Cebu City National Science High School Alumni Foundation

The Experiment

As part of the silver jubillee of the pioneer batch of the CCSHS, pioneer graduates, Teodoro K. Gonzales, Jr., M.D., and Socorro Bo-o Varela put together this historical account of the first four years of the school with the invaluable input of Mrs. Rosalina Kintanar, the founding principal, and the help of other members of the pioneer batch.

The Cebu City Science High School Experiment: A Retrospective of the First Four Years


Most students who graduated from public elementary schools in Cebu City in 1970 must have looked at high school as merely a continuation of the same educational system they had known all their lives. Public schooling, though still effective, was losing out to more innovative and better-funded private institutions. Many of its gifted students were held back because the system was designed to serve all students, even the slowest ones. Therefore, the opportunity to maximize their potential was beyond their reach.

Fortunately, it was at about this time that the world watched in awe as Neil Armstrong took the one small step that would become a “giant leap” for mankind. Suddenly, and for many, the first time, science touched everyone. With the movement of industrialization sweeping across the nations of the civilized world, there was also an increasing demand for Filipino engineers and scientists. It was during this exciting period that science was seen as a tool our country could use to achieve economic success. Thus, the stage was set for the establishment of educational institutions which were infused with more science and technology courses. But as is usually the case, pilot projects were always done in Manila.

Without too much fanfare, a few visionary educators dreamed that this new wave of `science-oriented’ schools will also touch the public school graduates of Cebu. In spite of their meager resources and limited influence, they decided to undertake an ambitious experiment that would fundamentally change the lives of a few graduates of the Elementary Class of 1970. This is a retrospective look into the story of the pioneers who took part in the Cebu City Science High School experiment.

I. Hypothesis:
Selected gifted graduates of public elementary schools in Cebu City will achieve their fullest academic potential if exposed to an integrated science high school curriculum in a setting designed to provide them with adequate facilities and inspiring teachers.

II. Materials:
A. The Catalysts:
1. Dr. Aurelio Tiro – Cebu City Superintendent of Public Schools
2. Mrs. Rosalina R. Kintanar – The First Science and Mathematics Supervisor in Cebu City

B. The Resource Persons:
1. Dr. Liceria Brilliantes-Soriano – The First Lady Director of the defunct Bureau of Public Schools
2. Dr. Cleofe Bacungan – Director of the Phil. Science High School

C. The Politicians:
1. Hon. Eulogio Borres – Mayor of Cebu City
2. Atty. Francisco Remotigue – President, Federation of Associations of PTA in Cebu City
3. Hon. Raymundo Cristal – City Councilor, Chairman, Committee on Education

D. The Guides:
1. Miss Eliza Villegas – Science and Math
2. Mr. Samuel Cortes – Mathematics, Applied Arts and Physical Education
3. Mr. Tereso Edo – English Grammar and Composition and Journalism
4. Mrs. Nicanora Creus – Pilipino and Physical Education
5. Miss Rhodora Lumayno – Applied Arts (Home Economics) and Philippine Community Life
6. Miss Edwina Gabrillo – Mathematics (Geometry & Statistics)
7. Mrs. Anatalia Pacubas – Biology and Philippine History and Government
8. Mrs. Evangeline de Paula – Reading Literature and Social Studies
9. Mrs. Grace Matarlo – Physics and Trigonometry
10. Mrs. Salvacion R. Buenavista – Pilipino & Music
11. Mrs. Angelita de la Cerna-Miro – English and Mathematics
12. Mrs. Bernardita Gopo – Asian and World History

E. The Support Staff:
1. Mr. George Diestro – Property Custodian
2. Mr. Godofredo Abella – Security Guard, courtesy of the Cebu City government.
3. Mr. Ensong Abella – night watcher

F. The Main Ingredients:
64 outstanding students from the upper 10% of all graduates mostly from various public schools in Cebu who passed a rigid qualifying exam (I.Q., Science, Math and English, personal interview in other related subjects).

G. The Infrastructure:
1. Initially, a 7-hectare site was carved out of a 13-hectare of agricultural land in Labangon, Cebu City
2. Two pre-fab buildings (actually were brought down from the mountains and suitably renovated by the late Architect Rodolfo Kintanar, Sr. who donated his services to prepare the working plan) to house 3 laboratory rooms and an administration office
3. A multipurpose building housing the home economics class and the library
4. The Don Bernardo Benedicto Bldg., donated by a by a philanthropist to house two classrooms
5. The Cristan Corn Mill Bldg. (across the street) – a cavernous empty bodega foreclosed by DBP and rented out to the Science High School for P500.00 a month – to house two classrooms.

H. The Equipment:
1. laboratory tables, chairs, shelves, porcelain sinks, etc.
2. laboratory apparatus – Bunsen burners, flasks, test tubes, beakers, graduated cylinders, distilling tubes, crucible tongs, microscopes, etc.
3. new science and math books
4. teaching aids – movie projector, overhead projector
5. gardening tools, cleaning materials, etc.

III. The Financial Resources:
1. The Cebu City government paid for the personnel services during the first few years of operations
2. The Special Education Fund bought laboratory equipment and teaching aids
3. Voluntary contributions from the PTA and profits from school canteen operations helped pay for the rental of the Cristan Corn Mill Bldg.
4. The Development Bank of the Philippines allowed the use of the Cristan Corn Mill Bldg. for a token monthly rental
5. Don Bernardo Benedicto donated the building named after him.

IV. Methods and Procedure:
A. Select a Site
B. Build the infrastructure
C. Procure the necessary equipment
D. Recruit and train the best teachers
E. Select 64 fresh graduates
F. Mix well with selfless dedication and hard work
G. Observe and record results
H. Draw conclusions and make recommendations

Sometime in 1969 Dr. Aurelio Tiro presented the idea of establishing a Science High School in Cebu City to Mrs. Rosalina R. Kintanar who was then connected with the general office in Manila as Science and Math field supervisor. Although initially skeptical she explored the possibility by consulting people like Dr. Cleofe Bacungan of the Philippine Science High School, and her immediate supervisor, Director Liceria Brilliantes-Soriano. They both told her it was going to be a tall order.

But Dr. Tiro persisted and Mrs. Kintanar realized that being division supervisor for Science and Math in Cebu City instead of being a field supervisor in the central office would allow her to spend more time with her growing children. Finally she agreed to accept Dr. Tiro’s offer, and reported to the Cebu City division with the verbal approval of Director Soriano on April 3, 1970.

With her temporary assignment in Cebu City, discussions with officials of the Cebu City government progressed, leading to the passage of City Council Resolution No. 772 on May 7, 1970 which provided for the establishment of a science school in Cebu City. Among the sites recommended for the new school were areas in Basak and Pasil, but the present site in Labangon was chosen because it was big enough to fulfill the minimum area required by the Civil Service Manual for a secondary school. The site was defined by Resolution No. 93 passed by the council on May 12, 1970 and approved on May 15,1970.

Mrs. Kintanar was given a free hand in selecting the Science, Math and English teachers. The rest of the faculty were recommended by Cebu City Public Schools officials. The first teacher to join was Miss Eliza Villegas, a young but brilliant high school science teacher from Argao who had impressed Mrs. Kintanar immensely during the few times they interacted. Mrs. Kintanar was also able to recruit the rest of the exceptional prospective teachers by offering a higher salary as well as the opportunity to be part of the unique experiment.

The next task was to attract the best elementary school graduates for the year 1970. Unfortunately, the school year had ended by this time and the recruitment of students had to be carried out through local public school authorities who in some cases had to send telegrams to qualified applicants – students belonging to the upper 10% of the graduates of public elementary schools in Cebu City and nearby cities and municipalities. Screening was done through a series of two tests and a personal interview held during the summer vacation. The qualifying exams were patterned after the ones used by the Phil. Science High School, and was validated by the Bureau of Public Schools. Only Miss Villegas helped Mrs. Kintanar prepare the tests to make sure there was no leakage. Out of about the upper eight hundred who took the exams, the number was cut down to 150 until finally 64 were chosen to be the pioneer batch of the new Cebu City Science High School.

Classes began in July of 1970, just barely three months after the plan to set up such a school was approved by the Cebu City council. Thus, the Cebu City Science High School was born. Using a curriculum which devoted twice the number of hours to Science and Math and patterned after that of the Philippine Science High School, the pioneer teachers looked forward to an exciting year of teaching gifted students.

Although the school buildings were unfinished when classes begun, both the pioneer students and teachers were having too much fun to notice. There being so few students, the teachers felt liberated from the routine allowing them to explore their full potential and that of their students. They also responded to the enthusiasm they saw in the eyes of the children under their care.

Not soon after the first day, the school faced the first of many crises that would mark the early years of its existence. Mrs. Kintanar left for an official trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, under the auspices of the ASEAN Regional Center for Science and Math (RECSAM). With no guarantee of tenure, nobody was willing to become the first principal for the fledgling school.

Undaunted, upon arrival from Malaysia, Mrs. Kintanar decided to personally accept the challenge even if it meant demoting herself from her previous position. She actually had to cut short a commitment in Malaysia to do so. The school ceased being an abstract concept for her and instead became a personal crusade. Just as well, because her commitment to the school was to be tested time and time again. Lesser persons might have simply given up when barely a year later, her dream was turning out to be a nightmare.

In 1972 the school faced the prospect of losing its lifeline when martial law was declared and the new administration in Cebu City reneged on its previous commitment of funding from the government. Incapable of disappointing the wide-eyed scholars now under her care, Mrs. Kintanar took on the daunting task of securing funding for the school elsewhere. Desperately needing additional classrooms and with no immediate sources of funds, she was willing to try anything. Providently, there was a huge but unused bodega across the street. Formerly serving to mill and store cereal, it now lay empty, foreclosed by the Development Bank of the Philippines or DBP. Only someone on the edge of desperation would have thought of transforming an abandoned bodega into classrooms. Mrs. Kintanar had to personally approach the highest officers of the DBP in Manila, literally camping outside their offices, to do so. Her persistence and her indomitable spirit finally moved DBP Chairman Leonides Virata to grant the CCSHS the use of the building for as long they needed it.

V. Results and Discussion:
The unfinished state of the school buildings when classes began was expected since it took only three months for the school to be created from nothing. The first students vividly recall how some classes had to be held outdoors because the incessant hammering was distracting the students and teachers alike. The air smelled of carabao manure coming from a nearby watering hole for the animals. Later the smell of paint was added to the overall aroma. The school grounds was a muddy and unkempt cornfield. The students and teachers decided to make the beautification of the surroundings part of their training by planting trees, grapes, as well as peanuts and vegetables. This led to some students grumbling about the school being an agricultural high school.

But the school’s modest appearance belied the fact that the science laboratories were set up according to the highest standards for Science High Schools in the country. For example, one set of laboratory equipment and microscopes was shared by only two students. As early as the first year, it was becoming obvious that the students were responding to the intensive tutoring in Science and Mathematics.

For the next four years, the pioneer class had the whole school to themselves without competition from upperclassmen and being so few boosted their self confidence and promoted bonding. There was also an unusual interaction between them and the teachers resulting in an atmosphere conducive to achievement. The first year was marked by rapid growth in self confidence and pride and a can-do spirit that affected almost everyone.

On its second year of existence, the students started to make their presence felt among secondary schools in the city when Jose D. Baguia successfully competed against seniors to land in the top ten in a mathematics competition. Teodoro K.Gonzales Jr. was able to take third place in the Regional Science Quiz in biology.

In 1972, just on its third year, the pioneer class finally made its mark against more established secondary schools both, public and private. Samuel Narbuada, representing the school in Mathematics, and Teodoro Gonzales Jr. representing the school in Physics won the highest awards in the Regional Science Fair. Coralee Labra won second place in the Regional Science Quiz for Chemistry. Later that school year Teodoro Gonzales Jr. won First Place in the National Science Fair for Physics besting contestants from all over the country. Little by little people were finally taking notice of the obscure school in Labangon.

By their senior year, more members of the pioneer batch continued to excel. Displaying their dominance on the regional level, they topped both the Science Quizzes and Fairs in the various disciplines they joined. Socorro S. Bo-o won first place in the Chemistry Quiz and Teodoro Gonzales Jr. won first place in the Physics Quiz. Benjamin Seredrica won first place in Mathematics and Edna topped in physics for their projects in the Regional Science Fair. Geroncio Fajardo won second place for his project in Chemistry and Samuel Narbuada won third place in the Mathematics Quiz. Later, in the national level, Teodoro Gonzales Jr. would finish second in the Physics quiz, Benjamin Seredrica won third place for his mathematics project and Edna Labra finished fifth for her physics project.

In the four years of existence, the fledgling Cebu City Science High School managed to garner honors in the field of science and math.

The pioneers excelled not only in science and mathematics but in other areas as well. Participating for the first time and without the benefit of a school band, the senior cadets of the Citizen’s Army Training I or CAT I won third place in the Tactical Inspection competition. Jose Baguia and Teodoro Gonzales won first and second place respectively in the “Ako ay Pilipino” National Oratorical Contest sponsored by the Inner Wheel Clubs held in Manila, besting representatives from all over the country.

By the time graduation came, the pioneer batch had blazed a trail and set the standards for subsequent batches to follow. They garnered local, regional and national recognition for the school. But they were not done yet. As a final extraordinary gesture, the graduates garnered the highest average and individual scores for schools outside Manila in the first National College Entrance Examination.

Despite the sorry state of the school’s infrastructure the pioneer class brought the school much needed honor, prestige, recognition and ultimately, the respect of everyone who initially doubted the viability of the Cebu City Science High School experiment.

VI. Conclusions and Recommendation:
Twenty-five years have passed since the graduation of the first batch of the Cebu City Science High School experiment. Much has changed since then. New buildings were built, the school was nationalized, the number of students and teachers grew and subsequent batches had their share of honors and achievements. The school has now become widely known and more students vie for a place as scholars.

The first batch continues in their quest for excellence. Most were able to finish college and many pursued higher studies to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, chemists, scientists, agriculturists, researchers, teachers. One became a commercial pilot and another, a military officer. One became a priest, another one became a missionary, while a few are working with NGO’s to help alleviate the social and political conditions of the marginalized Filipinos. But it is safe to say that many in that class would never have been able to achieve as much as they did if they had gone to school elsewhere.

By all standards, the pioneer class have lived up to the highest expectations of the visionaries who gave them the opportunity to better themselves. Thus the initial hypothesis of this experiment, that selected gifted graduates of public elementary schools in Cebu City will achieve their fullest potential if exposed to an integrated science high school curriculum in a setting designed to provide them with adequate facilities and inspiring teachers, is therefore validated by its results as observed even twenty-five years after. In the words of Mrs. Kintanar, the founding principal, it took no less than “dedicated service, determination to excel, & courage to prosper”.

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