brought to light those Ateneans whose individual acts of courage are not officially recognized by the nation. ln his 9th year as Chairman of the committee, he had 127 Ateneans recognized for their valor and enshrined in the memorial launched by Fr. Pacifico Ortiz, SJ in 1969. He was finally given due recognition in 2005 at a pre-lndependence Day program hosted by the Ateneo called Sa Piling ng Mga Bayani (Heroes in our Midst) for his courageous leadership and embodiment of lgnatian ideals in World War ll. When he heard that Japanese forces occupied Negros, he returned to his hometown to join his parents and twelve siblings in the resistance movement.

Now in his twilight years, he is still a Eucharistic Minister at the Sta. Maria della Strada parish and continues to find new ways to serve others and continue Cod’s work. He is the founder of the Lector’s Guild at the della Strada parish and has volunteered to train the lectors of the Our Lady of Pentecost parish.

Dr. Hofile?a wrote that although he left Ateneo after graduation, Ateneo never left him. lndeed, the Ateneo is fortunate that no matter what path he takes, he always makes his way back to her halls and classrooms. Many Ateneans recognize him as the dignified elderly gentleman whom they see walking around the campus and up and down Katipunan. lf that is all they will ever know about Dr. Hofile?a, it is enough. For his very presence is enough testimony to his ideals.

To quote Dr. Hofile?a himself, “Nothing is better now than expressing in all sincerity our gratitude, which is never sufficient.”

For his inspired leadership and immense contribution to the fields of Pediatrics, Child Psychiatry and Special Education in the Philippines; for his pioneering spirit in creating medical, educational and spiritual programs and institutions; for his dedication to holistic education by inspiring his students to employ all their talents for the greater glory of God; for shining his light on the acts of heroism and contribution of his fellowman; for constantly answering the call to serve with a resounding ‘yes’; and for embodying the lgnatian spirit of ‘magis’ in the twenty-first century, the Ateneo de Manila University proudly confers on her son, Dr. Fernando P. Hofile?a its Lux-in-Domino Award.

Lux-in-Domino Award

The Lux-in-Domino Award is a special recognition of an extraordinary individual who has incarnated in life, and perhaps even in death, in an exemplary manner, the noblest ideals of the Ateneo de Manila University. Recipients of the award are chosen exclusively from the ranks of alumni or alumnae of the Ateneo de Manila University.

The title of the Award is taken from the motto of the Ateneo which
appears both in the old and new seals. Taken from St. Paul (Ephesians 5:8), the phrase Lux-in-Domino, “light in the Lord”, traces an ideal and sketches a way of life which the Ateneo holds up to her sons and daughters as their path of Christian discipleship. These words illuminate the purposes and aims of the University which point that the Ateneo is FILIPINO, CATHOLIC, and JESUIT:

FILIPINO, in that she seeks service to the nation and the objectives of genuine national development.

CATHOLIC, in that her fundamental charter is the Gospel of Jesus and the beatitudes; that her guidelines are those of the teaching of the Catholic Church. In the contemporary perspective, those guidelines focus on service to the Faith which today includes the Promotion of Justice as a constitutive dimension of the task of evangelization.

JESUIT, in that she seeks to live the Filipino and Catholic marks in the spirit of the magis (the “ever more”): to seek the ever more generous, the ever more “totally given” service; nothing held back, in the spirit of the Ignatian prayer,

to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to seek for rest,
to labour and ask for no reward . . .

To be “light in the Lord”, in all fullness may demand a following of Christ even to the offering of one’s life.


Thank you, Fr. Nebres, members of the Board of Trustees and Mr. Capistrano.

I am in my twilight years but on this occasion I can see the sunrise.

The honor I am receiving today is so great that if I were much younger, I would feel a surge of joy and pride, and I would be euphoric for a long time, but as I’m an Octogenarian I can only say soberly that I feel a mix of contentment, fulfillment and gratitude.

Recalling the title of the Homecoming concert of the Ateneo College Glee Club, the harbinger of the Ateneo Chamber Singers, after the group won a string of 1st Prizes, including the Grand Prix in the European competition in 2001, I now pray to the creator “Non Nobis Domine” – meaning: Not to us, Lord, but to Your name, give the glory. I cannot claim the honor they’re giving, it’s Yours.

I cannot thank You enough, Lord for having gifted me with the talents and other qualities that enabled me to become an Atenean with a passion for excellence in academics and the arts, an ideal stated in The Ratio studiorum as Sapientia, Eloquentia et humanitas.

I am also grateful to my alma mater for the holistic education and the effort to inflame my heart with The Ateneo spirit. We old alumni have always carried this spirit in our private lives. It has morphed into what some of us call “spirit of dedication to a cause”. Not a few have sacrificed their lives for it. I believe this can explain why we tell people that though we have left the Ateneo, the Ateneo has never left us.

It is this spirit intertwined with love of God, devotion to Mother Mary, obedience to St. Ignatius, love of country and fellowman instilled in us by our Jesuit mentors that can explain why 34 Ateneo ROTC cadets defied the order to disband all cadets in the country early in the Pacific War and volunteered to fight in Bataan; and why my brother Cris, also an Atenean, and I led our family in escaping from the Japanese at high noon and trudged for hours until we reached the mountains of Negros and joined the Resistance Movement. It was there that I had to carry out the duties of the Mayor of Silay because my father was incapacitated by the bite of a venomous insect.

Unknown to many is the fact that my desire to serve the Ateneo community has been strengthened by the beauty of nature, the God-given beauty I’ve always loved, the beauty that has made the Ateneo campus in Loyola Heights a paradise, a home away from home.

I will always treasure the awards I receive from my alma mater: summa cum laude in 1939; Irwin award from the Ateneo Children’s Theater two decades ago; and now the Lux-in-Domino, the greatest of all.

* * *

Ateneo de Manila HS ’37, AA ’39

Walking in the Hero’s Footsteps
By Joel Navarro

From the book “To Give and Not to Count the Cost”

“What is a hero without love for mankind.” – Doris Lessing, 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature

We celebrate the sacrifice of many overseas Filipino workers who risk spousal estrangement and dysfunctional family dynamics in order to provide for their struggling families. We are particularly drawn to these ordinary women and men who do extraordinary feats in the name of love. What profoundly humbles me is when I meet extraordinary individuals who choose to divest themselves of recognition and become true servants to minister in such invisible yet incarnate ways. Their acts of heroism are hardly ever noticed by the ordinariness of duty and routine that cloak these acts. We who glimpse these kindnesses are touched and transformed.

When I assumed the mantle of leadership of the Ateneo College Glee Club in June 1979, I was immediately introduced to Dr. Fernando Hofile?a, the choir’s moderator. We struck up a good conversation. He knew I had just begun a second college degree at UP after a self-interrupted career as a mathematics instructor at the Ateneo. He knew I spent some years in Bacolod which became second home to my family. As people in Negros Occidental are wont to do, he would ask if I knew a Gamboa, a Jalandoni, a Lacson, as Ledesma, a Lopez, or a Montelibano. Being a transplanted Manile?o who really had no pedigree, I could only answer that I knew some of them but was not related to any of them. I was nonetheless treated like Ilonggo royalty with his usual charm, kind grace, and elegant demeanor. I’ve always been fascinated with this penchant for genealogies and associations as hyper-typical of our intricate social networking which saves the day for Filipinos when our politics and social services fail. Doc, as we in the glee club fondly called him, was a happy reminder that our connectedness was our salvation as a people.

Doc was always the hero to the glee club batches that I directed. Home after a day’s work at Cupertino, he would often walk to the Loyola Heights campus to hear us rehearse. He was always ready with his encouragement, his gracious smile, and steady prayer. My first years with the glee club were rather tumultuous, given the combination of strong personalities within the choir, my authoritarian demeanor then, the relentless drive to chart musical history, and the existential desire to make meaning out of the meaninglessness that was martial law. He would say the glee club was his therapy. In my view, his presence gave thera-peutic balance and ease to an otherwise tense rehearsal. His selfless love for the choir was a counterweight to our selfish ambitions. His undiminished loyalty to our music making anchored our belief in ourselves and in our missioin of excellence in music and faith.

Always generous with his praise and encouragement, Doc was a dependable friend and guide, I would often be incredulous at his gracious speeches to the choir after what I thought was a concert of disastrous renditions. He often saw the big picture while I sweated and nitpicked on the minutiae. Surely the devil was in the details, but Doc saw the angel in the broader brushstrokes.

During my years with the glee club, I had many days of unuttered
self-doubt and self-loathing, often wondering if I was the right person for the job. He could hear those thoughts clearly. Surely my knitted brow and vacant gaze gave them away. Yet, he never mentioned a word of criticism. As a listener, he completely trusted that things would be resolved by an Unseen Hand, certain that people like me who ranted about our misfortunes would eventually find our way back.

Doc was also hero to many. He gave selflessly in his work with children who had learning challenges, and in his work with patients who had psychological disorders. He loved the Ateneo basketball teams and often watched them practice at the Loyola gym. He gave his support to the choir at Barangka, the plays of Dulaang Sibol, and just about everything Atenean.

When he became the recipient of Ateneo’s Lux-in-Domino Award in 2008, many of us in the glee club were in awe to learn for the first time about his stellar accomplishments as a student, artist, academician, administrator, pediatrician, child psychologist, writer, and lay worker. He never spoke about them. He was, by all accounts, an exceptional human being who chose a life of service so that others may learn the goodness of God. Doc embodied the spirit of giving beyond measure simply because he loved unconditionally.

Conductors can be overrated, this one included. We try to lead by
example only because we have examples whose footsteps we merely follow. Dr. Fernando Hofile?a was one such exemplar. We are who we are only because of the people who shape us – students, colleagues, associates, administrators, parents, and family members who mirror our frail humanity but who remind us of our godly inheritance and heavenly citizenship.

Dr. Fernando Hofile?a’s moderating influence, loyal love, and generosity of spirit will always be remembered as selfless acts of heroism to many he served. He will be ninety years old on December 26, 2009. More than a third of his life has been spent in a love affair with the glee club. Many of us have walked behind this hero’s footsteps and have become better children of the Light. May this honor crown his ninetieth year with a hero’s laurels and a trumpet sound of praise from a grateful chorus who are learning to serve others just as he has served us in fullest measure.


A feisty Jesuit priest: Howie Severino’s biographical essay on Fr. James Reuter, S.J.

Born on May 21, 1916 to a young German-Irish couple, Reuter had spent most of his life in New Jersey when he volunteered to be a Jesuit missionary in America’s only colony in Asia in 1938.

The eldest of five children, Reuter’s choice of vocation came early, inspired by his own Jesuit mentor, Ernest Hartnett, at his Catholic High School in New Jersey, Saint Peter’s Prep. A few months after graduating valedictorian while playing varsity athletics, he entered the Society of Jesus and started his novitiate training in Pennsylvania. By age 20, Reuter had taken his first holy vows, and arrived in Manila at age 22 as a Jesuit scholastic, or a priest-in-training. He had known about the archipelago since high school, when he had argued in favor of independence in the intense debates going on then in the United States over the fate of the Philippine islands.

After several years of study, including two years in the Philippine summer capital of Baguio up north, he was assigned to teach at the Ateneo de Manila in mid-1941. At the same time, he began his radio career when he was also tasked to help produce the Catholic Church’s popular Sunday-night radio drama show, “The Commonweal Hour.”

This was the start of Reuter’s long career in Philippine media. But it may have also marked the dawn of his extraordinary impact on the would-be republic’s public life. The radio program reached many listeners, and featured actors from the Ateneo who would later distinguish themselves in the public sphere: Leon Ma. Guerrero, Raul Manglapus, Ricardo Puno, and Francisco ‘Soc’ Rodrigo, to name a few. The show’s chief writer was a precocious young Jesuit named Horacio de la Costa, later the superior of the Jesuit province and one of the country’s pre-eminent historians. (Back then, de la Costa wrote witty radio plays for the masses, including the series “Kuwentong Kutsero,” which became so popular it eventually crossed over into television and also became a hit.)

The reverie of Reuter’s early years in the Philippines was interrupted by the Japanese invasion and the start of World War II. As an American, the priest was interned in Los Baños, south of Manila, where he was assigned the duty of burying dead inmates. In early 1945, while the Japanese guards were doing their daily calisthenics, U.S. paratroops sprung a surprise assault and quickly took over the Los Baños camp. As he was liberated, Reuter was overcome by patriotic emotion and vowed then that he would never give up his U.S. citizenship. He would recall four decades later, “Coming into Manila in a military jeep, in the bright morning sunlight, with my hair blowing in the wind, I was in real ecstasy. We were free! We were really free!”

Reuter returned to the United States for more studies after the war and was ordained in 1946. In addition to theology, he enrolled for a summer at Fordham University to study a new course in radio and television, which was then a new medium that many radio professionals were skeptical about. Located in New York, Fordham exposed the Jesuit communicator to the media industry’s cutting edge.

In 1948, he returned to the Philippines where he was assigned to teach at the Ateneo de Naga, in the Bicol region, where he began to blossom as the prototypical Jesuit Renaissance man. He taught English and religion, but after class he was in charge of five extracurricular activities: the school’s monthly magazine and yearbook, the glee club, the debate team, dramatics, and the varsity basketball team.

He was reassigned to the Ateneo de Manila in 1952, where his versatility was put to full use. His theatrical talents were already well-known. But soon after his return to Manila, he revived the Ateneo glee club, which “quickly became something of a national phenomenon,” according to one account of those years.

Read more: A Feisty Jesuit Priest