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.
The school is 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 St. John the Baptist which explains
why it is a non-sectarian 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, so St. John's was it.
was in 1930 that the Marquez sisters decided to
open a school of their own. Teaching was their profession
and the hobby, too, of Concepcion. The idea was
backed by their father, the late Gregorio Marquez,
who was himself a public school teacher. 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 on a lot on Pinaglabanan
Street near the Old Manila Waterworks reservoir.
After 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
The first faculty members were no
other than the seven sisters. 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
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.
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
pre-school to high school students. It remains small
because it has a natural screening scheme in admitting
During the second world war, St. John's
suffered in the shelling and razing of San Juan.
During the Japanese occupation, it reopened in June
1943. Classes were held in Mrs. Concepcion Gil's
place located along what is now N. Domingo Street.
Grade VI was the highest class. Class '42 who should
have graduated in March of that year were given
certificates in 1943. It re-opened after the liberation
on an old two-storey house sitting on the present
site on Valenzuela Street. The first year was the
only class in the high school in 1945. This batch
became the first graduates after liberation. The
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.
On its 74th year today, the school
can take pride in the concrete Jose Gil and Marquez
Buildings which are enough to accommodate the students
from pre-school 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."