Address for the Renaming of the Home Economics Building | Ateneo de Naga University


Address for the Renaming of the Home Economics Building

27 July 2018

by Mr. Gregorio R. Abonal
Naga City Councilor and Former Principal of the Ateneo de Naga High School

Last June 19, Dr. Malu and Dr. Popoy asked me to speak at the occasion that would name the erstwhile Home Economics Building after Fr. Johnny Sanz. Neither one of them read my mind. My mind wondered why a Home Economics Building? Why not a football field?

Father President Robert Rivera, the rest, you will have to forgive me. I have been away for like a lifetime so that I no longer know who has become what. Let me, therefore, greet you with the familiar; Fred, Becks, Janet, …

First off, let me thank off Popoy and Malu- and whoever was/were the promoter of bringing me back- thank you for even for a moment bringing me back.

My sharing this afternoon on Fr. Jonny Sanz will be of 3 parts:

  1. What is listed in his Curriculum Vitae
  2. My encounters with him
  3. What others said of him

Juan Rodriguez Sanz was born on June 24, 1926 in Tacloban, but he died on December 18, 2006.

He completed his primary grades at Tacloban Catholic Institute graduating Salutatorian of his class.

Then all his studies were Jesuit related; San Jose Seminary, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Berchmans College in Cebu (AB and MA in Philosophy), Woodstock College in Maryland, USA (STL), Colegio de San Estanislao in Salamanca, Spain.

He was ordained priest on June 19, 1960.

His assignments included: Ateneo de Manila Grade School, Minor Seminary in Mertojodan, Indonesia, Ateneo de San Pablo, Philippine General Hospital, San Jose Minor Seminary, San Jose Major Seminary, Ateneo de Zambonga, Seoul, Korea, Loyola House of Studies, and Ateneo de Naga.

The Curriculum Vitae from the Curia in Manila said:
He taught Religion, English, History, Tagalog, Latin, even introduced Spanish in Korea;
He was a Spiritual Father, Chaplain, Guidance Counselor, Campus Minister;
He was a Consultor, Director of Alumni Affairs;
He was even a Rector!

Nothing is said about his being a football coach.

I now share my encounters with Fr. Johnny Sanz.

Fr. Johnny Sanz may have been the only Jesuit priest “na nasermonan ng lay principal”
Sometime in SY 1986-87, Mayon spewed lava and mud flows. Our students collected boxes and boxes of relief goods. The Saturday the relief goods were to be brought to Legaspi, I was set to run a workshop with the faculty and staff. Fr. Sanz instead brought my wife, my son, and my daughter.

We had just finished our workshop when the red car returned from Legaspi. Bockie and Gayle were frantically telling me, “Nakipaghabulan kami sa lava”, Gi Explained to me that they went up Mayon to a sitio already half-buried in mud and distributed goods to the residents. On their way back, military men and civilians were signaling for them to double time, to hurry up pointing to the onrushing mud flow that could cut them off.

Fr. Sanz must have known what was coming but he stayed on at a distance.

“Father, why did you go far up? You brought my family to danger. You should not have gone that far.”

“Sorry po, sir. Sorry po, sir.”

Sorry po, sir. He did it again.

Two years later, a typhoon inundated part of Naga all the way to Gainza, Milaor, Minalabac. High school students brought in a roomful of relief goods. College students converted the front the of mimeo room to make a makeshift kitchen cooking lugaw and cans and cans of sardines and kangkong.

Fr. Sanz commandeered a paddle boat to bring relief goods and cooked food to residents of Gainza then stranded on rooftops or 2nd floors of their homes.

From Zamora, Sabang, Igualdad all the way to San Fernando, it was all a vast expanse of water. The expression during floods is “The road is river”. That time the river was ocean.

Fr. Sanz’s boat took off from Zamora, crossed what used to be the Naga River rowing all the way to the outskirts of Gainza.

What we did not know was that he brought along 4 of our high school boys, and not the tougher ones.

“Father, walang paalam sa magulang yon. Ni hindi marunong lumangoy si Jiggs.”

“Sorry po, sir. Sorry po, sir.”

In both of these and in many others of Fr. Johnny’s excursions, it was characteristic of him to go to the extent of need.

And yet, he never godfathered. He never spoke for his counselees. In a way, he herded the horse to the water, but he left the horse there to drink or not.

He would drag to my office boys who could not get to the testing rooms for lack of test permits. “Sir, may sasabihin po sila” and he would go.

The morning after the death of Lenny Villa of the infamous Aquila Legis hazing, Fr. Bonoan called for a morning assembly to condemn hazing and threatened to dismiss all high school boys involved in fraternities. After him, I gave the students involved in fraternities up to noon time to surrender themselves or be dismissed from school. The whole morning, Fr. Sanz herded groups and groups of boys confessing to fraternity involvement. He just led them to the office and left them there.

The greatest of this type was James Castro.

At the beginning of the Pagmumulat Season, my book of one-act plays that I donated to the library was stolen. In the morning assembly, I vented my disappointment and warned that we would eventually find the culprit.

Two days later, Fr. Sanz ushered to my office James Castro, probably the best all-around boy of that batch. He owned up to the theft. I did not believe him. He was covering up for a notorious kid. Dismissal was to be his penalty or at least non-participation in the graduation ceremonies.

To make a long story short, James Castro graduated with the highest award, the Bro. Adriatico medal. His story and Fr. Sanz’s role is reported in the book, Bikol Magis.

To many who knew Fr. Sanz he was known to be the Okay Lang Guy.

Even as the opposing team scored a goal on an error by one of our boys, Fr. Sanz just shouted, “Erwin, Erwin, okay lang. Takbo na.”

Even as the punch meant for a senior missed and landed on Fr. Sanz’s face instead, he just ran away with the boys assuring them, “Okay lang.”

And even as our soccer team lost the gold in the Palarong Bicol to the heftier, over-aged Albay team, “Okay lang.”

And even as I refused to let four of our boys replace the over-aged Albayanos for the now regional team to the Palarong Pambansa, for Fr. Sanz, “Okay lang.”

Boys loved to tag along wherever he went. He’d go to the jail to say mass, boys would ask to go. Okay. He would go visit the sick, boys would go, okay.

The ground where the church now stands used to be called the Drill Field. Fr. Sanz started boys into soccer. Hundreds got sucked into soccer. And not only Ateneans. On Saturday mornings, other kids came from Cam High, Trade School, Naga College, even out of school youth. Soon, the area was no longer called the Drill Field. It became the Soccer Field.

That is why I frowned at the Home Economics Building being named after Fr. Johnny Sanz. I would have wanted a Fr. Juan Sanz Soccer Field.

But then, I am told …

The Jesuits at the Residence would always encourage Fr. Johnny Sanz to say the Mass at the supermarket (Naga People’s Mall) because, lovable as he was, when he came home he would have with him baskets and baskets of vegetables, fruits, eggs… baskets of sinaudan, all of them offerings from the vendors and stall holders.

That is why, perhaps, it is only right that the Home Economics Building now be named the Fr. Juan R. Sanz, SJ Building.

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