History of DepEd-Isabela


When the Bureau of Education was established in 1901, the division of Cagayan and Isabela were merged into one school division with Mr. W.W. Rodwell as Superintendent, followed by Supt. H.E. Bard until April 16, 1905 when he left for the United States on leave of absence. He was temporarily succeeded by Mr. H.M. Wagenblass, who was appointed acting division superintendent and who at that time was assigned teacher in Naguilian, Isabela. On June 1 of the same year, Mr. J.J. Coleman was transferred from the Division Superintendency of Nueva Vizcaya to the Superintendency of Cagayan.

On April 17, 1905, upon petition of the Provincial Governor, presumably Hon. Blas Villamor and other officials and citizens, Isabela was made a separate school division. Mr. Wagenblass was appointed as Division Superintendent. While he served briefly in this capacity, he was, through long residence in the district, very familiar with the existing conditions then. The population of Isabela extended over a very large area and the supervision of schools in his time was unusually difficult. Out of the eleven towns, seven were well supported with school funds, three had almost no school funds, while one showed a minus balance.

Sta. Maria during this early period had a fine large schoolhouse built from school funds and contributed labor. One barrio school was conducted in a private house. School spirit was excellent and attendance was about 96% of the school population. An insular teacher was assigned in the town and was assisted free by a number of aspirants because school fund did not permit.

In Cabagan Nuevo, classes were held in an unfinished building due to lack of funds. The supervising teacher, Mr. Thompson exerted efforts to inspire the residents to secure materials and labor for the school. Many more buildings had to be built to accommodate some 32% of the school population.

Tumauini had a school conducted in an old building unsuitable for school purposes and claimed by the Church. Two more schools were to be established but funds did not allow and attendance had been very unsatisfactory in the past years due to lack of interest of the town’s presidente and councilmen. Only 6% of the school population attended classes.

Ilagan, the provincial capital, had a good school building in the centro and the six schools established in the barrios were well attended. Mr. Wood, the supervising teacher of the district had done excellent work in organizing barrio schools and selecting sites for their buildings. The town had substantial school funds. Some schools were conducted in rented buildings. School attendance was 15% of the school population, a small percentage, due to the fact that the 7,006 people are residents of two estates controlled absolutely by the Tabacalera Company and by the Baer Senior & Co. The school division and these companies had not been cooperating although signs of improvement were expected before the year ended.

In Gamu, an insular teacher was assigned due to lack of insufficient funds; but had a spacious school building, the former tribunal. A barrio school was also conducted in a donated building. School attendance was about 25% of the school population.

Naguilian that year had two small schoolhouses in the centro and with its school funds; it planned to open additional barrio classes the next year. The low percentage of attendance in school, 15% of the population, was due in part by the lack of harmony between the Cagayanos and Ilocanos which in the past year climaxed in the killing of five of the officials. To prevent recurrence of the problems, authorities recommended the creation of a four-school district in Isabela and assigning one American teacher in Naguilian with Gamu and Cauayan to supervise.

In Cauayan, a rented school building had been used for conducting classes. It had good funds sources but lacked proper supervision. School attendance was 7% of the school population. Many could not go to the centro schools because of distance and difficulty of commuting. The town then was almost depopulated that authorities thought best to transfer the Centro School to a nearby barrio school.

Angadanan (later called tagle) had two schools; the other one was in barrio San Jose. School attendance was 18% of the school population, and barrios were small and widely scattered. Attendance could improve with the establishment of several small barrio schools.

Echague, the second town in size and importance in the province had no regular public school until about August, 1904 when Mr. Smith was sent there as supervising teacher. He was able to organize seven barrio schools and had increased school attendance to 32% despite the vast town area.

It was perceived that the friendly relationship established by Supt. Bard with local and provincial officials had gone a long way in convincing people to send their children to school. More schools were established in barrios enticing parents to send their children to school. Accessibility of these schools contributed to the unabated increase in school attendance.

A year before, in June 1904, a provincial high school in the capital town of Ilagan was established but opened formally as a junior high school in August, 1904 with Mr. Seward W. Hulse as principal with four American teachers to handle classes of 186 enrolled students. Enrolment in the high school increased steadily during the years that followed and became a complete high school in SY 1917-18. It was the only high school intermediate schools were also organized starting middle of SY 1905-06: one in Cabagan, another in Ilagan (Ilagan Farm School) and another in Echague. These schools accommodated many good students who finished the primary grades with very satisfactory performance and wanting to finish Grades V, VI and VII were hired to become teachers in the primary schools all over the province.

After the undetermined but brief stint of Henry Wagenblass as Superintendent of Isabela, Supt. Lloyed Kirby took over the division for a number of years followed by Supt. Alexander Whetley, who served until the 1919. It was perceived that during their terms, enrolment in the public schools modestly increased from the average 19% school attendance of the school population in precious years.

Three more American Superintendents succeeded Supt. Whetley beginning 1919 up to 1928, a span of nine years, namely: Mr. Silvester Keheller (1919-22), Mr. Oliver Bobcock (1922-26), and Dr. John H. Manning Butler (1926-28). By that time school district have increased from four to about seven with the growing number of schools and enrolment. This facilitated the designation of supervising teachers to help in the administration and supervision of schools in the districts.

The first Filipino Superintendent in Isabela was Dr. Pedro M. Orata. He served as division head in 1928-30. The other superintendents following him included Mr. Antonio Nera (1930-32), Mr. Apolonio M. Ramos (1932-36); Mr. Antonio Maceda (1936-38), Mr. Mauricio Datoc (1938-42), Mr. Mariano Manaligod (1942-44), and Mr. Ricardo Castro (1944-46). Many more schools were established to accommodate the growing school population during this period, which led to the organization of more districts as well as the persistent request from officials of municipalities including those that were newly established by law.

When Supt. Augusto Flores (1946-55) became head of the division, the number of barrio school increased in number and including the number of school district with some towns having two districts to facilitate supervision of the bigger municipalities that recorded big school population. He was followed by Dr. Jose Saddul (1955-61), Mr. Pedro M. Manaligod (1961-72), Dr. Mateo M. Sanchez), and Mr. Laurencio Ramel (1975-1985)

Isabela received nationwide accolades as outstanding performer in Nutrition and School broadcast during Supt. Manaligod’s term. The division also greatly improved its sports prowess in the NLAA starting 1960 during the time of Supt. Jose Saddul and continued its regional supremacy to the present.

Supt. Dominador Z. Cabasal, who later became DECS Regional Director for Regions V, IV and II headed the division from 1985-87. He was followed by Supt. Celia Bunagan, Supt. Lolita L. Apostol, Supt. Benjamin Ludriguito, Supt. Geraldine V. Nitura, Supt. Olympia Marquez, Supt. Benito Tumamao, Supt. Orlando Gundayao and presently Supt. Corazon T. Barrientos.

Two other school divisions were organized and culled of the provincial division, namely Cauayan City Division and Santiago City Division. Supt. Lourdes Angoluan was the first division city head of Cauayan City before assuming her present position as Assistant DepEd Regional Director of Region II followed by Supt. Cesar Adauag. Meanwhile, Dr. Benjamin D. Paragas, Asst. Supt. of Isabela division, was recently designated OIC of Santiago city division.

In 1978, school enrolment in basic education were as follows: Public elementary- 145,163, Private elementary- 3,740 for a total of 148,903; Public secondary- 16,028, Private secondary- 21,697 for a total of 37,725 a general total of 186,628 enrolment in basic education.

In terms of number of teachers and administrative staffs, the division had 747 elementary schools distributed all over the province and 55 secondary schools manned by 4,409 elementary school teachers, and 1,043 secondary teachers. Elementary teacher-pupil ratio was 1:35, Secondary teacher-student ratio, 1:35; and administrative staff totaled 371.

Physical plants and textbooks: 979 elementary school building (4,175 classrooms) or a pupil-classroom ratio of 1:36. in the high school: 173 school buildings with 637 classrooms and students-classroom ratio of 1:37. at that time, about 30% of all school buildings needed either repair or replacement. In the elementary, pupil textbook ratio was 1:7, in the high school, 3:6.

Comparatively, some 38 years after, in 2008-09, educational data reveal substantial progress. There are now 49 school districts. Elementary school population in 2008 was167,106 in public school (discounting those in the private elementary schools), an increase of about 30% from the 1978 data. Number of elementary school teachers also increased to 6,374, some 2,000 more than the 1978 data. Public high school population except those in private schools was 84,574, as against the combined high school enrolment in public and private schools of more than 37,000 in the 1978 data report. Practically, the 2008 educational statistic reveal great strides in number of school buildings, administrators, teachers and staff, number of schools, including number of school divisions within the province.

The Isabela Division Office has now its own building–spacious, modern and well equipped, and probably the best in the Cagayan Valley Region, if not in northern Luzon. It was built during the time of Supt. Benito Tumamao with assistance from the provincial government and located in a half hectare lot within the capitol grounds in Alibagu, Ilagan. It was formally inaugurated on April 27, 2002 during it 97th founding anniversary and just before Supt. Tumamao left the division office to assume his position as Asst. Regional Director of CAR. When Supt. Corazon T. Barrientos took over from Supt. Orlando Gundayao about 2005, she provided more improvements and innovations to upgrade its conditions. To date, the division office has become more of a resource center for educational, cultural and training purposes and updates. She has just installed a library that could serve the public’s diverse interest especially for school children in the pre-school and even up to graduate school.

The impressive educational growth of Isabela since 1901, despite all the diverse and seemingly insurmountable problems it had to contend with, has demonstrated the degree of importance people place upon education as an effective transformer towards an all-around development of its human resources. The years ahead will certainly be assured of the attainment of an intended progress that the people and leaders plan together and work out together for the bebefits of the people and subsequently, the good of the province, in particular, and the nation, in general.

This attitude and spirit of the present generation is a stark contrast to what Supt. W.W. Rodwell of Cagayan and Isabela reported about a century ago on the discouraging features of the educational work in his place. According to him, the miserable state of the schools and the mistaken ideas concerning education on the part of the natives deterred educational progress. There was lack of interest displayed by the natives. They find no good and beneficial reason for education and did not at all appreciate it.

During his time there was great opposition to the public schools by the church schools which were very powerful and hard to overcome. Superintendents had been left too much to themselves, a case of sink and swim condition. There were no definite instruction from the general superintendent and frequently a lack of definite instructions from the division superintendent to both the American and the native teachers causing misunderstandings that discouraged them in their work. The insufficiency of American teachers was a setback and aggravated by the lack of native teachers as well.

The encouraging situations included the sustained interest and enthusiasm in some localities and of a number of teachers. Some schools were doing splendid work despite the miserable state of things. Another encouraging feature was what the army believed that the schools are the only thing that was doing any good.

Isabela would certainly not get into such a mess. The people would not allow and so with the government and the educational leadership. Isabelinos will continue to hold on to the truth that education is a saving grace that will free the nation from ignorance and misery. [END]


. ANNUAL SCHOOL REPORTS of the General Superintendent of Public instruction to the
Secretary of Public Instruction (1901-1905)
. THE PROVINCE OF ISABELA, published by the Provincial Government of Isabela 1981

Note: This brief history of the Division of Isabela has not been reviewed and edited thoroughly by the writer for lack of sufficient time. It is however; open for any correction that would make it reliable and authentic.