The coed St. Joseph’s College of Quezon City (SJCQC) is the oldest standing structure along E. Rodriguez Sr. Boulevard, in the New Manila district of Quezon City. Opening in 1932 as the all-girls St. Joseph’s Academy and Convent, the SJCQC is run by Franciscan Sororum Franscicalium Immaculada Conceptione De Mater Dei (Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, SFIC), who had first arrived in the Philippines in 1929. Upon the invitation of Bishop Constant Jürgens, CICM (1879-1952), five Dutch nuns, Mother Chantal Tummers, Sr. Margaretha Hermus, Sr. Bertholda Bosch, Sr. Catherine Hendrickx, and Sr. Alphonsa Jacobs, first started their mission at Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. The SFIC sisters’ congregation was officially known as the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, where the established SFIC Nueva Vizcayan novitiates in the towns of Bayombong (est. 1929), Aritao (est. 1930), and Solano (est. 1931); before moving to Manila to continue their mandate to educate the Filipino youth.
With the 1932 founding of the St. Joseph’s Academy and Convent, along the España Extension Boulevard, under the guidance of the first school directress, Mother Magdala Verhuizen. When the school opened in 1933, it started with an initial forty-one primary school students, and ballooned to ninety-five students at the end of enrollment. Before classes started, a summer course in Bachelor of Science in Education (BSE) was offered to the SFIC sisters to qualify them to teach in the high school, which would open on the next year.
St. Joseph’s Academy and Convent Chapel was first completed in 1932, and was followed by the Administration Building in 1934. Much of the buildings still remains intact to this day, with numerous renovations over the decades, including the adding of a third floor on the administration building after the war. Aside from the extra storey, some of post-war additions to the building are the concrete jalis or concrete screens to cut the glare of the sun, while letting in the breeze; and the installation of the concrete statue of Saint Joseph as the father of the Catholic Church and patron of the school.
During World War II (1938-1945), the St. Joseph’s Academy and Convent was converted into a military hospital by the Japanese, while the sisters were sent to an internment camp in Los Baños, Laguna Province. Although the school was not damaged in the bombings that devastated Manila, the returning sisters could not immediately start classes, as the American military had now taken the school as their own hospital.
As operations at the St. Joseph’s Academy and Convent normalized, the school officially changed its name to St. Joseph’s College of Quezon City in 1948. Aside from embracing the name of the city, the new name coincided with the opening of the college department with programs in education, liberal arts, secretarial science and music. This lead to a flourishing of the performing arts at the school, with students Zenaida Amador (1933-2008) of HS batch 1949 and Sonia Cubillo Malasarte-Roco (born 1944) of HS batch 1960 and AB 1964 staging note presentations, and succeeding in the professional world. To accommodate the demands of such highly professional performances, the Mater Dei Auditorium (Latin: Mother of God) was opened in 1962. And in 2008, the Mater Dei Auditorium was renovated by the friends of Zenaida Amador, as a tribute to her contribution to Philippine theater, and recognition of her drama roots at the St. Joseph’s College.
At the center of the campus is the Jürgens Hall Dormitory, which was named after Bishop Constant Jürgens, CICM (1879-1952). After his ordination in 1903, Jürgens was sent to the Philippines to administer to the Igorot groups in the Cordilleras, of Northern Luzon. When Jürgens was named as the bishop of Tuguegarao, his diocese would encompass the three provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and Cagayan. To help him in his mission, Jürgens requested the SFIC General Superior, Sr. Isidora de Rooy, to send some sisters for the apostolate of education. The dormitory is shaped like a fish, to represent Bishop Jürgens’ advocacy to use education to bring the women of the Philippines closer to God.
The Saint Joseph’s High School is located at C. Tummers Hall and Infirmary, which was named after Sr. Chantal Tummers, the Mission Superior who had led the first congregation of SFIC sisters to the Philippines, in 1929. Sr. was also key in the development of the SFIC novitiates in the towns of Bayombong, Aritao, and Solano, the in province of Nueva Vizcaya.
Behind the C. Tummers Building is the W. Aben Building, which is named after Mother Willemina Aben, the Mission Superior of the SFIC in the Philippines. In 1959, Sr. Aben was honored as Knight of the Order of Orange of Nassau (Ridder Inde Orde van Oranje-Nassau) in the name of Queen Juliana Louise Emma Marie Wilhelmina (1909-2004) of the Netherlands. Sr. Aben was cited for her expansion of the SFIC’s work in the Philippines, including the establishment of the St. Joseph School in San Jose City (est. 1946) and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College in Guimba (est. 1948) in the province of Nueva Ecijia, as well as the Little Flower Novitiate in Baguio City (est. 1950).
The St. Joseph’s Elementary School is located at the W. Schütten Hall, which is named after Sr. Johanna Wilhelmina Maria (Sister Willibrorda) Schütten (1920-2009), who served as the SFIC General Superior from 1989 to 1992. Sr. Schütten is also a recipient of the Ridder Inde Orde van Oranje-Nassau, which she received in 1998, from Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard (born 1938). During her work as the General Superior, Sr. Schütten would regularly visit the Philippines, and sought the 1989 establishment of the SFIC Novitiate and Postulancy in Marikina City.
There are two more buildings named after key member of the SFIC: the Vam Mert Building and M. Verhuizen Building. The first was named after Mother Theresia Van Miert, the founder and first General Superior 1844-1891. Born as Jacoba Petronella van Miert (1822-1891), Sr. Theresia responded to the request from her uncle, Pastor Bernardinus Van Miert, to establish a congregation in Veghel, Netherlands. And in 1843, Jacoba van Miert was joined by Maria Van Hoof and Maria de Rooy to institutionalize the Sororum Franscicalium Immaculada Conceptione De Mater Dei in 1844. The second building is named after Sr. Magdala Verhuizen, who served as the first Directress of St. Joseph’s Academy from 1932 to 1935; and accepted two more terms from 1948-1959 and 1961-1963. Sr. Magdala was honored by President Ferdinand Marcos with the Presidential Rizal Pro Patria Award in 1971, in recognition for her work in the field of education. Other notable SFIC sisters are Sr. Eustochia Koreman as the First Regional Superior, Sr. Agnes Encarnacion as the first Filipina Regional Superior, and Sr. Giovanni Faustino as the First Provincial Superior.
The St. Joseph’s Institute of Nursing is situated at the St. Bonaventure Building, which was named after the Italian Franciscan monk, scholastic theologian and philosopher San Bonaventura (1221-1274). Born Giovanni di Fidanza, served as the Minister General of the Franciscan Order and Archbishop of York, but he is best known for his written work, including the Meditationes Vitae Christi or Meditationes De Vita Christi (Meditations on the Life of Christ) codified in the Pseudo-Bonaventura.
Other buildings named after Franciscan saints are the St. Francis, St. Anthony, and St. Claire buildings. The first is named after the founder of the Franciscan Order, the Italian St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), patron saint of animals, the environment, merchants, and the Philippine cities of Naga and Cebu. The second building is christened after the Portuguese Saint Anthony of Padua (born Fernando Martins de Bulhões, 1195-1231), patron saint of lost objects. And finally the home of the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Guidance Office, is named after the Italian St Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), by a certain Tiberius of Assisi, in the late 1300s. Born Chiara Offreduccio, one of the first followers of St. Francis; and co-founder of the Order of Poor Ladies, which is now called the Order of Saint Clare.
Around the Saint Joseph’s College campus are pockets of green for contemplation and a break from the daily studies of the students. There are gardens dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi and St Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), and well as a garden of Our Lady of Lourdes. This grotto portrays the 1858 Marian apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Immaculada Concepciou (Immaculate Conception) to Saint Bernadeta Sobirós (1844-1879), in Lourdes France.
From the small novitiates in Nueva Vizcaya to the founding of the Saint Joseph’s Academy in the 1930s, the SFIC institutions have continued to throughout the country with its mission of education, as the SFIC opened schools such as the St. Joseph School of San Jose City (est. 1946) and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College of Guimba (est. 1948) in the Province of Nueva Ecijia, the La Sallete of Roxas College (est. 1963) and La Sallete of University of Santiago City (est. 2005) in the Isabela Province, the St. James School of Subic (est. 1967) and St. Francis Learning Center for indigenous people (est. 1995) in the Province of Zambales; the Colegio San Jose de Alaminos (est 1975), Dasol Catholic School (est. 1978) and Our Lady Help of Christians Seminary of Binmaley (est. 2011) in the Pangasinan province; the St. Joseph’s College of Balanga in the province of Bataan (est. 2001); the St. Jerome’s Academ of Bagbag in the Province of Nueva Vizcaya; the St. Joseph’s College of Rodriguez in the Rizal Province (est. 2009). With such a continued grown, the sisters of the SFIC have greatly contributed to the education of the Filipino youth, and the building of the nation.
My special thanks to Sister Ancilla S. Cabula, SFIC, SJCQC IMC Coordinator, for showing me around the St. Joseph’s College of Quezon City and allowing me to document the school.