Living in greatness through Fr. Horacio V. de la Costa, SJ’s teachings

May 10, 2016
The de la Costa exhibit at the Rizal Library

May 9 marked the 100th birthday of Fr. Horacio V. de la Costa, SJ, (HLC)—an eminent Jesuit, a nationalist, a prolific scholar and historian, a writer and poet, and Ateneo’s beloved gentle genius.

To celebrate this glorious event, the Ateneo de Manila University School of Humanities (SOH) spearheaded a commemorative lecture series that stretched for 3 months. It was organized by the Dean, Dr. Maria Luz C. Vilches, and Professor Emeritus Soledad S. Reyes of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies.

For those who knew him, the series might have been the perfect tribute filled with great wit and humor, just like HLC, and perhaps a little bit of nostalgia. 

For the younger generations of Ateneans, however, the series served as an introduction that sought to help them see the gentle genius for who he really was--an intellectual giant and a true man of faith.

HLC's graduation picture

Thursdays with de la Costa
Every Thursday evening from February to April was reserved for Fr. de la Costa.

To balance the different topics on HLC, there were speakers who talked about his impact on their personal lives and speakers who discussed his influence on their works and careers:

Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, known as the Dean of Catholic Theologians in the Philippines, shared a blow-by-blow account of his memories with and of Fr. de la Costa. HLC's student and colleague Dr. Benito Legarda Jr., on the other hand, shared HLC's bravery during the Japanese Occupation and his effort to organize a lecture series for Atenean students.

Journalist Paulynn Sicam, the daughter of HLC’s closest college friend Jess Paredes Jr., fondly shared how HLC, along with her father and Leon Maria Guerrero, excelled during their prime at the Ateneo.

The audience anticipated every Thursday with de la Costa

To shed light on the history of the Jesuits, Fr. Rene Javellana, SJ tackled HLC’s “Light Cavalry” and “The Jesuits in the Philippines.”

Dr. Reynaldo Ileto, Dr. Edilberto de Jesus and Dr. Vince Rafael talked on HLC’s take on the Philippine Revolution against the Spaniards, with additional discussions of HLC's similarity to national historian Teodoro Agoncillo, HLC’s “Kuwentong Kutsero” and his plans for the Ateneo History Department.

Dr. Fernando Zialcita and Fr. Jose Mario Francisco, SJ tackled HLC’s view on the notions of hybridity and having a distinct Philippine identity.

“To teach is not merely to inform but to form, seeing in the soul of the scholar not a receptacle to be crammed, but a power to be trained, a force to be harnessed.” -Fr. de la Costa

While Dr. Coeli Barry focused on HLC’s works and how he compared with other Southeast Asian historians, Dr. John Labella looked at HLC's works and teh valuing of what is human through his poetic mind. Labella even recited his favorite HLC poem, "Stars."

There were also 2 poster exhibits at the Kostka Walkway and Rizal Library that featured Fr. de la Costa’s life at the Ateneo and his timeline. A performance organized by the young Jesuits was also done during the 1st half of the series.

In addition to Dr. Vilches' closing speech where she expressed her gratitute to everyone who participated in the lecture series, Dr. Legarda said that for 3 months, "we have all lived in greatness."

More than just the statue in front of the Humanities building
The lecture series has ended with now a story behind the statue of the man in front of the Humanities building called Horacio de la Costa Hall.

That man was the 1st Filipino Superior of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus and also the 1st Filipino General Assistant and Consultor to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, Superior General of the Jesuits at the time.

That man wrote a number of poems, radio and stage plays, short stories and essays, homilies, lectures and speeches that reflected his insights on the American colonialism, World War II and its aftermath and the Martial Law era.

HLC's statue in front of the Humanities building

That man was also an Atenean. He was 1 of the 3 summa cum laudes of his batch (Bachelor of Arts, 1935). He acquired numerous positions, even editor-in-chief, of The Guidon and adter becoming a priest, he was one of the pioneers of the History Department.

That man was Fr. Horacio V. de la Costa, SJ.

Living in greatness was not confined within the months the series had been running. Living in greatness, for the current and future Ateneans, is learning from the life and ideas of Horacio de la Costa.