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Remembering the Past

History of Sacred Heart School - Ateneo de Cebu

Fr. Francisco Heras, S.J.

The story of Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu is a story of grace. Its experience has been replete with God’s providence, concrete in the generosity of many people.

The school’s existence can be traced back to its humble beginnings when the Cebu Chinese Catholic Association (CCCA) expressed their desire to open a Catholic school for the Chinese in Cebu.[1]  The newly elected president of CCCA, Mr. Jose Yap Bioshe, suggested the establishment of a school to address the growing need for education among the Chinese in the locality. This was presented in 1953 to Father Paul O’Brien, superior of the China Jesuits in the Philippines, when he visited Cebu.

Father Pardinas, the first parish priest of the Sacred Heart Parish suggested who should be sent to Cebu to start the school.  The result was the assignment to Cebu of Father Francisco Heras who arrived towards the end of 1953.[2]  It is no exaggeration that Herras started from scratch when he took the very first steps for the opening of Sacred Heart School. He started Sacred Heart School with only P300.00 (that time equivalent to 150US$) along with “loads of good will, obedience to his superiors and trust in God.”

There was a challenge at the onset of the plan to open the School, based on government regulation it could not just operate independently without completing the the requirements, so it had to annex to an existing school. Heras and Pardinas approached Fray Martin Legarra, the Rector of Colegio de San Jose – Recoletos (now USJ-R). Legarra approved the request for temporary annexation. The school opened on 7 June 1954 bearing the name Sacred Heart Chinese Academy Colegio de San Jose Annex. It was located on corners Mabini and Manalili Streets.[3] 

In June 1955, the school on Mabini Street re-opened as an independent school, no longer an annex of CSJ-R.  It bore a new name: Sacred Heart School.          

On March 7, 1956, the School moved from Mabini to Mango Avenue. That same year, it was granted recognition by the Chinese Embassy.

The Girls Department, under the charge of the sisters of the Hijas De Jesus, moved to new a school building in Don Jose Avila Street in 1958. Sacred Heart School then evolved into two allied but independent schools, Sacred Heart School for Boys (SHS-B) run by Jesuits and Sacred Heart School for Girls (SHS-G) by Hijas De Jesus. The first batch of eight SHS-B high school graduates received their diplomas in 1959.

1959 First High School graduation, a small class of eight students. In the middle: Fr. Heras; Left of Fr. Heras is the first School Principal, Mr. Genaro Maramara

Fr. Arsenio Nuñez, S.J.
Rector, 1981-1985, 1989-1991

On the 25th of February 1965, Sacred Heart School for Boys became a Filipino School approved by the Bureau of Private Schools to teach the regular curriculum prescribed by the government with a Chinese Language and Arts program.

In 1970, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus visited Sacred Heart School. 

On January 24 – 25, 1972, the High School Department had its preliminary survey visit of the Philippine Accrediting Association for Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU). The Grade School followed with its preliminary survey of PAASCU taking place in February 19 – 21, 1975.

In 1981, Pope John Paul II visited Cebu. His first public activity in the province was to celebrate the Holy Mass at the gym of Sacred Heart School for Boys.

In 1988 Sacred Heart School-Boys was integrated into the network of Ateneos run by the Jesuit Philippine Province together with other schools for Chinese-Filipinos run by the Society of Jesus, namely, Xavier School in San Juan, Metro Manila and Santa Maria Catholic School in Iloilo.

The School soared to greater heights in the 90s. Under the Directorship of Fr. Ernesto O. Javier, S.J. It was under Javier’s term that the School once more became co-ed ucational. In 1998, girls were accepted in the Early Education Department and the School started to officially re-use its corporate and legal name, Sacred Heart School of the Society of Jesus or Sacred Heart School – Jesuit (SHS-J). In the years that followed, other year levels were opened to co-education. The first batch of girls to graduate from Grade School (Grade 6) was in SY 2002-2003 while in High School, it was in SY 2005-2006. 

Fr. Javier’s leadership bridged the school from its well-established past to its promising future. It was under his term that the long-time plan to move to a much bigger campus was materialized. It was in 2007 that finally Sacred Heart School moved to a new and bigger home from General Maxilom Avenue.

Fr. Ernesto O. Javier, S.J.
Director, 1991-2009

Fr. Manuel A. Uy, S.J.
President, 2009-2022

Fr. Manny A. Uy, S.J. was missioned to replace Fr. Javier in 2009. He was the ninth institutional head and the first President of the School.  It was under Fr. Manny’s term when after years of prayerful reflection and consultation with various sectors of the school community, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved to revise the name of the school to Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu (SHS-AdC) on March 4, 2010. 

In SY 2015, the School celebrated its 60th year as an institution.  With the full implementation of the Expanded Basic Education Act, SHS-AdC poised itself four (4) years earlier; plans were prepared since 2012 for the opening of the Senior High School Program. Eventually an expanded team was formed in SY 2015-2016 to map out the organizational structure of SHS. 

The school continues to grow in various aspects. Additional offices were created to address the growing needs in the areas of Sports and Athletics (Athletics Office, 2010), Culture, Arts, and Internationalization (CAIRO, 2010), and Human Resource (HR DO, 2011).  Among the significant changes in the School in recent years were the construction of the Magis Eagles Arena (2013), the Eduardo Aboitiz Senior High School Building (2016), Cor Iesu Oratory (2018), Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Home/Teachers’ Dorm (2020), the Knight Juanito King Scout Hall (2022), and the Francisco Heras Heritage Hall (2022).

On June 12, 2022, Fr. Michael Ignacio Pineda, S.J. assumed as the tenth institutional head and second President of SHS-Ateneo de Cebu.

Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu continues to respond to the challenge of Pope Francis to go to the peripheries where there is a greater need to walk with the excluded. AMDG!


Left: Fr. Manuel A. Uy, S.J.; Center: Fr. Ernest O. Javier, S.J.; Right: Fr. Michael I. Pineda, S.J.

[This is an abridged version of the School’s history written by R. Abellanosa based on the work of Fr. Miguel Bernad, SJ]

[1] Miguel Bernad, History of SHS-AdC, 4. Also see Emmanuel Luis Romanillos, History of the Augustinian Recollects in Cebu Since 1621: Studies and Sources (Cebu City: USJ-R, 2021), 192-194, 228.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Bernad, 6.

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