The idea of a science high school in the Philippines came from a Filipino mathematician, Dr. Leopoldo V. Torralballa, who was then a professor of mathematics at New York University. Patterned after the Bronx High School of Science in New York City, the envisioned science high school was created for the purpose of giving an education highly enriched in science and mathematics to exceptionally gifted Filipino children.
The vision was realized in 1963, and now, it has grown into eleven campuses in different locations in the Philippines. The PSHS system is committed to the same ideals as those of the original campus, and its goal is to have one unified PSHS – in academic excellence, in leadership, and in spirit.
The Philippine Science High School System is an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
The First Decade: 1964 – 1973 — Hard Work
Even before mission-visioning became all the rage, the Philippine Science High School started with Dr. Toralballa's dream: quality science education for gifted young Filipinos. This dream turned into a mandate, and gradually came into being.
The PSHS started with great ambitions, but a small budget. Facilities were few and laboratories were improvised, but the search for excellence was clear to the staff.
National Scientist Dr. Gregorio Velasquez led the PSHS through its first three years of infancy, the fruits of which led to leadership, activism, resourcefulness, firm friendships, and the forging of character in a rented "matchbox" building by the Quezon Memorial Circle. But science needs space, and creativity, room for growth. Students exercised their political will and went to Malacañang in 1966 to ask for land for the PSHS.
"…the scenery was superb: a great blue yonder … It was nature at its best, … That is, if it was not raining. Because when it rained…one did not have to leave his umbrella at the guard post because he could use it in the classroom. But that was how true grit was formed. We knew we hadn't much but we made full use of it."
– Manolo Condes, Class '70
The Second Decade: 1974 – 1983 — Bears Fruit
In 1970, the PSHS started building on a 7.5-hectare lot in Diliman. Many students spent their high school years in the pre-fab buildings: majoring in basketball, minoring in guitar, and regularly winning science/journalism/math contests. Classes ’73 to ’76, the first "martial law babies" moved into the brand new buildings in 1972.
Gradually, the campus took shape. The laboratories in the Sciences and Humanities Building were (and still are) the envy of other schools. The residence halls and canteen serviced the students. The Administration building was also completed, and the Gym rose beyond the soccer field. Clubs sprouted and the front lobby became a venue for impromptu concerts and meetings – a place to see and be seen.
Parents were also actively involved in supporting the PSHS, and they put up the PSHS Foundation in 1978 "to maintain a private institutional medium to assist the school in its mission of preparing highly gifted students for careers in science and technology." Thus, the dedicated faculty and staff, headed by Dr. Cleofe M. Bacuñgan, watched the students and the school campus grow and flourish.
The Third Decade: 1984 – 1993 — Competence and Excellence
One can reap where others have sown. The Directorship passed from Dr. Bacuñgan, to Dr. Adoracion D. Ambrosio, to Dr. Vicenta F. Reyes. Traditions of excellence were passed from Batch to Batch: CAT; school newspapers: The Science Scholar, Ang Lagablab, Dalumat; the Student Alliance; self-governance in Batch Councils and through the Clubs; the Varsity teams and more. We took our directors' advice to heart: "A first-rate education is something that is actively obtained rather than passively received."
The average PSHS scholar plowed through academic challenges, but honed their other skills and interests through extra-curricular activities. They were still known for their participation in national and international events, such as the Science Fairs and Olympiads, but to a jury of their peers, the "heroes" were those who could combine academics with band practice and/or community service.
Graduates had started making names for themselves, garnering honors and scholarships in the Philippines and overseas. The faculty already included several PSHS alumni, keen to pass on what they themselves had received.
And finally, the PSHS was ready to grow even more: the end of this decade saw the start-up of the regional campuses.
The Fourth Decade: 1994 – 2004 — Commitment and Service
In 1998, the four existing PSHS campuses were integrated into one system of governance and management.
Thus, the PSHS continues fulfilling its mandate "to offer, on a free scholarship basis, a secondary course with special emphasis on subjects pertaining to the sciences, with the end view of preparing its students for a science career." This critical mass of Science and Technology workers can be achieved through the PSHS System.
As of its 40th year, the PSHS System has the Main Campus in Diliman and seven regional campuses. Graduates have gone on to S&T or other professions. Some graduates have chosen to serve their country and their school directly by teaching or working at PSHS. Then Executive Director, Dr. Ramon R. Miranda, is from PSHS Batch '73.
Of those who have finished schooling roughly seventy percent (70%) are in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics. The rest are in the humanities, journalism, law, business administration, accountancy, public administration, the military and religious ministry.
And though the decades change and fashions come and go, some things remain. Good friends – loyal friends, intellectual habits to last a lifetime, and gratitude to the institution, and to the many people who have made this education possible.
The Fifth Decade 2005 – 2015 — Golden Years
As the PSHS approaches its Golden Anniversary, three new campuses were added to the ever growing system. Pisay Campuses in Central Visayas, Cordillera, and Central Luzon were founded to address the need for S&T development in those localities. The mandate of the law, that is to provide quality science education to each of the 17 administrative regions of the country, is soon to be realized.
The PSHS also strove to strengthen the bonds between the Main Campus and the Regional Campuses by merging the Philippine Science High School Alumni Association (the Diliman-based alumni union) and the Philippine Science High School System National Alumni Association (the post-regionalization alumni body). System training and planning seminars held in the different campuses, on the other hand, helped create links among the faculties and administrations of the PSHS System. Other events such as the National Science Fair also emphasize the integrative nature of the System.
PSHS Alumni continued to prove their metal in various fields of excellence; thus, pushing the frontiers of Pisay Achievement. Award-winning director Aureus Solito (’86) released the movie, “Pisay”, reaping further accolades in and out of the Philippines. Gian Dapul (’09) represented the country in the International Public Speaking Contest in London and won the top prize from the Duke of Edinburgh. Arriza Nocum and Miguel Arnold Reyes, both of Batch 2011, won the Young Women in Public Affairs Award and the Second Grand Award in the ISEF 2011, respectively–the latter had an asteroid named in his honor.
With the growth of Pisay comes development. With development comes great change. The baton of the Executive Directorship was passed on from Dr. Filma Brawner to Dr. Josette Biyo, the Intel Excellence in Teaching Awardee with an eponymous planet (13241 Biyo). The change in leadership also brought with it a shift in plans and vision–a dream to maintain the long standing culture and values of the school while adapting to the advancement of science, pioneering in the redevelopment of the curriculum, and keeping up with the global community.
Photo credits: Brenda Pineda, Felina Masadao-Adefuin, Jon Bayogan, and Olga Sundiang Rivera.