The groundwork for a public school system was laid out by the first batch of pioneer American teachers the moment they arrived on board the transport Thomas in September 1901. These teachers found assignments in 19 Pampanga towns. Initially, the plan was to set up at least one primary school (Grade 1-4) in each municipality; the 2nd phase was for these American instructors to recruit and train native Kapampangan teachers, which led to a creation of a teachers’ institute in San Fernando.
Soon, the need for a more advanced level of education was answered with the opening of 5 intermediate schools (grade 5-7) in Pampanga. This was in 1905, a year after the provincial capital moved to San Fernando from Bacolor. Eight more intermediate schools were added as the first decade of the 20th century ended. It was during this period that the Pampanga High School was created.
In 1908, the classrooms of the future Pampanga High were located in downtown San Fernando in a big house known as “Buison Building”. The rise in student population necessitated the transfer to a more commodious concrete building along the highway near the Provincial Capitol in Barrio Santo Niño. Eventually, this site was taken over by the popular Pampanga Hotel and Restaurant. The Main Building, built in 1912, was in use until 1935, when it was relegated to just an annex. The University of the Philippines-Extension Program held classes there when floods overran San Fernando in 1995. Now with just the framework remaining, it is being looked at as the future site of the Kapampangan Cultural Center.
In its early years, Pampanga High School was headed by principal John W. Osborn, a Thomasite from Bringhamton, New York and a 1901 graduate of Western Reserve University, Ohio (earlier, he was also minding the affairs of the Angeles Elementary School). As expected, the curriculum was a merry mix of serious academics , manual training and sports. In 1906, for instance, the high school’s baseball team was good enough to be fielded against a rival school in Bulacan. In 1912, nineteen students graduated from the school, led by salutatorian Macaria Roque and valedictorian Wenceslao Vitug.The school gradually built a reputation for having a strong academic skew as gleaned from the performance of its graduates during the schoolyear 1918-1919. The graduates fared just about average for Filipino students in collegiate scholastic standing. An educational survey conducted in 1925 further affirmed the quality of Pampanga High education. Of the 31 graduates from the class of 1921, 14 were still pursuing higher education, 11 were teaching and 1 was engaged in his own business.
Serious education aside, school days at Pampanga High were also replete with much-awaited fun activities. Aside from sportsfests, annual searches for Miss Pampanga High School were conducted. In February 1927, for instance, the winner was Sixta Serrano. Her court included Florencia Sunga (Miss Freshie), Lucila Dabu (Miss Sophomore), Antonia Yosuico (Miss Junior) and Rosa Naguit (Miss Senior).
When American educators started moving into more specialized branches of education and administration, native teachers took over the management of primary and secondary schools. The last American principal was Charles G. Whitewell whose tenure ended in 1935. He was succeeded by Demetrio Andres who served until 1939. During this particular Commonwealth period, the high school moved again to a new building along Teopaco Street, known as High School Boulevard.
Owing to World War II, classes were suspended from 1942-1944, resuming only in 1945. Even then, batch of ‘42 received their diplomas in 1946 in special graduation rites. Today, after almost a century of existence, the Pampanga High School, with its honored history and its reputable list of great alumni, continues its tradition of learning excellence, shaping Kapampangan teens into tomorrow’s national leaders and achievers.
(8 March 2003)