What is so Xavier about Xavier School?
Rudy Ang, (XS'79)
Originally published in June edition of Xavier School Parents’ Bulletin
I have often said that I owe all I am today to Xavier School. I believe this to be true, and say it without hesitation.
But what is it about Xavier School that has made me what I am, and could no other school have done the same for me?
Xavier is an academically-rigorous Jesuit Catholic college preparatory school for Chinese-Filipino boys. But there are many other equally-excellent Catholic high schools, many other Jesuit high schools, many other schools that cater to the Chinese-Filipino community. Sacred Heart School for boys in Cebu could be described with exactly this same set of modifiers.
What makes Xavier School what it is? When I say “I love Xavier School”, what is it really that I love about it? And when I say that Xavier has made me what I am today, what or who am I giving the credit (or the blame!) to?
The answer is really quite simple.
When I close my eyes and think “Xavier School”, what images come to mind? The pictures that flash through my mind are not pictures of school buildings and classrooms, or sports facilities or football fields --- every single image that I see is the face of someone from my treasured Xavier past. Faces of the people who have taught me, molded me and guided me, cared for me and cared about me; friends who have walked life’s journey beside me; mentors who, through their personal example, have inspired me. What makes Xavier School what it is are the people who make up the school.
Where else could I have met Rosario Ramos, my very first religion teacher, or Garry Moore, who was my last? Where else could there have been a Fr. Papilla in my life, who remembered to give me a call on my birthday every year until failing health overtook him? Is there a Jenny Go or Fr. Zulo in any other school in the Philippines? Or a Fr. Barbero who would let me attend the Days with the Lord even if I could not afford to pay the fee?
Fr. Daniel Clifford had a gruff exterior and a fabled short temper, but I remember only the many kindnesses he extended to me and the Irish blessing he shared with me on my graduation. Aurora Salaya was one of our favorite Chinese teachers, and I remember how my classmates all lined up to ask her to stand as ninang at their Confirmation. Vivian Ocampo was moderator of the Drama Guild, and held us spellbound with those expressive eyes as she told us the dramatic stories of her youth.
And how about my classmates? Many of them remain an important part of my life today, and we continue to walk through life together, as business partners, as kumpares, as drinking buddies, as dear friends. Even the parents of many of my friends continue to be a presence in my life today --- I spent so much time in their homes that they became second parents to me, as well.
I learned about my religion from my books and my classes, but I learned to believe because of the deep faith of my teachers. I value academic excellence today because my educators taught me to love learning. I seek to serve others in my own limited way because so many others have served me. I learned to share because my classmates and friends shared so much with me. I value my Xavier experience because everyone at Xavier showed how much they valued me. Xavier School is the school that it is because of the people who make up the community.
Most of the people whose faces make up my Xavier memory have moved on: many have passed away, others have retired. But Xavier continues to be a vibrant and caring community because it continues to attract highly-qualified faculty and staff who see their work as a vocation and not simply a job; it is able to get parents to share in the Xavier vision and mission and to participate in its educational effort; it is able to get alumni to give back to the school some of what we have received. Though today’s young Xavier students encounter a new set of people, I am sure that their Xavier memories will be filled with the same sort of stories and experiences that have enriched my own.
As we look forward to another 50 years of Xavier School, I throw out this challenge to our parents: Xavier is also what you and your children make it. It is not a box of cereal on a supermarket shelf waiting to be picked up and put in your shopping cart. It is not a finished product for us to buy or leave on the shelf. It is a work-in-progress, a dynamic product that is developed and shaped with us, and by us. Parents, alumni, administrators, faculty and staff, students of Xavier School - each have a role to play in making Xavier the sort of school it can and should be.
Over the years, I have been blessed with different opportunities to continue my engagement with the Xavier community. I hope that my interaction with the school has, in its own small way, helped to make Xavier the type of school that today’s students can regard with fondness. What a grace it would be if someday, someone closed his eyes to think about Xavier, and mine could be one of the faces that make up his “Xavier memory”. What a grace to have somehow helped to make his Xavier experience the same very special gift that it has been to me!
Rudy Ang (XS ’79) is currently the Dean of the John Gokongwei School of Management of the Ateneo de Manila University. He was a faculty member of the Xavier High School English Department from 1983 to 1985, a member of the Board of Trustees from 1999 to 2001, President of the Alumni Association from 2001 to 2003, and chairman of the Homecoming Committee in 2004.
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