Goodbye College of Holy Spirit, thanks for the memories 2
The CHS campus photographed recently by Anson Yu. Right: CHS students under the “higad” tree. Image courtesy of Lorraine Sylianteng.
Culture

This goodbye is forever: As end nears for College of Holy Spirit, ex students look back

It’s closing time for Mendiola’s all-girls school, and alums can’t help but recall the stern Sisters, the best teachers, campus spots they will never see again
ANCX Staff | Mar 20 2022

Messages of sadness and gratitude flowed out when it was announced in November of 2020 that the College of Holy Spirit Manila (CHSM) was closing its doors. “Thank you for being the foundation on which we have built not only our careers but also the values that we have carried on in our lives,” wrote one of its graduates on Facebook then. 

As April approaches, pulling the school’s last days closer, photos of the empty campus continue to circulate on social media, inspiring feelings of nostalgia especially among those who once walked the CHS halls. Former students remember it for the high academic standards it maintained and the values it instilled in them. Back in 2020, however, one of the standout recollections was about how it was the cleanest campus in Mendiola, thanks to a dedicated group of Ilocano women who made sure the school grounds were always a sight to behold. 

College of Holy Spirit
Former students say they’re very proud of the high standards the school kept, and the values it instilled in them.

The CHS was originally Holy Ghost College, a primary school established along Legarda Street in Manila in 1913 by the Missionary Sisters Servant of the Holy Spirit (SSpS). It started offering secondary education in 1920 and also opened another site in nearby Mendiola St. It was in 1965 when the school was rechristened College of the Holy Spirit. Among the women who studied in the campus are Josie Natori, the journalist Sheila Coronel, lawyer and beauty queen Pacita Ongsiako de los Reyes, Ayala Foundation president Vicky Garchitorena, University of the Philippines’ VP for Academic Affairs Dr. Cynthia Banzon, Elvira Manahan, Imelda Cojuangco, Mary Walter and economics professor Rosario Roxas Moran, the mother of Margie Moran Floirendo. 

College of Holy Spirit
“Each time the Alma Mater song is played, tears well in my eyes,” recalls Evangeline Qua. “But the memories will remain in my heart.”

Over the past year, former students have been visiting the school to say their final goodbyes. More campus tours have been scheduled in the coming days due to clamor from various alumni aching to have one last look at the institution that helped mold them to the women they’ve become. 

Some of them have been gathered here along with their priceless recollections, thanks to the kindness of Lorraine Young-Sylianteng, a high school alum from 1973–who helped us send our questions and await the answers. May their words help bring to life the images we’ve gathered.

College of Holy Spirit
CHS was originally College of the Holy Ghost. Vintage photos courtesy of Lorraine Sylianteng and Tet Filart Puzon.

Rosario Pejoro, HS ‘67, BS in Food & Nutrition, ‘71

My favorite spot was the hall under the chapel. That’s where Ms. Severino tutored me everyday at noon. It was so quiet there I was really able to focus on my lessons. What sticks to my mind even now is that CHS had a very high educational standard. Classes were so difficult. I was scared of the teachers and nuns. 

The last time I visited was during our Golden Jubilee in 2017. It was wonderful. Brought back fond memories of my youth. The best time of my life! I feel bad they are closing. They should have saved it…if the neighboring schools can survive, why can’t CHS?

The CHS auditorium.
The CHS auditorium. Photo by Anson Yu.

Lorraine Young-Sylianteng, HS ‘73

We had a gigantic acacia tree whose shade we all loved to stay under but we were also partly afraid of it because it had caterpillars on it. I loved, loved, loved my high school days. I loved my teacher, Mrs. Amor Cruz, who inspired me with the works of Shakespeare which made me so sure I wanted to teach later on.

I have been an active alumni board member so I do get to see the school every now and then. The last time I visited was just this March as we were part of the support staff for a school tour. It was still magical seeing how beautiful the school remains to be and, more than anything, how lush the greenery still is. And my favorite “higad” tree is still standing tall, reminding me of times gone by. 

As I write this, I’ve become teary-eyed. Our school was already suffering from low enrollment and the alumni all tried to help but the K-12–although I approve of it—and the pandemic dealt the final blow. I am so sad but accepting. To borrow my class’ tagline for our school, I leave it with “Soaring Spirit, Boundless Love.”

College of Holy Spirit
The Mother Josepha Building, which is the CHS high school building. Photo by Anson Yu.

Victoria Rodriguez-Tempongko, HS’62, BS in Food & Nutrition ‘66

The German discipline is what I remember the most. I can truly say that it has influenced my life very much and has helped mold me to what I am today.

I also remember our English/English Literature teacher in high school who had a very strong influence on us. She was a fresh college graduate, with high honors, very smart. She was our teacher in first year high then she took a one-year leave. She came back and asked the principal if she could teach our group again. Her request was granted. We had her in third and fourth year. Since she was just a few years older than we were, she knew exactly how to deal with us. Once, she noticed we were all quiet. She asked what happened, and we told her we got some scolding from one of the German nuns. To make us feel better, she decided to talk about the movie “My Fair Lady.” It surely changed the mood in the classroom. We ended up singing the songs from the movie.

Another incident with the same English teacher: The school was going to celebrate its anniversary and will be presenting a big play, and my dance group had a small part in it. We were supposed to practice in the auditorium. For reasons I cannot now remember, my group and I did not want to go to the auditorium. We were chatting, laughing in that covered area when somebody came and told us our teacher was getting upset. So we went to the auditorium and there she was, fuming. She really let us have it. I cannot remember now the things she said, except for one line which stuck in my head forever: “Nobody is that important.” 

It truly is sad that the school is closing. Sometimes we think that the establishments we love will be there forever. But I understand that the nuns can no longer afford to keep it afloat nor take the responsibility of keeping the school viable. Surely, if we feel bad about it, they must feel much, much worse. 

College of Holy Spirit
The Angel at the courtyard. Photo by Anson Yu.

Victoria del Rosario, HS ‘77

​The chapel will always be my favorite spot. Its ambience ​never fails to comfort me—back then as a student and later as an alumna. Just being there reminds me of all the good there is inside all of us and ​that all will be well, according to God’s plan.

​I remember all the memories of childhood and high school, from learning ​about our Catholic faith to playing jackstones and Chinese garter on the ​corridors, playing piko and patintero on the grounds, the field ​demonstrations in the quadrangle, the school fairs and cheering competitions, the CAT drills very early in the morning and ​waking up the nuns, the ghost stories, the strict but caring teachers, Physics, graduation. 

​Last Friday, March 11, I delighted in visiting the familiar places and walking ​around the grounds and through the halls again. Though sadness overcame ​me, I couldn’t help but smile as I recalled the memories, the lessons ​learned and the life-long ​friendships forged.

College of Holy Spirit
Stained glass artwork believed to have been designed by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo. Photo by Anson Yu.

Erlinda David del Rosario, HS ‘57 

My favorite spot—aside from our very beautiful chapel where I offered my wedding bouquet when I got married in 1964–is the area fronting the auditorium where the round tables and trees are until now. Being in school brings back so many memories, it being the second home to me and my eight sisters who all studied there. But I particularly remember Sr. Deocora who was very lovable and kind. I think we were her first pupils in first year high school, back when she was newly assigned to HGC.

College of Holy Spirit
The statue of St. Joseph stands tall in this pocket garden. Photo by Anson Yu

Corazon Guidote, HS ‘78

What do I remember most about being in CHS? The discipline [instilled in us] in order to be Christ-like, the high academic standards. The SSpS [Servarum Spiritus Sancti] sisters made sure we were raised following strict rules when it came to time, our studies, the way we communicated and even the way we wore our uniform. Cheating and bad behavior did not go unpunished, whether it’s a reprimand, suspension, or expulsion. But the Sisters were also very concerned about our security. I felt very secure during my 12 years in CHS. 

College of Holy Spirit
An interpretation of the Holy Spirit on the chapel ceiling. Photo by Anson Yu

Evangeline Qua, HS ‘70, AB-BSC Banking and Finance ‘74

I remember the time I started to become active in extracurricular activities, joining the Student Catholic Action. It helped me develop my leadership skills. It likewise gave me more confidence and even helped me pass my 2nd, 3rd and 4th years in high school with honors. I will always be thankful to our SCA Moderator who guided me.

I spent my Elementary, High School and College years in CHSM. The sisters and teachers helped shape me to who I am today. Each time the Alma Mater song is played, tears well in my eyes. But the memories will remain in my heart.

I know I have spent so much time in the campus and would know my way around. I cannot count the times I visited CHSM even after graduation. And now I am very happy I did that when I was free to visit anytime.

College of Holy Spirit
Study area under the chapel. Photo by Anson Yu

Arlene Abad-Soncuya, HS ‘71 

The mushroom tables bring back memories of bonding with friends over schoolwork and talks of crushes. There are too many stories about classmates, schoolmates, teachers, Sisters, manangs, vendors, etc. School life brings out the best or breaks you. At that moment in time you will not recognize the meaning of it until you become an adult and exposed to reality. The values embedded in the pedagogy unconsciously comes out in a CHSian’s work and family life. 

At the campus tour last week, I noticed they have retained the structures, the rooms, except for little changes. So the feeling of nostalgia was more pronounced. I had a heavy heart and missed my classmates, the naughtiness and the good times, especially during our high school years. Now that the school is closing, I feel as if I’m “naulila.” I have been nurtured by CHSM through my pre-adult years. Yes it may just be a building complex but its soul made what I am now. Ang aking pagkatao at paniniwala. The CHSM principle of Truth in Love has seeped into my veins. Gano’n pala yun.

College of Holy Spirit
The elementary school building. Photo by Anson Yu

Yolanda Reyes Lim, HS ‘68

I truly loved the peacefulness of the grotto. I will always remember the serenity I experienced in my solitude and quiet times whenever I was able to go there.

One of my most vivid memories is trying to help a friend get her uniform cleaned by the manangs after she spilled some Coke on it.  We almost got expelled! We went to the laundry room to ask if the manangs could remove the stain, however, before we got there, the kindergarten recess bell rang! We were not allowed to be in the area so we knew we would be in trouble. We panicked and ran to the restroom, and hid inside ONE cubicle.  Door locked, I sat on the ‘throne,’ raised my feet, and my friend sat on the tank behind me. This way they won’t see shoes if they peeked in the space below the door. Next thing we knew, a nun’s head was looking over at us from above the door. Kids waiting to use the stall called on her, asking why the door was locked but and yet there were no visible shoes! The nun took us to our high school principal who told us we should be expelled for being together in one kinder cubicle. Why were we together in an area we shouldn’t be at? Thank goodness our Biology teacher vouched for our character and got us out of trouble!  

I am extremely sad that we are losing our school, that we will lose access to our beautiful buildings and campus forever, that we might even see these buildings demolished! It will be a tragedy to our school’s long history, a tragedy to a precious heritage landmark of our city.

College of Holy Spirit
Covered pathway that leads to the elementary building. Photo by Anson Yu.

Deanna Go Bio,  AB ‘58, BSC ‘59

Our campus was an oasis of tranquility in the urban jungle of Manila. There were fewer buildings at that time and a lot more green space and fruit-bearing trees. To grow up in the heartland of Chinatown in Binondo and to have that whole expanse of greenery around me was a luxury quite unknown to me then. 

I remember staking claim of the second table on the side of the Social Hall for our group which included Roxane Mendoza, Jeepers Paredes and Kiks Francisco. That spot became our meeting place before and in between classes, a place to do homework and not miss what’s going on with the rest of the school. It was right under the library and was the main thoroughfare for students and teachers coming and going. It was the coolest place to be—in terms of the day’s temperature as well as one’s standing on campus.  

I spent my primary and secondary school years in Chinese schools. Entering Holy Ghost College was a milestone for me. It was my choice to go to college there and I had to convince my parents because I wanted to pursue a double degree, Liberal Arts and Commerce, with two majors – English and Accounting. Holy Ghost College  was known for its strength in the arts and science so it was the school for me. 

I was actually inspired by three young teachers: Miss Eladia Posadas, Miss Elay Caro and Miss Teresa Miller, fresh graduates of Holy Ghost College School of Liberal Arts and Education. The leap from the French-Canadian high school to the German college was good academically; but the scholarship style was something to adjust to. Gone were the smiling faces and the warm touches of the French-Canadian sisters. Instead, there was this take-no-prisoner style of discipline (at least to me then) and a no-nonsense approach to study. 

The first three months were nerve-wracking until my English professor, Miss Isabel Hizon, zoomed in on me. She was the quintessential teacher who in her quiet way (I swear she spoke only in whispers) challenged me in a way that my curious mind was never before stimulated. She was feared by a lot of students but loved and revered by most who had the courage to step into that first classroom.  

The CHS chapel
The CHS chapel. Photo by Anson Yu.

I ended up having a lot of fun in the five years I spent within the insurmountable walls of the school. Looking back now 63 years after I stepped off the stage, I realize I was getting a world-class education without even knowing it – that’s the beauty of learning the Holy Spirit way.

The last time I was in school was in 2019 when I was visiting Manila.  When the Sisters  announced the closing in November 2020, the impact was not quite immediate.  But as April 2022 approaches, the sadness gnaws at me intermittently and leaves little pockets of void in my psyche. When it first hit me months ago, I took pen and paper and wrote the following:         

“Clang!" echoes down Mendiola Street as the gates of CHSM slam shut to eternity.  And quiet reigns over the halls as the trees shed their last leaf, our Lady in the Grotto her last tear and the children march their last step off the Paraclete stage into the pages of history.

C'est fini. It's the end of 109 years of teaching and learning, of questions and answers, of seeking and finding, of searching and discovering. An end of an era that will live on in the memories and in the lives of all those who have walked through the corridors, sat in the classrooms, grown in knowledge and blossomed in grace and goodness; and the start for us to let the world know that once upon a time a great citadel of learning stood lively and stately on Mendiola Street.