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Culture and traditions of the Ateneo de Manila

The Philippine Institute for Pure and Applied Chemistry (PIPAC), an independent research facility located on the university grounds.

The Ateneo de Manila University (Filipino: Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila; Spanish: Universidad Ateneo de Manila) is a private research university in Quezon City, Philippines. Founded as the Escuela Municipal in 1859 by the Society of Jesus, the Ateneo is the third-oldest university in the country. Among the several articles on the Ateneo, this article deals solely with its culture and traditions.



The name Ateneo is derived from the Latin word Athenaeum, a temple dedicated to Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. The closest English gloss is academy. The Society of Jesus in the Philippines established several other schools, all named Ateneo, since 1865, and over the years, the name "Ateneo" has become recognized as the official title of Jesuit institutions of higher learning in the Philippines.


The university motto is Lux in Domino, meaning "Light in the Lord". This is not the school's original motto. The Escuela Municipal's 1859 motto was "Al merito y a la virtud": "In Merit and in Virtue". This motto persisted through the school's renaming in 1865 and 1901. The motto first appeared as part of the Ateneo seal introduced by Father Rector Joaquin Añon, S.J., for the 1909 Golden Jubilee. It comes from Paul the Apostle's Epistle to the Ephesians, 5.8:

For you were once in darkness, now you are light in the LORD. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness, righteousness, and truth.

The Lux in Domino Award is given to an individual who has embodied by their life, and perhaps even death, in an outstanding and exemplary manner, the noblest ideals of the Ateneo de Manila University.[1]


In 1859, the Escuela Municipal bore the coat of arms of the City of Manila, which were granted by King Philip II of Spain in 1596. When the title "Ateneo" was added to the school's name in 1865, the seal incorporated the Jesuit monogram "IHS" and Marian symbols. At its golden jubilee in 1909, clearer Marian symbols were added along with the current motto, Lux in Domino. In 1929 for Ateneo’s diamond jubilee Fr. Rector Richard O’Brien, S.J., introduced the present seal which replaces the arms of Manila with mostly Jesuit and Ignatian symbols.[2]

The seal is defined by two semi-circular ribbons. The crown ribbon contains the school motto, "Lux-in-Domino", while the base ribbon contains the school name, "Ateneo de Manila". These ribbons define a circular field on which rests the shield of Oñaz-Loyola: a combination of the arms of the paternal and maternal sides of the family of St. Ignatius of Loyola. [3] The shield is gold, and divided vertically.

To the viewer's left is a field of gold with seven red bands. These are the arms of Oñaz, Ignatius' paternal family, which commemorates seven family heroes who fought with the Spaniards against 70,000 French, Navarese, and Gascons. To the viewer's right is a white or silver field with the arms of Loyola, Ignatius' maternal family. The arms consist of a two-eared pot hanging on a chain between two rampant wolves, which symbolize nobility. The name "Loyola" is actually a contraction of lobos y olla (wolves and pot). The name springs from the family's reputation of being able to provide so well that they could feed a pack of wolves. Above the shield is a Basque sunburst, referring to Ignatius' Basque roots, and also representing a consecrated host. It bears the letters IHS, the first three letters of "Jesus" in Greek, emblematic of the Society of Jesus.

The white and blue are the school colours and those of Mary; red and gold are the colours of Spain, home of Ignatius and of Ateneo’s Jesuit founders. These four colours mirror the Philippine flag, marking the Ateneo’s identity as a Filipino university.[4]

Marian devotionEdit

An image of the Immaculate Conception enshrined in the Ateneo Grade School's Chapel of the Holy Guardian Angels.

Ateneans value symbols of devotion to María la Purísima Concepción (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception), Queen of the Ateneo. Among them are the rosary and the October Medal, which is a Miraculous Medal dangling from a blue ribbon, and pinned to the left breast.

A Song for MaryEdit

The original school anthem was Hail Ateneo, Hail, a marching tune adapted from Fordham Ram, the fight song of the Jesuit-run Fordham University.[5] Upon moving to Loyola Heights in the 1950s, the school adopted A Song for Mary as its graduation hymn and is now widely considered the school anthem.[5] Fr. James B. Reuter, S.J., wrote its lyrics and Ateneo band moderator Colonel José Campaña adapted the melody from the patriotic hymn O Canada. The tune, composed by Calixa Lavallée in 1880, was officially made a national anthem of Canada in 1980.[5][6]


The Ateneo has adopted blue and white, the colors of Mary, as its official school colors. Marian blue is traditionally ultramarine, an expensive, ocean-blue tincture derived from ground lapis lazuli that was historically used in paintings to identify the Virgin Mary.[citation needed] Mary is honored as Stella Maris ("Star of the Sea") and Queen of Heaven, other shades such as royal blue and sky blue, are commonly used as symbols of Mary.[citation needed]


In the 1930s, the Ateneo adopted the Blue Eagle as its symbol, and had a live eagle accompany the basketball team. The eagle suggested a "high-flying" basketball team which would "sweep the field away" as a dominating force, and took its colours from those of the school.

The Eagle – fiery, majestic, whose kingdom is the virgin sky, is swift in pursuit, terrible in battle. He is a king – a fighting king. … And thus he was chosen – to soar with scholar’s thought and word high into the regions of truth and excellence, to flap his glorious wings and cast his ominous shadow below, even as the student crusader would instill fear in those who would battle against the Cross. And so he was chosen – to fly with the fleet limbs of the cinder pacer, to swoop down with the Blue gladiator into the arena of sporting combat and with him to fight and keep on fighting till brilliant victory, or honorable defeat. And so he was chosen – to perch on the Shield of Loyola, to be the symbol of all things honorable, even as the Great Eagle is perched on the American escutcheon, to be the guardian of liberty. And so he was chosen – and he lives, not only in body to soar over his campus aerie, but in spirit, in the Ateneo Spirit. … For he flies high, and he is a fighter, and he is King![7]

The eagle is also the national bird of the Philippines.

Cheering traditionEdit

The Ateneo fielded the first-ever cheering squad in the Philippines. It is now known as the Blue Babble Battalion. The words of some of its cheers seem incomprehensible or derived from an exotic language. Loud, rapid yells of "Fabilioh" and "Halikinu" are meant to intimidate and confuse the enemy gallery. Meanwhile, fighting songs help inspire the team to "roll up a victory". The Ateneo’s brand of cheering is both unique and rooted in classical antiquity.

It all started about 2,000 years ago along the Via Appia in Rome. The deafening cheers of Roman citizens, lined along the way, thundered in the sky as the returning victorious warriors passed by. … The type of cheering that the Ateneo introduced was, in a way, quite different from that of the Romans. When the warriors came home in defeat, the citizens shouted in derision and screamed for the soldiers’ blood. To the Atenean, victory and defeat do not matter much. To cheer for a losing team that had fought fairly and well is as noble, if not nobler, than cheering for a victorious squad.[8]

A cheerbook, On Wings Of Blue, was published in the 1930s and has gone through major revisions, including the addition of the Song for Mary. Some of the cheers, including "Give them the axe", have been discontinued; others, such as "Go Ateneo" and the "Eight-Beat Chant", were added in the last two decades.[citation needed] In 1938 cheerleader Raul Manglapus composed "Blue Eagle, The King", Ateneo's fight song.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Nominations for Traditional University Awards 2011". Ateneo de Manila University. Archived from the original on 2011-09-03. Retrieved June 2011. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. ^ Roman A. Cruz, Jr. "The Ateneo Story." Aegis. 1959
  3. ^ Kathy MacMullen (2001-07-08). "Basic Heraldry". Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  4. ^ "About the Ateneo seal". Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "Song for Mary". Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  6. ^ "National Anthem: O Canada". 2008-12-11. Archived from the original on December 5, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  7. ^ Lamberto V. Avellana, On Wings of Blue: booklet of Ateneo traditions, songs, and cheers published in 1930s, reprinted in 1950s
  8. ^ Art Borjal. Ateneo Aegis, 1959, college yearbook.