“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
-St. Francis of Assisi
Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan invoked St Francis of Assisi’s blessings on his feast day on October 4th as it conducted blessing rites for the proposed New Manresa Farm for the College of Agriculture at El Gaucho, Upper Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City.
The special event started with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, followed by the Blessing of the premises, and planting of giant bamboo around the old Roces Mansion where the rites were held.
“In my homily, I emphasized gratitude to God for this property, and I will add through His generous instruments: its former owner, Don Ramon Roces, who donated this property to the University way back in 1988; Fr Ernesto Javier, SJ, former XU President who accepted the donation; Fr Ben Nebres, Fr Antonio Samson, SJ, Fr Jett Villarin, SJ, and Fr Bobby Yap, SJ, who under their university leadership, consistently upheld ownership of the property and initiated development plans for this land,” said Fr. Mars Tan, SJ, XU president in his message.
Fr Mars presented three inspiring good news with regards to the property to those present including Xavier Ateneo officers, faculty and staff, barangay officials of Bugo and Puerto, and leaders of the El Gaucho community.
Th El Gaucho property has a long, colorful, and difficult history since its donation to Xavier University by Don Ramon, the king or grandfather of Philippine komiks. First was the Court of Appeals decision in 2015 which decided in favor of Xavier University as the rightful owner of the 109 hectare property.
“Xavier University’s win does not mean developing its land property and leaving the informal settlers and other occupants behind. XU continues to offer them a relocation site within this property, disturbance payments for their houses and crops, and technical assistance and training,” Fr Mars explained.
XU also partnered with the Cagayan de Oro City LGU through the City Housing and Urban Development Department (CHUDD) to develop a five hectare lot donated by the university within El Gaucho on March 16, 2022, intended for two projects of the city: a) Socialized Housing (3-hectares) and b) Integrated School (2 hectares) for Upper Puerto.
Together with CHUDD, XU will find a developer to construct houses for them under certain loan terms affordable to them. XU, in partnership with the city, will offer a formation and development program to help establish the community of beneficiaries during their first years in their new homes.
“All these are more easily said than done. Yes, this is difficult to do, but possible if we get the cooperation of all present settlers to vacate their present occupied lots and relocate themselves to a new permanently developed site prepared for them by the city and XU, complete with payments and other assistance. This is the second good news for our informal settlers, who will become land and housing beneficiaries soon. This is good news for us too because we want then to have their own more permanent homes.”
Not the least, Fr Mars cited the need to free the large flat areas of El Gaucho from its present occupants which will be needed for the transfer here of the XU College of Agriculture (XUCA) Farmlands and Production facilities as his “third piece of good news.”
“Without this land, XU will lose a good place for its offices, laboratories, and farmlands, and as a result XUCA won’t be able to continue its education programs to produce future agriculture professionals and farmers to help increase the productivity of our farmland and livestock. Once we can have this place for our agriculture farmlands and production facilities, then XU will be able to fulfill its educational mission for its students and the larger community beyond the university,” Fr Mars noted.
“The XUCA is about the academic programs, the fieldwork, the laboratory classes, the research engagements, the production activities, the extension services, and other work of faculty and students. Further, the college is about the quality of students it will produce, competent, committed, and compassionate, the kind of faculty who will educate and form them, qualified and dedicated to their work, and last but not the least, the brand of service the college will extend to the communities around it, our partnership with the EGHOA, the city, the region and the whole of Mindanao. This mission, we believe, contributes to advancing God’s mission in this part of Mindanao.”
New Manresa Farm
The XUCA facilities (e.g. demonstration farms, workshops, field laboratories) now located in the old Manresa in Upper Balulang is envisioned to be transferred to El Gaucho where its facilities would be reconstructed and upgraded. The proposed XU-El Gaucho Campus include Field Laboratories, Research and Training Facilities, Farming System Models and a Convergence/Activity Park.
The ‘New Manresa Farm’ which straddles Barangays Puerto and Bugo is envisioned to be a self-sustaining agri-eco techno-park and wellness resort. It is planned to allocate 45 hectares for the relocation and use of its present occupants, with the remaining 64 hectares to be utilized for educational purposes.
Maria Rosario P. Mosqueda PhD, XUCA Dean, expressed similar optimism about the future of the New Manresa.
“It is my prayer that just like the old Manresa Farm, which has served the College of Agriculture, the University, the city and Mindanao for more than 65 years, this New Manresa will not only address our teaching and learning, research and extension needs but will also, more importantly, nurture lifelong friendships, dreams for a better Mindanao, desire for selfless service, and an ardent love for agriculture and the environment among the faculty, staff, students, and everyone who will set foot on this land,” she said.
She recognizes, however, that establishing the new farm has its own set of unique challenges.
“I always believe that if what we are doing is part of God’s work, then it will always prosper. It may not always be in the form and shape that we want, it may not always happen on the time that we want, but it will always have its own ways of becoming,” Dr Charie said. “What is important is that we never lose heart and lose sight of why we are doing this in the first place. We bloom, really, really bloom where we are planted – even if sometimes the soil is not good, bisan wala pay tubig, bisan magbagyo, bisan atakehon ta ug peste – we strive to continue to survive and to bloom beautifully because we are firmly rooted on our why. May we become as resilient, as beautiful, and as life giving as the bamboo we planted today!”
The Impossible Dream
Libby Josephine Abesamis DPA officer-in-charge of Xavier Ateneo’s Mission and Ministry, cited the late Fr William F. Masterson SJ’s vision and dream which made possible the establishment of the XUCA at the old Manresa Campus in Upper Balulang.
The song The Impossible Dream was Fr Masterson’s favorite song, in whose honor the XU Campus of the Future to be established in the old Manresa Campus will be named after. The song was sung by all present during the short program in his honor.
In her closing remarks, Dr Libby expressed her 3 Ps of thanks and gratitude, hope and prayer as Xavier Ateneo continues on its journey to attain this Impossible Dream.
“Pasalamat: As a member of the Execom for the El Gaucho transfer, I’ve witnessed how the XUCA and the other offices worked so tirelessly, with the intricacies and challenges brought about by the transfer. So to all the men and women who took part in this journey to El Gaucho, Daghang Salamat!”
“Panghinaut: It is our hope that everything will be well in this new home, the New Manresa! And that the legacy left by the great Fr Masterson may continue in this new site. May this then be a site for bigger dreams. A site that can make the impossible, POSSIBLE!
“Pag-ampo: It is our prayer that with this new home of the XUCA, God’s blessings may continue to come abundantly and be shared to many. The XUCA was established to be the source of knowledge and innovation, so let then this New Manresa be the new abode for agricultural innovation for the service of the greater majority, for the greater glory of God!”
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!