Lakan Dula High School’s main campus anno 2008
Lakan Dula High School is a public learning institution located on Juan Luna St. in Tondo, Manila. The school was named after Lakan Dula (1503-1589), Manila’s last chieftain (lakan) before the city was totally subjugated by the Spanish colonizers. Founded in 1962, LDHS is under the direct supervision of the Division of City Schools-Manila (District II), which in turn is under the Department of Education.
LDHS’s neighbors include Torres High School, Jose P. Laurel High School, Sergio Osmeña High School, Nolasco High School, Gregorio Perfecto High School, Tondo High School, T. Paez Integrated School, and a number of elementary schools.
Our batch began its first year in 1974 at the school’s Tiaoqui Annex, a stone’s throwaway from its current campus. Who Tiaoqui was remains anybody’s guess. What we remember is that its small plot of land was host to a two-story wooden building, with about 10 classrooms reserved for new students from various primary schools in Tondo, nearby Caloocan and elsewhere. Ours was one of the last batches – if not the last – that would use this rented campus before it was finally returned to its owner and converted into what is now a commercial area.
About a kilometer away was LDHS’s main campus, situated in front of St. Joseph School, where we spent our last three years in high school. Until 1976 a decrepit building used for our vocational and home economics subjects stood at the corner of Juan Luna and Pampanga streets. It was also in the same period when Ventura Annex, a relatively vast expanse of land, was acquired by the city government and was used for our CAT and YDT classes.
The original main campus in Gagalangin was also a rickety two-story-wooden-building affair, with a row of quonset rooms built beside it to accommodate the school’s growing population. At the right side of the entrance stood another wooden structure that housed the administration, the library, the canteen, and the toilet.
Looking back now, it is indeed surreal that the school was surrounded by residential houses. In fact, some of our neighbors could even “attend” our daily flag ceremony or watch our spectacular song-dance-drama performances during school programs from the comfort of their windows.
Just like many other public schools in the country, LDHS was also suffering from the shortage of classrooms and the lack of even the most basic amenities. Stairs and corridors being used as classrooms was not an uncommon sight. Even some of the school’s administrators had no offices of their own, like Mrs. Gregoria Balagtas, the Pilipino department head, who was occupying a part of our classroom.
When it rained, the school would become a “tourist attraction” overnight. Maria Cristina Falls would miraculously find its way through the roofs, its cascading waters transforming the whole campus into a replica of Manila Bay. Without even planning to, we would be forced to go on a swimming holiday, sans the clean water.
Despite all this, we still managed to have a great time in this campus. It was here where we met the best mentors in the world, our lovely teachers who gave their utmost to bring out the best in each of us. And most important, it was here where we started building true friendships that would stand the test of time.
LDHS’s Ventura Annex is now the school’s main and only remaining campus. The old main campus that bore witness to our adolescent years is no longer there. Built in its place is a row of stores and other commercial establishments that have completely erased all traces of a once vibrant school.
No one bothered to make a marker, which could have been a good reminder that once upon a time there stood a school that prepared many young men and women like us to face life’s many challenges and struggles and made us what we are today and what we will become further in the years ahead.
Oscar Wilde once wrote that memory is the diary that we all carry with us. Lakan Dula High School is one good memory that we want to cherish in this collective diary.