DEOGRACIAS T. REYES: A VITAL PART OF THE ATENEO’S HISTORY

He was a driving force in the acquisition of the future home of the Ateneo College, High School, and Grade School, and of Maryknoll College from the then Xavierville Estate at Loyola Heights. All these he achieved with the full confidence and support of the then rectors of the Ateneo in the persons of Fr. William “Bill” F. Masterson S.J. (1947-1950), Fr. James J. McMahon S.J. (1950-56), and Fr. Leo A. Cullum, S.J. (1956-59).

He gave corporate life and legal identity to the Ateneo Alumni Association in 1952. The AAA had existed merely as an unincorporated organization of Ateneo graduates from 1909 to 1951. He worked tirelessly with Fr. Edgar Martin and the alumni in putting together, and supporting, the postwar multi-titled Blue Eagles which dominated the NCAA and won a number of championships, infusing immense pride and joy to the school, the students, and the alumni. Fr. Martin and he were ahead of their time in “recruiting” would-be Blue Eagles, and brought in notable basketball stars of the ‘50s such as Tiny Literal, Bay Ballesteros, Serafin Vida and a number of other basketball greats.

He was “Dean” or “D.T.” to the Ateneo Law School professors and students from 1948 to 1958, demanding excellence in the pursuit of a law education. He was the lawyer and legal adviser to the Philippine Jesuit Province until the early 1970s. He was professor, mentor and friend to so many of the country’s respected justices, judges, lawyers, political, business and civic leaders from the late 1940s, some of whom are still around today.

He is my Ateneo hero. He is Dean Deogracias T. Reyes. He is my father.

For all his achievements, his was not such a big world. Much of his life revolved around, and involved (1) service to the Ateneo and the Jesuits, (2) the teaching of law and the building of future leaders in Philippine society as a dean and law professor, (3) the practice of law as senior partner of his own law firm, which I had the privilege to grow up in, tagging along with him from the age of five through my college years, and (4) the raising of a family, which to him was first and foremost.

His law firm included partners and lawyers such as Sedfrey Ordoñez (who later became solicitor general), Jose Luison, Ernie Pangalangan (whose son Raul would become dean of the UP College of Law), the Dollete brothers, Ruben Balane, Jun Factoran (later DENR secretary) and jojo Binay who would become mayor of Makati and vice-president  of our country. He got them all to teach law at the Ateneo and UP.

From him, my brothers, sister, and I learned and imbibed most of the values that have served us extremely well: the irreplaceable value of family and friends; the invaluable legacy of an excellent education; the richness of a simple and honest life; the compelling drive to give and do our best under any circumstance; our uncompromising integrity, credibility, trust bestowed on us, and sincerity; the satisfaction of helping others in need and of providing service because it is sought and not because we can collect on it; a strong sense of nationalism and a burning love for our country; and the joy and comfort of being close, and always thankful, to our Lord and our Blessed Mother.

Blue runs in my Ateneo hero’s blood. His father, Dr. Epifanio Reyes, (AB 1893) was an Atenean. His two brothers, Dr. Constancio and Dr. Beltran were Ateneans. All his five sons-Victor, Oscar (that’s me), Edgar, roland and Deogracias Jr. are Ateneans. That’s four generations spanning well over a century, blessesd with a Jesuit and an Ateneo education; four generations brought up in “Lux in Domino”. Two toddlers in the fifth generation, aged four and two, are standing in the wings, waiting for their time to have an Ateneo education.

Dean D.T. was born on August 07, 1907 to Bulakeños Dr. Epifanio T. Reyes, a physician, and Vicenta Tantoco, a descendant of one of the “women of Malolos,” a group of feisty, nationalistic women to whom our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, paid tribute for starting the movement for, and gaining the right to, higher education for women in the country from the then Spanish rulers.

He met and married on Valentine’s Day in 1942 a lovely and dignified Pangasinense lady, Elisa Sison. She was an alumna of St. Scholastica’s College and the Far Eastern University, but devoted much of her time raising and caring for our family. The dean continued teaching law at the UP College of Law, and carried by a slip in the bathroom in 1983, slowed him down. D.T. passed away on May 2, 1986.

My father studied at the Ateneo from 1918 to 1926 (HS ’22 and AA ’24). He pursued his law studies as a working student at the University of the Philippines (the Ateneo College of Law was yet to be established in 1933), got his Master of Laws degree at the University of Sto. Tomas, and passed the Philippine Bar. He started practicing law in 1930, mentored by such luminaries as Don Felipe Buencamino and Quintin Paredes.

He was named dean of the Ateneo College of Law in 1948 by Fr. Bill Masterson. He served in his capacity until an honest difference in views with the then regent of the College of Law (not the rector of the Ateneo) on the administration of the college induced him to consider serving as law professor at his Alma Mater, the UP College of Law.

Most of Dean D.T.’s colleagues, associates, and friends who know him well and were witness to his many contributions to the Ateneo and to his life accomplishments and achievements are long gone now. A few of them remain with us.

I would like to think that they will all grant Dean Deogracias T. Reyes the recognition that he has made his distinguished contribution to the Ateneo. He had been an important and integral part of Ateneo’s history, he had touched and made a difference in the lives of so many Ateneans, and he rightfully and richly deserves to be one of Ateneo’s heroes.

Oscar Reyes (GS ’57, HS ’62, AB Ec ’65) is the COO of Meralco. He was the country chairman of Shell companies in the Philippines from 1997 to 2001 and managing director of Shell Philippines Exploration till 2002.

Source: “Ateneans Inspiring Ateneans” 1859-2009 by Ateneo de Manila University Press