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TOFIL Awardee

Fr. Ruben M. Tanseco, S.J.
TOFIL Awardee for Humanitarian Service, 2004


It is often said the family is the basic unit of society. Yet, it also must be said, that the family is the most important social unit for it is tasked with the formation of individuals who would eventually work towards the community’s betterment

Fr. Ruben M. Tanseco, S. J., made it his personal mission to keep the family sacred and protected through professionalizing marital and pastoral counseling in the Philippines.

In 1969, Fr. Tanseco started the Marriage Encounter Weekend (MEW) in the Philippines while he was officially assigned to teach in the Ateneo de Manila University (College Departmnet), and the Loyola School of Theology (post-graduate courses). Originally founded by Fr. Gabriel Calvo in Barcelona, Spain in 1962, MEW was intended to be a method to promote spirituality and human harmony between married couples so they could deal with joint decisions through a deep dialogue. In the Philippines, MEW, which was first held in Angono, Rizal, quickly spread in parishes, that at present, hardly a week passes by without an MEW seminar being held in various parts of the country.

Deeply moved by what they have undergone, some couples have formed their own sectors or small communities, and meet regularly. In 1976, seeing the phenomenal growth of MEW, Fr. Tanseco, together with the leaders of these sectors formed the Marriage Encounter Foundation of the Philippines (MEFP), the umbrella organization of more than 100 trans-parochial and parish-based sectors, chapters, and communities around the country. Fr. Tanseco personally trained the couples who give ME and subsequent follow-up seminars.

As communities were formed, Fr. Tanseco felt the need for establishing more formal training programs in Pastoral Care and Counseling. He introduced courses in Family Ministry and Counseling, which were developed into an Academic Program in Family Ministries in the Loyola School of Theology and in the Ateneo. The integration of studies on Family Life into the curriculum of other educational institutions such as De La Salle University Graduate School of Business, and the Asian Institute of Management is directly attributable to Fr. Tanseco.

These pioneering efforts spawned the establishment of the Center for Family Ministries Foundation, Inc. (CEFAM) in 1991, an institution formed to help Filipino families become “domestic churches,” bound by love, justice, freedom and peace, both within the confines of the home, and in the execution of their responsibilities towards the community, the society, and the world, in general.

Today, with more than 50,000 couples who have directly benefited from their MEW and CEFAM programs, Fr. Tanseco continues to develop ways to reach out to more families, especially the underprivileged. Through CEFAM, he entered into a partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), conducting training programs for DSWD personnel, and even authoring DSWD’s Marriage Counseling Services Manual. To reach an even wider base of families, he has made CEFAM counselors available to listeners of Paksa, a radio program with Tina Monzon-Palma, aired over DZMM every Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. The program’s callers are thus able to discuss their personal and family issues with the counselors. CEFAM even provides one-on-one counseling to those who would need such. After all, for Fr. Tanseco, professional counseling must always be available to everybody regardless of socio-economic status, race or religion,. In fact, Fr. Tanseco has welcomed other religious organizations such as Protestant ministers, Muslim family workers, and Buddhist students.

Fr. Tanseco is also a nationalist. He was greatly involved during the two EDSA uprisings, leading family organizations, such as the Families for Justice and Peace, in rallies and demonstrations. This led to the creation of Article XV, The Family, in the 1986 Philippine Constitution. This defined the legal parameters of family-related concerns, and gave us the distinction of being one among a handful of countries that have a separate constitutional article dedicated solely to the family. He also established the Christian Parenting for Peace and Justice (CPPJ), a program whose message is that one cannot love God and not love his country.

In this context, he has been a consistent moral crusader for the poor and the oppressed, for a more just and equitable distribution of God’s resources, toward a more Christian socialistic system. His advocacy for social justice strongly opposes economic globalization without a conscience, as well as a materialistic, ego-centered lifestyle. Instead, he has been promoting an alternative lifestyle of Stewardship, Simplicity and Sharing (SSS).

At 73, Fr. Tanseco has yet to find time to rest. Aside from CEFAM, MEFP, Christian Parenting for Peace and Justice Foundation, he also founded and serves as the Spiritual Director of two other non-government organizations involved in the family ministry: the Discovery Weekend Foundation, Inc. and the Magis Deo Community Foundation, Inc. He provides directions over these organizations, and personally conducts the annual recollections and discernment activities of their leaders.

In all his endeavors, Fr. Ruben Tanseco has achieved distinction as a counselor, trainer, teacher, prolific writer, and spiritual director to thousands who have sought his help and wisdom. However, his family and friends have different ways of describing him: as a passionate lover of music, a sweet tooth who indulges in cakes and ice creams, a good “father” and employer, a “poker-faced peddler of funny anecdotes and ghost stories,” a radical but deeply spiritual man, a true and treasured friend.

For his countless contributions in the service of humanity, Fr. Tanseco has been bestowed several awards and recognitions, among them, the St. Benedict Award given by San Beda College, the Distinguished Achievement Award by the National Police Commission, and various plaques of appreciations from other institutions.

Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S. J. was born to Generoso and Soledad Tanseco of  Bulacan and Laguna. He completed his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Santo Tomas, and a year later, entered the Jesuit Novitiate, graduating from the Jesuit Philosophate, Berchmans College with a Master of Arts in Philosophy. He earned a Licentiate in Theology from the Jesuit Theologate in Maryland, USA, and an MA in Pastoral Counseling from the University of Detroit in Michigan. He also underwent an internship Program from the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, USA.


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