Edifice in Focus: The NOHS Building

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Saturday, August 6, 2011


DID you know that Rizal Elementary School was Instituto Rizal and was referred to as the provincial high school?

Founded in 1902 by Governor Melencio Severino and Thomasite George W. Bettie, Instituto Rizal became known as Rizal Institute in 1905 when education official reports were written in English.

In 1927, the permanent high school building at the present site was constructed and was finished in 1931. Yet, strangely enough, the name inscribed in the building façade was ‘BACOLOD HIGH SCHOOL” because what was written in the Appropriations Act of 1927 was “the construction of the Bacolod High School”.

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In 1910, there were only six graduates at the Rizal Institute, namely Emilio Y. Hilado (Class President and Valedictorian), Isabel Jugo (Class Vice-President and Salutatorian), Magdalena Locsin, Feliciano C. Sombito, Emilio Sanson, and Jose Nessia.

Now, thousands of alumni call NOHS their alma mater, including such esteemed personalities such as Ramon Bagatsing, Rafael Salas, Jorge Vargas, Carlos Hilado, and Inocencio Ferrer.

I have come across interesting facts about the school. Did you know that in 1927, the annual tuition fee was P10 and it was payable in two installments? The school had a publication called The Reflector. In 1929, one could subscribe to this publication if he could come up with 0.70 centavos per year.

The minimum salary of a classroom teacher then was P180 per month. And Class ’35 was probably over the moon when they were served halo-halo by no less than an admiral of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Little would they know that their school would be converted into a Japanese garrison in the war that would follow.

The main building of the eight-hectare site is the square-shaped Gabaldon-type structure commonly constructed from 1907-1946 when Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon authored Republic Act 1801, which appropriated P1 million for the construction of school buildings in every municipality in the country.

The act is also known as the Gabaldon Law. Gabaldon schoolhouses which followed a standard plan by Architect William Parsons are now considered heritage structures.

The NOHS building has 21 classrooms with tall vertical capiz-shell windows that could be pushed open outwardly at the bottom. It turns at the center and is held by hinges on both sides so air could circulate from both the top and the bottom. Transoms also provide ample ventilation from the corridor. The classrooms wrap around a center patio cum quadrangle which is now roofed to provide protection from rain and sun. This architectural style is actually ideal for our tropical climate and is ecologically friendly, too.

What I find charming about the building is the façade with the bas relief designs of scrolls, garlands, cherubims, books, candelabras, and even owls which are popular symbols of wisdom. In front of the building are steps that lead one through the handsome arches and into the library. On opposite sides of the steps are two sculptures of what I perceive as Greek female figures symbolizing virtues that the youth should emulate.

The first American principal of NOHS was D’Artagnan Williams while the first Filipino principal was Candido Sugatan who took over in 1935 until 1941. The school’s present administrator is Principal IV Mario S. Amaca who gladly accommodated my request for information and the chance to explore the building. Many thanks to him and to Music Department Head Grace Lumayno, an old friend who facilitated my visit.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 06, 2011.

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