Eminent Writer, Scholar and Historian


A brilliant writer, scholar, and historian, Horacio Luis de la Costa was born in Mauban, Quezon on May 9, 1916 to Judge Sixto de la Costa and Emiliana Villamayor. Ordained a Jesuit priest at the age of 30, he became, at age 55, the first Filipino provincial superior of this religious order, the Society of Jesus.


  DE la Costa fist attended the public elementary school in Batangas, Batangas before moving on to the Ateneo de Manila, where he distinguished himself for academic excellence and student leadership, particularly as a writer and, later, as editor of the Guido, the campus newspaper. After earning there his Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, in 1935, he entered the society of Jesus at the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, where he completed his master’s degree. Afterward, he went back to the Ateneo to teach philosophy and history for two years.


  During this time, he also worked as a writer and radio talent for talent for the Chesteron Evidence Guild, more specifically, the “Commonwealth Hour,” for which he created the character of Teban, the calesa diver, at the height of the controversy over the 1940 divorce bill. The program evolved into “Kuwentong Kutsero”, consisting of satirical tales dealing mostly with life in Manila.


  During the war, the Japanese imprisoned him for two months in Fort Santiago for his role in the resistant movement. He helped Rev.Fr. John F. Hurley, the Jesuits’ superior, in taking clothes and medicines to American and Filipino soldiers who had evaded captures by the Japanese or escaped from Japanese prison camps. For this, he was award the medal for freedom by the United State government in 1946.

  Early in 1945, he left for the US to pursue further studies in theology at Woodstock College, Maryland, where he was ordained a priest on March 42, 1946 by American Bishop John F. McNamara. He received his doctorate degree in history at Harvard University in 1951.


  Back in the Philippines, he served a new with the faculty of the Ateneo de Manila in 1953, later becoming its first Filipino college dean while teaching history at the same time. In 1958, he was made a consultant of the Philippine province of the Society of Jesus and, in 1959, assumed the editorship of its scholarly publication, Philippines Studies.


  Father De la Costa received a Smith-Mundt-Fuldright scholarship in 1960. In 1962, he became a research associate of the London School of Oriental and Africa Studies. During this period, he received honorary doctorate from the University of Santo Tomas, Tokyo’s Sophia University, and Dumaguete’s Silliman University.


On December 8, 1969, he assumed office as provincial superior of the Philippine province of the Society of Jesus.


De la Costa was the author of a number of books, particularly on Philippine culture and history, which often shown his nationalistic bent, among which are: The Jesuits in the Philippines, 1581-1768; The Trail of Dr. Rizal, an edited translation of W.E. Retana’s transcription of the official Spanish documents; Recent Oriental History; Readings in Philippines History; The Background of Nationalism and Other Essay; and Asia and the Philippines. He also contributed numerous articles on these subject to  various local and foreign scholarly publications, such as Philippine Social Sciences and Humanities Review, Bulletin of the Philippine Historical Association, Hispanic American Historical Review, Comment, Science Review, Theological Studies, and, of course, Philippine Studies. The Catholic Encyclopedia carries his article on the Philippines.


  In 1965, he was presented the Republic Heritage Award by the President of the Philippines for his historical writings.

  In 1971, he became general assistance and consultant to the Jesuit father general in Rome.


  De le Costa was one of the founding members of the Philippine Academy of Science and Humanities, as well as the International Association of Historians of Asia.             


He  was member of the National Research Council of the Philippines, Philippine Bibliographical Society, Philippine Historical Association, National Historical Society of the National Historical Commission.


He died of cancer on March 20, 1977. He was 60.


A few years before his death, he attended, in Rome, the general congregation of Jesuits from all over the word. In need of a composition on “ The Jesuits Today,” the delegates entrusted its preparation to Father De la Costa. He worked on it by himself for three days. When he was finished, he returned to the congregation and read his draft. His composition was accepted exactly as he had written it.





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