The Golden Boy

February 08, 2019
Coni Tejada

For kids these days, staying at a job for ten years is way too long. They often cite reasons like not being happy with what they do or them making not enough impact in society as to why they hop from one company to another. In the case of Dr. Manuel B. Dy Jr., his story should be nothing short of legendary. Truth be told, it truly is and here are some highlights of his story so far.
Recruitment Story

In 1967, a young Dy was set on heading to Xavier University after his high school graduation. Coming from a family of humble means, a college education at the Ateneo de Manila was a pipe dream but fate stepped in in the form of Fr. Donahoe, SJ. “I really wanted to study here but could not afford the tuition. So I told Fr. Donahoe that I was going to Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro. When he discovered that, he went to Manila to get a scholarship for me. So I got in to the Ateneo.”
Dy entered the Ateneo de Manila University as an AB Humanities Major. Back then, AB degrees were deemed more prestigious for requiring twelve units of Latin, twice as much as BS degrees. But for a boy who never had a single Latin class in his young life, the subject proved to be trying that he had to shift to BS History. In the second semester of his sophomore year, he received a letter from the Office of Admission and Aid saying he failed to meet the required Q.P.I. Resigned to his fate, this Cervini dormer – one of the first men to call it home – was walking around the college quadrangle one evening when a light on the second floor of Kostka Hall caught his eye. It was coming from the Philosophy Department. “So I went up the room – it was the only room lit past six, seven o’clock. Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J. was listening to his transistor radio so I told him that I wanted to shift to Philosophy. "Why? he asked. I answered 'personal reasons.  I didn’t even know what Philosophy is all about."
He eventually did learn what it is, together with other Humanities students who also decided to shift to Philosophy, including the late National Artist for Theatre Design Salvador Bernal.  Manny Dy thrived in Philosophy, consistently receiving high marks, making it to the Dean’s List, and then eventually graduating as a Departmental Awardee First Honors.

A young Dr. Manny Dy (Photo from Aegis'67 yearbook)

Graduation should’ve marked the end of Dy’s time in Manila since he planned on teaching in his hometown of Cebu but fate, yet again, stepped in – or in this case, rolled in the form of Fr. Jose Cruz, SJ riding a dilapidated Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League (ACIL) vehicle. On the night before graduation, he was walking around campus when Fr. Cruz stopped right next to him. He offered Dy a teaching position left vacant by a faculty member who took some time off to review for the bar. So, at 20 years old, Dy became the youngest teacher ever to serve the university. (He would later be surpassed by fellow Philosophy protégé Eduardo Calasanz who started teaching at the tender age of nineteen.)
A taste of Belgium
Things continued to look up for him even after his first year of teaching when he was awarded a scholarship to the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium. Life in the Philippines, however, was turning out to be less than ideal. There was a rising civil unrest due to an impending economic crisis and blatant imperialism by the Marcos government.  Dy decided to come back.
The beginnings of OSCI
In the August before the declaration of Martial Law, a typhoon ravaged some parts of Luzon. Countless of people needed immediate help and Fr. Raul Bonoan, S.J. called on Dy to take charge of the relief operations. “So we started Operation Sarilikha [which] was the beginning of [the Office of Social Concern and Involvement or OSCI.]"
In 1986, after the People Power Revolution, Dy became director of the Chinese Studies Program, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, and the Executive Director of the Ateneo Scholarship Foundation.

First lay gatekeeper

Taking over from Fr. Joseph Galdon, S.J., Dy became the first lay gatekeeper of the college. Unlike his Jesuit predecessor, he was willing to throw the gates wide open and let in as many qualified applicants the college can take. “At that time, there was a study on the utilization of classrooms. They weren’t fully utilized.” He received a lot of flak for that from the Jesuits, administrators, and members of the faculty but together with then college president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, S.J., Dy was all for expansion.
He was also for inclusivity. It was during his watch that Roselle Ambubuyog, a visually-impaired young lady, was given a chance to take the Ateneo College Entrance Test (ACET.) The Office of Admission and Aid went out of its way to tailor-fit the exam for her – translating the ACET to braille, hiring a specially-trained proctor, and turning Dy’s office to Roselle’s official test venue.
As it turned out, Ambubuyog was nothing short of brilliant and actually topped the ACET that year.  She proved herself more than worthy of all the effort taken to accommodate her when she graduated summa cum laude and valedictorian of her class. She also took home the Vice-President’s Most Outstanding Individual Award for Service and Excellence, the St. Ignatius Award for Outstanding Scholar and the Departmental Award for Mathematics.
And all of this came to pass because Dy decided to accommodate the young Ambubuyog’s request to take the ACET. “Instinct ko lang e. Bakit hindi naman pwede, di ba? Bakit hindi naman pwede? Alam ko naman na may braille diyan e. (It was just instinct. It is possible to do this with Braiile).

Heading the Philosophy Department  

And of course, it’s not surprising that the once wonder boy of the Philosophy Department eventually became the department chair twice. During his first term, he was responsible for hiring the first woman faculty member of the department- Dr. Antonette Palma-Angeles, now Vice-President for Ateneo Professional Schools. 

A relaxed Dr.Dy in his office.

Dr. Manual Dy, Jr. Scholarship Program

Unbeknownst to many, Dy has been supporting underprivileged kids for decades. It started with two young rag sellers he came across at the intersection next to Sta. Lucia Mall along Marcos Highway. He chatted with the kids, both of whom had difficulties keeping up with their education expenses. Set on getting to the bottom of things, Dy decided to visit both of the kids’ families in an informal settler’s area in Cainta.
Today, some of his scholars have graduated and like a proud father, Dy enumerates their achievement: “Nakagraduate na ako ng education. Mayroon nang architect, civil engineer. Isa, mag-gra-graduate ngayon, education (A scholar already graduated with a degree in education. I have an architect and a civil engineer. Another one will also graduate with a degree in education).”

This 2004 Metrobank Ten Outstanding Filipino Teacher Awardee will always be an educator at his core and there are two things he wants his students to learn:  

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Be of service to others.

Two simple tenets, really. And maybe those are the secret to living so fully, the way Dr. Manny Dy has been living his all these years.