“A leading Christian educational institution committed to total human development for the well-being of society and environment.” This is the Silliman University (SU) vision statement. I know this because I memorized it for our Christian Living and Values Education subject back in my time in Silliman University High School (SUHS). I memorized it, but I didn’t quite understand it. All I knew was that it was full of “-tions” and “-ments.”
Ah, the memories. All those demerit slips I never submitted, those assignments I never made, those people I didn’t talk to, those organizations I never joined, those rules I ignored. Despite being an SUHS alumnus (Batch 2015), I passed through my high school life like it was a breeze. “It’s just a phase,” I said to myself when I was fresh from Cainta, Rizal, transferring to Dumaguete City for my third year in high school.
After graduation, I never really wanted to look back.
But with a deadline in front of me, I did the unthinkable. I went back to my old student handbook, and opened the brief history (gasp!) section.
Who knew that SUHS, an institution that lasts for now a hundred years, is a place full of history, molded by the memories of its faculty and students?
The early years
It all began in 1916, when the then-Silliman Institute awarded its first diplomas, making it the official opening of SUHS.
There was no principal back then. The administration was all in the hands of Dr. David S. Hibbard, one of the founders of the would-be Silliman University.
It was in 1932 that Mr. Lorenzo B. Bernardez, the first Filipino principal of SUHS, presided over the school. After his term, several notable principals followed his footsteps.
But then, SUHS closed down.
The Philippines was caught in the middle of World War II, a worldwide problem that was a huge threat to education.
During 1947 to 1952, however, as the war came to an end, there was a significant surge in enrolment. People were safe again. After a desperate struggle, SUHS was back on track. The enrollees were so many, the school had to hold evening classes just to accommodate everyone! Fortunately, the rate of enrollees stabilized in 1960.
Behind the scenes
The school continually developed with its daring management system. Beginning with Mrs. Lina F. Rabor’s term in 1961 as the first supervising principal, SUHS adapted a succession of women administrators, which showed to everyone in quite a conservative, almost misogynist society back then, that women can effectively lead institutions to success just as well as men can.
The so-called “reign of women administrators” went on until 1977, when Mr. Orlando V. Magdamo took over as supervising principal. The time came, as well, for the successive batch of men administrators who were equally able to lead the school towards progress.
The list of administrators, who had worked very diligently to improve and supervise the school, goes on.
Halls of Silliman
As the years passed by, SUHS not only evolved in terms of education in practice, but also in terms of its facilities. As SUHS produces more competent graduates who turn out to be successful individuals in the future, the number of donors that made the SUHS a better, cleaner, and sturdier place, grew to the thousands.
Among the most remarkable of those is the Raj Kumar Hassaram Hall, better known as the SUHS Library. It was donated in 1993 by the family of Mr. and Mrs. Mohan Hassaram in memory of their son, Raj Kumar Hassaram, who was an SUHS alumnus and the namesake of the building.
A two-story institutional building that was constructed in 1998 was also funded by various donors in order to replace the depreciated “T-rooms” made out of nipa and bamboo.
Reforms and rewards
In 2001, there was a reform in SUHS’s administration. The university came with the decision of merging the Early Childhood, Elementary, and High School departments into a single unit known as the School of Basic Education (SBE).
Yet another change was implemented in 2012, as SBE was declared as an official branch of the College of Education, merging the two. This was done in order to prepare the school towards even more intensive educational reforms such as the ASEAN 2015.
During its time of progress and continuous yearning to educate adolescents, SUHS had attained a Level II accreditation from the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges, and Universities Incorporated back in 2009, and recently, Level III, making SUHS one of the very few schools to ever achieve the distinction.
To another century
K-12 has come. And as SUHS splits into two: Senior High School and Junior High School, Silliman’s resilient preparations made sure that the school we know and love still stands, and still evolves, to this day.
The next step for SUHS? “Full digitalization.” A school-wide adaptation to modern technology that would help attune students and faculty for 21st century learning.
As SUHS celebrates its centennial celebration and looks toward the future, it is primed with innovative plans, improved buildings and facilities, new administrative setups, and a revised curricular focus along with an added senior high school component.
And as a Christian institution, no matter how much SUHS has changed over the years, it continues to guide students with the Christian principles that is the Silliman motto itself: via, veritas, vita. This is the enduring legacy of SUHS.
Dr. Earl Jude L. Cleope, dean of the College of Education, said, “Without [SUHS], Silliman would never have become a university.”
As I closed the handbook, I remembered the joyful experiences I did have, the people I did become friends with, the activities I did join. I realized, that no matter how much I saw the last years of my high school life in SUHS as dull and boring, there had been those tiny shards of memories I still hold close to my heart. With just those, I can never regret being an alumnus.
“Total human development.”
Now I know what the vision statement truly means.~
*with notes from Silliman University High School Student Handbook, su.edu.ph/colleges/sbe, https://www.facebook.com/SillimanUniversity/videos/1418875511459728/