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Home » Migrated » The Ateneo Gym and the Blue Phoenix

The Ateneo Gym and the Blue Phoenix

The New Ateneo Gym In 1950


THE Ateneo gym and THE Blue Phoenix


            At past 7 on Thursday morning, July
7, 2016 a two-hour fire broke out and razed to the ground the St. Jean de
Brebeuf Gym of our Ateneo de Zamboanga University. Together with the entire 66-year-old
gym, where the ADZU band room was with all its expensive instruments, the fire
also burned the 5-year-old firewall-less Sauras Hall behind, housing the College of Law and the canteen.

            Also destroyed was the entire third
floor of Gonzaga Hall (constructed in 1964), which housed ADZU’s Center for
Information Technology Services and its adjoining computer laboratories. The
second floor housing the College of Nursing and the School of Liberal Arts
was also damaged by the fire. The ground floor with its School
of Management and Accountancy together
with the College
of Education
suffered damage.

            The Brebeuf Gym through the years
had become an elephant in the room, so to speak. “Elephant in the room” is an
English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is unaddressed. It also
applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.

            How true, how accurate, how apt this
definition of the gym. It was an accident waiting to happen. It was not a
matter of if or how, but when. Decades ago everyone knew the gym was a
firetrap. Reports say the July 7 fire was the fourth time a fire broke out in
the gym. The first three fires through the decades were put out on time. This
last fire ended the matter, finally and decisively.

            St. Jean de Brebeuf (March 25, 1593
– March 16, 1649) was a French Jesuit missionary martyred by the Iroquois
Indians in New France (Canada
today). This is what the internet says about the name. Brebeuf: breh-BUF. Bre:
like the “e” in “angel” and beuf: like the “u” in “full.” The “f” is

            Before it was painted the familiar
blue we all knew, it was originally painted grey for decades. An old American
Jesuit brother assigned at ADZU many years ago described its aesthetically-challenged
stark blue color as “barriotic.” Sorry, you cannot run after him anymore. He
left for the States and eventually also left for heaven.

            The 1949 Beacon Yearbook recorded
that on March 30, 1949 “the first shipment of materials for the gym-auditorium
arrives.” The fire exposed the gym’s cornerstone marked “Ateneo Gym 1949.” We
can presume it was finished the following year.

            The Ateneo Gym, as it was known
during the first half of its life, was the center of the cultural life of
Zamboanga. Here basketball games between Ateneo de Zamboanga and its rival the
Zamboanga AE Colleges were played. Here programs, shows and concerts of the
city took place. Here the late actor Philip Gamboa played Lady Macbeth in their
high school presentation. Here the famous Filipino violinist Gilopez Kabayao
performed in the 1960s. The Ateneo gym was for many years the Araneta Coliseum
of Zamboanga.

            A week before the fire, I looked out
from the third floor of Xavier Hall and noticed how rusted the entire roof of
the gym was. Little did I know that the problem would be gone several days
later, gone up in smoke.

            The outpouring of sadness and
expressions of help have been overwhelming. “How can I help, what can we do?”
Well, right now the Ateneo de Zamboanga University needs all the support it can
get – financial, material and moral. At this period of loss, it is time for
ADZU’s blue eagles through the years to put their money where their mouth is.
It is time for put into action, to walk the talk about ADZU’s Pro Deo et
Patria, magis, men and women for others.

            The alumni are in the process of
replacing the band instruments lost in the fire. Why not call this fund-raising
Ateneo Band Aid?” Everyone will easily remember this. We are also sure they
will not only help the band but will generously contribute to our Ateneo rebuilding
fund. For the Ateneo family, past and present, this is the time to remember St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity. 

            In Greek mythology,
a phoenix is a mythical bird associated with the sun. It always gets
new life by rising from the ashes. With the Blue Eagle nursing its wounds in
the hospital, as it were, we need a temporary mascot to fill the gap. What
could be more appropriate than a Blue Phoenix to symbolize our determination to
reconstruct or rebuild a better, safer and more well-thought out Ateneo de
Zamboanga University for future generations?


Arriva Ateneo! Arriva Blue Eagle! Arriva Blue Phoenix!


Salvador Wee SJ