SMS alumni reunion set March31-April 2

>> Monday, March 20, 2017

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE- St Mary School (SMS) alumni are enjoined to attend the  grand alumni homecoming on March 31-April 2 to start with vespers at 3 pm on March 31  at the  Church of St Mary the Virgin.

SMS alumnus Atty Paul Sagayo, private practitioner based  in Manila shall be doing an inspirational talk during the evening vespers for the thousands  of  alumni of  the school celebrating the spirit of ‘ob-obbo’ (cooperation).

Some 5,000 alumni graduated from the more than a century-old SMS since the first four - Eduardo Longid, Alfredo Pacyaya, Didaco Olat, and Benito Longdayan- graduated in 1932. By  March 2000 are some 3,500 graduates spread out in different parts of the world and some  home-based in Sagada.

A business meeting shall  follow thereafter at SMS auditorium  to be presided by St Mary School Alumni (SMSAA) president Thomas Killip.  Resolutions of crucial concerns shall be especially discussed. The SMS alumni homecoming steering committee  headed by chairman SMS alumnus Mayor James Pooten Jr enjoins alumni to send their proposals and resolutions before the event on issues and concerns relevant to the school which may be proposed as individuals, as a group or as a class.

Alumni chapters and the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA)  are enjoined to report aside from SMS Principal  Raquel Killy. 

An evening  of entertainment dubbed  Mountain Night shall be done night of March 31 after dinner with music director Dennis Faustino conducting the musical performance of some SMS alumni and students. The evening also feature  alumni-musicians and dancers among other talents during said night event.

April 1 is a day  to begin with a parade from Daoangan at 7:30  followed by a school- memorial mass where the departed alumni  are especially remembered with the lighting of  candles.

SMS alumnus Rev Resurreccion Reyes, secretary general of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) shall be the homilist during the school mass participated by  alumni and students of SMS.

Blessing of the SMS Gym follows thereafter with SMS alumnus and former undersecretary of the Department of  Energy (DOE) Engr Rufino Bumasang  giving the history of the structure and unveiling of the plaque. 

Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines (EDNP) Bishop Brent Alawas shall specially do the blessing of the school gymnasium realized from donations and support of alumni and friends.

The  multi-million  gym now enclosed and bleachers installed  is currently used for school and community activities  especially rented as form of fund raising for the school’s finances.

Business meeting follows  with matters directed towards pledges of commitment by classes and individual alumni. This shall be followed by class meetings in the afternoon.

The usual Crazy Night observed every alumni reunion shall be held with ‘anything goes’ the alumni feel free to show, whether to sing or dance or do story telling or a riddle. Classes are urged to prepare their shows. 

 An amount of P500 registration fee shall cover two meals, a t-shirt, a bag and the printed program of activities for the two-day activity. Alumni  shall come together to give tribute to alumni, teachers, and faculty who left memorable imprints; and pursue on the continuing story of SMS towards academic excellence..

Historian William Henry Scott  notes that the school initiated  screening of seventh grade graduates for entrance to high school in 1929 and  achieved its highest academic standard in 1962 when  the school placed ninth in national examinations administered to 1,500 public and private schools. The principal then, Fr Stapleton  attributed this to four factors: the excellence of the faculty, the entrance requirement of the 7th grade, the presence of large open stack-library, and the quality of 6th grade graduates entering from the Sagada public schools.

St. Mary's School  was established in 1904 by American missionary Rev John Staunton who established the Episcopal church of St Mary the Virgin in Sagada in the early 1900s. By 1912, the first high school pine-wood building was built.

With support from Manila businessman and philanthropist Alfonso Yuchengo Sr, a  concrete two storey building complete with classrooms and rooms for  audio visuals, computer classes, carpentry, art workshop, faculty and administration, library, comfort rooms, canteen and a basement was built in 1979.

Dorothy Kiley became principal in 1969  followed by Evangeline  Aguilan then by the administratorship of Bernice See in 2003. For a brief stint, John Guitilen administered the  school then taken over by Dennis Faustino and now  acts as consultant for the school’s  senior high  while currently serving as headmaster  for All Saints Mission in Bontoc. Nemia Lite took over as acting principal who resigned May 2016 and replaced by Raquel Killy  now the principal.   

Since the Episcopal Church became administratively and financially autonomous in 1990, the school faced extremely difficult financial constraints. The opening of Sagada  National High School in 1995, located in the same vicinity made the finances further lessen. From an average of at least 300 students a year, enrollment decreased to some 200 students to an average now of 160 less senior high school enrollment. As part of its financial upkeep from student's tuition fees, the school gets subsidy from the government  through the DepEd and pledges from alumni and friends.

Celebrating “ob-obbo’

St Mary’s School through the years since it was financially and  administratively autonomous from  the Episcopal Church in the USA in 1990 had been raising its own finances from tuition fees of students, pledges from alumni who handled  tuition fees of some students and donations from friends. SMS before it became incorporated as St Mary School of Sagada Inc (SMSSI) in 2003 was a mission school under the ECP and thus derived  its finances from the  church. 

One standing source are tuition fees of students currently now at P18,500 per school year from P9,000 in previous years. There are 208  students including  senior high school students presently enrolled in the lone private school of Sagada.

Another source is the Educational Service Contracting Program with funds sourced from the Government  Assistance to Students  and Teachers (GASTPE) from the Department of Education (DePEd)  with some  P6,500 to P7,500 subsidy per student brings down to some P11,00 to P12,00 tuition fee per school year paid by the student.

Other support came from friends including the support of former International School (IS) music director Dennis Faustino who through the years rendered his services free as principal of  SMS and conducted  concerts among SMS high school students and  IS students with proceeds having gone to SMS

The school also received subsidy from ICCO, a Netherlands-based support agency; tuition fees from students and pledges from the alumni in the early 1990s.

The  establishment of the  Sagada National High School  (SNHS) furthered  financial constraints of the school with the enrollment of a number of students to the free tuition fee public school. From an enrollment of some 300 students per school went down to some 150-200 students per school year.

SMS alumnus and businessman Frank Longid became instrumental in  personally  handling  tuition fees of some students  and began soliciting support from  SMS alumni  for the financial upkeep of the school  in the late 1990s till he died in  2003.

Other alumni  continued  Longid’s work including  SMS alumnus and  former  Department of Energy (DOE) Undersecretary Engr Rufino Bumasang who, through the years had been forwarding monetary support and donations he solicited from  friends  including those from mining companies for the  SMS program sponsor a Faculty Chair. 

Bumasang is the pioneering chairman of  the newly incorporated SMSSI in 2003 from a mission school managed  by the ECP.  

SMS alumnus and one of the members of the SMSSI Board of Directors Nellie  Abeya Pit-og continued the  efforts of  Longid and Bumasang as an appointed chairperson of the Student Financial Assistance Program  in 2010 raising  support from alumni and other partners  to continue support on tuition fees of  students and financial upkeep of the school.

Since the school had its  first four graduates in 1932  increased  to  3,500  graduates in  year 2000 to 5,000 plus graduates who are now working in  their varying  professions and occupations.

The school now embarks in senior high school as part of the K12  curriculum with a promising enrollment of 64 senior high school Grade 11 students taking  humanities and social sciences;  and  science, technology,engineering and math electives.

For this  grand alumni homecoming,  each school year class is encouraged to come together and  forward their  pledge of commitment in furthering the  mission of SMS towards academic excellence.

It is a celebration that the school remained to be functioning  in  responding to challenges through the support of  alumni and friends, the students  parents and the  dedicated work of staff and  officers in what is called sharing and partnerships or ‘ob-obbo’.


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