The tertianship is based in the not inconsiderable grounds of the Ateneo de Manila, the leading Jesuit University here in the Phillipines. Officially called ‘Loyola Heights’ it is an extensive Jesuit ‘ghetto’ – harbouring numerous institutions (see the map).
One of the oldest institutions is the Manila Observatory and it has a fascinating history. I was excited when I first heard about it – thinking it might be possible to do a bit of astronomy – but it soon clicked there would not be much astronomical activity in one of the most densly populated cities in the world – light pollution would put pay to that.
No, the Manila Observatory was 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 Americans when they replaced the Spanish, recognising is value. In fact the Americans were delighted to see the work the Jesuits and their employess 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.
Anyway what has this to do with me? Well I was entrusted with a treasure trove to bring over to Manila. The archivist ofthe British province passed on an album with a collection of photographs – over a hundred years old – taken by a young English Jesuit who worked at the Manila Observatory between 1902-06. These photos are extremely valuable, the young Fr Brown obviously travelled extensively and widely and took many photographs of the islands and the people.Incredible images at a time when few had cameras. These photos have been fallen on by a current incumbent of the observatory, an Irish Jesuit Fr Peter Walpole. He is recording environmental degradation as well as working with many of the local indigenous people on Mindanao – so the photos could prove an important record for him and maybe also be used in advocacy on behalf of the environment. Fr Walpole has a very impressive ministry – he set up the ASIA Forest Network, and often works for and alongside the UN. I think I will write a more comprehensive blog about him at a later date – but for now check out one of his websites at http://www.essc.org.ph – I also hope to investigate more about Fr Brown and post some of his amazing photos on line.
More fascinating information about the work of the observatory can be found at
. Including the story of the first Jesuit to succesfully forecast Typhoons and the many lives he saved in Manila. Anyway, thanks for reading and please leave a comment.