DURING this week, La Consolacion College, Bacolod, began the series of commemorative activities to mark the centenary of its foundation in Bacolod on March 12, 1919. The journey began in Sibalom, Antique on March 3 when three Augustinian sisters left the town that was hostile to their presence and the school they established a year earlier. Instead of returning to Manila as their Superior General Mother Consuelo Barcelo had advised, they were prevailed upon by Bishop Mauricio Foley, Bishop of Jaro and Msgr. James McCloskey, the vicar general, to open a school in Bacolod.
The initiator of this move was Fiscal Quirico Abeto of Antique (later, Presidente of Iloilo and Secretary of Justice to President Manuel Quezon) who hailed from Mandurriao. He suggested to Msgr. McCloskey to invite the sisters to Bacolod. Fr. Francisco Vega, the Recollect parish priest of Bacolod had been asking several religious congregations to come to Negros because there was not a single Catholic educational institution here. Prominent families in Negros were sending their children to Manila or Iloilo because they did not want them enrolled in public schools where there was no religious education.
To encourage the sisters, Fr. Vega offered his convent for a school. Mother Consuelo accepted and the sisters left Iloilo on the 12th, arriving in Silay that day. They proceeded to Bacolod where Governor of Occidental Negros Matias Hilado and leading officials of the city and citizens received them with a light snack. This date is marked as the foundation of Colegio de Nuestra Señora de la Consolacion, later to be shortened in its English adaptation as La Consolacion College. When the Augustinian schools adopted this name for all its educational institutions, “Bacolod” was added for distinction.
The large parish convent was renovated for classrooms on the ground floor, more on the second floor, a cloister and a chapel for the sisters and a dormitory for “interns”, girls who lived inside the school. The school was limited to girls in the grade school. It added another grade as the years went on. As was common in those days, the women’s curriculum was loaded in favor of home economics, catechism, sewing and knitting, calisthenics, culture and the arts (music and art works) – the refinements of civilized living and the three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic. English was taught as a mandatory subject but Spanish was part of the LCC curriculum because the Filipino sisters spoke Spanish. It was the only school with a course in Spanish.
Fr. Vega bought a house near the church for his convent and parish office as well as the Bishop’s Palace when the Diocese of Bacolod was created in 1932. It became the Sacred Heart Seminary that was founded in 1946. In 1934, through donations, fund raising activities like carnivals and beauty contests, a new LCC, two-level school building was constructed on a marsh land beside the Cathedral. It was drained. The new LCC building was large with one wing facing Justicia (now Galo) street and the other towards Washington (now Gatuslao) Street. The main façade that resembled the US White House was designed by Paul Ishiwata, the Japanese contractor who was married to a Filipina. With a bigger space and more women graduating, LCC opened a college level course, a one-year Elementary Teacher’s Certificate in 1938.
When World War II broke out, the sisters evacuated with Bacolod Bishop Casimiro Lladoc to Murcia. Japanese soldiers occupied the LCC building but through the representation of Ishiwata whose daughter became an Augustinian sister, the Japanese vacated the school. They left it in shambles. The library was ransacked and books used for fuel. In October the Japanese ordered the reopening of all schools and the teaching of Nihonggo and Japanese culture. LCC complied but it had fewer students because it accepted girls only.
The school building was not demolished by the Japanese as they planned when they retreated to Mt. Marapara the moment the Americans entered Bacolod. However, many buildings in the city were in flames when American forces entered the city on March 30, 1945.
In June classes resumed and in 1948, LCC decided to open a high school for boys using the old parish house which was vacated when the Sacred Heart Seminary, established in 1946, transferred to its present site.
LCC’s detailed history is covered by my book “Through the Years” published in 1993.