Colegio de Santa Catalina de Alejandria
In the service of the Church
uch like the mythical phoenix, Colegio de Santa Catalina de Alejandria, or COSCA, literally grew from the ashes. Unlike a phoenix, however, the first time it grew was not from its own ashes but from those of the original St. Paul Academy. A fire that tore through most of the town’s commercial district in December 1953 also burned down Dumaguete’s church along with the very first St. Paul Sisters’ school in the country. Taking advantage of a generous land donation, they decided to rebuild on what was then the outskirts of the city, leaving behind a vacant lot beside the church.
In 1955, Dumaguete became the seat of a brand new diocese and its quietly repaired church became a cathedral. It was blessed to have as its first bishop a conscientious leader who was ever mindful of his responsibilities as shepherd. The Most Reverend Epifanio B. Surban, DD, promptly went to work in setting up various services to answer the needs of his flock, the large Catholic community throughout the diocese that then covered some parts of Negros Occidental, and the entire provinces of Negros Oriental and Siquijor.
The Cathedral’s spacious compound, by now cleared of the debris from the fire, naturally became the focus of Bishop Surban’s efforts. With the help of volunteers and the Catholic community, he set up what would become two major service providers. One was a maternal lying-in clinic that has now grown to become Holy Child Hospital, a leading tertiary medical care facility in the province. The other was a small school called The Little Flower Clinic that only offered classes for kindergarten and Grade 1. Its first teacher was Mrs. Urbana Canlas, a volunteer.
The Little Flower Clinic
The community that had long been waiting for affordable quality Catholic education that could be had within the town center, embraced the nascent school with marked enthusiasm. Bishop Surban, who had merely wanted to provide for the least of his flock, had accidentally come up with the perfect solution to the dearth of good schools in the town. The Little Flower Clinic was an unqualified success right from the beginning. Parents soon petitioned the Bishop for more grade levels to be added so they could continue to send their children to a school that offered not only academic instruction but also a good grounding in Catholic teachings.
Expansions came in quick succession, naturally leading to several changes in its name. At first, with the addition of Grades 2 – 6, it became known as the Parochial School. Then the eventual addition of a high school department necessitated a change to Cathedral School. The addition of college courses caused the name to be changed yet another time to Dumaguete Cathedral College.
Like a Phoenix
In April 1983, another fire gutted Dumaguete’s then main business center. Unfortunately, this time it also ripped through the elementary and high school buildings that during the school year were used by more than 2,000 students. This was a major setback because a good number of classrooms were lost and there was nowhere to put students coming back to school in a few weeks. Moreover, the school was not financially ready to embark on a major rebuilding effort within a very short period of time. It had to cut back on the number of students it could accept.
Perhaps serendipitously, the drastic reduction in the number of students also allowed the school to experience anew the circumstances of its founding. Volunteers and the "can do" spirit came to the rescue once more. Again, the school rose from the ashes like a phoenix. It continued to provide the community with quality Catholic education even if some classes had to be done in temporary rooms and everyone had to make do with the bare necessities. Nevertheless, with the help of then new bishop, the Most Reverend Angel Lagdameo, DD, new school buildings were eventually built within a few years.
In the meantime, the school’s name was changed to Colegio de Santa Catalina de Alejandria, a reflection of this new beginning and portentous of better times ahead. After all, it is a name carried by the patron saint of the Diocese of Dumaguete, befitting its flagship educational institution.
Proud member of a University Town
Today, COSCA stands proudly as one of eight higher education institutes in the University Town of Dumaguete. Never wavering from its commitment to provide inexpensive quality Catholic education, it still benefits from being closely identified with the Church. It now occupies the entire western half of the Cathedral compound, making efficient use of prime property while providing airy surroundings conducive to learning. Notwithstanding its location in the heart of the business district, the school enjoys the kind of busy, yet quiet, atmosphere more common on bigger campuses.
COSCA has retained its grade school and high school under the Basic Education Department. It now offers 11 college courses under Liberal Arts and Education, the College of Business, the College of Criminology, the Allied Health Sciences, and Computer Science and Information Systems.
COSCA remains an integral part of the larger Dumaguete community. It shares its resources with other schools and with the community, and actively participates in community activities. Furthermore, it gives back to society through its outreach programs in the most economically depressed areas of the city. Most important, it has realigned all its programs to serve the different ministries of the Church.
Being the diocese’s flagship education institution carries with it the duty to support the Church in its numerous functions. The school is proud to be able to help in any way it can. Currently, its various programs involve four of its colleges and departments. The College of Education is partnered with the Diocesan Commission on Catechesis. It has taken charge of making sure that catechists are exposed to the best teaching strategies and are appropriately trained.
The College of Business is working with the clerks of parishes on parochial management. It has devised methods of making it easier for the clerks to handle the day-to-day running of their respective parish offices. The college teaches them office systems, bookkeeping, accounting, documentation, and record keeping.
The Computer Science and Information Systems department is hard at work at connecting all the Diocese’s parishes, which now covers most of Negros Oriental plus the island of Siquijor. It has designed a diocesan-wide area network to simplify the keeping and management of records that range from baptismal and wedding particulars, to that of confirmation and funeral data. Thus, common parish services like the issuance of certificates are significantly simplified and its speed considerably made faster, while maintaining security for the data and the network.
The Allied Health Sciences department in a way closes the loop and brings COSCA full circle. The department works closely with Holy Child Hospital, the other diocesan flagship institution and its next-door neighbor in the Cathedral compound. The department supplies the hospital with adequately trained, dedicated, and eager personnel who embody the spirit of service.
With its 50th founding anniversary barely three years away, COSCA is embarking on a series of new course offerings, events and activities building up to the grand celebration in 2009.
The newest course on offer is that of Bachelor of Science of Radiologic Technology, a highly technical Allied Health course that is in demand worldwide. As a field, it offers the student 14 areas to specialize. These areas run the gamut of health technologies from X-rays, CT-scans, and ultrasound scanning, to MRIs, vascular technology, and nuclear medicine. Spanking new laboratories at the school ably support this exciting course – the first such course in Dumaguete. In addition to these and in preparation for employment all over the world, the students’ internship training will be done in premier hospitals in Dumaguete and Cebu Cities.
As yet in a state of flux, one major activity currently being hammered out is the expansion of the COSCA Community Extension program. Envisioned to eventually have a college scholarship component to be able to fully help the adopted communities, a major fund drive is underway for a special endowment for the program. Already, the Board of Trustees has approved the first Community Extension college scholars to start June of 2007.
The school is leading all Diocesan Catholic schools in a diocese-wide overhaul and improvement of curricula and teaching methodologies. Always based on teacher-student needs, the changes scheduled are all calibrated against Philippine and world standards as determined by professionally conducted examinations and research. These positive changes that take into account each individual student’s needs are expected to result in better performances all the way from elementary to college.
Partnerships with foreign schools for student and faculty exchange are forthcoming, and very soon, an international curriculum for foreign students will be in place. Moreover, in answer to requests from the working public, two special courses are now being set up to address areas of real need. One is on real computer and technological literacy for adults, and the other is on the acquisition of appropriate education units in order to become good licensed teachers.
These and more are planned as fitting birthday presents and tributes for the 50th founding anniversary of a school that has helped, and is continually helping, to educate and empower the people of the Diocese of Dumaguete.
Molding Conscientious and Responsible Citizens
ollowing COSCA’s establishment in 1959, Bishop Surban also put up or took over other schools of basic education in the towns and smaller cities of the Diocese. This resulted in the creation of a feeder system for the college and helped determine the focus of its courses.
COSCA concentrates on affordable programs that would graduate young men and women equipped with a set of skills closely matched to specific industries and sectors. The focus is not merely that of imparting a good Catholic education, but more important, that of producing good citizens who are conscientious and responsible employees or entrepreneurs. They come away from COSCA with an informed and shaped Catholic conscience.
Of the 11 courses on offer, three best illustrate this. The first is that of the Bachelor of Science in Criminology. Set up in 1992, it has now produced quite a number of graduates who have joined government agencies like the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Parole and Probation Office. Some of them have opted for employment in the private sector as security officers, Questioned Document Examiners for banks, and as teachers. Although a study is yet in its initial stages, it is hoped that the kind of education they had at COSCA helps them everyday to make a positive impact on the culture of their workplaces.
Another good example is that of Hotel and Restaurant Management. By the time they graduate, the students’ skills have been sharpened by on-the-job training in cruise ships and the best hotels in Cebu, Manila and soon, in Malaysia and Hong Kong. Although the hospitality industry is rife with negative stories that may well be apocryphal, COSCA graduates remain unfazed and sport a confidence born of proper formation. In fact, their Catholic work ethic has so impressed their foreign employers that they have been instrumental at arranging hotel apprenticeships for students of their alma mater.
The third example is the Midwifery course of the Allied Health Sciences department. Designed to impinge upon future midwives’ minds the sanctity of life including that of the unborn, their education makes sure they can also be responsible barangay health workers and entrepreneurs. Essentially a maternal and child care expert by the time she graduates and is licensed, a midwife can either work for others or set up her own micro-business like a maternal lying-in clinic. Either way, in the COSCA midwife, society is assured of a professional who greatly values life.