First half of the de la Costa series ends with special performances and storytelling

March 21, 2016
The 6th lecture commemorating the birth centenary of Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ left a mark in the hearts of Ateneans as touching stories and performances about the gentle genius ended the 1st part of the series.

The talk was given by professional journalist Paulynn P. Sicam, daughter of Jesus Paredes Jr., presidential adviser of then President Ramon Magsaysay and Fr. de la Costa’s best friend in college.

Instead of making her lecture purely academic, Sicam said her lecture was about the stories of the 3 summas of AB Batch ’35—Fr. de la Costa, Leon Ma. Guerrero and Jess Paredes.

“It’s a storytelling about the kind of golden age at the Ateneo when Horacio de la Costa and his 2 friends—actually the 10 members of AB ’35—ruled the campus with their intellect, spirituality, humor, leadership and grace,” she said.

Her stories were a compilation of anecdotes she got from the family, memories of her siblings and interviews she conducted with Fr. de la Costa’s mother Emiliana Villamayor, Ambassador Leoni Guerrero, Sen. Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, Fr. James Reuter, SJ, Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, and Fr. Vincent O’Keefe, SJ.

Sicam shows a screenshot of an old issue of The Guidon

Sicam grew up hearing about “this gentle genius” but never saw him visit their home. She said, however, that Fr. de la Costa was a presence in their family, like an absentee uncle who the adults spoke of very fondly and untiringly.

“I only met Fr. de la Costa once, early in the 60s, when my mother introduced us to him,” she said. “He was familiar with a hearty laugh and a chuckle, just like Dad’s.”

She remembered the priest asking her brothers about their teachers at the Ateneo and laughing with them as they mimicked their Jesuit mentors’ mannerisms and accents.

Sicam also showed one of their family treasures, a letter from Fr. de la Costa to her parents when her brother Ducky was born. Her brother, she said, was named after Fr. de la Costa and Victor Baltazar, her father’s closest friends at the Ateneo.

She said that the message was long, but it revealed much of the young priest and the quality of his friendship with her father.

The 3 summas
Fr. de la Costa met Leoni and Jess at the Ateneo High School. Only Leoni and Jess were in the same section, but Sicam said that the 3 always topped the honors roll.

In their junior year, they joined The Guidon. Guerrero was named editor-in-chief and de la Costa as associate editor when they entered college.

“After years of being the editor-in-chief, Leoni was listed permanently as associate editor and de la Horacio and Jesse as managing editor, news editor, features editor and finally co-editors-in-chief in their senior year,” she said. “They dominated The Guidon until they graduated.”

Fr. de la Costa's photo in the Aegis '35

Ateneo Aegis ’35, the college yearbook, was also in their control, Sicam said, with Jess as editor and Horacio as literary editor.

“I remember Fr. Bu (Jaime Bulatao) also told my sister Lory that the 3 students were so awesome that the other college students tended to step aside respectfully when they walked through the corridors.”

Apart from ruling The Guidon, the 3 also excelled in academics. Sicam said there was once an oratorical symposium where Fr. de la Costa took on the ironic subject, Paredes the judicial and Guerrero the expository.

“Fr. de la Costa’s satirical piece won,” she said. “Sen. Soc Rodrigo, who belonged to an older class, told me that their only ambition was to defeat de la Costa in any symposium. ‘He would always be first. The man was simply brilliant,’ he said.”

Horacio, Jesse and Leoni were also Mulry’s boys. Fr. Joseph Mulry, SJ, was a mentor and a surrogate father to the Ateneans of the 30s, Sicam said, and Mulry gave Fr. de la Costa the nickname ‘Skeezix’ after the character in the cartoon Gasoline Alley. He also gave Soc Rodrigo, a brilliant orator, the nickname ‘Soc’ after Socrates the philosopher.

The 3 summas--Jesse, Horacio and Leoni

“Soc Rodrigo told me that Fr. Mulry taught them how to speak from the diaphragm so their voices would project more powerfully,” she said. “Rodrigo recalled that the Ateneo boys and the arneyow accent were so distinctive that it became an irritant between the Ateneans and the UP students who shared a cafeteria then.”

Fr. Mulry taught them a lot of things, but most importantly, Mulry’s boys were shaped to defend the church and the Catholic values and promote social justice. They were able to develop their communication skills to defend the church from its enemies, the Free Masons and the Iglesia ni Cristo.

On their graduation day, Ambassador Guerrero told Sicam that instead of going in a private vehicle, they hired a jeep and rode in it – in their togas and all — to the graduation venue.

“They were rebels even back then,” Sicam said. “And since it was the first time the Ateneo had 3 summas, there was no valedictory speech.”

Sicam also talked about the lives of the 3 summas after graduation: Fr. de la Costa fulfilling his life as a priest, Jess Paredes taking on his mission as a lawyer for the church, an educator, a speech writer of politicians and a presidential adviser, and Leoni Guerrero as a notable lawyer, a radio broadcaster and a humble politician who “made many high profile, glossy friends for the government.”

7 out of 10 Paredes siblings (from left to right): Jesse, Ducky, Paulynn, Gabby, Lory, Jim and Raffy

“AB ’35 was dominated by brilliant men—Ateneans to the core who excelled in philosophy, literature, history and the arts, oratory and debate and everything they tried except, perhaps, sports,” she said.

The 3 summas continued to shine in their different ways, she said, in the different directions they set out for in life and continued in the service of God, country and people.

She ended her lecture by saying that last year was the birth centenary of Jesse and Leoni. The Paredes siblings made a memory book written by all 10 of them while David Guerrero, son of Leoni, mounted an exhibit on his father at the Ayala Museum.

“This year on Fr. de la Costa’s centenary, with this assignment given to me,” Sicam said, “I have gotten to know these 3 people, including my father whom I grew up idolizing. I’ve gotten to know them more intimately now as real flesh and blood, almost a normal very inspiring human being—and for this, I am most grateful to the Ateneo.”

Lory, with her brothers Ducky and Jim, and Gemma Cruz-Araneta, niece of Leoni Guerrero, laugh at an anecdote about Jess Paredes

Amigo en el Señor
The performance, “Amigo en el Señor, Horacio de la Costa: Diwa’t Gunita,” was organized by Dr. Marlu Vilches, dean of the School of Humanities, her staff, the Interdisciplinary Studies Program Staff and young Jesuits from the Society of Jesus. It was presented after Sicam’s lecture.

“Amigo en el Señor” featured Mr. Eos Trinidad, a part-time faculty member in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and the emcee of the series, as Fr. Horacio de la Costa who addressed some of the audiences’ questions on nationalism, history, social issues, love and friendship and service to God.

The opening prayer was a video presentation by the Jesuit Scholastics, followed by Fr. de la Costa’s “Philippine Pride: Jewels of the Pauper (Hiyas ng mga Pulubi),” performed by Meynard Espinosa of the Ateneo College Ministry Group and Dulaang Sibol and directed by Dr. Onofre R. Pagsanghan.

“The Art of History: An Excerpt of Light Cavalry” was performed by Sean Christopher Baltazar from the Ateneo Grade School and read by Oliver Quintana of the Political Science Department.

Paulynn Sicam talks to the cousins of Fr. de la Costa, Roberto and Vicente

An excerpt from Fr. de la Costa’s homilies and essays were read and enacted in a Miting de Avance of impersonators of presidential candidates. This was performed by Gel Basa, Kenn Cabezas, Barth Mariquit and Markus Alcantara.

A reading of Farewell by Dr. Rica Bolipata-Santos was also accompanied by Jasper Martir, Maan Villanueva, Cholo Mallillin’s rendition of Josefino Cenizal’s song, Hindi Kita Malimot.

Young Jesuits also performed a song and recited “Paghahandog ng Sarili: Jesuits Today.”

“Maging De la Costa Video,” edited by Kim Nadal, a slideshow of Fr. de la Costa’s quotes, capped the performance.

Listen to Paulynn Sicam’s lecture below: