2023 marks 50 years since the Religious of the Assumption sold this land to the Gokongwei group of the Universal-Robina Corporation, the Manila Midtown Corporation.
We want to give thanks and honor the 80 years that Assumption Herran provided Christian transformative education in this country by installing a marker that will remind us of the countless blessings we all received from this place.
Perhaps very few know that this very land stands on holy ground. When Manila Ramada Midtown Hotel was being constructed, I had the privilege of being invited to identify structures deep down into the ongoing excavations in the area of the Lagoon and the Intermediate building. Rows of giant columns were unearthed that could only belong to a place of worship, a huge church or cathedral centuries before we moved here in 1894. Unfortunately nobody could identify the ruins. But one thing remains: Assumption stood and now Robinsons stands on holy ground.
Today we pray that this land continue to be a blessing to the new owners and all who come day after day to contribute to a better quality of life for all.
- At this point it may be helpful to listen to a brief narrative of Assumption Herran from the time it started in 1894 to the moment we moved out in 1974…
Assumption Manila started as a Normal School ran by the Religious of the Assumption upon the request of Queen Cristina of Spain in 1892. It was housed a building on Anda Street from 1893 to 1895. The steady increase in enrolment soon called for a larger building. Early in 1894, the site of the Convent of the Assumption on Herran and Dakota Streets (now Pedro Gil and Macario Adriatico ) in Manila’s Malate district was purchased by the Congregation.
Plans for the construction of a suitable building to house both the Normal School and the projected Boarding School were immediately drawn up. The building was completed the following year and on May 30, 1895 the Assumption Sisters took up residence in their convent in Malate.
The Sisters started a boarding school – the usual venue for education in the faith throughout the congregation at that time.
They also continued to administer the Normal School for Women Teachers, established for a double purpose: as a training institution and as a model school. Upon graduation its students were expected to be adequately prepared to assume the direction of primary schools in the country. Two kinds of teacher certificates were granted: an elementary teacher’s certificate upon completion of 3 years’ training and a superior teacher’s certificate upon the completion of the 4-year course. All the faculty members were Religious of the Assumption who were graduates of the normal schools of Spain.
The Superior Normal School in Malate played a pioneering role in the field of women education in the Philippines. The graduate was looked upon as the best educated woman of the community. Teaching came to be considered as a dignified profession for women. In the decades that followed, graduates of the Superior Normal School became founders, directresses and teachers of private schools in the country.
With the outbreak of the revolution the students went home, except for 7 outstanding young women who completed the 4 years and were awarded the Superior Teachers’ Certificate.
Here is an excerpt of the address of the school directress, Sr. Maria de la Cruz to these young women:
“Be ready to shoulder with your countrymen, the new responsibilities you have to face…Yours is the primary task of forming the characters of the young girls so that the Filipino women of the next generation may be fired with an enthusiasm for higher endeavors and a firm determination to carry through their lofty ideals for God and country...Set up a high ideal for your country and prepare yourselves to do all within your power to open a new path that will lead to the happiness and glory of your race.”
This was carried out almost to the letter by the Class of 1898. Rosa Sevilla Alvero launched the Instituto de Mujeres, the first lay Catholic school for women in the Philippines with 4 of her classmates. Her invaluable service to the country was acknowledged by the Philippine government in 1950 who awarded her with the Medal of Merit as a pioneer educator and indefatigable social leader.
Librada Avelino and Carmen de Luna founded, what is known as the Centro Escolar University today.
The Assumption Sisters returned to the Philippines on May 29, 1904 upon the request of the Apostolic Delegate to the Philippines. They were overjoyed to discover that although the Malate school building was used by the US army as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the Filipino-American War, it had been well preserved.
THE NEW COMMUNITY quickly realized that the educational system in the country had changed drastically and that the resumption of the Normal School was out of the question. However, the Boarding School could be reopened. In fact, parents were very insistent on an early reopening and hastened the necessary preparations. By July 1 of the same year, the Assumption’s Boarding School opened its doors anew. By 1907, there were 200 students with the School continuing to grow and flourish, promising to be “a power for good”. Faithful to the educational and social charism of Mére Marie Eugénie, the founding Sisters took it to heart to root the School’s educational spirit on faith in Jesus Christ. On this foundation, the children are formed to an intelligent piety which builds in them convictions and principles of action. “Strong principles make strong characters,” Mother Foundress used to say, “What develops character and intelligence? What firmly binds everything one learns into a whole? In a sense, a philosophy; in a wider sense, a passion.”
And this would be the guiding spirit all throughout the years that Assumption education was at the service of the country in Malate.
The War Years 1941-1945 brought the Assumption school in shambles, but a decision was made to go back to the ruins and start all over again! Parents and students wanted the school to reopen soon. Mother Rosa Maria asked for a loan from the Cardinal to rebuild. His response was to double the amount and to transform the loan into a grant. Little by little, Assumption Manila revived.
July 1, 1945 marked the dawn of another beginning for Assumption Manila. Class 1946 fondly recalls their unforgettable experience. “ We went through a transition period when values changed. We underwent catastrophic upheavals, both global and personal, and we survived them all. The discipline we acquired has served un in good stead. We are going through another transition again and we are witnessing big changes. But regardless of what tomorrow will bring, there is one thing we hope will never change – the love that Assumption gave us. “
The reconstruction of Assumption Manila was completed on March 18, 1956.
The spirit of the Assumption remained dynamic through the years, even during the years of Martial Law in the early ‘70’s. It was never paralyzed by fear or inaction. There were several options and we chose to proceed with our educational programs, continue innovating and expanding our involvements despite the dangers posed by an unstable political future. The tumultuous years were marked by upheavals and uprootings. And a major uprooting occurred in the early ‘70’s. Drastic changes had taken place in the Malate area. It had become a tourist area and was rapidly earning a reputation as a red light district. It was no longer the appropriate site for a school. Moving out of Malate, the Assumption home since 1895, began to be studied. In March 1973, the decision to sell the property and to transfer to Antipolo was made after much study and prayer. Schoolyear 1974-1975 marked the formal closing of Assumption Herran.
Years later, graduates would exclaim: “All Hail, Assumption Herran! You served us well. Within your grounds were molded thousands of young minds who are now propagating nationwide and worldwide the values of fidelity to duty and love for simplicity…”