Spanish Jesuits first arrived in the Philippines in 1581 and were to remain there for 156 years. By the turn of the 20th Century, the Philippines had become the first colony of the newly formed United States of America. Today in 1921, 20 Jesuits from the New York/Maryland Province arrived in Manila to take over running institutions and many of the apostolates, including the prestigious Ateneo de Manila, which would become one of the top universities in Asia under their guidance. Already famous in the Phillipines under the Spanish Jesuits, it began by offering the bachillerato or bachelor's degree, as well as courses leading to certificates in agriculture, surveying, and business. José Rizal, who would later be named National Hero of the Philippines, enrolled for his secondary studies in 1872, and went on to graduate in 1877 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He continued studying at the Ateneo for a license in land surveying.
When Japan entered the Second World War in 1941 with its attack on the American fleet in Pearl Harbour, they invaded the Philippines on the same day. The last American soldiers were to surrender 6 months later, it constituted the worst defeat for America of the Second World War. When the Japanese entered Manila they ordered any Americans and British to remain in their homes until they were registered. The Ateneo campus was devastated again during the War. Only one structure remained standing – the statue of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus which now stands in front of the Jesuit Residence in the Loyola Heights campus. Despite the apparent destruction of the campus, the university survived.
Connected to the Ateneo is the Manila Observatory - the first institution in Asia to do some serious meteorology and typhoon tracking. Valued and subsidised by the Spanish Crown during its time of occupation – it was one of the only ‘church’ institutions to be supported similarly by the American government when they replaced the Spanish, recognising is value. In fact the Americans were delighted to see the work the Jesuits and their eemployees were doing in producing a comprehensive atlas of the 7000+ islands. Valuable information such as sea depths, mineral deposits prompted the Americans to pay for the publication of the Atlas, with the impressive Fr Algue to travel to New York to oversee the publication.