The Jesuit Music Ministry lost its greatest mentor, Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros SJ who inspired many to pray and sing. Below is the write-up for Fr. Honti during the days after his death on 15 January 2008:
Fr. Eduardo P. Hontiveros, SJ, was born on 20 December 1923 in Molo, Iloilo City. He was one of eight children born to Jose Hontiveros and Vicenta Pardo.
Fr. Honti, as he is fondly known, was educated at the Capiz Elementary School and the pre-war Ateneo de Manila in Padre Faura, graduating from high school in 1939. From 1939 to 1945 he was at San Jose Seminary. He entered the Society of Jesus after the war in 1945, pronouncing first vows at Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches in June 1947. He finished his studies of philosophy there and then proceeded to Ateneo de Zamboanga for his three-year regency, teaching religion, Latin, and English, and moderating the Choir String Band. In 1951, he traveled to the United States to study theology, and was ordained in 1954 by Francis Cardinal Spellman. After earning a doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, he returned to teach in the Philippines in 1958. He pronounced final vows in the Society of Jesus in 1960.
Fr. Honti had a long career as a professor of theology and seminary formator for Jesuits and San Jose seminarians. He served in various capacities, including as Rector of San Jose Seminary and Dean of Loyola School of Theology. For more than thirty years until 1991 when a stroke seriously hampered his mobility and capacity to communicate, he was a fatherly figure to generations of Jesuit and Josefino seminarians.
But Fr. Honti is best known for his music. In 1965, as the Second Vatican Council ended and called for inculturation of the liturgy, Fr. Honti, whose family is musically inclined, was already composing Mass hymns in Tagalog. He asked the church choirs in Barangka, Marikina, and Pansol, both communities near the new Ateneo campus in Loyola Heights, to sing his songs, and he readily adjusted the notes if the choir found his compositions too difficult. Before long, he had composed a complete set of hymns for the Mass. Thus began Fr. Honti’s love affair with heartfelt liturgical music. His songs spread to other parishes and by the 1970s, aided by a fresh wave of nationalism, his songs had become staple fare at Masses.
His name may not be familiar to all, but his music certainly is. He was not the only Filipino who experimented with sacred music in the vernacular starting in the 1960s, but he was certainly the most prolific, and most successful, if success is measured by the popularity of one’s work. Over a period of twenty-five years, Fr. Honti composed hundreds of hymns, many of them with moving stories of ordinary people behind them. He has inspired younger generations of composers like Fr. Nemesio Que, Fr. Fruto Ramirez, Fr. Manoling Francisco, Fr. Arnel Aquino, and Fr. Jboy Gonzales. It is no exaggeration that Fr. Honti has been called the Father of Filipino Liturgical Music.
Today it is a testament to Fr. Honti’s pioneering spirit that so many styles of church music are sung in our Masses and other gatherings. The choices can seem quite daunting, and it is never easy to select songs that various generations of churchgoers can follow, but play the opening notes of Fr. Honti’s Pananagutan, or intone his Luwalhati, Santo, Kordero ng Diyos, or his Magnificat, and everyone can join in. That is the surest way to show that while his name may not ring a bell, his music does.
Fr. Honti’s initiatives have been recognized with the Ateneo de Manila University’s Tanglaw ng Lahi Award (1976), the Asian Catholic Publishers’ “Outstanding Catholic Author” (1992), and the Papal award Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (2000), among many other awards and citations. He suffered another major stroke in early January 2008, and died on January 15th. At his funeral Mass at the Ateneo’s Church of the Gesu, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was present to honor him with the Presidential Medal of Merit (awarded posthumously).