UPDATE: 2 May 2016. I have just come from this year’s alumni homecoming of our school. Our special guest was Dr. Reynaldo C. Bautista, who told of the beginnings of the Sci Hi. The original concept was for a Star Science Section, a cream-of-the-crop class of elementary graduates from different Baguio schools (preferably public schools.) Dr. Bautista wanted the class to excel in Science and Maths, so he took the brightest college instructors to teach the Star Section. He also eventually took in Emmett, who was then a seminarian who taught at the Ateneo Grade School, to teach Latin and Logic. I found it necessary to update this post, to give due honor to the one who envisioned this school and turned it into a reality – Dr. Rey Bautista Sr. Thank you, sir!
Every time I tell my children stories of my Science High school days – how fun it was, while, at the same time, unusual – they can’t help asking if they could study in that school too.
It was fun because we had so many activities – camping, cultural plays, Christmas Cantatas, the grandest and most unique (at least in the old days) cheering competition in Baguio.
It was an unusual school too. We had no permanent building – in all my four years there, the school moved four times. The students stood out wherever we went because of how we addressed each other – the customary Ilocano way of showing respect: manong, manang and ading. Of course, young kids wearing neckties will always stick out, anyway.
All students were scholars, paying only a minimal miscellaneous fee. I remember at one time, my yearly fee was only about Php575.00.
Oh yeah, we were taught Latin and that “English is the official language.” Anyone caught not speaking in English would be punished by writing the phrase until the blackboard was full. (Though I don’t think anyone was unfortunate enough to be punished so during my time.)
This unusual school – a prototype for all science high schools to come in the Philippines – calls one man its father: Emmett Brown Asuncion.
“Am I speaking sense?”
That is the question he often asked after a long discourse.
Of course, he always spoke sense. After all, Emmett is probably the best teacher I’ve ever had.
It was Emmett who taught me little things that I now find myself passing on to my kids –
Looking at the person in the eye means you’re truly listening.
One word is enough for the wise. (“Verbum sat sapienti!”)
Sing the National Anthem with dignity and pride.
Rehearse like it’s the finale.
Keep small trash in your pocket.
Long before the theory of multiple intelligences was introduced, Emmett was already using this approach in our school. That’s the reason why all of us played sports every Friday, sang Handel during Christmas Cantata, and defended a scientific research at year-end.
Every morning, the students gathered with him at the auditorium for morning devotion. He led us in songs and exhorted us to excel, to love our nation, to respect one another. If there was some mischievous deed in the recent days, it was sure to come out during his talk. He was, often, like a father castigating his children.
I remember his long talks on the issue of the US Bases, and why they should leave. I remember his talks about saving the trees of Baguio.
I remember the songs he taught – Spanish Christmas carols, Latin chants, Handel’s Hallelujah, Bayan Ko, a most beautiful version of Lupang Hinirang.
The last time I saw Emmett was in December 2006, when my classmates and I visited him while organizing the alumni homecoming. He was already sick then, with difficulty moving around. He looked frail and old – far from the tough Emmett we knew in school.
But his mind was still sharp as ever.
We reminisced together our days with him – how mischievous we were, how he cried worried-sick while our class remained trapped in a building during the 1990 quake. Because our class survived the earthquake, Emmett baptised us “Invictus” – unconquered.
Emmett is a fine example of how profound and deep a teacher’s effect on his students can be. He unselfishly gave of himself, tirelessly inspired his students, dedicated all his life to the school. The school was his home, the students his family.
Much of who I am now is a result of the ideals and values he taught – respect, unity, tough love, being your brother’s keeper.
For as long as I keep his spirit alive by passing on to my children what he taught, Emmett’s legacy will live on forever.
Emmett, you will always be lovingly remembered by the thousands of lives you have touched.
Emmett Brown Asuncion
Founding Director, University of Baguio Science High School (1963 – ? )
3 March 1939 – 2 September 2009
Forever cherished and loved
Emmett’s message for our class
Thanks to Karah, my classmate, for the first photo; to ading Jeffrey Binwag for the B&W image of Emmett; and to Lygz, another classmate, for uploading the scanned yearbook page on Facebook.