The guiding spirit of St. John’s Academy – she is no other than the late Mrs. Concepcion Marquez-Gil.
Fate ended her purpose-driven stay on earth on December 7, 1993 but in the heart of every St. Johnite, she will eternally live. She was the Grand Old Lady who actualized her dream despite overwhelming odds. The realization of this dream has sharpened thousands of young minds, has discovered and honed the talents and skills of many youngsters.
Dubbed as an indefatigable leader with a winsome smile, an educator par excellence, an efficient model worker who hated any form of extravagance, Lola Eya, indeed, will always be the “candle that consumes itself to light the way for others.” She will constantly awaken the spirit of joy in learning and the love and devotion for teaching in all those whose lives she touched in diverse astounding ways.
“Great things are done by people who think great thoughts and then go out into the world to make their dreams come true.”… Lola Eya. St. John’s Great Matriarch, did just that.
When one sees Mrs. Concepcion M. (for Marquez) Gil seated on her chair in her office at the Fourth Floor of the Education Building, one gets a full view of lady in her late fifties reading some papers intently; face faintly furrowed with the lean of time; hairs neatly curled but thinning grey. She maybe mistaken for a prim old lady professor with that “common” teacher complex. But when one gets to know her fully one can not help but feel that she is every inch an educator. And her record admirably speaks for itself – 30 years of devoted teaching.
She could not exactly express how she felt when out of these collected years of devotion in moulding the teaching equipment of her students, she was awarded, a Gold Pin by the University Administration for completing thirty years in the profession at an impressive ceremony at the Gymnasium which marked one of the key activities during the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the College of Education. What she can fondly pay out for a reaction to the honor is her gratitude for doing her best out of her life in imparting what she knows. This happily stems from her view of life because she warmly believes that a person can feel out some deep satisfaction form life in making the best out of it.
Perhaps it would not be enough to lay wholly the weight of her dedication to individual discipline for it appears that the teaching urge runs in the blood of the family. An eloquent proof to this is the fact that of the seven sisters (out of the family of twelve) not one took other professions except the teaching career. But what really transcends this family tradition above a mere facet is the venture of some of her sisters as well as she in pooling their resources together to put up the St. John’s Academy (a community school in San Juan, Rizal). In that school, the three sisters externalized to solid action that rushing impulse to education with Mrs. Gil as the Directress, her sister Dolores Carballo as the High School Department Principal and Isabel another sister, as the Head of the Elementary Department.
Mrs. Gil was born on October 27, 1900. The fourth in the family of professionals, she belongs to a prominent family of Tayabas, Lucena. Her parents, the nee Maria Jurado and the late Don Gregorio Marquez were known to have cherished the dream of seeing all their children the ardent beneficiaries of the boon found right in the educated. However, while all the girls in the family shared the soft affections for teaching as a career the boys veered from what might have been one long and straight tapestry by responding to individual temperament. The result of this was the diversified choice of profession among them, ranging from Engineering, Banking, Architecture to Medicine. But what unifies them to a common measurement is their accomplishment in bringing to full fruition the best in them. One, (Manuel) is a very successful banker being the President of the Commercial Bank and Trust Company and one time vice-president of the Philippine National Bank. Another, (Carlos) is noted Radiologist in two hospitals of the city. The rest are equally contributory to the high family tradition. Completing the distinction of the family is the only son of Mrs. Gil, (Major Jose Gil of the Philippine Air Force), who earned for himself the unique place in Philippine Aviation by being one of the first four Filipinos to man a jet plane after rigid training abroad. He is now the Detachment Commander of the PAF.
Mrs. Gil is a product of public schools. Her first taste of education was when she enrolled in Tayabas Public School. After finishing her Elementary and High School there, she was sent by her parents to study at the State University. Her young heart yearned for wholesome intellectual enrichment along the tradition of all future marms so she found herself in the Liberal Arts row totally lost in the realms of studies for her Bachelor of Arts. Everything rolled on smoothly with but a year to go for her graduation, except for some thrilling decisions which “only” the human heart can understand. That was the time when the young Jose Gil then the UP Secretary, (he was the first Filipino to hold the position) vibrant with his promises for the future proposed to her to be his partner in life. They were married after that.
Life after her graduation had been one long continuous vindication to her commencement oath sharpened by diverse atmosphere as occasioned by her transfer from one institution to another. She had her first experience of the ebb and flow of teaching at the Philippine Women’s University. However, previous to this, she became already familiar with the hang of the profession when she wended her way to the La Concordia College to share the light of her knowledge with her pupils in that institution.
She taught for sometime in two institutions of Manila but in 1926, she was contacted by the Very Rev. Fr. Silvestre Sancho, O.P., now the Father Provincial and Vice Grand Chancellor of the University, who in his burning enthusiasm for the formation of the College of Education wished to form the nucleus of the teaching staff. That was how she came to be affiliated with the college. Of the four who constituted the first batch of the faculty, only Mrs. Gil remained with the college. She remembers vividly the college’s humble beginnings when all that the college constituted was but one class. However, as the years proudly, with an intensity equalled only the spirit with which they pioneered the incipience of the college, the stature which the college has grown – an imposting four story edifice equipped with the latest in modern facilities.
Apart from her classes which occupy most of her time, she can still devote part of it to some other fields of activity, the most conspicuous of which is her affiliation with the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. Her connection with this world-wide organization which levels its strength on women-building, dated in 1940 when it was chartered through congressional action. She became its National Executive in 1947 but had to give up that position in 1952. At present, she is its Second Vice-President and concurrently its International Commissioner. Her present positions enabled her to represent the GSP at the International Conference on Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in Oxford in 1950, Holland in 1952, and only last November she enplaned to New Delhi, India to participate at the First Conference of International Commissioners in the Asian Region.
Mrs. Gil starts the day by attending mass early in the morning at the San Juan Parish Church. After breakfast she attends to some matters which need her attention at the St. John’s Academy before going to her classes at UST where she stays until twelve. She returns early in the afternoon to attend to some more undergraduate classes before she teaches at the Graduate School early in the evening. Her capability to handle her English subjects are buttressed with the following credentials, namely, Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and Doctorate In Philosophy.
The stress exacted by her teaching, however finds an antidote with her diversions. For Mrs. Gil is a passionate lover of the beautiful. Her expression of the finer sensibilities of life assumes varied proportions from the tending of her garden side-tracked by her appreciation of music down to the more engaging challenge of literary criticism.
While she has her diversions, Mrs. Gil occasionally feels the ordeals of life. The latest which have been the most exacting, were imposed by the demise of her husband and her sister, Natividad. The former had been the Commissioner of Civil Service while the latter had been connected with the missionary office of Bishop Morrow in Krisnagar, India. The late Natividad Marquez is better known by the students as the poetess who had written some poems in the High School book of Prose and Poetry.
The death of her husband equally spelled the demise of a plan. For the couple have been nurturing the hope to go abroad and visit some scenic places like South America after her retirement. But the untimely call of her husband to the Great Beyond changed that plan. And instead of retiring she intends to continue her teaching and will prove more of service to her students “as long as I am able”. To the students of the university, then, she will remain the beloved head of the US’s English Department.
VISION & MISSION
St. John’s Academy was established sixty years ago with the modest objective to serve a homogenous group of San Juan families who would like to have their children prepared for college study should they so desire. The founders believed then that there was a need in the community for a school like St. John ‘s. True enough, St. John’s has since become a blessing to the community from which comes the greater portion of its enrolment.
St. John’s vision is to serve the needs of the community by developing in an intelligent studentry, wholesome values and attitudes, proficiency in communication skills, mathematics and the sciences and imbued with the commitment to serve others.
The school aims to provide education that will help students become capable of adapting to a changing world, develop learning skills, capability for continuous learning, creativity, mental and physical health, understanding others and to be responsible members of society.
St. John’s has maintained its rigid academic requirements with emphasis in the English subject. English being the language of instruction, it had to be taught and learned with marked competence. We have not been disappointed. English has been made a double period in all levels from grade one to high school.
Wholesome values and attitudes are integrated in every subject of the curriculum. Instructional objectives promote affective growth and development in children. While St. John’s in non-sectarian, the school provides opportunities for spiritual growth. There is a chapel where one can meditate and where occasional masses are celebrated every month.
St. John’s commits itself to serve the community. It has kept its school fees within the reach of its clientele. It has opened its doors to other members through its scholarship program. While the cost of quality education has gone beyond affordable levels for the average family, St. John’s has kept its fees down to be able to continue to serve the community.
ST JOHN'S ACADEMY
St. John’s Academy is a small school that started as a big dream of seven Marquez sisters who were all educated to be teachers.
Opened in 1930, it is now located on a one-hectare lot on Valenzuela Street (now Jose Gil Street), in the residential hub of San Juan town. It is not named after the saint St. John the Baptist which explains why it is a nonsectarian school. Since it was going to be put up in San Juan and the Marquezes all resided here, they thought that the English name for the town would do.
The idea to have their own school was backed by their father, the late Gregorio Marquez, who was himself a public school teacher. The vast coconut plantation he owned in the province of Quezon gave them the idea of having the green uniform for girls. He gave his daughters the money needed to rent the building and lot that was to become the first St. John’s Academy. The building used to be the vacation house for the Recoletos Order. It was a lot on Pinaglabanan Street near the Old Manila Waterworks reservoir. After doing some renovations, the school was opened. It offered a complete elementary course, four years of primary and three years of intermediate, and a secondary course with second year as the highest class.
The first faculty members were no other than the seven blood sisters – Socorro, the eldest; Paz, the editor/publisher of the oldest teachers’ magazine, the Philippine Journal of Education; Natividad, a poet and an author; Isabel, a math wizard; Dolores, a Biology teacher; Carolina, the youngest; and Concepcion, the letter – perfect in English who has always been the guiding spirit behind St. John’s since it started. Other teachers were hired during the year but most of the English classes from the kindergarten to the high school levels were handled personally by the Marquez sisters. That might have had something to do with the fact that the early St. Johnites could communicate in remarkable English.
The Marquez sisters particularly Concepcion, who stayed longest in the academe, always believed that English is a basic course and that if one knows correct English, he can get by easily in the other subjects. Correct English thus became the top factor in employing teachers for any subject at St. John’s. It is also the official language in school until now. While spotless English was most desirable, the school also paid attention to character formation and discipline.
What kind of school is St. John’s? It is, and always was, small. Its Class of ’34 numbered only five. The present enrollment is only 1,746 preschool to high school students. It remains small because it has a natural screening scheme in admitting students.
During the second world war, St. John’s suffered in the shelling and razing of San Juan. Then, in 1941, it was unexpectedly burned down together with the earliest issues of the official publications, the Leaflet and the Scrapbook. This unfortunate event did not faze the indomitable spirit of the Marquez sisters. Classes were held in Mrs. Concepcion Gil’s place located along what is now N. Domingo St., Grade VI was the highest class. Class ‘42 who should have graduated in March of that year were given certificates in 1943. Understandably, the school ceased its operation for a while, but it reopened after the liberation in an old two-storey house sitting on its present location on Jose Gil Street (former Valenzuela St.) This house, abandoned during the war, belonged to a sister of Concepcion’s husband, the late Civil Service Commissioner Jose Gil, Sr.. Adjacent lots were gradually purchased for the expansion to accommodate the growing number of enrollees. The school still offered the usual curriculum specified by the Department of Education with the addition of Spanish subject from grades five to fourth year. The first year was the only class in the high school in 1945. This batch became the first graduates after liberation. In 1948, Col. Antonio Buenaventura provided the music for the school Loyalty Song which until now is being sung during the flag ceremony to express the students’ gratitude, love and devotion to their beloved Alma Mater. In the same year, the school held its post-war commencement exercises with only eight members of the graduating class.
On the 75th year today, the school can take pride in the concrete Jose Gil and Marquez Buildings which are enough to accommodate the students from preschool to high school. It also has its spacious covered court which is being used as a venue for various school activities.
As what Mrs. Concepcion Marquez – Gil would say : “Our idea of a school was one that we could run the way a school should be run. It wasn’t going to be prestigious but a good one.”
St. John’s Academy has continued to serve the community of San Juan and its neighbors because of the persons who have chosen to put their shoulders to the wheel together to carry on the school’s noble mission and to leave a lasting legacy to the would-be leaders of our country. Never have they placed in oblivion her guiding principle which is “commitment to serve the people.”
The Board of Trustees and the Administration have steadfastly remained the potent backbone to make this school stand tall despite the manifold ordeals of life. With the conviction that quality education is the number one weapon against the degradation of society, they have continuously infused all of those working for St. John’s Academy with inspiration, vigor and strength to uphold whatever the Grand Old Lady had begun.
Having survived challenges that go with the management of an educational institution like St. John’s Academy, these persons will always be the pillars that parents can depend on to bring their children closer to a promising tomorrow. They are a force that would invariably nourish the institution’s faculty with the fervor, the resolution and the commitment to impart knowledge and values essential to the character formation of every student.
BOARD OF TRUSTESS
Mrs. Josephine A. Gil
Mr. Reynaldo A. San Pascual
Mrs. Anna Josefina A. Gil-Esteban
Mr. Allan Joseph A. Gil
Mr. Albert A. Gil
Dr. Angeline A. Gil-Armeza
Mr. Angel A. Gil
Dr. Ma. Lourdes A. Carandang
Mrs. Ma. Pilar M. Ladioray
Dr. Natividad J. Munarriz