By: Ferdinan S. Gregorio

       Protestantism surfaced in the Philippines upon the arrival of the Americans, liberalizing the concepts of religion and education. This led to the rise of non-sectarian private elementary and secondary schools which did not include Catechism among their subjects. The diminishing influence of Catholic education was a result of the Faribault Plan, Section 16 of the Educational Act which states that: “No teacher or other person shall teach or criticize the doctrines of any church, religious sect or denomination, or shall attempt to influence the pupils for or against any church or religious sect in any public school established under this act. If any teacher shall intentionally violate this section, he or she shall, after due hearing, be dismissed from public service…”

     Manila Archbishop James Harty, being the highest Catholic leader in the Archdiocese of Manila took the responsibility to revive Catechism in education.  He made a request to the Vatican to persuade the Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic congregation founded by Saint-Baptiste de La Salle, to help him establish a Catholic school of high standing, in which the medium of instruction would be English.  The Christian Brothers responded positively and played an important role in organizing the faculty, curriculum and student activities to launch a school. The school aimed to attract scions of wealthy or ilustrado families, who were likely to become the country’s future leaders.  Archbishop Harty’s proposal went through many obstacles particularly the lack of funding, but his dream became a reality when De La Salle College was opened at the former Perez Samanillo Compound in Calle Nozaleda, Paco, Manila, on June 11, 1911.

       The newly-founded school focused on the basics of education known as the three R’s, which stood for Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic.  De La Salle College was determined to challenge the increasing number of non-sectarian schools by including Catholic Education in its curricula for the primary graders. DLSC revived a traditional activity in a typical Catholic school during the Spanish era by conducting a Communion Mass on December 17, 1911.

       The Stocks and Exchange Commission of the Government approved the incorporation papers of the school on February 12, 1912. In time, the public became increasingly aware of the quality of education at De la Salle, despite its difficulties such as lack of space and insufficient teaching personnel.   

         To address the need of additional teachers, Brothers Alexis, Basilian and Anthony were assigned to teach at De La Salle College in 1914.  Brothers Donatian Felix, V. Andrew, Albinus Peter, Falvius Leo, Alphonsus Henry, Felix and David King were sent to the school to teach various subjects from 1917-1929.  

         A Catholic Spanish newspaper, La Libertad, acknowledged De La Salle College in one of its editorials, stating:

“In spite of its two years of existence, it has taken very gigantic steps in the field of letters so that today, its name can be heard by everyone in the archipelago repeated by many to the wonder of the ignorant and the atheist. There is hardly any province in our beloved country that does not send one of its sons to the seat of the said school, drinking from its fountain the laudable instructions of its learned teachers”.

         Further, the editorial gave additional commendations through these words:

“Religious imprint on this great center is a distinctive seal that characterizes it among the other colleges and schools which gives instructions in the language of Milton. They are right to say that De La Salle College is the primary solution to the transcendental problems that the exigencies of our present government impose on our Catholic country. It can be said that the triumph of De La Salle College is complete. Rare, very rare, are the colleges that have been founded which can really wave the flag of victory as De La Salle College”.

        Bro. Acisclus Michael played a vital role in transferring De La Salle to its new place upon his entry as school director in 1915.  The school was given full accreditation in awarding high school diplomas in the same year.  He organized the De La Salle Debating Club in 1916 to enhance the communication skills of his students using English as medium.

       With the consent of his Superiors, Bro. Michael was given authority to purchase a piece of property which would accommodate the school’s growing population. He found an area at the southern portion of Taft Avenue which was larger than the one at Nozaleda. Despite his limited funds, a competition of architectural designs was held. Tomas Mapua, who later founded the Mapua Institute of Technology, won the contest.  With the additional assistance secured by Bro. Michael from Singapore, The dream of De La Salle to have a bigger campus became reality.  De La Salle formally transferred to Taft Avenue on October 3, 1921.  

        The school’s first literary magazine, The Green and White, first appeared on August 24, 1924. This magazine was transformed as the school’s yearbook in 1937 and renamed La Sallite.

        Before the emergence of the First World War, De La Salle had established its reputation as the best school for commerce in the entire archipelago. In 1925, the school began to offer six additional subjects in its courses such as Shorthand, Business English, Business Law, Spelling, Oral Expression and Commercial Correspondence. The Commission of Private Education under the colonial government also authorized De La Salle to grant Bachelor and Master of Science in Education Degrees.   A decade after the war, the school began to retool its specialization toward technical education including the different engineering courses: civil, mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering.

        De La Salle College played an active role during the XXXIII International Eucharistic Congress, a Catholic assembly that took place in Manila from February 3 to 7, 1937.  The school gymnasium was made as the “starting point” of the final procession. Student cadets performed as ushers and honor guards for the Blessed Sacrament and served as flag bearers of the different countries during the procession.

         During the Japanese occupation, La Salle Campus served as a shelter for the homeless families.

       De La Salle University began to accept women enrolees that commenced the school’s co-educational system in 1973.  It was given a university status in February 1975, and was declared an autonomous university by the Commission on Higher Education in 2010.
      The founding of De La Salle University was indeed a milestone event that shielded Catholic Education in the Philippines from the growing popularity of non-sectarian schools during the American colonial years. Quoting a passage from “The Journal of History- A Century of Education in the Philippines”,

    “The DLSU-Manila experience indicates that while the American educational system was geared towards pacification, the main rationale underlying the establishment of De La Salle College in 1911 was the preservation of the Catholic faith. The college was primarily designed to cater to the needs of the affluent sector of society, the reason being that the public school system could very well serve the needs of the masses. The Christian Brothers successfully managed to cope with the challenge posed by the American educational policies and other difficulties that became manifest as they embarked upon their work.”  


Quirino, Carlos. La Salle, 1911-1986. Manila Filipino Foundation, Inc. 1986

Philippine National Historical Society.  The Journal of History. Vol. XLVIII. Numbers 1&2. A Century of Education in the Philippines. 2002

The Ten-Year Development Plan of De La Salle University 1983-1993. Research Dissemination and Utilization Office of the De La Salle University Research Center. 1984