Ateneo Songs & Cheers

“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.”

- Art Borjal, Ateneo Aegis 1959

A Proud Tradition

Ateneo's success in athletics was renowned even before the NCAA began. Intense games were fought before rather disorganized and rambunctious Atenean spectators. To help cheer the Ateneo squad on, the Jesuits decided that Ateneo ought to have some sort of organization in its cheering. As a result of their effort, Ateneo introduced organized cheering to the country by fielding the first-ever cheering squad in the Philippines.

The words of some of the cheers seem incomprehensible or derived from an exotic tongue. Loud, rapid yells of “fabilioh” and “halikinu” mean to rally the team and to intimidate and confuse the enemy gallery. Meanwhile, fighting songs help inspire the team, and to “roll out the victory.” The united crowd, a Blue Babble Battalion, enlivens the team “under banners of white and fair blue.”

A Song for Mary

Up to the time that Ateneo de Manila had moved to Loyola Heights, the school anthem was “Hail Ateneo, Hail”, a song of triumph, of marching on to victory with loyalty. However, the move from Padre Faura to Loyola Heights seems to have evoked change. The new campus stood for something new, something nobler.

Fr. James Reuter, S.J. wrote a song that seemed to embody the “newness” that permeated the new Ateneo. It, perhaps, better suited what the school is all about.

We stand on a hill between the earth and sky. Now all is still where Loyola’s colors fly. Our course is run and the setting sun ends Ateneo’s day. Eyes are dry at the last goodbye; this is the Ateneo way.

Mary for you! For your white and blue! We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, constantly true! We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, faithful to you!

Down from the hill, down to the world go I; rememb’ring still, how the bright Blue Eagles fly. Through joys and tears, through the laughing years, we sing our battle song: Win or lose, it’s the school we choose; this is the place where we belong!

Mary for you! For your white and blue! We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, constantly true! We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, faithful to you!

Its music is adapted from Calixa Lavalée’s music to the hymn “O Canada”, composed in 1880, which is why many people believe that Ateneo copied the music of Canada’s national anthem. However, it is interesting to note that Canada only adopted “O Canada” as its own national anthem in 1980. Ateneo de Manila adopted “A Song for Mary” as its alma mater song three decades earlier.

“A Song for Mary'' speaks more clearly and more ardently from the Atenean’s heart. Life is not merely about competition or about assailing enemies “in strong array.” The struggle is, as in chivalry, for one’s Lady. And Ateneo's own Lady is no less than Mary, the Mother of God, and our own mother. The aim is not merely victory, but steadfast faith and commitment—to keep “constantly true”, whether we win or lose.

The song also speaks of a purpose higher than to “win our laurels bright,” a greater challenge than being able to “do or die.”

The song declares that we go “down from the hill, down to the world,” to live, to give, and to serve.

That is the Ateneo way.

Blue Eagle, the King

For the longest time during the National Collegiate Athletic Association competitions in the 1930s and earlier, Ateneo had no mascot. The basketball team lorded it over the opposition, proudly carrying the school’s colors and name.

Meanwhile, Catholic Schools in the United States, particularly those named after saints, were distressed by the cheekiness with which they were mentioned in sports pages. Headlines read “St. Michael’s Wallops St. Augustine’s,” or “St. Thomas’ Scalps St. Peter’s.” It was then agreed that each school adopt a mascot, a symbol for the team which sportswriters could toss about with impunity and which would consequently allow the saints to live in peace.

The idea quickly caught on in the Philippines. By the late 30s, the Ateneo had adopted the Blue Eagle as a symbol, and had a live eagle accompany the basketball team.

The choice of mascot, of course, held iconic significance. It was a reference to the “high-flying” basketball team which would “sweep the fields away;” the dominating force in NCAA. Furthermore, there was some mythological—even political—significance to the eagle as a symbol of power.

In On Wings of Blue, a booklet of Ateneo traditions, songs, and cheers published in the 1950’s, Lamberto Avellana writes:

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!

The eagle also appears in the standards of many organizations, schools, and nations as a guardian of freedom and truth. It is also worthwhile to note that the national bird of the Philippines is an eagle as well.

Dante in his Divine Comedy uses the Eagle as a clear symbol of the Roman Empire, which used the bird as part of its standard. The Romans considered the eagle sacred to Jupiter himself. To this day, the eagle is often seen as the bird of God, the only bird that could fly above the clouds and stare directly at the sun. In fact, the eagle represents St. John, the Evangelist, in honor of the soaring spirit and penetrating vision of his gospel.