Proving its mettle througha century and beyond

The St. Mary’s School of Sagada will celebrate 120 years of excellence in education on 8 December 2024. This is the legacy the school is sharing with the Philippines and the world.

The interesting history of SMS started when the American missionaries of the Episcopal Church in the United States sent their members to the Philippines at the start of the century with the intent to empower the marginalized people of the Mountain Province in the areas of education, literature and the sciences while being imbued with the strong Christian values and a sense of purpose to God and country. 

This strong mission and clear vision aimed to establish Christian model communities to serve as good examples to the Filipino people. Such was the dream of Rev. John Staunton when he and his fellow missionaries built the mission of St. Mary the Virgin, St. Theodore’s Hospital and the St. Mary’s School in Sagada, Mountain Province.

About a century later, the fruits of the mission had become a great success with its graduates emerging as leaders and movers as distinguished members in the areas of education, medicine, nursing, engineering and church work, extending beyond the areas of Sagada and the Cordilleras into the other parts of the Philippines and the world.

In 1962, St. Mary’s School was cited by the national government for ranking ninth among all the high schools nationwide based on the results of a nationally administered standardized examination. This quest for excellence has endured through all the trials and challenges the school had to undergo, from the problems ranging from the effects of Second World War and the clash of authoritarian policies of the government vis-a-vis the ideals espoused by the St. Mary’s mission and vision.

Despite all these tribulations and problems, a group of its distinguished alumni, under the leadership of Frank Longid, set up the school’s incorporation. Although SMS would retain its identity and mission as a church-related institution, the new corporation would take on the operations of the school from the diocese, including management and finance.

Under the robust leadership of Rufino B. Bomasang, the Board of Trustees, key alumni, both here and abroad, involved everyone in this new quest to include institutional corporations and non-Igorot individuals. Their new objective was to restore the school’s former strength to deliver quality education and to surpass even its past achievements.

After gaining the trust and confidence of the community, they all united together: its key alumni, individuals and corporations who sponsored infrastructure projects like the renovation of the classrooms, modernizing the science laboratories, the auditorium, library, purchase of the latest textbooks, a new computer lab including computer units, the modern gymnasium, among others.

Because of the positive response to the initiatives done by the Board, many more alumni rallied to the cause, organizing themselves into alumni chapters with the aim of providing scholarships to enable financially needy students to have access to the quality of an SMS education.

As a leading institution of learning, SMS has patterned its curriculum and instructional methodology after those of the best international schools.

Today, St. Mary’s School of Sagada, Mountain Province has proven its mettle and has stood the test of time. Its distinguished and successful alumni are proud to have been educated in this revered institution of learning as they continue to bring light as a beacon of hope to the Filipino nation and its people with the sterling 120 years of legacy and history to prove it.

The author is one of 100 Most Influential Global Filipinas for her books and advocacy work. She was recognized as one of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS). As a social historian she has written 45 coffee table books in the last 24 years found in select libraries around the world.