December 16, 2007

Pink Elephants

Ateneo de Zamboanga Fiesta
Feast of St. Andrew - November 30, 2007
Matthew 4:18-22 : "I will make you fishers of men"

Pink elephants. Have you seen a pink elephant? Yes, there is such a thing as pink elephant. They are in Africa and what makes them pink is the plant they eat. That plant endemic to the place produces a pink pigment when eaten by the elephant, gives a pinkish effect to the elephants’ skin.
We become what we eat. We are what we eat!

We commonly hear remarks like … “a kaya pala, you’re an Ateneo graduate.” It can be a positive or negative remarks but most of the time it’s positive. What’s in the Ateneo students and alumni? I guess we have something in common in the way we think and the way we look at life. Thanks to Ateneo education.
Our fiesta is our way of celebrating the Ateneo spirit. When there is an Ateneo gathering, it must always be a celebration of Ateneo spirit : It is to know that we are not perfect people yet called to excellence and service – this is the spirit of loving.

Bishop Chito Tagle of Cavite, a graduate of San Jose Seminary in Ateneo de Manila captured this “spirit of loving” into four moments: the moments of gathering, story-telling, nourishing, and mission.

The first moment of loving is the Moment of Gathering. Jesus gathered his disciples and they became fishers of men. The Ateneans are called to become “man and woman for others.” The Lord gathered us together as one family for a meaningful cause. Not only to watch an Ateneo-La Salle game, but to a much higher and noble cause like actively responding to challenges of our times, especially here in Mindanao.

The 2nd moment of loving is the Moment of Story-telling. Jesus loves telling stories. Our fiesta is a time to share our own personal and shared story, our joys and sadness, victories and failures, and we learn from them. In any gathering, we love to look back and re-tell the same old stories all over again! We love remembering the past. We do have lots of moments of victories to remember.
Remember Aug 2004? …When our former university president Fr. Bill Kreutz, in his excitement, ran excitedly from the Jesuit Residence to LRC to announce that Ateneo de Zamboanga was officially upgraded to the university status by the Commission on Higher Education. He then realized that he forgot to wear his shoes, but at least he was wearing his black socks.

In year 2006, Ateneo opened its gate to adopt more than 1,000 residents of Camino Nueva during the fire incident. They residents of Camino realized that the four walls of Ateneo were just physical walls.

For countless times, we have gone beyond and crossed the sea that separates Zamboanga from Basilan and Sta. Cruz Island for outreach programs.
But we do have moments of sadness also, like the recent death of our well-loved university treasurer, Mr. Jun Sarau, our concern to the peace situation in Mindanao, our local and national problem of poverty, our national political situation, the slowly becoming common “coup de etat” like yesterday’s Trillanes stand-off in Makati and the unfamiliar calamity like this week’s big waves that destroyed more than 1,000 houses in 14 barangays in the west coast of Zamboanga.
Our stories, happy or not so happy, should remind us of our capacity to transcend from ourselves, respond to the signs of times and make a difference in other’s lives and the society.

The 3rd moment of Loving is the Moment of Nourishing. Jesus fed his disciples. To love is feed. To feed is to nourish and to nourish one another is fellowship. May the food, sports, contest, cultural and musical programs, giving of awards and reunions be our breaking and sharing of bread together.
The 4th moment is to be sent. To be nourished is to know that we are blessed. It should lead us to go beyond the walls of Ateneo, politics, ideologies, religion and personal differences. Beyond the Ateneo walls are still “us”: Zamboanga city, Basilan, Jolo, Sumilao farmers, and the whole country. Like St. Ignatius, Ateneans should be dreamers and doers. We humbly recognize that we are just a speck of sand in the great universe but the universe came from a single dust.

We hope that society will recognize us not because of our intelligence, achievements and pursuit of excellence, but in our individual and community contributions to the pursuit of justice, peace, and progress in Mindanao. We do not need dreamers. We have already lots of them in our politics. We need do-ers.
Pink elephants become pink because of what they eat. But we are not elephants. We are Ateneans. We become Ateneans because of what we value and believe, what we dream and what we do together. Happy Fiesta!

- Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ

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