History of the Saligao Institute

by Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas

Nestling in a coconut grove and overlooking paddy fields is the Saligao Institute, which is housed in its own building at Arrarim in Saligao. It was inaugurated in 1929. It provides its growing number of members with social, literary and cultural activities. Indoor games are popular. The cemented badminton court adjoining the institute’s building also serves as a popular open-air dance floor. In recent years many valuable books on literature, economics, current affairs, biography, fiction and even child welfare, have been added to its well-stocked bookshelves, thanks to Alfred D’Cruz from Cruz-vaddo / Bandra.

During my seminary days, with the help of some young villagers, we had staged some musical items at the institute. Some time ago, a participant in that session held in the late sixties reminded me about the Italian song “Funiculi Funicula” and various other Goan folk songs and dances that we had staged, together with a talk on the involvement of Saligaokars in various fields in India and abroad.

The Saligao Institute is a standing monument to the three founders and builders of the Club: Vitorino Saldanha, Antonio Jose Cordeiro and Dr. Rodolfo de Melo, all from Arrarim, and whose portraits adorn the walls of the institute; additionally, their names are inscribed on the tablet on the façade of the institute building. It is an important landmark in the history of Saligao.

Saligao Institute [Pic by Frederick Noronha]

Christine, daughter of Alfred and Aurora D’Souza of Nigvaddo and Malabar Hill in Mumbai, throws light on a personality who spearheaded the initiative for a Clubhouse in Saligao. This is what she says:

“The Saligao Institute, which is today the hub of happy social life, providing opportunities for social, cultural, intellectual and recreational activities, has an interesting history. It was founded by three persons, namely Antonio Jose Souza-Cordeiro, Vitorino Saldanha and Dr. Rodolfo de Melo. But the principal founder was Souza-Cordeiro.

“Antonio Jose, as he was popularly called, was born in 1880, the only child of Sebastian and Guilhermina de Souza. Having in his childhood lost his father, he was brought up by his maternal uncle, Sebastiao Mariano Cordeiro, who inculcated in the young lad respect for discipline and planned for him a sound English education with the intention of making him a doctor. So he came to Bombay and joined St. Xavier’s High School. He was only 15 then, a total stranger in the city. He found lodging and companionship in a chummery at Dhobi Talao. Antonio Jose often used to recall with a twinkle in his eye that the expenses for his board and lodging those days, a half decade before the beginning of the present century, were a mere six rupees per month! He had hardly settled down in the city when the bubonic plague broke out. But the disciplinarian elders back home in Saligao did not recall Antonio Jose home but suggested that he proceed to Bangalore. From there, the lad went to Mangalore by bullock-cart—travelling by night and resting by day. He joined St. Joseph’s High School in Mangalore. It is from there that he passed his matriculation examination. Meanwhile, fate set at naught his plans for a medical career. His uncle, who had a flourishing business in Muscat, died. Antonio Jose could not therefore pursue his studies but had to attend to the family business.

“It is however the Saligao Institute with which the name of Antonio Jose Souza-Cordeiro will be associated. At the time the Institute came into existence over 50 years ago [This sketch was written in 1986] there was hardly a village in Goa that had a club of its own. It was Antonio Jose’s vision that conceived the idea of building a club house in Saligao. But even this well-intentioned project had its critics. There were some who ridiculed his plan and others even opposed it, but Antonio Jose found among those in favour of the scheme one ardent and active supporter, Franklin de Souza (father of Baptist, Oslando and Atila de Souza of Arrarim). Being fully convinced of the utility of the scheme, Antonio Jose went ahead with his plans.

Vitorino Saldanha, at this juncture, came forward to share equally with Antonio Jose the cost of construction, a gesture which the latter gratefully accepted (and Dr. Rodolfo de Melo too gave his mite for its construction). There were contributions from other Saligaokars as well, to meet the cost of furniture and amenities. The Saligao Institute came into being.”

Antonio Jose is one of the stalwarts of his generation. He passed away in Saligao at the ripe old age of 88. I, Fr. Nascimento, was fortunate to have seen and met the three founders of the institute. It is the ardent desire of Saligaokars that the Saligao Institute, which is over 80 years old now, under the leadership of the dynamic committee and the members, plans activities to help ensure a better future for the current generation.

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