The Sacred Heart Novitiate, in Novaliches, Quezon City, is a quite place under the canopy of tall trees for the formation of the future Jesuit priests, as well as place to recharge for the attendees of the many seminars and workshops held in the premises. And while walking through its halls, a modest collection of artworks tell the silent stories of the Catholic Church and Philippine history.
Yet there is another place within the novitiate that tells the story of how the Jesuits have helped shaped the course of Philippine history; ever since Fr. Antonio Sedeño, Fr. Alonso Sanchez (1547-1593) and Brother Nicolas Gallardo landed on our shores in 1581. The Jesuit missions established many of the towns and cities throughout the archipelago, when they founded the parishes of each town. Beyond evangelization, Jesuit priests were scholar of various disciplines in philosophy, the sciences and the arts; and their knowledge helped form many academic studies in the Philippines. One such Jesuit was Fr. Federico Faura S.J. (1840-1897), the founder of the Observatorio Meteorologico de Manila (Manila Observatory).
With the formation of educational institutions, the Jesuits began to mold the next generation of leaders in all sectors of society; such as priests, politicians, scientists, businessmen, economists, and artists among others. Among these schools are the Universidad de San Ignacio (1590-1768), the Colegio de San Ildefonso (1595-1768), the Ateneo Municipal de Manila (1859), the Ateneo de Zamboanga (1912), the Ateneo de Cagayan (1933), the Loyola College of Culion (1936), the Ateneo de Naga (1940), the Ateneo de Davao (1948), Ateneo de Cebu (1955), Xavier School (1956), and the Ateneo de Iloilo (1958).
In the 1800s, the Jesuit influence waned, when the Society of Jesus was expelled from Spain and its territories, by a royal decree of King Charles III (1716-1788), in 1767. In 1768, the decree was enforced in the Philippines, and all properties of the Jesuits in the Philippines were distributed among the different Catholic religious orders. It was only in 1814 Pope Pius VII (Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, 1742-1823) reinstates the Jesuits, and Queen Isabella II (1830-1904) invites the Jesuits back to the Philippines, in 1852. This led to a renaissance of Jesuit activity in the country
At the Sacred Heart Novitiate, there is the Jesuit Cemetery, which is the final resting place of many Jesuits throughout the ages. Whether Filipino or of foreign blood, these men have chosen to serve in this country and died fulfilling that sacred vow. And looking at the names on the niches, it is a who’s who of Jesuits that have made an impact to Philippine society, especially through the students of the Ateneo de Manila, for the last century.
From the main building of the Sacred Heart Novitiate, getting to the Jesuit Cemetery is quite a short walk through a narrow path among the trees. This gives the visitor a bit of time to contemplate, before visiting the Jesuits buried there. To add to that prayerful experience, there are several images from the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), lined up along the path.
Walking along the path, there are two small shrines to the Blessed Virgin Mary, maybe set on the path as places for reflection. The first shrine is that of the Immaculate Conception. The second shrine is dedicated to the Our Lady of Banneux (Our Lady of the Poor), which is a devotion based on a Marian apparition to the child Mariette Beco, in Belgium, 1933.
An interesting thing on the way to the cemetery is the Pelota Court, which shows that the Jesuit training is more than just about spirituality, but that of the body too. In the novitiate compound, there is also a volleyball court, a soccer field, a basketball court, and a swimming pool.
At the entrance of the Jesuit Cemetery, there is funeral tablet made of granite that was imported from China. Carved in 1610, the marker belong to a certain Capt. Pedro de Brito, who had donated 2000 hectares of land to the Jesuits, for the development of their parish, the San Pedro de Macati; and that land would become the City of Makati. The grave market was part of the floor of the parish church, which was donated to the Sacred Heart Novitiate in 1992.
The oldest grave her is that of Padre Alonso de Humanes S.J. (1562-1633), who served in the island of Bohol during the Spanish colonialization of the Philippines. Fr, Humanes was venerated as a saintly priest, and when he died, his tomb at the San Pedro Apostol Parish Church (founded 1596), in Loboc, became a pilgrimage site for the people of the Province of Bohol. Augustinian Recollects turned over the body to the San Ignacio Church in Manila, shortly after the reinstatement of the Jesuits, 1852. After the San Ignacio burned down in 1932, and it subsequent total destruction during the Battle of Manila in 1945, the remains of Fr. Humanes were finally transferred to the Sacred Heart Novitiate.
Aside from Fr. Humanes’ remains, there are 87 unidentified bodies that were formerly buried at the San Ignacio Church, since 1864-1936. Since the damage for the fire and the war, all record have been lost, and the remains are described as “Unknown Men, but Known to God”.
There are many illustrious Jesuits buried here, but I will mention those whom my family and I are most familiar with. Such is Fr. John Delaney S.J. (1906-1956), who is best known as the man who instigated the creation of modernist Chapel of the Holy Sacrifice, at the University of the Philippines. He was also a teacher and administrator at the Ateneo de Manila, and had taught my father and uncles during those times.
Fr. George J. Willmann SJ (1897-1977) is the founder of the Knights of Columbus in the Philippines and the Knights of Columbus Fraternal Association of the Philippines Inc.
Fr. Horacio Dela Costa SJ (1916-1977) is a brilliant scholar and historian, but my father and uncles remember him as a very inspiring mentor.
Fr. Pacifico A. Ortiz SJ (1913-1983) is the first Filipino president of the Ateneo de Manila University, he was also known as a staunch oppositionist to the regime of Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Fr. James O’Brien SJ (1927-1994) was a teacher of English, religion and socio-economics. But to us he is the founder of the Tulong Dunong (Help and Learn) program in 1975, where the senior high school students of the Ateneo de Manila would go down to the depressed areas of nearby Marikina, to tutor students in those barangays, in subjects such as math and science. From the top performing students, they will be given scholarships to the Ateneo.
Fr. Jose A. Cruz SJ (1926-1999) was a former President of the Ateneo de Manila University, but he was also the principal of the high school when I was still a student there.
Fr. Raul J. Bonoan SJ (1935-1999) was a teacher and administrator at the Ateneo College, and a scholar of the National Hero, Dr. José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda (1861-1896). The Olivares and Bonoan clans have been very close, since the time when the Ateneo was at Padre Faura street, in Manila. There was always an Olivares and Bonoan who would be either classmates or batchmates on any given year. As for Fr. Bonoan, we would me him during their family gatherings, and my father was the best of friends with his brother, and I was with his nephew.
Fr. Asterio J. Katigbak SJ (1928-2002) was the principal of the Ateneo Grade School, when I was still a student.
Bro. James P. Dunne SJ (1935-2003) was the Head Student Counselor, the Head of the College Residence Halls the Director of Student Affairs, Director of Spiritual Formation, Director of Admissions in the High School, the Assistant Principal for Formation and the Head of Campus Ministries at the Ateneo de Manila. Yet what many high school alumni remember is the “Days with the Lord” retreat, which Bro. Dunne had developed for the students.
Fr. Prudencio Macayan SJ (1921-2005) was our math teacher, who was a hardcore environmentalist.
Fr. Jose C. Blanco SJ (1924-2006) was an important player in the February 1986 EDSA Revolution, as he was an adviser to Pres. Corazon C. Aquino during those days.
Fr. Eduardo P. Hontiveros SJ (1923-2008) was composer, who is noted for popularizing a hymnody in religious songs, which would be later called “Jesuit Music”.
Bishop Francisco F. Claver SJ DD (1929-2010) was the first bishop of the Diocese of Malaybalay.
Fr. Joseph A. Galdon SJ (1928-2010) was the chair of the Ateneo Department of English, the dean of the Ateneo College of Arts and Sciences, the rector of the Jesuit Residence, and the director of Admission and Aid. And as a writer, Fr. Galdon was the editor of the academic journal Philippine Studies; he wrote several inspirational books; and he was a columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Fr. James Bertam Reuter S.J. (1916-2012) was writer, director and producer in theatre, radio, print and film. Fr. Reuter was given the “honorary citizen” status by the Batasang Pambansa (Philippine Parliament), in 1984. To my father and uncles, Fr. Reuter was an inspiring teacher. I, on the other hand, had the privy to work alongside him as voice talent in the audio documentary of the Ateneo de Manila, entitle “Animo Ateneo” (1983).
Fr. John N. Schumacher SJ (1927-2014) was a professor emeritus of Church History at the Loyola School of Theology.
Fr. Luis G. Candelaria SJ (1919-2014) was the headmaster at the Ateneo Grade School, the director of the Ateneo Publications Office and University Press, and the principal at the Ateneo High School.
Fr. Jaime C. Bulatao SJ (1922-2015) was known for his studies on Filipino psychology, hypnosis and metascience, such as consciousness mapping, analysis, diagnosis and therapy through the use of computers, hypnosis and hypnotherapy and altered states of consciousness. Fr. Bulatao has written many scholarly papers on these subjects, as well as papers on education, culture and personality, group dynamics, guidance and counseling, and religion.
Fr. Raymond T. Holscher SJ (1943-2016) was one of the pioneers of Loyola House of Studies, but we had known him more as the director of athletics at the Ateneo, holding his office in the Blue Eagle Gym.
Although I have mentioned 20 Jesuit priests in this article (and 87 unidentified bodies), there are 272 more currently buried at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, who all have been part of the history of the Ateneo de Manila and the Philippines. There are many other Jesuits who are not buried at the Sacred Heart Novitiate; such as Bro. Jesus Ocáriz who taught us soccer at the Ateneo de Manila Grade School, Fr. Federico Faura (1840-1897) who was the founder of the Manila Observatory, Fr. José Fernández Cuevas who lead 9 Jesuit priests and bothers in the evangelization of Mindanao, and Fr. William F. Masterson who was the American rector of the Ateneo de Manila during its move from Manila to Quezon City in the 1950s. Many alumni of the Ateneo have visited (or have planned to go) to the Sacred Heart Novitiate to pay their respects to these men who have help shaped their lives.