A Brief History of Saint Vincent School by: Sr. Nieves Valdes, ICM

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A Brief History of Saint Vincent School by: Sr. Nieves Valdes, ICM

Post by stela on Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:26 am

The story of St. Vincent's School, is intextricably linked with the history of the ICM Sisters' presence in Bontoc.

Mother Marie Louise de Meester, the Foundress of theICM Congregation, (known at that time as the Missionary canonesses of St. Augustine) was invited by the CICM Fathers (Scheulists of Belgium) to help them in the work of evangelizing the people of the Monta
ñosa. This was in 1907, when the Belgian Fathers established their missions in this area.

Thus, after opening the first ICM house in the Philippines in Tagudin on June 21, 1910, Mother Foundress took three young Sisters in Tagudin, arriving in Bontoc on March 1, 1911.
Reverend Father Jurgens, CICM, Parish Priest of Bontoc at that time, took 75 Bontoc stalwarts with him to meet the sisters in Tagudin on February 25, 1911 and these sturdy mountaineers took turns to carry the sisters in sitters across the rugged mountain trails, stopping overnight at Batac, Cervantes and Bauko before coming to the warm welcome of the first christians of Bontoc five days later.

After a fervent te Deum in the small chapel of Bontoc, lechon and rice were served to welcome speeches delivered. The Sisters were installed in a large one-room grass-thatched house prepared for them by Father Jurgens. This house was to serve both the Sisters's Convent and as the beginning of St. Vincent's School.

The Sisters lost no time in getting acquainted with the people of the place, and by June, 1911, tried to lure children of the "ili" for instruction, sharing with them whatever would keep the restless little creatures from running away; a little sugar, a small piece of papaya, till gradually, a number could be made to stay long enough to learn the basics of school education - the 4 R's: Religion, reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. Eventually, the girls also learned lace making.

Thus St. Vincent's "enrollment" grew slowly and steadily, from 8 in 1911-1912, 13 in 1912-1913, 15 in 1913-1914, etc... After Grade 4, the pupils went to the public school for the intermediate grades and to Baguio and other mission schools for their High School. It was only in 1930 that the intermediate classes were gradually added. At about that same time, the First Year High School was opened, with the Fourth Year completing the secondary course at the St. Vincent's in 1939-1940. The number of student, after the first few difficult years, continued to grow and at the outbreak of World War II, Saint Vincent's had an enrolment of about 300 students.

The war did not spare the Sisters' house and school buildings. Everything in the compound was bombed and destroyed including the 1921 building the missionaries had built for the Sisters and the young girls under their care. Reconstruction of the convent, school and dormitory between 1945-1949 is testimony to the dedication of the church to the continued evangelization of the Bontoc people who are today the staunchest Christians of the mountain region.

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