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Where the boys are

By PAULO ALCAZAREN, The Philippine STAR Published May 29, 2021 5:00 am

I featured girls’ convent schools recently and it got a lot of interest from readers. To continue the theme, this article highlights eight boys’ convent schools that are landmarks in the districts they are located in.

Like before, this article features illustrations I did in this last year of quarantine.

Ateneo De Manila

The sketch shown is of Xavier Hall, the main administration building of the college complex within the campus in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Ateneo’s elementary and high schools also share the campus.

 Ateneo de Manila’s Xavier Hall is the mid-century modern anchor of its college complex.

The Ateneo began in 1859 in Intramuros as the Escuela Municipal de Manila. After a fire hit the original campus in 1932, it moved out of the walled city to Ermita. In 1952, the school was moved again to Loyola Heights in Quezon City. The old campus in Manila continued to operate as a home to its professional schools until 1976, when it moved to Makati.

The Ateneo was an exclusive boys’ school and continues to be so up to its high school program. Women were allowed in the college programs starting in 1973.

The Ateneo has many famous graduates, including Jose Rizal, but the school has been an institution of choice for family and relatives of mine. My grandfather Jose Gonzalez went to the Ateneo Municipal in the 1910s. Two of my brothers took their university degrees there: Eugenio and Michael. My eldest son, Juan Manuel, finished his elementary and high school there, while several nieces and nephews also call themselves true blue.

I taught there for a few semesters in 2003-2004, making me partly Atenista myself, although I revert to my UP roots when the Maroons go up against the Blue Eagles. My brother-in-law and fellow STAR writer Krip Yuson also taught there for the longest time.

De La Salle University

This is the main “rival” to Ateneo, the green (Archers) to the blue (Eagles). The Christian Brothers set up the institution in 1911 on a property in Paco. It expanded rapidly, requiring a new campus. The school moved to its new campus on Taft Avenue, with a distinctive neo-classic building designed by Tomas Mapua.

The school gained university status in 1975, turning coed in 1973. The grade school and high school campus moved to Greenhills in 1959. La Salle schools have also been established regionwide as far as Lipa and Cavite.

There are many famous La Salle graduates. In politics these include luminaries Lorenzo Tañada and Jose Diokno. In business we have many from the Gokongwei and Sy families, Ed Cojuanco of San Miguel, Enrique Razon of ICTSI, Ramon del Rosario of PHNMA, Alfonso Yuchengco of RCBC, George Yang, J. Amado Araneta and Jaime Zobel de Ayala.

Show business and media alums include Gary Valenciano, Mike Enriquez, Rico Hizon and Pinky Webb.

Colegio De San Juan De Letran

This school was established in 1620 as Colegio de Niños Huerfanos de San Juan de Letran. The college has always been located in Intramuros, except for a brief time during WWII when it operated in San Juan del Monte. The institution allowed female enrollees, like the other boys’ schools, only in the 1970s.

 Letran, still in its original location, is one of the oldest institutions in the country.

Being such an old school, the Letran alumni list reads like a page from Philippine history. The revolution’s Bonifacio and Mabini went to school here, as well as Commonwealth-era leaders Quezon and Osmeña, and the modern era’s Fernando Lopez, Ninoy Aquino and Freddie Webb.

San Beda College

The Benedictine monks set up the boys’ school in 1901. The original site was on Arlegui Street near Malacañang. The school expanded fast and in 1926 moved to an elegant new building in Mendiola.

I remember this structure well, as my grandmother used to take me to the wonderfully ornate chapel there to pay homage to the patron saint. The campus also has one of the best campus gardens in the city. The institution started to admit women only in 2003, one of the holdouts.

 San Beda is famous for its law school and graduates.

The college is well known for its College of Law. San Beda’s most famous alums in law and politics are Raul Roco, Ninoy Aquino, Rene Saguisag, Ramon Mitra, Leila de Lima and Rodrigo Duterte. Other famous alums include basketball legend Caloy Loyzaga, Fernando Poe Jr., and Eddie Gutierrez.

San Sebastian

 San Sebastian’s school lies in the shadow of its unique steel church.

The steel church of San Sebastian is one of the most unique in the world. Built in 1897 to replace a stone structure that was always damaged by earthquakes, it has since anchored the parish beside Quiapo.

A school was established beside the landmark to complement the mission of the Order of the Agustinian Recollects in 1941. The school started in the complex’s Spanish-era convent, housing 200 students.

In 1947 it was replaced by a concrete building reflecting the neo-gothic architecture of the church. Since then the school expanded and fills their entire lot up to CM Recto.

Don Bosco, Mandaluyong

There are two Don Boscos in the metropolis, one in Mandaluyong and the other in Makati. I took my primary and secondary education in Mandaluyong in the 1960s and early ’70s, when it was still known as a technical institute.

 Don Bosco Mandaluyong's quadrangle is a space of many memories, including graduations and concerts.

What I remember the most is the old, Spanish-era convent, which the Salesians inherited from the Catholic Church in the 1950s. It had been known as San Carlos Seminary until it transferred to its current location beside EDSA in Makati. The old hulk housed a chapel with historic ties to the Katipunan, as well as the carpentry workshop, classrooms and the school library.

A large quadrangle was defined by the structure, which was where students assembled in the morning. A stage was built on one end with an arcaded backdrop topped by a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the tagline “The Don Bosco Organization is a Family of Nations.” Commencement exercises and concerts were also held in the space.

Xavier School, San Juan

This is a Jesuit institution that was set up by missionaries who were expelled from China in 1949. The school served the many Chinese migrant families in that era’s diaspora.

The first school building was a warehouse in Echague, Manila, and opened in 1956 with 170 boys. In four short years enrolment increased so much that the school needed a new campus. In 1960 is moved to a seven-hectare site Greenhills, San Juan.

 Xavier School is a Greenhills landmark and preferred school for scions of the top business leaders of the country.

Famous alums include Senator Ed Angara, JV Ejercito, Mayor Rex Gatchalian, Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and Arthur Yap, along with UP schoolmates of mine, former Energy czar Vince Perez and architect Tom Adarme.

It remains an exclusive boys’ school. The operations of Xavier have expanded to the suburbs with Xavier Nuvali. I collaborated on that campus’ design with architect Bong Recio, who himself is a product of Jesuit education (Ateneo).

Lourdes School, Mandaluyong

The last and youngest school on our list is Lourdes School in Mandaluyong. Established by the Capuchins in 1959, although the order had been in the country since 1886, the school is still an exclusive boys’ school and offers programs until K-12.

 Lourdes School Mandaluyong has a heritage of two churches of St. Francis.

The campus and its St. Francis church has been a landmark for my family, as we settled in Baryo Kapitolyo in the late ’60s. My youngest brother, Gabriel, as well as nephews Danny, Liam, Anton and Chino, went to school there. The family would also hear Sunday mass at the St. Francis Church, a modernist structure with a CCP-like ramp and overall brutalist look.

Today, the campus sits right beside Shangri-La Plaza and Megamall, marking the edge of the Ortigas district. I hope the campus stays intact, as it contains one of the largest open green spaces in the area.

All these campuses, in fact, offer oases of green and open space in a metropolis quickly running out of this amenity. They also contain many buildings of architectural and cultural merit that need conserving.

May they continue to thrive as such while providing quality education for the youth, the future of our nation.