In 1967, Fr. Frank Webster SJ saw the need for high school education, and a Catholic one, at that, among the youth in Pangantucan. Grade school graduates in the area and its environs like Kalilangan, Wao and Maramag had to go about 12 miles – just to receive a high school diploma. He found a believer from the now defunct National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NaRRA) of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources that saw the nobility of that desire. Recognizing the importance of Agriculture to the country and valuing the richness of the Bukidnon soil, the Land Authority (the successor of NaRRA) offered 32-hectares of land which was part of the Bukidnon Resettlement Project with the following conditions: (1) the land should be used exclusively for agricultural high school site purposes; (2) improvements have to be introduced within six months from the turn-over of the land; (3) the Jesuits will remain the owner of the entire property and shall utilize it solely for its intended purpose; and (4) the ownership will revert back to its donor if any of the above provisions is violated. (Photo: Fr. Cunningham SJ with staff)
The construction of the first school building was done immediately after the donation was made on 12 April 1967. With Fr. Webster’s transfer to another mission, Fr. Greg Horgan SJ (photo on right) assumed the responsibility of starting the only high school in Pangantucan in time for the opening of school year 1968-1969. In June 1968, Pangantucan Catholic High School opened its portals to about a hundred students. Four years later, it produced 89 graduates. Three members of the pioneering batch returned to PCHS, four years later and became her teachers. Mrs. Marlene L. Franco became the principal of the school in 1974. Then, Mrs. Olga Etcuban, another alumna, assumed the office of principal when Mrs. Franco had to take a leave of absence. Fr. Horgan remained the school director until 1975. An Australian diocesan priest, Fr. Peter Wearne, replaced Fr. Horgan for a year. From 1976-1982, the Benedictine Sisters managed PCHS. Sr. Mary Jerome Pineda, OSB served as the school directress. The Benedictine sisters infused new life and direction to the school and introduced systemic changes.
When the Benedictine Sisters left in 1982, Fr. Robert Cunningham SJ assumed the role of leading the school as its fourth and longest-serving school director. Fr. Bob (photo on left), as he is fondly called by generations of alumni, remained in the role for the next 32 years until his untimely demise in January 14, 2014. In 1990, he changed the name of the school from Pangantucan Catholic High School to Pangantucan Community High School. The shift from “Catholic” to “Community”, while retaining its acronym (PCHS), was strategic in making the school more welcoming even for the growing number of non-Catholics in the municipality and it neighboring environs. He is also remembered for his environmental advocacy. He promoted planting trees and incorporating love for nature in the school’s activities. He also inspired a good number of young men and women to enter the consecrated life. In fact, PCHS produced nine priests and four nuns. The people of Pangantucan fondly consider him as an icon of revitalization, vocation, and care for creation.
The next two decades witnessed PCHS hurdle various challenges that came in her way. In 1997, the public high school, Pangantucan National High School, opened its doors to cater to the growing high school education needs of the area. Then, the government’s focus on public school education and the sad plight of public school teachers brought about monumental changes in the public school education system—better pay for teachers, increased budget in public schools, among others. While PCHS gladly welcomed these changes for the greater good, these realities have greatly affected PCHS as a mission school that relied heavily on the generosity of people in order to deliver free Catholic education. Enrollment dramatically decreased. Veteran teachers began leaving PCHS for greener pastures in public schools or abroad. PCHS could not keep up with the demands of new classrooms and better facilities because of lack of funds. The untimely demise of Fr. Bob in 2014 further stretched resilience of PCHS. The challenges faced were no longer just operational, systemic, or financial; PCHS also faced a leadership vacuum with the death of Fr. Bob and the retirement of Mrs. Franco in 2014.
To keep the school operational, Fr. Mateo Sanchez SJ assumed the role of the director until the appointment of Fr. Jose Mari Manzano SJ in school year 2014 to 2015. Fr. Neupito Saicon, SJ would later on complete Fr. Manzano’s 3-year term as school president in 2016. Meanwhile, Mr. Rizalde Etcuban took on the leadership left by Mrs. Franco in the latter part of SY 2013-2014. On the same year, then Jesuit Provincial Fr. Tony Moreno sought help from the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines in managing PCHS. The Superior General of Carmelite Sisters of Our Lady, Sr. Flor Pauline Duran, Carm. O.L., graciously accepted the offer as mission partner of the Jesuits. By the next school year, Sr. Lurian Comaling, Carm. O.L. became the principal and remained in the role until 2017.
PCHS saw a major transition in leadership from 2017 to 2018, during its 50th founding anniversary. Fr. Ambrosio Flores SJ assumed the presidency while Sr. Mary Stephanie Bonganciso, Carm O.L. became the principal. During the golden anniversary, the gathering of stakeholders with the support of representatives from SEARSOLIN and XU infused new energy, passion, and a revitalized vision rooted in PCHS’s forefathers’ vision of an agricultural high school for the youth. It also brought about a rediscovery of PCHS’s Ignatian identity beautifully encapsulated in the school’s new motto: Ite, inflammate omnia. These were the words used by St. Ignatius when he sent off his bosom companion, St. Francis Xavier, to his mission in the Indies and never to see him again. In English, the motto reads: “Go forth, set the world on fire”.
During the leadership transition, a new teaching method, Dynamic Learning Program (DLP) was introduced and this became an advantage for PCHS. DLP is a non-traditional approach to teaching which limits teacher participation by devoting a considerable part of class time to student-driven activities built around clear learning targets, aided by well-designed plans, and performance tracking tools. This approach is less stressful for the students because of the no homework policy. It is also cost effective for schools in poor areas since it requires fewer expert teachers needed due to the parallel learning scheme. Hence this translates to lower operational costs for the school. It also minimizes the expenses of parents because DLP does not require purchase of textbooks and notebooks unlike the traditional modes of teaching.
As the only Catholic high school in Pangantucan and one of the two Jesuit mission schools of the Philippine Jesuits, PCHS lives on and continues to strive to realize that vision. Apart from the Horticulture and Agri-Fishery Tech-Voc track in Senior High School, PCHS is looking into incorporating Agriculture into its curriculum for its 1,053 Junior and Senior High School students, 70% of whom belong to the low to low middle-income families.
Another noteworthy fact of the school is that PCHS is steered by the youth it nurtured over the years. Almost 50% of its faculty and staff have returned to pay it forward. A number of its alumni are rendering service and expertise in forming young minds and hearts as well as in activating the 22-hectare farm which is being developed as a demo farm for the students and a social enterprise to augment the financial needs of the school.
Through the years, PCHS has benefited from the dedicated work and services generously provided by these volunteers:
We owe these selfless volunteers an enormous debt of gratitude. Photo shows recent volunteers (left to right), top row - Gen Buckly, Jojie Dagohoy, Kim Diez, Kath Gatdula; bottom row - Thess Nebres-Ladrido, Pao Olalia, Jomar Tolomia, Jay Mark Villarias.
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