The provenance of the Department of English dates as early as 1868, when the Ateneo Municipal de Manila had in its roster its first English language teacher, Carmelo Polino. From being an option for the “Estudios de Aplicacion” of Secondary Instruction students, the study of English turned into an urgent need during the Philippine-American War.  In school year 1921-1922, English became one of the course options that a student could take in order to attain a Bachelor of Arts degree from what was then known as the Ateneo de Manila.  
 
Several events in history can be viewed as important to the evolution of the Department of English.  In 1960, the book Higher Education in Philippine Culture, a report presented to the Rector of the Ateneo de Manila on the occasion of its centenary, stressed the need to realign teaching in order to support the development of Philippine culture. On the other hand, the manifesto “Down from the Hill,” published in The Guidon in 1968, stated: “We recommend a drastic reorientation of the present curriculum… that the present courses in English Literature be converted into courses in Philippine Literature in English and Tagalog.” 
 
The ranks of the Department of English include the following change makers who either used to teach or study under its aegis: Rev. Miguel A. Bernad, S.J., National Artist Salvador F. Bernal, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Doreen G. Fernandez, Rev. Joseph A. Galdon, S.J., National Artist Bienvenido L. Lumbera, Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, Emy M. Pascasio, National Artist Rolando S. Tinio, Professor Emeritus Soledad S. Reyes, and Emmanuel S. Torres, among others. 
 
Today, the Department of English seeks to be a center for literary-cultural studies, giving high-level instruction from a developing nation's perspective. It engages in and publishes significant research to create a distinctively Philippine theory. It also aims to be a leading institution in developing the competencies of students, teachers, and other language users through relevant language education and research.  It is a community of educators that stands at the forefront of English language and literature teaching and studies in the Philippines and in Asia, and forms learners empowered for Christian service that is just and liberating.