Our Story:The History of Assumption College of Davao

Archbishop Clovis Thibault

It was the most opportune time for an educational institution to sprout in the process when the nation was still fresh from the ravage of World War II, and the Catholic Church worked hand in hand with the overall societal efforts to rise up from the ruins. The local Church of Davao, then headed by Archbishop Clovis Thibault, had urged the religious groups to take part in reconstruction by establishing centers of learning in the archdiocese that would offer solid and formal education to children from all walks of life.

Acting on a letter of invitation from the Archdiocese of Davao, two members of the Daughters of Mary of the Assumption, or F.M.A. – Sr. Elodie Marie Richard (Mother del Annunciacion) and Sr. Oveline Doucet (Sr. Gaetance) – of Campbelton, New Brunswick, gladly accepted the offer and came to Davao immediately after that. In obedience to their charism of preferential option for the marginalized poor, the first school that the FMA organized upon their arrival in 1954 was the Assumption School of Nabunturan in Compostela Valley Province. Later, it was called Assumption College of Nabunturan.

Sr. Elodie Marie Richard (Mother del Annunciacion) and Sr. Oveline Doucet (Sr. Gaetance)

Four years thereafter in 1958, the Sisters opened a primary and secondary school, the Assumption Academy of Davao in an “open, swampy and desolate” parcel of land in the suburb community of Agdao, Davao City. The academy started its operation as an exclusive school for girls with elementary and high school departments. At the opening of classes, it only registered a total of 170 enrollees, consisting of 84 elementary pupils and 86 high school students.

The elementary offered only Grades I, V and VI with one section in each level. The succeeding years saw expansion of its curricular offerings to several levels of learning to meet the needs of the youth and the community. Not long after, it was granted the permission by the then Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (MECS) to open the college department in 1961, barely three years following its opening in Davao City, and it was called Assumption College of Davao. The college started with forty-four (44) students enrolled in the first year level.

It was then “conservative and conventional,” says Ms. Iris Milleza, one of ACD's past directress who has served the institution for almost three decades. It was also during her time that the school went through different processes of change that led it towards the path to what she calls “education for transformation.”

Meanwhile, among the courses offered by the College department were Bachelor of Arts (A.B.), Bachelor of Science in Commerce (B.S.C.), Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (B.S.B.A), and Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.E.), Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (B.S.Ed) and Pre-nursing.

A Decade Later

In 1964, it started accepting boys in the elementary, and three years later (1967) the kindergarten program was offered. It had become a co-educational institution with students coming from different social strata. It was then purely academic focus more than anything else.

As the school continued to grow, additional structures had to be constructed such as the gymnasium and in 1976; the three-storey concrete building for the grade school was erected. Soon after, another two-storey edifice which housed the high school library and the administrative offices was built. More construction of facilities for academic and non-academic purposes followed.

Sr. Elodie Marie Richard (Mother del Annunciacion) and Sr. Oveline Doucet

Not confined within the four walls of the classrooms, there was a “profound shift” in approaches to education, as the challenge of pre-Vatican II teachings of the church largely influenced its teachings towards social transformation. This as the social conflict prevailing in Philippine society heightened during the Martial Law years.

PAASCU Pre-survey

It was noted that since the establishment of the Assumption School of Davao, its mission statement and its purposes and objectives have undergone revisions. However, it was only in 1977 that the High School undertook an extensive review that was done for over a year. The process involved all of the stakeholders of the school including the students and parents up to its final approval.

This process became the pre-survey report that paved the way to the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) formal survey report in 1979. Since then, the High School Department and its Grade School Department have undergone accreditation surveys up to the present, a healthy sign of efforts to upgrade and continually improve its curriculum to be relevant to the times.

The High School was still exclusively for girls preparatory school for post secondary education. The Philosophy and Objectives set by the High School Department states thus: “it is committed to further develop the student in the essential skills, understanding, attitudes, and values which will enable her to meet satisfactorily the requirements of a post secondary work and of a responsible Christian Filipino.”

Even then, true to its beginnings, the Assumption spirit was geared towards academic excellence. As it was entering the second decade in 1978, the school was renamed Assumption School of Davao (ASD), when the college department was closed down for lack of teachers with a masters' degree.

The Turbulent Decade

An alumna was asked by the staff of The Assumption '95 to write about her batch in the 80s, and this was what she shared:

Memories Do Linger (an excerpt)

A Class Reunion Circa '80 is unique in a sense that it was one of the last few batches that catered exclusively to girls. Admittedly, there is a difference in growing up in this environment compared with a coeducational curriculum. Others say it is a bane while others declare it a blessing. Whatever the opinion may be the following are to be considered as facts for easier recall:

  • physical sizes always mark one off as unique anytime;
  • athletic prowess makes one popular;
  • academic accomplishments get one recognized;
  • singers, dancers and actresses find themselves with a name;
  • romantic ones get queries; and
  • uncooperative still do not show up.

Ma. Erlinda P. Gaanan, Ph.D was former news editor of The Assumption (SY 1979-80). When she wrote the piece above in 1995, she was news editor of Davao City-based magazine The Fox.

The Awakening

Meanwhile, the political upheaval spawned by Martial Law since 1974 when it was declared by then President Ferdinand Marcos served as catalyst that awakened – or better still, radicalized, many Catholic educators and school institutions. ASD was among one of Catholic schools that began to see in a new way the possibility of finding religious meaning in the struggle for justice among the poor, apart from traditional school apostolate, as an essential part of their religious charism and commitment.

Then “ideological challenges” being experienced by individuals in the congregation heightened, and was urgently seeking solutions. In 1982, the Daughters of Mary of the Assumption in Davao Region underwent a process of “soul searching”, learning and finding the more progressive approach to integrating community life and mission. These were from social exposures and awareness seminars that opened opportunities for them to better understand the social challenges in the national and global socio-political economic situations.

In a very recent doctoral thesis made by Sr. Concepcion P. Gasang, m.a.,one of the founders the Missionaries of the Assumption, she made the following observations: “It was in the school year 1982-83 that the school underwent a process of reorientation by evaluating the mission statement and articulating the school thrust in the light of Philippine social realities.”

It was during these times that the Mission Statement of the FMA in the Philippine Region attained a “unique expression of their charism” in the service of the Church in the Philippines. This gave it impetus and greater freedom for a sustained social involvement, which continued to bear its mark to date, making sense of its avowed “preferential option for the poor” and the call of Vatican II's integral evangelization and education for justice.

A kind of socio-political maturity was apparent in all aspects of the school's approach to Christian education as the twilight of the repressive dictatorial regime heralded its end and cries for social change was deafening throughout the land.

Being an educational apostolate, the school likewise underwent re-orientation of its curriculum and school program. Reputedly, education is the first among its ministries to have implemented in concrete the Con's Mission Thrust.

The long and tedious process of discernment on critical intra-Congregation issues consequently have paved the way for the birth of a new religious community. The Missionaries of the Assumption (m.a.) was founded following the separation of 29 Sisters from the FMA, its mother congregation.

On April 1, 1989, as the school was about to enter its 3rd decade as an educational institute, twenty-nine (29) members of the Missionaries of the Assumption Sisters finally decided to establish a new community. As a result, the Sisters were granted the ownership and management of the Assumption School of Davao along J.P. Cabaguio Avenue in Agdao District by their mother congregation, the FMA.

Finding New Approaches in Holistic Education in the 90s

How does one gauge the development of an educational institution? One may say it is measured by what one sees in the number of structures, as most schools are geared in that direction. We can also see such development in the extent of maturity that the students have in character over the years.

In the 1990s, the ASD students, young as they were, already manifested a kind of social and political awareness and consciousness that may have been awakened by the societal developments in the country. When the RP-US Friendship, Cooperation and Security Treaty was rejected by the Senate in 1991, the ASD students voiced out their fearless opinions.

In an editorial of the Assumption 1991, a student writer wrote: “Since we are faced with the challenge of restoring our country into a productive and stable land, we should in turn be good and productive citizens. We should prepare our place in society as active, participative and productive citizens”

Such statements only prove the kind of social consciousness and maturity that has been developed among the students through the years by the kind of educational approach the ASD curriculum had through the years.

Anti-Junk Food

The early 90s also saw the total pull out of all multi-national products touted as JUNK FOOD. The move was part of the school's heightened health consciousness and campaign against beverages that are high in sugar and low in nutritional value. Soft drinks like Coca-cola and Pepsi products started getting barred from entering the gates of the campus even if students bought them outside.

The school canteen then started offering foods that are high in nutritional value, more on vegetables and fruits. This has continued through the years even when it means less income, since the children has to learn eating natural food, and it is something that goes against the “fast-food fad” anywhere outside the campus, especially in the malls.

The Sunday High School Program

Moreover, the economic crisis in the country has continued to disenfranchise the poor yet deserving children of the basic sectors of society especially the farmers and small daily wage earners. Responding to this gripping reality, the Missionaries of the Assumption designed and offered a quality and yet affordable Catholic education to the poor but deserving working youth, the Sunday High School Education Program (SHSEP) in 1995.

This is in obedience to their renewed and contextualized appreciation of their charism of preferential option for the poor, that is, the materially poor. With this, the unique “Assumption education” became accessible not only to the largely middle classes populace in the Metropolis but to the poor sectors of the local community as well. At the start of school year 1994, there were about 100 enrollees in the First Year Level of the Sunday High School Program (SHSEP).

Moreover, it did not take long before the relevance of the program would be appreciated and patronized by the people. In 1998, with complete year levels, barely four years of its establishment, the enrolment of SHSEP reached a phenomenal growth of 1,391students.

It could be that the past decade characterized by the socio-political atmosphere in the 80s have so politicized the students to the point that they are more critical of the kind of political system the country had during those times.

It is the kind of maturity whereby the students themselves were beginning to ask if their education was relevant to the times and accessible to all of the youth in the country, and responsive to the kind of social milieu that they had. A sample evidence of this in concrete was expressed by a student in the following text (as culled from The Assumption, the official student publication in 1995):

Backbone of our Nation

Without the hands of the farmer, no nation can survive. Simply because the farmers are the providers of our food. They are the unsung heroes of our land. But it is sad to realize that the Filipino peasant, who comprise more than 70% of the people, are the ones who suffer most from the oppressive social system. Poverty, sickness, illiteracy and militarization are widespread in the countryside. Government reports say since the country is now joining the tiger economies in Southeast Asia poverty would sooner become a thing of the past. But nothing can be farther from the truth: the Filipino people are suffering and continue to reel under social injustices and exploitation.

 

 

Randy V. Ramirez, 4-St. Paul (from ReEd reflection paper The Tillers of the Soil)

On the World Youth Day

The 10th World Youth Day is certainly the D-day for the youth. It is a celebration of friendship and unity among the youth of the world who have overcome the barriers of race, color, nationality, ideologies, classes, etc. thus, our mission is to be “communicators of faith, hope and love.” In concrete what does that mean?To be effective communicators, the youth have to be empowered first. To achieve it, they should live and work in solidarity with the poor, the deprived and oppressed. God has called us to participate in God's work of liberation. In our Philippine context, it basically means a transformation of society from the semi-colonial and semi-feudal to a nationalist and democratic society. The youth have the energy, creativity and commitment to do God's mission. Since it is the youth who most suffer from the fundamental ills of society – foreign intervention, landlessness and political elitism – they must take an active part in SOCIAL CHANGE.Jopriz M. Bueno, WYD delegate

Reclaiming its Tertiary Education in the occasion of its 4th Decade of existence

On the occasion of its 40th anniversary in 1998, the institution was renamed Assumption College of Davao (ACD), marking the re-opening of the College Department after it was phased out two decades ago. Inspired by the same of spirit of its founders, the ACD ventured into continuing the ACD formation in the professional level. With highly competent and qualified college faculty and staff this time, it offered undergraduate degree courses such as AB English, AB Sociology, BEED and BSED. Later, the department had added 2-year technical and vocational programs in Computer Programming, Computer Secretarial, Computer Technology and Hotel and Restaurant Management. The above-mentioned 2-year technical and vocational programs were also extended to the Sunday College Department as more and more working youth aspired to pursue their college education in the same institution.

In 2004, another new building which houses some of the administrative offices, the Sunday High School Education Program (SHSEP) and the libraries was fully constructed. ACD continues to abide by its aims of achieving “quality education for holistic growth and responsible citizenship” and providing the learning experience that is student-centered, relevant and transformative.

Moreover, through the years, the ACD has engendered its community and ingrained in its clientele a gendersensitivity that empower its teaching force generally composed of women mentors. It has taken on a greater challenge in SY 2006 with the launching of its graduate studies in partnership with the St. Scholastica's College in Manila.

ACD embarked on a special graduate studies in Humanities major in Women Studies. A number of its teachers are enrolled in this course, making another big leap, a milestone for ACD's College Department.

To date, SY 2006-2007, the combined student population of regular Grade School and High School Departments was two thousand four hundred twelve (2,412). The regular College Department had two hundred twenty-eight (228) students while the newly opened Sunday College Department had doubled in number of enrollees.

This trend in enrolment especially among the Sunday College only goes to show that where the Assumption College embark on a program, it is with the hindsight of helping more among the youth whose family could not anymore bear the burden of sending them to higher education.

A Socially-oriented School

The study made by Sr. Gasang affirmed the kind of education that the Assumption College of Davao have as of the present time. The findings of her study speak of how the stakeholders of ACD have looked into its educational merits and how effectively it responds to the signs of the times. The concern of the study was to analyze the current organizational culture of ACD.

ACD is a socially oriented school which is in the process of developing specific paradigms to approximate the ideal organizational culture of a socially oriented institution. The ideal culture of a socially oriented school as envisioned by ACD carries in its vision mission among others the following: just, humane, nationalist, democratic, peaceful, faith-motivated, interconnected with God's creation, a holistic spirituality,and solidarity with the poor.

So much yet to do, but in the over all context of social orientation in an academic institution, ACD has reached a certain level of prestige that only a determined leadership with a clear direction can achieve.

The Women at the Helm

What is even more remarkable is the fact that the ACD is administered by women from day one until at present. Its educational program mission and vision were set by a succession of distinguished women who served as school heads: Sr. Elodie Richard, fma; Sr. Lorraine Gallant, fma; Sr. Lourdes Abapo, fma; Mrs. Ma. Iris A. Melliza; Mrs. Ma. Mercedes P. Buduan; Sr. Concepcion P. Gasang, m.a.; Sr. Aurea E. Quiñones, m.a. and Sr. Milagros L. Gimeno, m.a. The current ACD President is Sr. Marietta B. Banayo, m.a.

It is therefore not a surprise that the institution is headed towards a brighter future even as its golden years were spent with so much achievement.

And so ACD continues to follow its dream.