Within the campus of the Ateneo de Manila is the Church of the Gesù; which was designed and constructed by Architects Jose Pedro Recio and Carmelo Casas, between 2001 and 2002. Before its construction, masses for the whole Ateneo community were held in the Ateneo Grades School (AGS) Chapel of the Holy Guardian Angels, Ateneo High School (AHS) St. Stanislaus Kostka Chapel or Loyola Schools (Ateneo College) Immaculate Conception Chapel; or in the gyms of these schools. On Sundays, Ateneo dorm and Jesuit residents had to attend the Sunday mass outside the campus; which was usually at the nearby Sta. Maria dela Strada Parish.
The Church of the Gesù is located on a hill between the Jesuit Residence and the dorms of Cervini and Eliazo Halls, where it stands like a beacon to the faithful to pray. Its triangular design symbolizes the Holy Trinity. Beside the church is the Angelus Bell, with 18-bell chimes that are played to signify the start of the mass. The bell tower was constructed in 2005, as a project of the Ateneo Alumni class of AGS ’54-AHS ’60-AC ’64.
At the entrance of the church is Anastacio T. Caedo’s 1951 sculpture of “The Sacred Heart of Jesus”. This statue once stood all alone on this hill, before the church was constructed; hence the place is called Sacred Heart Hill.
Anastacio Tanchauco Caedo (1907-1990) graduated from U.P. School of Fine Arts; under the tutelage of National Artist, Guillermo E. Tolentino. During his apprenticeship under Tolentino, the two took to body building as a means to understand the human anataomy and strengthen their bodies for he very physical work of sculpture. This love for body building led Tolentino to fashion his opus “The Oblation” after Caedo’s physique. Later Caedo made name for himself by sculpting many religious works for the Jesuits at the Ateneo de Manila and busts of the National Hero Dr. José Rizal for many of the Philippine Embassies around the world. Caedo was nominated three times as a National Artist of the Philippines (in 1983, 1984, and 1986); which he turned down, to avoid the politics in the art world.
A few steps away from the Sacred Heart statue is Juan Sajid Imao’s 2004 bronze “Eternal Flame”. Is piece was a donation by the alumni class of 1969; which was a reminder for the Ateneans to keep the flame of valor burning in their hearts, as inspired by the National Hero José Rizal (1861-96), who is also an Ateneo alumnus.
Juan Sajid de Leon Imao(born 1972) is the second to the youngest son of Abdulmari Asia Imao (1936-2014), the first Moslem National Artist of the Philippines. Sajid, would go on to take up sculpture at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA), just like his father. Early on in his career, Imao was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), which would slowly diminish his eyesight. Although this would mean the death of any artist, Sajid took this as a challenge to continue making sculptures. This lead to many awards, such as the 2001 Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award.
At the northern side of the church is a small prayer garden, with Conrado de Leon’s House of Precasts’s 2007 sculpture of “The Agony in the Garden”.
Inside the church, the triangle design draws the viewer’s eyes upward, as to create a sense of awe. At the altar in Juan Sajid Imao’s 2004 Crucifix, with Jesus’ head lifted up signifying his triumph over death.
At the entrance of the church is Architect Vincent Pinpin and Ronald Kraut‘s 2007 stained glass “Stations of the Cross”, with the basin for the Holy Water placed into a large rock.
Arch. Vincent Martin “Veepee” Bondoc Pinpin (born 1967) is a graduate of the Ateneo De Manila University, and he completed his degree in Architecture from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Aside from teaching Asian Vernacular Architecture at the Loyola Schools, Ateneo De Manila University, Arch. Pinpin has also worked on the redevelopment of certain building in the Ateneo. Pinpin is also the owner of the successful firm, VMBPArchitecturals.
Around the church’s interiors are Volks Bustiniera’s 2008 carved wood “Stations of the Cross”, which were said to be made of trees felled from either a storm or from the trees cleared on Sacred Heart Hill.
At the sides of the church, there are two adoration chapels. The first is the Chapel of the Immaculate Concepcion, which was built in 2006. The focal point of the chapel is the wooden Immaculate Conception floating inside a golden sun with resin white clouds. This sculpture was created by Justino ‘Paloy’ Cagayat, in 2006.
Justino ‘Paloy‘ A. Cagayat Jr. (1960) is a third-generation woodcarver from Paete, Laguna. Cagayat graduated from the Mapua Institute of Technology with a degree and license in Mining Engineering, but he opted to return to his hometown and continue the tradition of wood carving. Cagayat was already known in Paete, when he gain fame for sculpting the fictional “Machete” used in the movies that starred Cesar Montano in 1990 and Gardo Versoza in 1993.
Around the Chapel of the Immaculate Concepcion are etched glass images of “Marian Devotees” by Jose T. Badelles. Aside from the etched glass images, a mural titled “December 8, 1941” runs almost the whole perimeter of the chapel, with images of children in a Marian procession. This painting by Felix Mago Miguel speaks of the innocence and power of faith amidst the horrors of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, on that fateful date of December 8, 1941.
On the opposite side of the church is the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, which was designed by Architect Vicent Pinpin, in 2007. The tabernacle was created by the sculptor Juan Sajid Imao.
Sitting in the corner of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart is an undated wooden sculpture of the Head of Christ, by an unidentified artist. It sits as a silent witness to the prayers and conversations that passed through the Church of the Gesù.