The headmasterBy EJ Mangahas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
As members of The Bedan (San Beda College’s 65-year-old student publication), it was our job to know and deliver the news. Because of this mandate, we had the privilege (and sometimes, misfortune) of knowing the newsmakers in depth. It was also natural for us editors to be extra-critical of the school’s faculty and administrators, more so of its rector-president.
I was an editor of The Bedan during Rev. Father Anscar J. Chupungco’s final year as rector-president of San Beda College-Mendiola. Here I had the privilege of getting to know and work with Fr. Anscar.
Though it was natural for the students to be sometimes intimidated by the highest school administrator, this was not the case with our “headmaster.” As editors, we also never felt any animosity toward him. He was a strong figure of authority, but he was not aloof. He was stern but he was gentle. He did not just encourage an open-communication with the students; he reached out to us.
We at the publication would sometimes joke that it was easier for us to get an interview with the rector-president than some school officials. He was, indeed, the students’ president. He was, well, a father. We regarded him as our Albus Dumbledore, our gentle and wise headmaster. But just like Dumbledore, at some point, he had to leave.
We felt very sad when Fr. Anscar was replaced as rector-president of San Beda College-Mendiola; we felt that we lost a mentor and an ally. But more than that, we felt that the school had lost a great leader.
It was during his time in Mendiola that San Beda rose from the dark ages and began to put itself on the map again. He introduced the Graduate Schools of Liturgy, Philosophy and Business, Colleges of Nursing and Medicine, moved the basic education unit to San Beda Taytay and strengthened academic research.
He understood the importance of preserving and being proud of the Bedan heritage by opening the San Beda Museum. It was under his leadership that San Beda regained NCAA basketball supremacy after a 28-year drought that prompted more school patrons and alumni to come in and help the school. He also paved the way for San Beda to broaden its horizons by accepting females into the College of Arts and Sciences.
These changes he brought to the school were not left unnoticed. During his last school year in Mendiola, we printed a survey in which we asked students what they perceive of their administrators in terms of competence and performance.
Father Anscar topped the list. He was ranked as the most competent and most performing school official by the students. This was a strong testament to his impact on the student body; he was recognized by the whole school for his leadership and vision.
We knew that all these positive changes were laying the groundwork for us to eventually achieve a university status. We also knew that these things were part of his vision of bringing back the pride in becoming a Bedan. He did this by preserving Bedan tradition and heritage, but at the same time making bold changes that were necessary for the school to move forward to the future.
More importantly, all these were part of a much, much bigger vision of One San Beda —uniting the three campuses of Mendiola, Alabang and Taytay into one community with shared traditions and a common direction.
It was our belief in this vision of One San Beda that we felt that his departure from the helm of Mendiola was a great loss. But even after he left Mendiola and moved full time to San Beda Alabang as rector-president, he never failed to keep his door open to provide advice and guidance.
This came as a comfort as the student publication ran into trouble with the current administrators of the school and was almost shut down. We knew that this would never have happened under his watch, because he stood for student empowerment and our freedom of expression. This inspired us in The Bedan to continue his vision of One San Beda by introducing ’SangBedista—the first joint student publication of Mendiola and Alabang, which he even hosted, and he dedicated a part of the Alabang campus as Plaza ’SangBedista.
This remains one of my proudest moments as a Bedan, a moment I shared with our headmaster. A moment I would cherish forever.
It was sad that after he left, most of the things he accomplished in Mendiola were discontinued for one reason or another. However, we are still hopeful to this day that his accomplishments were not in vain.
As the community mourns the loss of a great liturgist, academic, and leader, I remember the inspiration and lessons that he, my headmaster, taught me; his vision of One San Beda is something that will remain with me. His accomplishments are a big part of why I am proud of being a Bedan.
Dumbledore once said, “I have only truly left the school when no one there remains loyal to me.” And looking back, as long as his legacies of excellence, student empowerment and One San Beda remain, he will never really leave us.
EJ Mangahas was editor in chief of The Bedan vol. 65 and chief cheerleader of the San Beda Cheerleaders Association during the 82nd NCAA season.