Ateneo Alumni Association of Washington
By Greg S. Castilla, AdenHS’66
(Published in The 6th AAConvention Souvenir Program)
Ateneans are not exempted from what appears to be a long-held tradition among Filipino expats to form an organization. But unlike most Filipino organizations, the Ateneo Alumni Association of Washington (AAAW) was formed with a slightly different bent. Our basis of unity was not our respective regional roots, but our education under the tutelage of the bodacious Jesuits in the Philippines.
The latter part of 1991 marked the beginning of the ongoing effort to form an Ateneo alumni association in Seattle. It all started when Greg Castilla approached Ted Pavino (deceased), and Dominic Santiago, a graduate of Ateneo de Davao and Zamboanga respectively, to discuss the need for an alumni association. Ted’s and Dominic’s interest provided the spark that led to a series of phone calls to known Ateneans in the area, inviting them to an organizational meeting on January 11, 1992 at the office of the Pacific Asian Empowerment Program (PAEP) on Beacon Avenue.
LAYING THE FOUNDATION
Present during the first organizational meeting were mostly Ateneo de Zamboanga alumni. They were Ric Hacut, Jimmy and Marie Viray, E.J. Diaz, Rod Fernandez, Roli Cortez and Dan Lim. Also in attendance were Ted Pavino and Ateneo de Manila graduates Weng Gavino, Romy Ramos, Artie Vergel de Dios (deceased) and his wife, Domi and Greg Castilla.
The discussions were anything but procedural. They centered on how to live our Jesuit education now that we were out of the watchful gaze of our Jesuit mentors. At the end, the founding members drew up the goals of AAAW that were simple, yet exemplified the core of our Jesuit training. These goals were as follows:
- To establish personal and social relationships among former Ateneo graduates,
students, and their families;
- To promote Filipino culture and values through various forums;
- To support a strategic educational project of a Jesuit institution in the Philippines;
- To support and work for any initiative that will promote, enhance and encourage the socio-economic and political empowerment of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans.
The charter members also decided to open the membership in AAAW to any individual who has attended at least two years of grade school, high school, college, or graduate school in any of the following Jesuit schools: Ateneo de Naga, Ateneo de Manila, Ateneo de Zamboanga, Ateneo de Tuguegarao, Ateneo de San Pablo, Ateneo de Davao, Ateneo de Cagayan, Sacred Heart School (Cebu), and Xavier School (San Juan).
On February 9,1992, the structural framework of AAAW was finally in place with the election of its first set of officers: Greg S. Castilla, president; Pic Marcelo, vice-president; Dan Lim, records secretary; Jim Coballes, auditor; Artie Vergel de Dios, PRO. Appointed committee chairpersons were: Vilma Mendoza, fundraising; Marie Viray, social and cultural; and Dominic Santiago, ways and means. Weng Gavino designed the association’s logo.
HOLDING THE FORT
The initial excitement that characterized the formation of AAAW in its early years has withered away as some members of the organization became inactive for various reasons. But the organization remained active. There were always those who continued, “to hold the fort” so to speak, without any fanfare, almost with devotion. For years, this core of individuals would always step to the plate and attend to the organization’s needs. This narrative would be historically incomplete if I don’t name them. Their acknowledgment is well past due. They are: Dominic Santiago, Jim and Marie Viray, Pete and Kitti Guballa, Ed Ferrer, Rod Agbunag, and Rose Long.
The ability to move an organization forward, despite its handicap, is the hallmark of a mature organization. Such is AAAW. The diminishing membership that has perennially plagued the organization has not caused the organization to atrophy. I suppose the lesson here is that sometimes fewer is better!
Since its inception in 1992, the organization has had three presidents – Greg S. Castilla (1992), Pic Marcelo (1993), Romy Ramos (1994-1998), Greg S. Castilla (1998-2002), and Rod Agbunag (2003-present). It has also been involved in numerous community projects and activities like sponsoring the Ateneo de Manila Glee Club (1993); initialing Kapihan, a monthly forum that brought community folks together to discuss relevant issues; hosting Fr. James Reuter’s play, “The Philippines: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” (1997); holding Holy Week recollections at Seattle University; awarding a scholarship to a deserving student; donating used books to Ateneo de Naga; organizing fundraising activities; donating the “mens sana in corpore sano” perpetual trophy to the Life After Forty Basketball League (LAFBL), a very popular basketball league in Seattle among Filipino professional; hosting visiting Jesuits from the Philippines, and launching 2000, in cooperation with the Filipino Community of Seattle and the Philippines Trade Office, “Operation Pagasa”- a campaign to solicit canned and dry goods for the evacuees displaced by the civil war in Mindanao. Last July 2002, AAAW successfully hosted the 5th International All-Ateneo Convention.
The temptation in the face of these accomplishments was to bask in our success. But the organization opted for the road less travel by; that is, just do the work and let the gods do the judgment.
Two years after the specter of holding the 5th International All-Ateneo Convention is gone, the core members of AAAW continue to remain steadfast and active. If the past eleven years were any indications, AAAW would survive the challenges that come its way. But history is not just a series of conquered challenges. It is not even a list of accomplishments. It is not a narrative, such as this to read. History is us, ordinary mortals, ordinary Ateneans, continuously making an impact in the community in our small ways.
We will continue to do it. We will continue to create history.
You are most welcome to update us of your recent board directory!