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‘We are all Brentonians’ An educational legacy from the Episcopalians
by Frank Cimatu

There are many long-time Baguio residents who have never entered Brent School. Among my peers, many of us knew Brent School from that Sharon Cuneta movie where they were speaking in English on the football fields of Brent.

Brent School to most of us is that exclusive enclave of colonialism where the students go to school in September and have their summer vacation in July.
But then, come to think of it, we, the Baguio residents, are all Brentonians.

Lower your eyebrows while I tell you the story of this Episcopalian priest named Charles Henry Brent.

After serving some time in the slums of Boston, Brent came with former president and then American governor, William H. Taft, to the Philippines in 1902. Brent was appointed by the Episcopal Church to be the Missionary Bishop of the Philippines. He was assigned to focus on the so-called non-Christians which included the Igorots, Muslims, and even the Chinese.

According to Ursula Daoey, deputy headmaster of Brent School, Brent focused on good education in his approach.

“Education without religion is a house without foundation” had been Brent’s policy.

Brent established Easter School on Easter Week in 1906 with 10 Bontoc boys and seven other boys from Baguio with Father Samuel Drury as the headmaster. When Drury left a year later, he was replaced by Deaconess Anne Hargreaves who was instrumental in coming out with a separate school for Igorot girls in 1908.

Other than learning the three Rs (reading, writing and ’rithmetic), Hargreaves decided to teach them weaving so that they can earn on the side. But we’re getting ahead of the story.

Brent’s curriculum was heavy on classics and Scriptures which was why there were priests as well as doctorate holders and deaconesses among the other Americans who took over Easter School before World War II.

Daoey said that in 1909, Brent decided to put up a school for the children of the American builders of the newly chartered city of Baguio. Brent set up a school patterned after the prestigious boarding schools in the United States like the Groton School.

‘Evangelism, health, and education’
Daoey said that among the students were children of American pioneers in the Philippines like Cameron Forbes, Eusebius Halsema, and even Ike Eisenhower.
While Easter School is the first private school in Baguio, Brent School is the first boarding school not only in the Philippines but in Southeast Asia.
Brent’s motto of “Evangelism, health, and education” helped form a strong core of character and intelligence among the young graduates who went on to become leaders not only in the Philippines but also in other countries.

In 1925, Brent accepted girls and was the first boarding school in Southeast Asia to accept women. Later, Brent also accepted Filipinos.

Brent School in Baguio is now the “mother school” of other campuses in Manila, Mamplasan, International Rice Research Institute in Laguna, Subic, Boracay, and Alabang. From the original nine American and British boys, it now has a current population of more than 2,000 students in its campuses.

It is a pity that only a few residents have dared enter Brent because it is literally Baguio 100 years ago. Some structures in Brent have been built many years ago. Ogilby Hall, the current administrative office, is as old as the city. It is the oldest wooden building in Baguio. Other than Ogilby, other pre-war structures in Brent include Binsted Hall (1913), Amos Hall (built 1914), St. Nicholas Chapel (1925), Hackett Hall (1927), and Bishop Mosher Cottage (1930).

Daoey said that becoming the hospital of the Japanese Army during the war saved Ogilby Hall from ruins. There are tunnels (now sealed) below Ogilby Hall made by the Japanese as escape routes.

She added that there are plans to include Brent in the Baguio Heritage Tour and she said that they are very willing to be included.

More than 300 Brentonians attended the centennial reunion last March. Brent is also finishing its Centennial Reflection Center to include old photos and memorabilia from Brent School.

Another groundwork, the Easter College
Easter School, on the other hand, was devastated by World War II. It had to close operations during that tragic period and the students were evacuated to Sagada.

It was after the war in 1951 that Easter got its first Filipino principal, Ernesto Bangaan, followed by the Botengan brothers, Eusebio Jr. and Rex. During their term, Easter School expanded into a high school. Cynthia Ano took over as principal for 21 years from 1969 to 1991 followed by Marilyn Ngales.
Easter School became Easter College during Ngales’s term.

What is laudable is that Easter College veered from the traditional curriculum to community-oriented majors like Bachelor of Science in Teacher Education, majors in Developmental Studies, Environmental Studies and Management (alternative programs), and Special Education programs. Until now, Easter College remains faithful to Brent’s evangelism, health, and education.

This brings us to the girls of Easter School. Deaconess Hargreaves taught or rather “formalized” the girls into loom weaving. They made g-strings for the boys and native skirts or tapis for the girls. The weavers were also taught to weave table runners and placemats for the Americans’ tea time.

After the war, however, the girls coming home from Sagada found their weaving room destroyed and in shambles. They found a box of yarn among the ruins.

From these yarns, the girls revived their weaving and the room became more popularly known as the Easter Weaving Room which now produces bed covers, rugs, lamp shades, wall hangings, espadrilles, ladies shoes, desk pads, pen holders, eyeglass cases, telephone pads, book markers, vests, coats, jackets, hats, slippers, clog sandals, belts, neckties, skirts, blouses, mufflers, swaggers, stockings, hats, coaster napkins, glass jackets, and many more.

There are now more than 50 weavers employed by the Easter Weaving Room and their products are still being sold in the US, Japan, and European countries.
You may not have entered Brent School but when you wear those weaves with traditional weave patterns like colibangbang, pagawa, cuabao, tiktiko, kinen-ew, sinanbituin, bileg, and paracelis, you are in a way reminded of the legacy of Rev. Charles Henry Brent.

And when you hold education as your priority in life in Baguio, you are essentially a Brentonian.

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:: SVD marks centennial year in Abra
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:: SLU centennial: Wishfully looking forward, reverently looking back
:: Mayoyao's thanksgiving festival: Beyond a hundred years
:: Strawberry farms: Juicy future in doubt
:: A collation of other centenarians in Baguio
:: From ‘warriors’ to educators and missionaries
:: English after a century or so

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