The Campus: The Way It Was

Many of us were “born and raised” in Stella Maris College; that is, we started at this school in kindergarten or first grade, then went on to the primary and intermediate grades together.  By the time we graduated from Elementary school, we had known each other for more than half our lives.  Most of us continued through high school together at Stella Maris.  Although some went to other high schools, we are all united by our life journey during our formative years; we are ALL true-blue Stellans.

Throughout our school days, we were growing up and we were changing, evolving … physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

But we weren’t the only ones changing.  Our campus and the city around it were changing too.

When we started school, there were only a handfull of buildings on campus.  Most of the school grounds were made up of expansive, lush, green lawns.  There were designated areas where we could run around to our hearts content, and even play soccer, vollyball, and softball.  At that time, the school grounds were bordered by Aurora Boulevard (front of the campus), Oxford Street (cafeteria side), Columbia (back of campus), and Cambridge Street (chapel side).

There was only one academic building when we started, and it was shared by the kindergarten, elementary, high school, and college departments.  It also housed our auditorium.

The SMC building, 1965
The auditorium is on the left side of the building; the classrooms occupied three stories (on the right). Near the auditorium, closer to Cambridge Street (rear of the building), were the scince lab, home economics room, library, and clinic. The canteen, located behind the school building, was near Oxford Street.
The main building in 2017 looks very much like it did when we started school, but the expansive lawns are gone.

All of us would line up early in the morning for the Flag Ceremony and the Pledge of Allegiance and to listen to announcements from Sister Directress.  Traffic would stop on Aurora Boulevard as our loud speakers played the national anthem.  (The Pledge of Allegiance at that time, by the way, was eerily similar to the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, except that “Philippines” was substituted for “United States of America.”)  English was the medium of instruction, our curriculum followed American standards, and we used American textbooks, as was the norm at the time for private learning institutions in the Philippines.

 

One of the front lawns (closer to the Cambridge side) had a pattern design of a star.

Towards the back of the school property were the Chapel of the Lilies and the Mary’s Grotto (a replica of Our Lady of Lourdes grotto in Lourdes, France, where Our Lady appeared to Saint Bernadette).  The convent, where the nuns lived, was right next to these two structures.

The chapel is on the left, grotto is in the center, and the convent is on the right.

 

The SMC Grotto is a replica of the one where Our Lady appeared to Saint Bernadette in Lourdes, France.
Greek letters “Alpha” and “Omega” adorned the chapel windows. These letters represented God, the “Beginning” and “End.”
There was a quiet garden retreat behind the chapel.

Although the playground (with monkey bars, slides, see-saws, and other play equipment) was on the front lawn near Oxford Street, there was still plenty of room for a good soccer game.

When we were in the primary grades, they built a beautiful fountain between the main building and Aurora Boulevard.  The centerpiece of the fountain was Mary, the Star of the Sea, and the statue of Mary faced Aurora Boulevard.

Directly behind the fountain, on the second floor balcony, was the flag we’d hoist every morning and  lower every afternoon.  Grade 4A’s classroom was directly behind that balcony, a position of honor, so to speak.  Grade 4A was in charge of taking care of the flag.  At the slightest hint of rain, the flag monitors would run out, lower the flag, bring it indoors, fold it, and put it away before it could get wet.

The school was attracting a lot of students, and we needed more room.  A second academic building was erected between the original building and the chapel.

From the 1965 yearbook: The new building was referred to as “The College Building,” but it was shared by both high school and college students. This picture was taken from the point of view of someone near the chapel.

We were still in Elementary when the new building opened, but since the high school and college students moved to the new building, we now had plenty of room in what came to be called the “main building.”

The school built an extension for the canteen.  As sixth and seventh graders, we were at the top of the Elementary department food chain, so we quickly claimed that spot for our lunch breaks.    A bunch of us loved doing impromptu skits, and this was a perfect spot.

By the time we got to high school, they built a third academic building, this time, exclusively for college students.  It had its own library and speech lab.

After high school, the majority of us went to other schools for college, but Thelma, Elsa, and Aurora got their college degrees from Stella Maris.

Thelma Johson (second from left), Elsa Arguelles (third from left), and Aurora del Pilar (fouth from left). Although the school uniforms in the picture above appear to have a greenish hue, the uniforms actually consisted of white blouses and blue skirts.

 

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