It is such a privilege to serve the Ateneo de Davao University through the Social Involvement Coordinating Office, or its unmistakable acronym, SICO. As its new director commencing the school year 2012―which is our 30th year―it is an even greater privilege to personally welcome all of you, and all of us, who have been, in one way of the other, associated with SICO through its three-decade journey. I say journey precisely because for all that was and for all that has been, SICO’s history has been one great journey, indeed.

From its early beginnings, at a time when there that was a huge clamour for social conscientization occasioned by the socio-political climate which characterized the penultimate years of the Marcos regime, until the ushering in of an age of democratization through the People Power Movement, and even with the changing temper of the age, as it were, that accompanied the presidencies of Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, and the second Aquino presidency―it could with reason be said that SICO has certainly tried to live up to the challenges which these different eras have brought upon. The myriad of programs that it has rolled out through the years and given the number of stakeholders it has served, both internal and external, are witnesses of the journey which SICO has experienced and come to reckon with. 

It is only fitting that this 30th year―our so-called milestone year―deserves one good pause in remembrance of its early beginnings. This three-decade journey necessitates a special celebration because it provides an occasion for SICO to take stock of its accomplishments and successes, the challenges and frustrations it has hurdled through the years, its evolution in the course of changing socio-political landscape, and the reassertion and reaffirmation of its mandate in view of the work that it does in the university at present. This 30th year is likewise important because it is also an opportune time to gather all those associated with the history of SICO, both current and previous―starting with its founder Fr. George Esguerra of the Society of Jesus (whose presence we hope to have during the Grand Homecoming in December), its corps of dynamic personnel and student volunteers, its external co-partners in social action, both past and current―who in one way or another, have been a part of the organization in the service of the faith that promotes justice.

Another equally important reason why this 30th year deserves an appropriate celebration is because this also marks the transformation of SICO as the Arrupe Office of Social Formation. This change of name should not be perceived as a break from tradition but as something that truly describes the life of SICO in view of its evolving role and function in the university. In an era of sweeping changes, demonstrated by a dynamic climate of change leadership under our current university president, Fr. Joel E. Tabora of the Society of Jesus, SICO’s evolving identity can be described as something organic because it responds positively and appropriately according to the signs of the times. Way back in 2007, during the Strategic Planning of School of Arts & Sciences headed by its then dean Dr. Jessie Manuta, SICO has come to an organizational discernment to reassert and reaffirm its mandate to optimize and maximize its full capacity to serve a far wide clientele. But this strong clamour for reassertion needed an equally strong organizational support. SICO believes―given its three decades of experience in the work of social involvement, and given the latitude of how it has exercised the extent of its mandate―that it can truly create a far greater impact through its programs if it is accorded the proper institutional backing. And so this 30th year certainly occasions a time for SICO to reflect on its own direction as a social formation arm of the university. This comes side by side with the current structural alignment created at the onset of the transition precipitated by a change in institutional leadership. The year 2012 truly reflects a juncture for SICO since, in a broader sense, it paves the way for a rethinking of how it appropriates the university’s newly rearticulated vision-mission-goals. The creation of the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council, or UCEAC, clearly defines SICO’s new direction, because UCEAC specifically focuses on the university’s external engagements (something which SICO has, since its inception, performed largely in the past). This new development has somehow provided a good leverage for SICO to reassert its mandate on social formation by now focusing extensively on the university’s largest internal resources―its students and faculty. Alongside the creation of the Office of the Deputy Academic Vice President for Formation now named the Ignatian Spirituality and Formation Office, SICO has indeed come full circle. While it started in 1982 as a social arm that caters largely to the needs of external communities (and this comes with providing venues for students and faculty for social involvement), it now sets its direction in mainstreaming the work of social formation internally, through curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular integration. With these institutional structures well in place, and with the much needed support from appropriate offices, SICO intends to go mainstream and en masse in its work in social formation.

How the current organizational leadership of SICO has decided on a new name was never difficult. And so citing the name of the late Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe as the new name of SICO was as unanimous as much as it was a humbling assertion of paying tribute to one of the gigantic Jesuit historical figures in the last century. Arrupe’s name spells out, in broad terms, the Jesuit’s apostolic mission of promoting a faith that does justice in all its institutions around the world. The Arrupe name spells out, in concrete terms, the call to forming men and women who are given the opportunity to lead the church, the society at large, and specific communities in particular. Arrupe is also as Basque as the name suggests―it calls to mind the heritage of St. Ignatius’ Basque origin, and it bears the inspiration of generous service and selfless giving of self in love especially to those in dire need (reminiscent of Arrupe’s experience tending to the victims of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima). The Arrupe name mirrors the call to leadership and spirituality, and the formation of social conscience―and that is why we cite these as our theme for today’s SICO kickoff.

In summary, this celebration marking SICO’s 30th year intends to rekindle and reanimate the spirit of service and volunteerism through leadership and formation of social conscience which form part of SICO’s way of proceeding. And under its new name, as the Arrupe Office of Social Formation, or Arrupe in short, this celebration is a manifestation its organizational embrace and commitment to the newly rearticulated vision-mission-goals of the Ateneo de Davao University in its continuing work of social formation.