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The Year When DLSL First Went Coeducational


June 1974. Finally! High school seniors! Kings of the school! It was going to be a school year of mixed emotions. On the one hand, we were ten months away from graduation and a year a year away from the next milestone that was college life. On the other hand, we were on the last of our six years at La Salle, at the end of which we had no recourse but to say goodbye not only to our beloved school but also to each other.

At the time, of course, I had no inkling that I would return after college to spend another three decades at the very school from where I myself graduated.

The start of the school year brought with it a certifiable oddity on campus: girls. I knew that De La Salle College in Manila had gone coeducational a year or two earlier, but few of us had a clue that La Salle in Lipa would also be opening its doors to girls so soon after.

Because La Salle since it opened in 1962 had been a school exclusively for boys, the girls in this new school year looked not unlike penguins in the middle of the desert. In hindsight, I suppose that it was about time that they came.

In the previous years when La Salle was exclusively an all-boys’ school, the sight of girls from Canossa or some other schools entering the campus could disrupt classes as students rushed to windows in total disregard of teachers to catcall or wave to the girls like libido-crazed baboons.

At the time, I thought that the arrival of girls was just La Salle liberalizing its approach to education and taking the cue from the Taft campus. However, documents I was provided by Brother Jaime Dalumpines, who had asked me to write a history of the school in 1987, showed that there was also an economic reason for the opening of the school’s doors to coeds in 1974.

The peace and order situation in Manila had improved considerably since the declaration of Martial Law. Enough, at any rate, for Metro Manila parents who had sent their children to Lipa to keep them away from student activism to recall them back to the big city. The decreased enrolment, apparently, was significant enough to have affected the school’s state of finances. Breaking with tradition and accepting girls for the first time, therefore, was an obvious solution.

That first coeducational year for La Salle, though, girls were only accepted from Grade 5 to second year high school. This meant that we would be the second to the last exclusively boys’ group of students to graduate from the school. By an accident of timing, the distinction of being the last went to our underclassmen, who would graduate as the Class of 1976.

Practical as my Mom was, she quickly decided that La Salle opening its doors to coeds was a god-sent and that there was no further point in continuing to send my younger sister Rhea, who was a freshman student, to Canossa. Because my brother Roy, youngest in the family, was already in Grade 5 and could enroll at La Salle, for the new school year there would be three of us Torrecampos enrolled at the school.

This was fine by me. Had my sister Rhea continued to go to school at Canossa, there was every chance that once in a while, my Mom would ask me to fetch and bring her home after school. This wasn’t a very attractive prospect at all. Apart from the fact that I hadn’t been very fond of the Canossian sisters since we were rudely barred from entering their campus a couple or so years back, afternoons for me were for football and my other school activities.

Now that Rhea was going to La Salle, instead, she could go home on her own or with Roy. After all, La Salle being along the highway was one of the reasons why my Mom transferred her. Mom was protective of us, but not overly so. Young as my two younger siblings were, they both knew how to commute going home. Some days we all went home together, but inevitably there were days when we were dismissed at different times.

But speaking of the Canossian sisters, I used to wonder how they felt about La Salle opening its doors to coeds. I mean, it used to be something of an open secret that there was supposed to be this agreement between them and the Christian Brothers that when the Maryknoll Sisters left, they would continue to educate local girls from Grade 5 all the way to their graduation from high school. The boys, meanwhile, were supposed to go to La Salle.

Obviously, the Brothers were breaking this supposed agreement. What I don’t know up to the present day is if they ever sat down with the Canossians to discuss this.

Many years later, when I was in upper administration at La Salle and Brother Rafael Donato was the President, he gave some insight that, perhaps, the nuns were none too pleased that La Salle had gone coeducational when it did back in the seventies.

In the late nineties, I was working at the school’s External Services Department and Brother Rafael was my boss. He used to insist that the Canossian Sisters were to be invited to every school function when we would be having guests from the outside. Sometimes, I doubled as his personal courier.

There was this morning one weekend, for example, when my secretary Jits Lalunio and I were at Canossa to personally deliver tickets for the whole community of nuns for a Broadway show that La Salle was producing at the SENTRUM. The nun who received us, my goodness! Was she having her monthly period? Because she was cross to us from the moment she opened the door and even after we told her that we had come to deliver tickets for the Broadway show.

Were I not personally representing Brother Rafael, I would have told her to suck a lemon or something. But I kept my cool notwithstanding the fact that I was not fond of Canossian nuns and, because of that totally undeserved and uninvited rudeness from one of them, disliked them a thousand times more.

It was also not uncommon for Brother Rafael to invite the entire Canossian religious community over to the Brothers’ House for dinner. Boy, I used to think to myself. The good Brother was being a certifiable lady-killer. Wink. He was just, he once explained, simply extending Lasallian hospitality to the nuns, who were likely held spellbound by his debonair charm and the tales of his travels far and beyond.

It was when I told him of how rude we were received by one nun when we went to deliver tickets, however, that he intimated to me that all the effort he was exerting to reach out to the nuns was really to make up for the Brothers having broken that agreement back in the seventies.


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