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"Understand the past,
know the present &
look to the future"
• Homily delivered on December 27, 2005 to the alumni of the Leyte National High School on the
occasion of the Centennial Foundation Anniversary of the institution; the celebrant and homilist is the
parish priest of St. Joseph Parish, San Jose, Tacloban City at the same time Superintendent of
Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Palo.
by

Msgr. Ramón Aguilos
In this gathering I think I am one of the very few who have no legitimate connection with the Leyte
National High School. I am neither an alumnus nor a former teacher. My parents are -- my mother
belongs to Class 1948; my father was in that same class from 1944 till 1946. Among my six other
siblings three of them passed through these halls: Maribel of LRDHS 1977, Raul, the LTO Director,
of LRDHS 1978; Rachel of LRDHS 1982. My late aunt, Corazón Aguilos, taught Filipino here for
more than two decades. The other concelebrating priests here are former students. I feel like a
sore thumb sticking out. Just the same, thank you, organizers, for inviting me over. It is a privilege
to celebrate this mass with you, LNHS alumni, on the occasion of the 100th founding anniversary
of your alma mater.

There’s a quote that I bring to this assembly on this once-in-a-lifetime occasion: respice, adspice,
prospice, a Latin motto that can be loosely rendered as “understand the past, know the present,
look to the future.” For it is on an occasion like the centennial celebration of the Leyte National High
School that past, present, and future converge. It is what this school and you former students are
about as an educational community. This homecoming puts you to the task of recalling where you
have been, celebrating who you are, and faithfully looking to the future with hope and courage.

The so-called “past” in this school began in 1905, the year it was established. Weeks before today
I wanted to do research on some historical vignettes of the school. I even sent a message to an
unofficial website of the Leyte National High School requesting for a brief historical account, but
there was no answer. So I rummaged through sources that offer accounts on the history of the
Philippine educational system, as well local history, and this is what I have gathered:

Seven years earlier in 1898 Spain was defeated by the American forces, and this paved the way for
a Republic under a Revolutionary Government. The schools maintained by Spain for more than
three centuries were closed for the time being but were reopened. An adequate secularized and
free public school system during the first decade of American rule was established. A highly
centralized public school system was installed in 1901. But there was a heavy shortage of
teachers so the Secretary of Public Instruction was authorized to bring to the Philippines 600
teachers from the U.S.A. They were the Thomasites. The high school was established in 1902. I
presume, then, that it was on account of these conditions that your dear Leyte High was
established three years after in 1905.

I know this is a homily, and not a professorial lecture on Philippine educational system. So I won’t
go into many details in history. But if the forerunners of this school were alive today, they would
gladly share that as educators and administrators in this school they had a mission in their heart
and mind: to transform this swampland/cogon-infested area into a fertile and lavish garden, a
thriving educational institution.

But indeed, I wish I were able to get at least a brief account of the history of LNHS before coming
over to celebrate this mass. I wanted to know who the persons behind this institution were; who
were the early architects of the dream. Certainly they were too many. They were dreamers, I might
venture to say, that they wanted a secondary school in the province of Leyte that would help the
young people meld into the 20th century which had just started.

What was the 20th century, if we might ask? In the first half of the century just passed, the world-
culture had already experienced changes brought about by science and technology. The world
stood on the brink of nuclear holocaust. Ideologies competed for allegiance and divided the world:
fascism and Nazism against the democracies; communism against capitalism; poor nations
against rich nations; there were two great World Wars.

What about Tacloban? The earliest development was when Tacloban port was opened to world
commerce. Before World War II, Tacloban was the commercial, education, social and cultural
center of the Province of Leyte. Leyte High School was among the leading institutions along with
the Leyte Normal School, Leyte Trade School, Holy Infant Academy and the Tacloban Catholic
Institute.

Those of you who belong to the old vintage remember that on May 25, 1942, the Japanese Forces
landed in this city, and started the three-year occupation of the island, the darkest in the history of
Tacloban and the entire nation. But Leyte was the first to be liberated by the Americans on October
20, 1944, which signaled the eventual victory of the American Forces and the fulfillment of
MacArthur’s famous promise on "I Shall Return."

Tacloban was also made the temporary seat of the Commonwealth Government and
subsequently the temporary capital of the Philippines until the final liberation of the country. The
provincial government of Leyte and the municipal government of Tacloban were re-established.
All through these decades Tacloban has grown by leaps and bounds to become the premier city in
Eastern Visayas and the gateway to the region. Leyte High School became a witness to all these
events.

Now, Tacloban has become a city where people come from various strata of society: professionals
and common workers, urban persons and rural persons; it, too has become a melting pot of ethnic
groupings: the Warays from Samar melding with the Leyte counterparts; the Cebuanos from
southern and western parts of Leyte finding a home in this region; the Bicolanos, the Tagalogs,
name them, they now are fusing themselves into the culture of the Tacloban Warays.

One hundred years is a long period, indeed. And as you celebrate its centenary, you need to
acknowledge the architects of a dream that has made Leyte National High School what it is now.
You have to clearly understand the present, and look to the uncertain future trusting in God's
provident care. You are today grateful recipients of the forward thinking and initiative of the people
who braved the storm and laid the foundations of this school.

While you remember the courage and vision that drove the architects of this school to dream, plan,
and build an institution, you nonetheless are asked to understand the present and courageously
confront the challenges of the future. I am from Tacloban myself and I can say that the Tacloban
that I knew in my childhood is far different from the Tacloban that we know at present. There has
been a major change in the social and cultural climate. The city wants to be in synch with a world
whose technology is growing at an exponential rate. Again, we look to the educational process as
a tool and key to unlocking the doors of future opportunities and success. Understanding and
knowledge must precede all else. Before judgment, before conflict, before sealing ourselves off in
some reclusive and restrictive environment or, worse yet, running from it, we must see education
as the key in understanding the path for the future.

If one thing can be said about the last one hundred years, it is this: change is inevitable. As it
happened over the past one hundred years, it will happen further on in the future. Leyte National
High has beautiful and strongly built buildings, but these will go. Approaches to education might
change. Who knows, the language of the school might change, too. I will not be surprised if, in a
few years time, these high school students, while learning English, will likewise be proficient in
Filipino as well, and I can now observer that they really are. I dread the day, though, when they won’
t be able to speak Waray-waray fluently. Since this ethnic dialect should, to my opinion, be
preserved as well. Priorities will change. Athletic and cultural programs will change. But all through
these years, I believe that there is something that must not change – and this is the soul of Leyte
National High School. I refer to the values and principles that are morally and ethically absolute;
values that, even if this is a public school and caters to men and women of all faiths, creed and
cult, is in keeping with core values of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the bedrock of our existence
and his values should never be deleted in the mission of any school, whether public or private,
sectarian or non-sectarian. Jesus Christ is our Lord and God. This school’s leadership, faculty,
students should have. Jesus Christ as the standard. Jesus Christ must be the model for teaching.
Jesus Christ must be the measure for judgment. Jesus Christ must be the way to evaluate the
past. Jesus Christ the Emmanuel must be acknowledged as being with us in the present. Jesus
Christ must be the way and guide to the year 2006 that is approaching and beyond. It is the best of
who you were, are and will be.

LNHS is facing the future of change and possibility. The students are to know who they are; where
they've been. They must now drink deeply from the same cup of courage and confident faith as did
the architects of this school. I call on the administrators, teachers and employees of this century-
old institution: reinvest yourselves in the process of seeking truth and understanding while
simultaneously reminding yourselves of who you were as an academic community; let them place
their trust in Jesus Christ. He is their –or your-- path to the future, their and your investment to the
next one hundred years.

Today’s affair is a major segment of the third part of the LNHS Centennial Grand Alumni
Homecoming festivities. Finally, after nearly a year’s work of planning, with tons of blood, sweat
and tears of the organizers, celebration is now in its upbeat mood.

But I advise you all: continue to dream. Move to the future. The world is very different now than it
was one hundred years ago. Every day brings another advance, another leap forward. The good
old days are both good and old. But the future is where you, students and former students, move. If
this high school means anything now it is because it leads, not follows, the way to the future. That
is your challenge. That is your responsibility. You cannot live in the past nor can you repeat it. The
Leyte National High School cannot merely be one of the institutions of Tacloban that provide a
secondary education. It must step up. It must stand up. It must move as the leader. You cannot let
the future down.

And so you dream this dream. But if you dream alone, a dream is all it will ever be. Share this
dream. Support this dream. Make it your own. The one thing that unites you all today and the days
hereafter during the centennial homecoming is that you all studied in the Leyte National High
School. May that unity be the one thing that translates a dream into a reality.

Thank you.
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Leyte National High School
Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines
Last updated: Dec. 30, 2005
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