The Miriam College (MC) along Katipunan Avenue, in Quezon City, began in 1926 when the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic established a teacher training program in 1926. The first school would be known as the Malabon Normal School, and it had a total of 300 pupils in grade school, high school and normal school upon its opening. In 1938, the Maryknoll sisters transferred the pre-school department to Isaac Peral Street (now United Nations Avenue), in Ermita, Manila, and shortly after move the Normal School in 1938. The new campus was named Maryknoll Normal School, and they renamed the Malabon school to Saint James Academy, which was a balance between Saint James the Apostle and Fr. James Anthony Walsh (1867-1936), the co-founder of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. In 1980, the Maryknoll sisters would turn over full administration of Saint James Academy to the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena.
In Manila, the new school was renamed the Maryknoll Normal College, and it became the only Catholic college to offer nursing at that time. With an ever growing population, the campus had to keep changing addresses, with the next transfer was to the nearby Apolinario Mabini Street, and then to Admiral George Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard). And in 1948 the school moved once again to Pennsylvania Avenue of (now León Guinto Street) in Malate, and finally to its permanent home along Katipunan Avenue, in Quezon City, in 1952, and it was renamed as the Maryknoll College. And in 1977, the Maryknoll sisters turned over ownership and management lay administrators, and the school was once again renamed as Miriam College in 1989, after Sister Miriam Thomas Thornton (1910-2006) who served the school for over 50 years as its president.
The Basic Education Unit (BEU) complex of Miriam College is located at the northern part of the MC campus, and is comprised of the Child Study Center, Lower School, Middle School, High School, Miriam College-Southeast Asian Institute for the Deaf (MC-SAID), and Miriam Adult Education (MAE). The whole BSU is situated in a very hilly area, which is reminisce of the hilly landscape of Ossining, New York State, where the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers (Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America; Maryknoll Society), Maryknoll Sisters (Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic), and Maryknoll Lay Missioners are all housed.
The start of many Maryknollers/Miriam Students is at the Miriam College-Child Study Center (MC-CSC). Here, the next generation of women leaders experience their early education with the MC “Our First Step” (pre-nursery), Nursery, and Kindergarten programs. In the past, the MC-CSC was exclusively for girls, who came to school in bring dresses of white, pink, blue, light green, or yellow as their uniforms. Now the MC has opened its doors to the young boys, especially from the adjoining La Vista and Loyola Grand Heights subdivisions, the children’s uniforms have changed to collared shirts of the same color scheme, and matched with a light khaki pants for both genders.
At the MC Lower School (MCLS) and the MC Middle School (MCMS)were once both part of the MC Grade School (MCGS), hence they share the same area and facilities, although they have separate administration departments. The split was a response to the enactment of the K-12 program of the Department of Education (DepEd), in 2016.Upon entering the MCLS, the girls start wearing the distinct Miriam uniform of the cream colored blouse that is matched bright green skirt. The MCGS administration offices are housed in the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary Hall, which was completed in 1959.
There are three distinct buildings of interest (to me) in the MCGS area, and one of these is the MCGS Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel. Constructed between the late 1950s and the early 1960s, the chapel is a simple modernist structure, with strong linear accents of dark mahogany in the interior. But what is most interesting about the chapel is the façade of the eastern rear wall of the chapel, with its relief of Saint Dominic (Dominic Félix de Guzmán, 1170-1221) kneeling at the feet of the Blessed Madonna and Christ Child, as he kisses a rosary at the hands of the Blessed Virgin. This sculpture illustrates the Dominican roots of the Maryknoll Order, as it honors the founder of the order, Saint Dominic, and the saint’s vision of the Blessed Virgin in 1206.
The next building of interest at the MCGS is the MC Center Applied Music, which offers lessons in various musical disciplines to students and outsiders. The music center started in 1954, when a new teacher, Ms. Gregoria S. Cayco, was allowed to give piano lessons to Maryknoll students. This would grow for year, as other students also asked to be taught other disciplines, such as guitar, violin, voice, and much more. In fact, the library of the music center was named after Ms. Cayco, in 1999, three years after her retirement from 42 years of teaching music at the MC. Another hall in the music center is the La Porte Music Hall for recitals and other events. This was named after Sister Mary Clotilde “Lottie” La Porte (1904-1999), in 1982, a Maryknoll sister who had been teaching in the whole Maryknoll system from Malabon, to manila, to Baguio, to Lucena, and finally in Quezon City, where she retired in 1976 at the age of 72, after 49 years of service. Complementing the nurturing of talent of the Miriam students is the adjacent MC Ballet Center, which opened in the 1990s. Presently, the Ballet Center is managed and taught by the teachers from Shirley Halili-Cruz’s dance school, since 2007.
The third building of interest in the MCGS compound is the MCGS Cafetorium, which is a two storied building that host the cafeteria at the ground floor and a multi-purpose hall at the second floor. While the cafeteria is the center of student daily activity during class breaks and lunch, the second floor is use for meetings, school presentations, graduations and moving up ceremonies, sports fests, and even the occasional masses. This is of interest to me, for the many school functions that I have attended at the MC, include the Family Day and Father-Daughter Day.
Finally there is the MC High School compound, which is at the northeast area of the MC campus. Many of the buildings in the campus, especially in the BEU, were designed by Architect Augusto M. Concio. Concio designed many of the new buildings in the MC, including the following:
Miriam College Foundation Inc.
Child Study Center (Angel Raphael)
High School Building (Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Hall)
Grade School Building (St. Therese of Lisieux Hall)
College Building (Paz Adriano Hall)
Arch. Augusto Horacio Manalo Concio is a second generation architect, being the child of Arch. Cesar Homero Rosales Concio Sr. (1907-2003) to continue in his father’s footsteps. Concio first took his studies in chemical engineering, at the University of the Philippines, the he followed it with his architectural studies at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and finally he pursued urban planning at the Harvard University, in the USA. In his most career, Concio worked in the international style, with notable designs builds for the Maryknoll College and UST. Concio also served as the dean of the UST College of Architecture (1974-1980&2001-2004), and now focuses on his private practice.
Many of the buildings designed by Arch. Concio are named after Marian titles at the MCGS and named after female saints at the MCHS, which was to done to inspire the students to aspire to the same principles of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. In the MCGS compound, there are the Immaculate Heart of Mary Hall, the Our Lady of Fatima Hall, and the Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Hall. In the MSHS, there are the St. Bernadette Hall, St. Therese of Lisieux Hall and the St. Joan of Arc Hall. The only exception to the names among the MCHS buildings is the St. Joseph Hall, which complements the Marian devotion, with the devotion to the Holy Family.
Inside the MCHS St. Joan of Arc Hall, there are portraits of all the past and present principals, as rendered by several unidentified high school teachers. Presented in these pencil portraits are:
1960-1962 Sr. Anne Marie
1962-1963 Sr. Mary John Irene
1963-1969 Sr. Rose Anthony
1969-1973 Preciosa Pimentel
1973-1982 Amelia Soncuya
1983-1995 Paulita M. Uglado
1995-2001 Julieta S. Reyes
2001-2004 Suzanne G. Yupangco
2004-2005 Dr. Ma. Rosario O. Lapus (rendered by Ricky Guevarra in 2005)
2005-present Dr. Ma. Corazon R. Reyes
Also in the St. Joan of Arc Hall is a trophy case, with two notable trophies that were created by the National Artist for Sculpture, Abdulmari Imao. These are trophies were awarded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), in its annual Ani ng Dangal (Harvest of Honor), to MCHS for its High School Glee Club in 2013 and the MCHS dance troupe Sayawatha in 2016.
Abdulmari Asia Imao (1936-2014) was born in the island of Jolo, and proceeded to Manila, where he earned a degree in fine arts from the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1959. Imao later took a master of fine arts degree from the University of Kansas in 1962, and took further studies at the Rhode Island School of Design and Columbia University in New York City. Imao’s sculptures and paintings draw inspiration from the Tausug and Maranao people’s cultures, of which he is a part of. Imao received the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award in 1968, the Gawad CCP parasaSining from the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1990, and the was honored as the 1st Moslem National Artist in 2006
An interesting building in the MCHS compound is the MC High School Business and Trade Center, where the students are encouraged to nurture their entrepreneurial skills. And at the ground floor of this two-story building is the MC High School Chapel, which seems contradictory to the activity above.
All around the MC campus are many green spaces, which is part of Miriam College’s environmental advocacy. Separating the MCHS and the college compound is the MC Mini-Forest Park, full of endemic tree species. One interesting tree is a Balete Tree (genus Ficus) at the MCHS grounds, with the 1913 poem “Trees” by Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) etched on a brass plaque at the foot of the tree.
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree
All around the MC Mini-Forest Park are areas for contemplation and prayer, especially in the area near the MCHS. These were probably installed by the Maryknoll sisters to keep their students from the temptations of teenage rebellion.
These places of contemplation and prayer, as well as the many religious artworks found throughout the campus, are reminders that Miriam College is a Catholic school, despite the exit of the Maryknoll sisters and the present lay administration. This strong adherence to Christian principles has made many leaders from the Maryknoll / Miriam College alumnae, including 19 recipients of “The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service” (TOWNS) award. And with its trust on environmental advocacy, peace education, and the nurturing of the arts, there much more to expect with the latest students of the MC.