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Philippine Science High School-Western Visayas Campus: Thirty Years After…

by: Carlito A. Cerbo, Jr (Faculty, Social Science Unit)

 

Philippine Science High School-Western Visayas Campus (PSHS-WVC) was created following the mandate set by the Executive Order No. 1090 signed by Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos on 5 February 1986. Together with the Philippine Science High School-Mindanao Campus (PSHS-MC), they were established to cater to the needs of the students gifted in science, math and technology in the Visayas and Mindanao regions of the country. With the first Philippine Science High School established in Diliman, Quezon City in 1964 under the Republic Act No. 3661, known as the PSHS Charter, the construction of these two campuses in Visayas and Mindanao would provide “accessibility to talented young students” who could not afford to study in Manila “due to economic and social reasons” in order to “become a motivating influence for the pursuit of academic excellence in all levels of the educational system in the region” (E.O. No. 1090). Section 1 of the said order specifies two regional campuses of PSHS, Mindanao campus in Davao City and another in Iloilo City to be known as the Philippine Science High School-Visayas Campus (PSHSVC). It further orders the operation of these two campuses immediately, for Davao City, not later than the school year 1986-87 and for Iloilo City, not later than the school year 1987-88. PSHS-Mindanao Campus formally began its operation in 1988 while the Iloilo City campus was stalled as the country experienced political turmoil leading to EDSA Revolution on February 22-25, 1986.

 

Four years later, Pres. Corazon C. Aquino came to Iloilo City and inaugurated the newly completed Iloilo Hall of Justice. She proudly announced the establishment of a PSHS campus in Iloilo to fulfill the mandate set by her predecessor “to expand the opportunities for students gifted in Science, Math and Technology” in the Visayas region. A Task Force-Ad Hoc Committee was created composed of local DOST executive (DOST Regional Director Zinnia Teruel) and lawmaker (Cong. Rafael J. Lopez-Vito), PSHS alumni led by Mr. Florencio Yap based in Iloilo City and other stakeholders. They were told to plan and identify possible sites of the school in the city of Iloilo as well as in the province. During the meeting of the members of the Regional Development Council (RDC) VI, various sites were identified to include the towns of Miag-ao, Pototan and in Bgy. Hamungaya, Jaro, Iloilo City. Accessibility and land area were considered in constructing a PSHS campus that required more or less a sizeable portion of land for its facility such as classrooms, dormitories, research facilities and a lot more. Such requirements entailed significant financial considerations on the part of the government, thus, a donation from a generous benefactor or a government-owned property site was highly preferred by the members of the RDC and the Task Force. During that meeting, Ms. Filipina Besana, wife of Mr. Florencio Besana, a member of the RDC VI heard about the predicament of the group and spontaneously offered a portion of land owned by Dona Lawaan H. Lopez located in Bgy. Bito-on, Jaro, Iloilo City. As the overseer and administrator of the estates of Dona Lawaan, she told the body that she was willing to negotiate with her boss and the body agreed to her offer. Immediately, she composed a letter for Dona Lawaan, travelled to Fabrica, Negros Occidental the next day to meet with Dona Lawaan. Ms. Besana had a lengthy discussion with her boss and other family members, convincing them of the noble legacy that the family would leave to the community and to the nation. They finally agreed but on one condition, that the campus must be named after Dona Lawaan. Ms. Besana assured them of it and left Fabrica excited to tell her husband the good news.

 

As soon as the news was relayed to the members of RDC VI and the Task Force, the government represented by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) executives started formal negotiations with the family of Dona Lawaan. On 21 August 1991, DOST Sec. Ceferino Follosco  (representing the donee), Mrs. Nenita Kabayao Mapua and Ms. Makiling Ascalon (representing the donor) signed the deed of donation of the 3.4 hectare lot in Bgy. Bito-on, Jaro, Iloilo City. The campus will be known as the Dona Lawaan H. Lopez Campus, in honor of the owner of the land, and a regional campus of PSHS in the Visayas area. Construction of the school buildings started in February 1992, followed by a formal groundbreaking ceremony in May of the same year. 

 

  PSHS Visayas Campus formally started its operations on 1 July 1993, opening its doors to 47 pioneer scholars hailing from various parts of the Visayas area, particularly from the islands of Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, Negros and Panay. Since the school buildings were still being constructed, classes were held at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas, Iloilo City campus. The temporary dormitory for scholars in a rented boarding house was located in Leganes, Iloilo, around 13 kilometers away from the UPV campus and was facilitated by the former mayor Excel Jaen. Dormer-scholars had to be brought to UPV campus during weekdays in the morning and fetched by the jeepney-service in the afternoon. Prof. Gilma Tayo of the University of the Philippines, Iloilo City campus served as the first campus director from July to December 1993. Most of the teachers were either lecturers or faculty loaned from UP High School in Iloilo City. The core of its pioneering faculty and staff included only a handful: Mr. Jimmy Baban, served as the Administrative Officer; Mrs. Evaline Rose Gerochi, Social Science teacher; Ms. Alma Bella Sunico, Filipino teacher; Mr. Allen Munoz, English teacher; Ms. Divine Bina, administrative aide; and, Mr. Simplicio Gambito, administrative aide. Both Mrs. Gerochi and Mr. Munoz were teachers from PSHS Main Campus who transferred to the newly-opened campus in Iloilo City. Mrs. Gerochi was assigned as the school caretaker from December 1993 to May 1994. When the school year 1994-1995 opened in June 1994, the school operations were transferred to its present location in Bgy. Bito-on, Jaro, Iloilo City with Dr. Diana S. Aure as the new campus director. Scholars had their classes in some areas of the dormitory as the academic building remained unfinished. The school was surrounded by agricultural land and construction for a nearby subdivision was just starting. Employees and the students had to endure the rugged roads and walk through the dikes going to the school. Through the initiative of several PSHS alumni and parents, a cooperative was organized to serve the needs of the scholars, particularly the food services. For some time, the cooperative building served as the students’ performance area for class projects such as plays, skits and other school activities.

 

The succeeding years saw an aggressive infrastructure development in terms of completion of the academic building, boys’ and girls’ dormitory and the school gymnasium. An increased number of scholars showed that PSHS Visayas campus was working towards the fulfillment of its mandate to the Filipino people. To fully satisfy the land area requirement for a PSHS campus, a 4-hectare research station was donated by the family of the late Vice Governor Guardilino Mosqueda in Balcon Maravilla, Jordan, Guimaras. Facilitated by the school’s administrative officer, Mr. Jimmy Baban and Governor Rahman Nava, the school acquired this lot to be known as the Mosqueda Campus of the school in Guimaras. Another one hectare coastal lot was donated by Engr. Jose Abad in Morubuan, Guimaras to serve as the research station in Marine Biology. These sites were envisioned as training grounds for the students in their research interests, complete with facilities of a functional research station. Throughout the initial years of its operation, the school received generous support from the DOST leadership from Sec. Ceferino Follosco, Sec. Ricardo Gloria, and Sec. William Padolina. Friends and benefactors of the school, particularly the PSHS alumni, continued their support in whatever means they could extend to help the scholars and the school’s infrastructure needs.

Mrs. Lilia Alfonso, a Biology teacher from PSHS Main Campus, was appointed as the school director in June 1996 replacing Dr. Aure who returned to her official duties at the university. The school had its first batch of graduates, 48 of them in March 1997. In the same year, the PSHS System Law (RA 8496) was signed by Pres. Fidel Ramos established the PSHS System and unified all the existing campuses into a single system of governance and management. Similarly, it also mandated the creation of PSHS campus for every region. Thus, when the school year opened in June 1997, scholars from Leyte were no longer encouraged to enroll at Iloilo City campus as a regional PSHS campus was established in Palo, Leyte in 1996. The new campus was called Eastern Visayas Campus while the one in Iloilo City was assigned as the Western Visayas Campus. And in 2006, another PSHS campus was established in Argao, Cebu, to be known as the Central Visayas campus. In the succeeding years after that, PSHS Western Visayas campus no longer accommodated scholars from Cebu, Bohol and Negros Oriental. On the other hand, the school started accepting scholars from Palawan.

 

  A new director, Mrs. Helen Caintic, a Math teacher from PSHS Main Campus, was appointed as Officer-in-Charge (OIC), Office of the Director, of the school from June 1997 to December 1997. It was in the same year that school was formally inaugurated by Pres. Fidel V. Ramos on 13 June 1997. By January 1998, Prof. Rebecca V. Yandog was chosen as the campus director until her retirement in 2005. In 2001, another milestone marked the history of PSHS as the PSHS System Law was further amended by R.A 9036 consolidating the power and authority over all PSHS System campuses into a single Board of Trustees to ensure uniform policy, coordination, standards and management. As the PSHS campuses grew in number, the need to maintain uniformity in the school’s policies and quality education became a top priority among the top ranks of the PSHS System leadership. In 2003, Dr. Ramon Miranda, executive director of the PSHS System called for the review of the PSHS curriculum and consequently, changes were made to adapt to the changing needs of the time and the scholars. Achievement tests in core subject areas were given to the scholars under the revised PSHS curriculum to ensure uniformity in content area and skills taught to the scholars by the teachers of the different PSHS campuses. The PSHS Code of Conduct was also studied and revised in the succeeding years under the leadership of Dr. Filma Brawner and later, Dr. Josette T. Biyo as executive directors. 

 

  Before becoming executive director or the PSHS System, Dr. Biyo was chosen as the Officer-in-Charge (OIC), Office of the Director in 2005 succeeding Prof. Yandog. A year after, she occupied the position of the campus director until 2011. During her term, the school witnessed massive infrastructure projects such as the completion of the covered gymnasium, Academic Building Extension and the Science Learning Resource Center (SLRC). By establishing linkages with other private institutions, the school received generous support such as the Pfizer Research Grants awarded annually to student-researchers and educational facilities and equipment from the Knowledge Channel. In October 2011, she was chosen as the executive director of the PSHS System and Dr. Edgar F. Almero was assigned as the Officer-in-Charge (OIC), Office of the Director until March 2012. By April 2012, Dr. Shena Faith M. Ganela assumed the position of the campus director up to the present.

  Throughout the years since Dr. Ganela’s assumption to office, PSHS-WVC continued its mandate of delivering quality instruction in secondary education focusing on the STEM. Several infrastructure projects were further improved and new ones were established such as the Academic Extension Building, Extension Building for the Boys and Girls Residence Halls, the New Academic Building, and the most recent is the New Auditorium that could accommodate the entire number of students and employees in one gathering. To further enhance the physical well being of the students, a new rubberized oval was completed in 2020, together with the new volleyball/tennis court. The cooperative building, aka canteen is also undergoing renovation for its new look and design to cater to the needs of the students and employees. Additionally, acquisition of the new and state-of-the art scientific equipment and facilities are regularly maintained to ensure that quality of instruction are at par with the demands of STEM education. 

Adhering to the mandate set by the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 increasing the number of years in secondary education, the PSHS System also followed by revising its curriculum alongside the demands of other stakeholders in the education of Pisay scholars. In May 2012, the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the PSHS System, approved the 6-Year Curriculum Framework and the revised Grade 7 curriculum for the implementation of the K-12 program. It was subsequently implemented in the opening of the school year 2012-2013 with its first graduate in 2018. 

Another significant undertaking PSHS-WVC took in recent years was to engage itself in an evaluation of an international standards organization (ISO) of its standards on the products and services offered by the institution to the public. To ensure that the processes are followed according to the standards set by  the quality management system (QMS) for quality, safety, and efficiency of the products or services rendered, PSHS-WVC had its first application for ISO 9001:2015 certification in 2017. It was a big challenge for the entire institution but with the cooperation of everyone, the school successfully earned its badge of quality service provided by a reputable certifying body. Thereafter, the school has committed itself to its annual ISO certification process gradually improving and maintaining excellence in rendering services to all its clients and the general public.

Thirty years since it opened its doors to the pioneering 47 scholars from various parts of Panay and other nearby Visayas islands, PSHS-WVC has already produced thousands of graduates in the different fields of science and technology and other disciplines. In 2018, the Board of Trustees (BOT) has approved to add 30 more scholars from the original 90 students per batch that the PSHS System allots to the campus. Despite the increase, the school has managed to adjust and deliver quality education by adding more infrastructures, updating laboratories, and hired excellent teachers to mentor these gifted scholars in the field of STEM education. Interestingly, several of these teachers were alumni of the school who preferred to serve their alma mater by sharing their expertise as chemists, mathematicians, engineers, physicists, and a lot more. Outside of Pisay-WVC, more alumni are doing great in their respective field, either in government or private entities contributing to nation-building. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit this country, medical frontliners who are graduates of PSHS-WVC are often found in hospitals and clinics offering their services, true to their calling, “Serve the People” as Pisay scholars. Elsewhere, Pisay-WVC graduates are serving as technical experts on public health issues, food science and technology, transport studies, marine science, molecular biology, and many more. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the learning structure of PSHS-WVC and other campuses. The shift from in-person class to online class was met with a marked adjustments from both the scholars and the teachers. Two years of online learning, PSHS-WVC has shown resilience amidst the challenges brought by this mode of learning. Support services were provided to scholars to help them cope with the demands of the new platform such as provision for laptop, communication allowance, easing of academic load, pahuway break, etc. All of these were implemented to secure that no scholar should be left behind in terms of access and opportunity to quality Pisay education. As the country still experiencing the pandemic, PSHS-WVC shall continue to provide the best educational opportunities and resources to its scholars fulfilling its role as the region’s top-most secondary institution offering STEM education.

 

References:

Interviews with Ms. Evaline Rose Gerochi, Ms. Filipina M. Besana & Mr. Florencio Yap

Copies of EO No. 1090

History of Philippine Science High School by Mr. Rey C. Lulu, Admin. Officer

Glimpses, A Collection of Pisay Stories (2012) by Dr. Carlito A. Cerbo, Jr