ST. JAMES SCHOOL: OUR ALMA MATER

It is now fitting to reminisce those years when I was studying at St. James College of Quezon City, formerly St. James School, considering that I am a loyalty awardee of this academe.

It is heartbreaking that my beloved school would finally meet its end on 1 June 2019, after almost five decades of a remarkable and fruitful journey of providing globally competitive quality education to its esteemed and high-performing students.

In a nutshell, St James School started as a primary school co-founded by Mr. and Mrs. Jaime Torres. Its original branch, St. James Child Care Center, was first established in 1971 in Philamlife Homes in Quezon City. St. James Child Care Center through Mrs. Myrna Montealegre-Torres, an eminent child psychologist and an accomplished teacher herself, pioneered kindergarten program.

Four years later, in 1975, Businessman, Custom Broker, and Real Estate developer Jaime “James” Torres acquired one hectare-lot in Tandang Sora Quezon City, which is known today as St. James College of Quezon City.

St. James School of Quezon City is the second school after St. James Child Care Center on EDSA and the first big school founded by the Torres couple in 1978. Initially, the school only offered nursery, kinder, preparatory, and grade one classes.

A year after, in 1979, the couple established two additional child care centers in New Manila and Sta. Mesa Heights in Quezon City.

Subsequently, Torreses’ school advanced and branched out. Hence, St. James School of Parañaque (1987) and St. James School of Calamba (1994) came into existence. So, in the mid-90s, there were already three big schools and over twelve child care centers.

I became aware of its existence when my parents enrolled my brother on its EDSA branch, St. James Child Care Center, the first St. James Child Care Center in the metropolis, in 1983. It was the first air-conditioned school of St. James, which only catered preschoolers. During that time, Mr. and Mrs. Torres already founded St. James School of Quezon City in 1978.

In 1984, my parents moved my brother from St. James Child Care Center to its Tandang Sora Branch.

I started schooling at St. James School at 736 Tandang Sora Avenue in the mid-1980s. Then, Tandang Sora was a dirt road and unpaved. It was a bumpy ride going to school.

Mercedez-riding school owners, Mr. and Mrs. Torres, were always hands-on and visible during that time. I used to greet them every time we crossed our ways because we were thoroughly briefed about that particular decorum by our teachers. I was so innocent and diffident then.

During elementary years, we usually played agawan base, sipa, taguan, teks, among other things, aside from visiting the playground.

ST JAMES SCHOOL (EAST PART FACING THE WILL-BE MINDANAO AVE). Picture taken by our classmate Marc David Achacoso from the 5th floor of the main building in 1992 overlooking MINDANAO AVENUE which was only then a marshland, swampy place and lush vegetation then. We used to throw stones there during our elementary years.
The Quadrangle

When St. James School started and expanded in the late 80s, they utilized quadrangle A, B, and C, in place of the small gymnasium, in hosting and conducting some sports events, field demonstration, club activity, awarding, convocation and other gatherings.

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Grade 1 Class Picture SY 1986-1987

When I was in grade 1 section E, under the advisory class of Ms. Nita Galsim, I was awarded Best in Penmanship for four quarters. It was also during this time when the Philippines succeeded in the bloodless EDSA Revolution—which was the famous and model revolution in the world. It was in 1987, too, when I first experienced a carnival-like ride in St. James School during its foundation day.

Several coup d etat, destabilization efforts by some anti-government forces were palpable and distinguishable between 1987 and 1989, which forced classes in all levels to be suspended.

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Grade 2 Class Picture SY 1987-1988

Between 1987 and 1988, St James School started to sprawl superseding the old main building. The school head assigned Grade 2 students to the second floor of the unfinished main building. I was intrigued by how Mr. Victor Alaba groomed his thick black hair using a pomade.

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Grade 3 Class Picture SY 1988-1989

One of my fondest memories of Grade 3 was our field trip to Malacañang—my first-ever trip after the EDSA Revolution. We visited the Central Bank, Coca-Cola Plant, and Coconut Palace as well.

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Grade 4 Class Picture SY 1989-1990
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Grade 5 Class Picture SY 1990-1991

In 1990, George Herbert Walker Bush Administration’s effort to intercede between the rival and warring nations, Iraq and Kuwait, was notably discernible. This invasion was code-named Operation Desert Shield/ Storm popularly known as the Gulf War. NEWS about Saddam Hussein, Scud missiles, and Operation Desert Storm was always a hot topic across the globe. I was Grade 5 then under the advisory class of Ms. Maria Linda Habla when this worrisome and dramatic turn of events transpired.

Likewise, it was this time when we covered and customized our chair with collage and plastic cover.

Moreover, the World Wrestling Federation and Pinoy Wrestling were very popular among students. Daylight Saving Time (DST) was also strictly enforced and observed during the administration of former President Corazon C. Aquino—the fourth president to implement such after Manuel Quezon, Ramon Magsaysay, and Ferdinand Marcos.

The most remarkable events that took place in 1990 was the notorious and destructive 1990 earthquake. It happened on a weekday of the 16th of July at about 4:26 p.m. (PDT). My classmates and I were having Physical Education (PE) class near the flagpole waiting for our respective turn for our shuttle run when the natural calamity struck us and jolted us—for minutes—sideward and upward. Everybody in the school was already screaming and distraught. I could see the building swinging and the lights blinking. The commotion persisted even if the temblor stopped. Distressed parents and guardians rushed to the school immediately. Many jittery and petrified students shed tears and were in a state of shock. Some frantic students had gone berserk. Aftershocks lasted and experienced after a couple of days.

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Credit to Photographer Mr. Alberto Garcia, who took this iconic image amidst Mt. Pinatubo eruption on 15 June 1990.

A year after, on 15 June 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted. Consequently, the government imposed another memorable suspension of classes due to the danger and enormous ash fall that billowed the metropolis and the Central Luzon in the aftermath of the Mt Pinatubo eruption. I was grade 6 then under Ms. Echave. During this time, between 1990 and 1991, St. James was in the height of expansion. We used to temporarily conduct our classes inside the gymnasium, but later, we were ordered and transferred to a designated room.

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Commencement Exercises 1992

In 1992, after throrough consideration and rigorous planning, the management finally fulfilled its promise of building a swimming pool inside the campus. I was a freshman at that time.

Rock music, Hip-hop music, Music Television, Levi’s Button-Fly jeans were among the trends during that time. Guns-N-Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine was the hottest anthem of that time. ABS-CBN’s Ang TV show was a famous teen show.

Second Year High School Class Picture SY 1993-1994

One of my fondest memories when I was a sophomore in St. James School was our Field Trip in Laguna because we visited the intriguing Yakult Plant, the majestic Mt. Makiling, the controversial University of the Philippines Los Baños, the world-renowned International Rice Research Institute, among other things.

Needless to say, we started to wear baseball caps, oversized t-shirts, baggy pants patterned after the hip-hop industry. Infighting among students was also prevalent then. I was one of the few students who experienced bullying, which resulted in a fistfight with a classmate after school dismissal.

Third Year High School Class Picture SY 1994-1995

When I was in the Third Year, I used to mimic teachers and students, especially their mannerisms. Pantomining every break to destress us from the rigors of school activities. Long hair was a fad. Eraserheads mania was so widespread. We used to have a copy of their newest album. Bestank could be seen on every floor of the building. Third-year high school coordinator, Ms. Cariaso, became a household name while Mr. Abejo a figure of fun, yet we honored his scientific knowledge. We started to attend the Junior-Senior Promenade. The event happened was held at the Manila Hotel.

Noticeably, the architectural style of St. James School started to evolve. Lead Architect Dodie Bacoy introduced a combination of Neoclassical and Rococo/later Baroque in its Architectural design and foundation.

The fourth year, the year when our last and final Junior-Senior Promenade came about. It took place at EDSA-Shangri-La Hotel.

The Cadet Army Training was something to be reckoned with because, during this time, we eluded being reprimanded for our long hair. P2Lt. Danilo C. Capaciete, the CAT Commandant, and Mr. Rolando Dela Cruz, Asst CAT Commandant, used to make a groove on our hair if we refused the prescribed haircut they wanted.

Yes, and who can forget our bivouacking in Tanay, Rizal. During this three-day encampment, our CAT Commandant taught us to be independent, disciplined, alert, and combatant. The Philippine Army officers demonstrated to us how to disassemble and assemble and to fire the Armalite Rifle Model 16 (M16), among other things, at Camp Mateo Capinpin in Rizal Province.

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Cadet Army Training (CAT) Graduation

I will never forget my second home, even if it is on the verge of dissolution. St. James School may not be existing anymore, but I will forever cherish and treasure my fondest memories therein. So long, teachers, classmates, schoolmates, and contemporaries.

This blog serves as my tribute to the only school which fostered me throughout my basic education years. I am still proud of being Jamesian.

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Commencement Exercises 1996: Mr. Pablito Siwa Belardo and the Author

4 thoughts on “ST. JAMES SCHOOL: OUR ALMA MATER

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  1. I happened to find a wiki for St. James of QC on Google, saw the suggestion “closing”, followed it, and I found your vlog. That’s sad news, but we’ll always have fond memories.

    I attended K-3 only, so 4 years (June 1984 – March 1988), then transferred to a different school. I was one year ahead of you.

    I don’t know if you can help me. Do you know the title of that morning exercise “tugtog” after we sang the national anthem? I don’t know the tune exactly, but if I hear it, I know na iyon na siya! I want a soundtrack of that song. Also, where do I get sheet music for the “St. James Our Alma Mater” song? What other songs did they teach us besides “The Little Frog”? I’ve googled all of these things and of course, I found nothing.

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    1. St James Our Alma Mater can be downloaded through You Tube. HOWEVER, with regard to the exercise music that was played before during flag ceremony, i honestly say that I have no recollection about that song…only ” Ako ay Pilipino” that I remember aside from reciting Panatang Makabayan and the INVOCATION

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  2. Wala na nilangaw na school nyo. Wala nag enroll. Marami pa nag aaral sa CDSL. Meron din ako kilala graduate st james mid 2000 maraming umalis na teacher kasi si jaime torres panay gastos sa pagtakbo election pero mga sweldo ng teacher di tumataas dami nag resign. Tapos kinasuhan tax evasion si torres. Nangampanya sa Village namin yan tumakbo sya Congressman di naman nanalo dahil balita land grabber sya.

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