By By tataramon
CNHS History, atbp.
posted 21-May-2017  ·  
1,723 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

(NOTE: About ten years ago, Sisay Kita? appeared in the Catanduanes Tribune as a weekly column. It tackled issues on Catandunganon society, history and culture. It went on hiatus after about a year but is getting back into circulation, this time on a bi-monthly basis.)  

Before the Holy Week, we were informed by tarpaulin ads and commemorative t-shirts that the Catanduanes National High School is 91 years old. Many beamed in surprise at the suggestion that CNHS is just nine years shy of its centenary, but a few got jolted in incredulous wonder, perhaps slapping their faces to wake them up from a dream, just in case. Ha? Pak ganern?  It was thoroughly disorienting for those who keep some memory of CNHS because in 2002 the school made big deal of its golden anniversary (50 years) with a grand alumni homecoming, graced by venerable alumni such as Ben Talan and Briccio Santos.  There too was Joseph Santiago still relishing his political heyday.

All these indicate a grand confusion as to the history of the CNHS. If we go by the 2002 event, CNHS would have started out in 1952 so much so that it should turn 65 this year. Bu in 2010, the 60th year was celebrated which added to the confusion because founding year would have been 1950.

Ano ba talaga manay?

In the short history featured in the official CNHS website, three important dates are mentioned.  First is 1926 when the Virac Sub-Provincial High School VSPHS) was established. But it closed down after only a decade of because of financial difficulties.  Catandunganons who desired secondary schooling had to revert back to the ordeal of having to cross over to Bicol mainland. But this lack of access to highs school would later be filled in through private initiative with the establishment of the Catanduanes Standard High School that will become the present Catanduanes College.  In 1946, the Catanduanes Provincial High School started operations. It was nationalized after 18 years, in 1964, to become the Catanduanes National High School.

The current assertion that CNHS is over nine decades old at 91 is apparently based on the 1926 founding of the VSPHS. From where we are looking, it appears as an overly eager effort for institutional self-aggrandizement. It might be an honest mistake, but it indicates a casualness with historical facts, a taking of liberties with truth. If ite remains unchallenged, it might just evolve into unimpeachable reality.   

In recent times, we have heard of complaints about attempts to revise/rewrite history on the national scale, specifically about sanitizing the Marcos era so much so that future generations would fail to know the real score of its excesses and abuses. We were warned of the spectre of history repeating itself. Surely, the sort of revisionism involving CNHS history is comparatively trivial; it does not exactly pose massive and debilitating social amnesia. But then, it is potentially a denial of the truth about the past just the same. If we cannot be correct about this simple issue on the age of CNHS, can we fare any better on the more serious aspects of our collective remembrance?

History writing is not simply a record of past events but more importantly a matter of interpretation (a value judgement) as to what the past has been and its role in the present and future. It can shape the lives of individuals and communities to which ever directions. So the interpreter must exercise such a prerogative with utmost care and responsibility both to the record of facts and the consumer of history.

In the case of the beginnings of CNHS history, we are actually presented with several options and each one has implication as to what narrative we intend to promote, for particular desired effects. First, it can only be 53 years old by 2017 if we use the 1964 enactment of R.A. 3900 that nationalized the CPHS. This is the safest choice because it is the point that CNHS actually became CNHS. But it will disregard the fact that something do come out of another thing.  It will put aside previous heroic efforts to establish and sustain a secondary school in Catanduanes. It will also have political implication because it will emphasize the role of former political lord Jose M. Alberto who sponsored the law; it might not be seen with favor by current political interests. Second, CNHS is 71 years old if we use the 1946 mark. If offers special historical significance:  the founding of CPHS was among the first important moves of a newly created province facing the challenges of both reconstruction after being ravaged by war and proving one’s self-reliance as an independent local government unit.  Third is that the CNHS might actually be much older at 91, using 1926 as birthday. This will dramatize the Catandunganon’s supposed legendary love for education.  Wow, a high school in a remote island where medical care was provided mostly by a sanidad (a sanitary inspector) and a physician known to prescribe boiled pako drink (well, this is to be sure a matter of folklore)? Indeed we love schools, don’t we, the next thing after the Church? But then, the Sub-Provincial High School died at the early age of 10, due most probably to the incurable and chronic epidemic called poverty.

 Of course, we can always follow the exceptional example of the premiere institution of learning in the province, the Catanduanes State University.  The previous CSC observed foundation day in March of every year with year one being 1971. The present CSU however celebrates birthday in October.  In 2016, it marked its early childhood milestone for being a cute-y four-year-old (hmm, pwede na mag day-care). CSU is seen as among the many off-springs of the prolific Cong. Cesar Sarmiento, so much so that there are those who, not without a measure of playful mischief, call the school the Cesar Sarmiento University. But we don’t want to imply politics here, no, the University must not be politicized.  So therefore, the CNHS might do well to avoid the 1964 take-off point so as not to be accused of trying to rehabilitate the Alberto political dynasty (which reminds us too of the fact that the former CSC was also an Alberto creature). Ay, kumplikado ini especially at our beloved nasyunal whose acronym is evolving into being CNHS. 

Bu we may also look at other worthy examples. The Central Luzon State University counts its age from year 1907 when it was established as the Central Luzon Agricultural School. It is the same with the De La Salle University which started life in 1911, still decades away from becoming a university.

My personal preference is to assert that the CNHS turns 71 this year. For one thing, there is actual continuity from the former CPHS to the present CNHS.  For another thing, it takes cognizance of the heroic deeds of those who established it in a war-torn Catanduanes that was also asserting independence as a province. The CPHS (later the CNHS) is testament to our collective aspirations and industry as a people. In the reckoning of one’s history, a seemingly simple thing such as the birth of an institution becomes a statement of who the people are, what do they want to become. History-making is not neutral; it is a mobilization of the past as a cultural and social resource that can be useful in the enterprise of becoming.

Having said all that, let me go back to the current “CNHS@91” contention by the organizers of the 2017 grand alumni homecoming. What is the context behind this attempt to inflate the age of the school? Surely we can only speculate. But there are tell-tale signs that can suggest the motive. Firstly, consider that grand homecomings at CNHS do not come predictably, say during conspicuous milestones like silver or golden anniversaries, or at regular intervals such as yearly, or every after two, five or ten years. They come erratically from out of the blue as it happened with a 91st anniversary. One clue as to motive is that these grand homecomings are always partnered with a fund-raising activity, typically for physical improvement or the acquisition of some facilities. The expressed project for this year’s reunion is so far the most ambitious: a drainage system for the campus. The purpose itself is well-meaning; syempre, we don’t want the young generations and fair hope of the Isle of the Eastern Seas to be afflicted with aripunga through the constant inundation of the campus.

But there are critical reservations re such a project. Primarily is its sheer scope and difficulty. A drainage system is not a stand-alone facility limited to an area. It can only work in connection with a complex whole. If you want to drain the CNHS campus you will also have to drain the rest the adjacent areas such as Kawit. A CNHS drainage system will have to operate with the larger municipal system.  Do we have a clear notion of what does it take to drain the campus? How much money is needed? Is there already an engineering plan? Given such an enormous project, is it something for the alumni to assume? Isn’t it the responsibility of the government?     

We know that the alumni are a resource that can be tapped by a school. But we know too that the alumni have their own interests to pursue. Alumni affairs in general and homecomings in particular must not be made to revolve around fund-raisings, especially by a government-owned school. Wag gawing  panakip-butas ang alumni sa kakulangan ng gobbyerno.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the disposition to inflate the age of CNHS is a meant to impress on the alumni the grandiose scope of the homecoming to convince them to support such a grandiose project as a drainage system, as if saying that a grand old institution cannot be made to regularly suffer from flooding.  Fine. But let’s get real about history, even as we get real too about whose primary responsibility is the upkeep and development of the CNHS.  

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