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EDITORIAL: First normal school for girls

WE join and congratulate the Universidad de Sta. Isabel in Naga City on the occasion of its 150th foundation anniversary, which is today, April 12. It may not be the oldest institution of learning in the whole Bicol Region (because the oldest is the 225-year old Holy Rosary Minor Seminary [founded 1793], then known as Seminario Conciliar de Nueva Caceres, which incidentally is also located in Naga City) but the Universidad de Sta. Isabel holds the distinct honor of being the first and oldest normal school for girls not only in the country but throughout the Far East. It is said that one cannot tell the story of the Universidad de Sta. Isabel without mentioning the man whose vision for the advancement of Christian civilization through education is matched only by his own energy and fervor. With much zeal and perseverance, Fray Francisco Gainza, O.P., the Bishop of Nueva Caceres, presented his plans for the establishment of a Colegio-Beaterio for girls in his diocese to Queen Isabela II of Spain. The Queen was pleased and as a token of her support presented Monsignor Gainza with a relic of St. Elizabeth of Hungary under whose patronage the College would be placed. The school was formally inaugurated and opened on April 12, 1868 at the convent of the Naga Cathedral, now the Naga Parochial School. It was called Colegio de Sta. Isabel in order to put it under the protection of the Queen-Saint Elizabeth of Hungary whose charities on earth had made her a saint in heaven. Elevated to the category of “Escuela Normal de Maestras” by virtue of Royal Decree signed by King Amadeo I of Saboya on January 11, 1872, it became the first Normal School for Girls in the Philippines. The Colegio is part and parcel of Naga’s rich history. It was inside its corridors that the Spanish civil governor and his soldiers laid down their arms and signed the terms of capitulation following the revolt of rebellious guardia civiles Elias Angeles and Felix Plazo and his men that brought to end the 300 years of Spanish rule in Bicol. The colegio was finally granted university status on November 17, 2002 and henceforth transformed itself into an integrated system with a modern hospital and another campus in a nearby town and a charity shelter for the aged. Yesterday, the USI honored its outstanding alumni led by no less than Vice President Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo, its most distinguished alumna, along with 129 other awardees whose excellent achievements in their chosen field of endeavor have brought pride and honor to their Alma Mater, and contributed as well, to the progress and socio-economic development of the Bicol region and the country. Naguenos should be extremely proud of their history. Naga, then known as Nueva Caceres, was one of the original three Royal cities that the Spaniards first established in the Philippines, the two others being Cebu and Manila which were also the seats of episcopal authority that encompassed large territories in Luzon and the Visayas. With the establishment of the seminary, Naga became the center of learning in the region south of Manila. Obviously, the founding of the seminary introduced the natives to another vehicle for socio-economic advancement in the form of education that also engendered the growth of the city’s local elite, many of them were supportive of the reform movement against Spanish abuses. A school for girls was soon to be established to train young Bicolanas as mentors and good housewives who would be helpful in educating more fellow natives and getting them to embrace the Catholic faith.

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