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Pampanga High School Class of 1954

A Brief History (Part I)
By Alejandro S. Camiling, CPA

Pampanga High School
The Pampanga High School

Pampanga High School - A Synopsis

Pampanga High School is the alma mater of numerous famous Filipinos such as President Diosdado P. Macapagal of Class 1929 and six of his cabinet members during his presidency in 1962-1965. Many alumni of PHS became high ranking military officers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and hundreds of others served with distinction as government officials in the judicial, legislative and executive branches of the Philippine government. There are/were also thousands of PHS alumni who became successful professionals and made significant contributions to the economic and political development of the Philippines while aligning itself among the members of the league of sovereign nations.

Pres. Diosdado Macapagal
Pres. Diosdado Macapagal

The early foundations of what we know today as Pampanga High School were initially laid out in July 1901 when first American civil governor Howard H. Taft succeeded Major General Arthur MacArthur as administrator of the Philippines . Governor Taft, who became the 27 th president of the United States of America in 1909-1913, established a civilian government to replace the military rule of his predecessors.

One of the four executive departments of the central government, the Department of Public Instruction under the administration of Honorable Bernard Moses, a member of the Second Philippine Commission initiated public education in Pampanga and in other provinces of the Philippines . Twenty-five civilian educators from the 600 American teachers known as Thomasites who arrived from the United States aboard the U.S.A.T. Thomas on August 23, 1901 were assigned in 19 towns of Pampanga.

The initial objectives of the American educators with the cooperation of municipal and provincial officials were to establish at least one primary school (Grades I to IV) in each municipality and the recruitment of native Pampangan teachers for training in the English language and in new teaching methods. A "teachers institute" was created to meet the need for native Pampangan teachers.

It was quite a struggle in putting up a new educational system right after the Philippine-American war. New buildings had to be constructed; supplies, books and other instructional materials had to be procured. Pampangan native teachers had to learn the English language and had to be trained in new methods of teaching. The cooperation of parents and local government officials had to be solicited also in implementing an American educational system where majority of the people did not speak or write in English.

By 1905, about a year after the provincial capital was transferred from Bacolor to San Fernando, Governor Macario Arnedo was able to secure additional funds from the national government to open five intermediate schools (Grade V to VII) along with the provincial school in San Fernando and two trade schools, one in Apalit and one in Bacolor. No detailed information is currently available regarding the first graduates of the intermediate course in Pampanga but the class picture of PHS Class 1910 uploaded in this page indicates that indeed there was an intermediate course graduation at Pampanga High School in 1910.

PHS graduation in 1910
Photo courtesy of Charles Jose, art collector, Northern California

By the end of the first decade of the 20 th century, the intermediate schools increased to eight and the provincial normal school in San Fernando was converted into a regular high school. The trade school in Apalit ceased operations in later years while the trade school in Bacolor grew into an industrial arts and technical college, which was renamed later as Don Honorio Ventura College of Arts and Trades in honor of Governor and Secretary of the Interior HonorioVentura.

The effort and sacrifices of the pioneering educators in Pampanga resulted to positive progress. As evidence of the quality of public education in Pampanga particularly in the secondary level, eleven of the more than two hundred participants to the "Pensionado Program" set up by the Philippine Commission in 1903 to 1910 were originally from Pampanga. Many of these government scholars with at least secondary education diplomas who were sponsored to study in American colleges and universities became great leaders in government service, law, education, medicine and politics. The most famous of these government scholars was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines Jose Abad Santos who is acclaimed today as a national hero.

It is interesting to note also that in the 1918-1919 commencement exercises of the University of the Philippines , Pampangans were awarded the second highest total of degrees. Only graduates from the Manila area exceeded the total of Pampangan UP graduates in that particular school year. Such commendable accomplishments validated the intellectual excellence of many Pampangan students and the outstanding college preparation they received from their secondary school teachers.

In 1908, the Pampanga High School classrooms were located in a big house in downtown San Fernando known then as the " Buison Building ". When the student population increased tremendously, the secondary school moved to a bigger concrete building along the old highway near the Provincial Capitol in barrio Santo Nino. The high school building in downtown San Fernando became later a popular lodging and dining facility which was renamed as Pampanga Hotel and Restaurant.

The principal during the early years of Pampanga High School was an American educator by the name of John W. Osborn. Nineteen (19) students graduated in 1912 with Wenceslao Vitug as valedictorian and Macaria Roque as salutatorian. The school was under the supervision of American educators until 1935 when the last American principal, Charles G. Whitewell was succeeded by Demetrio Andres who served as school principal until 1939.

In 1937, during the administration of provincial Governor Pablo Angeles David when the Philippines was still a commonwealth and Manuel L. Quezon was the president, classes were transferred again to new and bigger facilities along Teopaco Street now known as High School Boulevard in San Fernando, Pampanga. The concrete high school building near the provincial capitol was converted to a military hospital for several years and as a branch of the University of the Philippines prior to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.

Classes at Pampanga High School were interrupted in 1942 to 1944 due to World War II. When regular classes were resumed after the war, Alvaro Punla and Wilfredo Castro graduated valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, in 1945.

Today, despite of the keen competition with many private and public secondary schools, the Pampanga High School under the dynamic leadership of the principal, Dr. Imelda Macaspac, continuously improves its high academic standards and employs many good and dedicated teachers. Hundreds of high school students graduate every year and majority of them pursue their professional careers in many institutions of higher education.


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