Why Ateneo?

by Rob Brian Roque, BS Chemistry with Materials Science and Engineering

 

I still remember clearly how I felt when I realized how harrowingly important my decisions for college were about to be. It was terrifying to think that the check marks on a piece of paper called an application form and a test I had to take for four to five hours could determine so many things in my life. After a year in the school I chose, I have not regretted my decision to bet my future on an Atenean education.

 

My training in science for four years filled me with a motivation to decide from an objective point of view. I made a cost-benefit analysis, consulted more people than I could count and researched tirelessly for months. In the end, I narrowed down the data I got by looking at where the three schools I was accepted in differed. I concluded it was on the way things were done, and the culture of the university itself.

 

From the short trailer of Ateneo from my experience in the Ateneo Junior Summer Seminar, I found the Ateneo way really enticing and intriguing. I chose Ateneo because I felt it promised me versatility in career, limitless employment opportunities, holistic growth, leadership training and a Catholic education. A tall order no doubt, but I thought Ateneo could give me that. A year into the experience of being an Atenean, I am getting more than I had originally expected.

 

Facilities and Faculty

Fulfilling my contract to the Filipino people who paid for my high school education, I am currently taking up BS Chemistry with Materials Science Engineering.

 

In the history of our nation, Ateneo has played a big role in many different ways but has often exhibited leadership in its liberal arts education (and not so much in science and technology). Today, Ateneo is a leader in this field as well. I was truly impressed by the fact that Ateneo is home to leading research institutions in this field such as the Philippine Institute for Pure and Applied Chemistry (PIPAC) and the National Chemistry Instrumentation Center (NCIC) which houses the only Nuclear Magnetic Resonance equipment in the country to date. The Department of Chemistry, along with several other departments of the School of Science and Engineering, are CHED Centers of Excellence.

 

More than the facilities, I got the privilege of having some of the best teachers in the country as my teachers. I have been instructed by the best and learned beyond what the textbook

could offer.

 

Dr. Ma. Assunta Cuyegkeng, Vice President for the Loyola Schools, was my teacher in Chemistry for the first semester. A semester with her showed me exactly why she truly deserved her Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award. I now know that the only other variable that could keep me from being a competent scientist in the future is myself - my willingness and capacity to utilize all these resources to hone the scientist in me.

 

Unique Curriculum

After a year of writing essays and toiling over research papers not necessarily related to my course, I now appreciate the beauty and the real advantages of the unique curriculum of Ateneo. The core curriculum, from my own understanding, is a necessary load that could hone me into a scientist who could more effectively articulate his ideas and findings. From what I am seeing now, Ateneo will train me to be far more than a chemist.

 

Student Activities

One thing I am happy I discovered early on in my stay in the Ateneo is that the life of an Atenean is far more than getting A’s and 4.0 QPIs. For me, the prevailing culture encourages us to find our own niche based on our passions and avenues for us to hone what we have and to learn what we want to learn. I am currently a member of five organizations, which I chose based on my three passions in life: leadership, ministry and science. Activities of the Ateneo College Ministry Group, such as serving in the masses, have given me the opportunity to grow more in my faith. Youth for Christ - Ateneo has given me a whole new family united in our love and commitment to God. The Ateneo Student Leaders Assembly allowed me to interact with leaders of different organizations and receive formation and training to be more effective and successful at my craft. Naturally, I am also a member of the Ateneo Chemical Society.

 

My batchmates who came with me to the Ateneo are now trailblazing in several other niches including the volleyball varsity team, basketball club, and programming varsity team. With more than 40 different organizations housed in the Manuel V Pangilinan Center for Student Leadership and the guidance of professionals from the Office of Student Activities, it is only natural that you find a niche yourself – a group you want to be a part of because it gives you room to grow in what you truly desire.

 

One niche that I continue to find truly enriching is my position as a Central Board Representative in the Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila, the student government of the Ateneo. I have been a member of the student council since my grade school days but never did I imagine to be elected to office by people who I have not cultivated relationships with yet. I take the trust they invested in me seriously as an opportunity to serve the community to whom I owe my tertiary education to. Though my work in the Sanggunian is far from easy, there is this fire of service in me that drives me to continue working.

 

Formation

My position in the Sanggunian gave me an incidental glimpse into how Ateneo stokes the flames of service to motivate them to be truly ‘men and women for others’. I have been part of the Committee on Social Concern and Involvement of the Sanggunian and it gave me an opportunity to meet people who truly are inspirational in their selflessness.

 

My freshman year was blessed with several occasions where I got involved in the different avenues for services Ateneo currently has. I got to experience a Gawad Kalinga build with my org mates in YFC-Ateneo. I had the chance to visit the area my org serves and teach English and Math to the kids there. Helping out the Sumilao farmers started out as a mere project for me but later on, it grew to a real advocacy for me. The experience allowed me to understand better why agrarian reform is both a social and moral issue. ‘Men and women for others’, as I saw it in my first year, is more than a slogan – it is a way of life for a good number of Ateneans.

 

In my one year in the Ateneo, I have met some of the most interesting, exciting and inspiring people including two senators, legendary teachers and the most driven student leaders. The Ateneo community has given me the chance to understand better the plight of the oppressed, impoverished and hopeless. It has freed me from the paralyzing notion of my actions not making a difference. It has also shown me that the whole experience of being an Atenean teaches, inspires, hones and challenges you to BE more – more than what you desire to be, or what you are expected by society to be. I realize, as I contemplate on the question again, that based on my expectations, I got a lot more than I bargained for.

 

 

Rob graduated with Highest Honors from Philippine Science High School-Diliman Campus.