ASSUMPTA TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL SAN SIMON, PAMPANGA
Assumpta @ 50 Celebrates God’s Steadfast Love with the Poor and for the Poor!
A very significant project of Assumption Old Girls of Manila, The Assumpta Technical High School, opened its Golden Jubilee year in December 2020. The online Jubilee Mass officiated by Archbishop Florentino Lavariaz at the new chapel gathered thousands of students and their families, alumni from all over the world, current personnel, Assumption Sisters most especially from the Asia Pacific Province (Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines) and numerous Old Girls who continue to follow the history of ATHS with loving interest and dedicated service. As our Jubilee Year unfolds, God Himself continues shower us with many golden blessings.
Gratitude is the spirit that predominantly pervades the hearts of all those touched by Assumpta. We remember our dear NINI QUEZON AVANCENA, the first elected president of the AAA. Among so many projects she had embarked on and pioneered, we are proud to be part of the Mother Rosa Memorial Foundation (MRMF) which owns, in partnership with the Religious of the Assumption, the Assumpta Technical High School (ATHS). Established in 1970, this mission school of the Assumption-Manila Alumnae warmly embraces the 5,639 young men and women who have already graduated in 46 batches, equipped with Assumption transformative education. They have explored varied fields in which to further develop themselves and serve society as their act of thanksgiving to God who remains the inspiration behind the generosity of all benefactors. A number of them have also served in the MRMF Board of Trustees, alongside our Old Girls from different generations. At present, the Assumptans who are officially elected to the MRMF board are Mr. Enrique Guevarra, Treasurer, Architect Joseph Musni, Ms. Yolanda Simbulan Yabut, Ms. Irma Medina, and Mr. Manolito Tayag, the current Board Chairman.
ATHS was envisioned to be a vehicle for Assumption transformative education to reach the poor but deserving students particularly in San Simon, Pampanga and the nearby barrios of Minalin and Apalit. It began 5 decades ago with 92 students and a very minimal fee of P4.00 a month. The financial operation of the school was completely assumed by the MRMF while the academic operation was taken care of by the Assumption Sisters. In 1994, lay administrators who were excellently formed under the guidance of the Assumption Sisters, took over. At present ATHS has a complete K-12 program, enriched with a separate vocational-technical program, fully delivered via online platforms for 1,920 students. The school reached its peak enrolment at 2,185 just before the pandemic.
From the start, the Assumpta graduates in the higher bracket of academic achievement have been able to enter prestigious colleges and universities in Manila and the rest have been qualifying in higher institutions of learning locally and in nearby provinces. This paved the way for a better chance to land in stable and better paying sources of income enabling the graduates were able to uplift the lives of their families. Encouraged by this desire to upgrade their quality of life through education, the school did not hesitate to expand its enrolment while addressing another greater need to serve more interested learners in the area. ATHS opened the door also to families who had better means to shoulder, the major part of the full cost of their children’s education. Thus, the “Socialized Tuition Fee Scheme” was introduced in 1997. Under this system, students were charged the amount of tuition fee that matched the financial capability of their families. The scheme is still in place. It is a very tedious process requiring very close relationship between home and school. This necessitates annual home visitations and regular dialogue with all parents or guardians, engaging not only the teachers but also all personnel including the Sisters working in the school. The practice safeguards the integrity of the admission process and ensures the priority access of poor but deserving students to good education, while at the same time, accommodating those who are able to pay more. This evolved administrative\structure of managing the school finances, though extremely demanding, gives us a comfortable assurance that Assumpta truly takes care of the poor. One of the biggest challenges to sustaining it is the never ending call to patiently educate the parents, particularly those who are not familiar with the Assumpta culture. It continuously behooves us to help them see both the focus of this mission as well as the noble responsibility of honestly assuming the responsibility and the financial obligations for the education of their own children.
The ATHS offers excellent and holistic education with a double curriculum to better prepare the leaners for life. In addition to the full academic requirements of the Department of Education, Assumpta offers vocational-technical courses from which students choose their areas of specialization. Having evolved many times according to industry demands, the current Tesda Official course offerings include: Bookkeeping, Bread and Pastry Production, Caregiving, Computer Programming, Food and Beverage Services, and Furniture and Cabinet Making. This dual program is strengthened by a well-crafted Faith and Spirituality formation which allows learners and their families to enjoy an ongoing reflection on the Word of God, celebrated in the daily Morning Prayer as well as in scheduled liturgical services which enrich the CLE program.
The excellence claimed by Assumpta is attested to by its consistent PAASCU accreditation since 1983. In fact, ATHS is the first PAASCU accredited high school not only in Pampanga but also in the whole region III. It is also the first vocational-technical high school to be accredited in the entire Philippines. It is also one of the 17 pioneer accredited high schools granted the level III status which it has maintained up to the present. For several decades, sustaining this quality of educational offering has been equally matched by the effort of creating a campus population representing the microcosm of our Philippine society. The only big difference is that in this patch of earth, the poor have the first priority. The school exists for them. They are the main focus of this educational mission as originally envisioned by the committed Old Girls as they live true to their ideals inherited from St. Marie Eugenie: “I see a society where no one is oppressed by another.”
The above scenario, when basically considered, could lead us to a rough conclusion that the finances of the school have greatly improved, with MRMF assuming only about 2% of the annual budget. In fact, we had started to hope that one day the school’s operations would be completely financially independent. The global pandemic, however, hit us hard. Our parents were especially hard hit as many lost their jobs here and even abroad. Most of them could no longer cover the socialized amount assigned to them. Last school year, we had a shortfall of P800,000 which we asked the Assumption Congregation to cover, enabling us to continue running the school. To help the situation, all our faculty, staff, and even the maintenance team voluntarily decided to give up all their benefits to help lessen the school expenses. This school year, the parents appealed to reduce their tuition allotment even further. Otherwise, they would be forced to transfer their children to the public school. But these students are the ones our school stands for. We exist for these needy learners whose only chance for a better life is a solid basic education. Now the MRMF is trying to cover the shortfall of about P1.2 M helping ATHS to keep especially all the former undergraduates, fully enrolled.
This school year, still a part of the Golden Jubilee year of ATHS (December, 2020 to December, 2021), we have welcomed 1,920 learners coming from diverse socio-economic brackets. Benefactors especially from among our Assumption alumnae facilitated acquiring necessary gadgets and internet connectivity for those who would not otherwise be able to cope with the demands of current learning modalities. Our month-long in-service training renewed our lay and religious educators in their passion and commitment to assume this mission truly as their own. Sessions of varied nature enriched them with technical skills to animate and deliver learning processes with greater creativity. The well planned formation program has deepened in them the real meaning of being Assumption educators as envisioned by St. Marie Eugenie. Likewise, students and parents had their own preliminary sessions to equip them to better use online modalities and applications. Grateful for the whole preparatory program, the school was inspired to articulate the theme for this school year: “ASSUMPTA, GIFTED TO GIVE THE BEST OF WHO WE ARE” . In many concrete opportunities and unexpected challenges unfolding from day to day, this theme teaches the whole ATHS family the deeper meaning of each word and the real challenge faced personally to each one – be it at home, in school, or in the ever evolving phases of what it means to be exposed to the risks carried by the pandemic in terms of health, economy, and professional demands. Each joy and fulfilling experience, each fear of contamination and the imminent threat of death, each actual experience of deep pain mourning the loss of loved ones, and each door leading to newness in perspective and self-realization, in every detail that touches our lives especially from within; we discover what God has inspired each of us to articulate and live this year: I am gifted to give the best of who I am. May God, the giver of gifts, sustain and bring to completion what He has begun in all of us.
THE ASSUMPTA TECH HIGH SCHOOL BOARD OF TRUSTEES
ATHS has graduated 5,639 young men and women over the past 50 years and 32 of them form part of the current 106 personnel who carry, together with the Sisters, the San Simon mission as their own. For many years, several alumni have also taken turns to serve as members of the Board of Trustees of the Mother Rosa Memorial Foundation. The five Assumptan trustees sitting with the Old Girls now bring their unique contributions although they have several foundational experiences in common.
Architect Joseph Musni (batch’77), Mr. Manolito Tayag (batch ’78), Mr. Enrique Guevarra (batch ’78), Ms. Irma Medina (batch ’81), and Ms. Yolanda S.Yabut (batch ’82) all come from a family of agricultural farmers and took to heart the many hard challenges and sacrifices demanded of serious studies at ATHS, given their home circumstances.
Joseph, after earning his Architectural degree from UST, has embraced not just San Simon but also the larger world of the Assumption as he dedicates his professional service in many construction projects of the Religious of the Assumption here and abroad. Each project is prayed over, rigorously studied, and delicately executed with personal commitment to give his best. His architectural fingerprints mark among many others, Assumption-Baguio, Assumption-Antipolo, the Provincialate, AC-San Lorenzo, Thabom in Thailand, Ho Nai in Vietnam, and of course San Simon. His latest project in his own alma mater is the golden jubilee chapel which remains the hallmark of the whole 5.2- ha. campus which he calls his second home. Over and above his professional service, Joseph has been sponsoring for many years and in his very quiet way students who are in dire need of financial assistance through his own personal and private contributions in the scholarship funds of the school.
Manolito easily entered Ateneo after high school on a scholarship grant and joined the formidable BS-Management Engineering cohort. Having spent some years working in the USA he preferred to come home and serve the country instead. He is currently the Country Managing Director of Accenture-Philippines and is responsible for 50,000 employees who provide management consulting, technology and outsourcing services globally. One priority in his heart though is the ATHS which, without any publicity, has been recipient many times of his benevolence in cash and in kind. His advocacies especially in the area of good education as the greatest equalizer have brought him to dedicate his time as well on the Board of Trustees level in many social development projects and formal education institutions. At present he is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees not only of the MRMF which owns the ATHS but also of the Assumption-Antipolo.
Enrique, different from his siblings, was not discouraged by his long daily walks through muddy roads to ATHS in his desire to finish his studies. Coming from the very rural setting of barrio San Pedro and of Assumpta, his first day of school at the Ateneo as a scholar, deeply imprinted in his heart one conviction: “Only God could have brought me to this campus!” Amazed at God’s mysterious but real ways, he whispered to himself a dream: “One day, I will also send a poor student to study here!” Earning the degree of BS-Management, he gradually kept raising his rank in his bank employment and after 35 years, he took an early retirement plan, fulfilled his pact with God and turned over the whole P4M endowment fund for a perpetual scholarship grant at the Ateneo de Manila University. He went much beyond his original dream of sending only one poor boy at the Ateneo. Convinced that a good education is certainly life-changing he continues to encourage and sponsor many nephews, nieces, neighbors, and friends to finish their studies and build themselves a better future. He served as President of the Assumpta Alumni Association for three years, ending his term at the launching of the golden jubilee year of the school.
ATHS PANDEMIC RESPONSE
Irma is a natural educator by heart. Her college degree from St. Scholastica’s College is BS-Nutrition and Dietetics but God’s hand, as many times done in her life, again played an unexpected turn. What she thought was a short-term commitment to help ATHS before establishing her career in a hospital turned out to be a continuous service of 36 years, the last 15 of which were served as the school director. Having found meaning in her early years at Assumpta, she decided to take up education units and eventually completed her graduate studies, major in education. In her last year prior to retirement the Covid-19 pandemic hit all educational institutions badly and the big challenge faced by ATHS was survival and maintaining its quality of service. With a student population of still almost 2,000 paying under the socialized tuition fee scheme and with 113 personnel, the big issue of finances loomed over. Grateful for being part of the Assumpta mission, all employees offered to give up their benefits. But one single noble act, however, is the fruit of the whole family discernment joining Irma in her magnanimous act of offering to dedicate her service to her dear school without taking any salary for the whole year.
Yolanda was part of a big group of Assumptans who qualified for a full scholarship grant at St. Scholastica’s College, finishing BS-M major in Accountancy. Her private employment led her to top managerial positions but looking for other finer areas of fulfilment, she opted for an early retirement at 50 and gave part of her time joining her husband in the construction business of the family. Her husband, Alexie Yabut, also an Assumptan, was the civil engineer who came to the rescue of the school in the middle of the construction of the jubilee chapel. Half-way with the project, it took an emergency intervention to manage the timetable and with Alexie’s expertise as the project manager, he boosted the morale of the workers, efficiently managed the Gantt chart, and completed the chapel one week before the deadline without charging the school any fee. In fact the couple even shared a substantial jubilee gift to the school in cash. At present Yolanda also gives her time to ATHS as the newly elected president of the Assumpta Alumni Association. She has firmed up the on-going activities especially of the batch representatives, not only for fund raising to help the school but also for their on-going formation following the structure of the “Three Pillars of Assumption Education” In the MRMF Board, facing the short fall of P1.2 M for this school year, Yolanda was the first to commit P500,000 from the alumni aside from their annual financial assistance to ATHS.
Having experienced the efficacious impact of good education, all five Assumptans above passed on their passion for formal studies and life-long learning to their children. Yolanda’s older son is now a civil engineer and a partner of his father in their construction company while the other son is still in senior high school. Irma’s four children also entered prestigious colleges and universities in Manila as paying students. Her first daughter is a lawyer from DLSU and San Beda, her second went to Ateneo, graduating Cum Laude and finishing medicine at UERM. She is now a doctor at St. Luke’s Hospital. The third is a BS-HRM graduate who did her OJT in Wisconsin, USA and is now a budding entrepreneur giving jobs to young people in their barrio of origin. The youngest and only boy is still enrolled at the ADMU. Joseph’s oldest boy has also finished his studies and works with him in their construction business. The two younger ones are still college students. The only girl graduated from Assumption-Antipolo and is now pursuing her college degree in psychology. Enrique has only two daughters both of whom have completed their studies- one is a doctor and the other an architect. Lito’s two daughters followed his formal education almost to the letter. They both had their basic education also under the mantle of St. Marie Eugenie, in Assumption-Antipolo, graduating valedictorian and salutatorian in two consecutive years. Both took up the same college degree as their father, also in Ateneo, and graduating with Latin honors – Suma Cum Laude and Cum Laude respectively. Indeed good education does not just change life. It raises the quality of life in a most unpredictable manner.
The above parables are only of a few graduates of ATHS. One wish of the school is to publish a second book on Assumpta, but this time, to focus on the lives of the graduates whose transformative education really made a difference in themselves, in their families, and in the larger community marked by their presence.