by Prima Guipo Hower, NDL67, NDDC71

Fr. Joseph Milford, OMI, was sent by his Superiors to a place called Lagao, the barrio where the first batch of settlers led by Gen. Paulino Santos Sr. planted their "roots". It was Fr. Milford's first assignment--Director of Notre Dame of Lagao and assistant to the late Fr. Baynes who was the Pastor of the Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Church of Lagao. Fr. Francis McSorely, who later became the Bishop of Jolo, came down from Marbel to supervise the building of the Notre Dame of Lagao which opened during the 1947-48 school year.

In 1952, four Marist Brothers, led by Bro. Joseph Damian Teston, took over the Oblate School. Brothers Edmund Conrad, Michael O'Keefe, and Denis Herman were in this pioneering group.

The Notre Dame of Lagao campus, a complex of 16 acres, consisted of a Parish Church, the rectory, a girls school, the Sister's convent, a boys' school and the residence for the Brothers.

During the first year, the Brothers lived with the Oblate Fathers and took care of both girls and boys in high school. The Dominican Sisters established the girls' school the next year. The original nipa, bamboo and sawali buildings were changed into cement buildings with seven classrooms for 180 boys. Many students attending the Notre Dame of Lagao in the early days traveled to the school from neighboring Dadiangas. To relieve these students of the arduous daily trek, the Brothers purchased a truck to transport them back and forth. Later that year of 1953, an annex to Notre Dame of Lagao High School was opened in Dadiangas to accommodate the students from Dadiangas. This annex obtained a regular faculty a year later.

Brothers Alfred Quellette, Michael O'Keefe and Robert Baptiste were among the Marist pioneers of Notre Dame of Dadiangas. They lived in a little house across the street from the school, now the Girls' Department campus. The new Boys' Department was built on the present site where the college is located. In 1958, the Dominican Sisters retained the original campus for the girls school. In 1959, the college was officially opened and in 1960 the Elementary Training Center was added. By 1969, a beautiful three-story building was completed.

Lagao was a lively town in the early fifties. The seat of government of NLSA (National Land Settlement Administration) was located in the heart of town. The national road cut through the center of the district. It may well be said that Lagao was the central town of South Cotabato during that time. Notre Dame of Lagao drew students from all the surrounding barrios and sitios reaching as far as Kiamba, Glan and Tupi.

In the late 50's, Lagao started to be integrated with its daughter town Dadiangas. It later became General Santos City. Dadiangas still retains its name when we refer to Notre Dame because of its historical value. Gen. Santos City is the only municipality with four Notre Dame Schools. In 1981, the Boys high school of Dadiangas was merged with the Boys' High School of Lagao. New School buildings were constructed at the original campus in Lagao. It is now known as Notre Dame of Dadiangas College High School Departments.

"The History of the Marist Brothers in the Philippines", written by Bro. Bernard Curtin, FMS begins, "The Notre Dame Educational Association (NDEA) is the best known regional association of schools in the Philippines. The beginnings were poor and humble, like a violet planted in the wilds of Moroland. The dawn of Catholic Education in south Mindanao took place in the latter half of the 19th century. In 1874, the Jesuit Fathers and the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) attempted to found a mission and a school in the Muslim town of Tamontaka, about six kilometers south of Cotabato City. They were forced to withdraw a few years later but the blood of the martyrs would enrich the soil of Mindanao to produce a fabulous harvest in the next 100 years."

The "fabulous harvest" produced by Notre Dame of Gen. Santos City came from all over the United States and the Philippines to welcome Bro. Bernard, Bro. Damian, Bro. Alfred, teachers, family and guests to the Second National Reunion in Las Vegas, Nevada. Encouraged by the successful launch of Notre Dame of Gen. Santos City Alumni Association USA in San Diego, CA in 1993, the newly elected officers turned their concerted efforts into a most memorable weekend.

For those who have attended the last four reunions, here's your website to remind you of the good times we had. May it etch indelibly in your minds the memories of reunions at San Diego, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and New Jersey, keep it alive and well until we meet again at the next bridge. For those who were not able to attend, we invite you to the GRAND REUNION on June 21-24, 2001 in Anaheim California.
Together let us continue to write our own Alumni History.
"Reunion, a bridge over time."


When the Oblate Fathers celebrated its Silver Jubilee in the Philippines in 1964, there was an article submitted to the Canadian Catholic Conference Information Service entitled "It's All In The Name". It read,

"Canadian-born Fr. Gerard Mongeau discussed the question of a name for the school in Cotabato City with his fellow Oblates, all of whom were Americans. They decided promptly and unanimously, to call it 'Notre Dame' after the famed University in South Bend Indiana. A tremendous spirit of unity developed among all the Notre Dame padres, students and their parents."

Today, the Notre Dame Educational Association (NDEA) is one of the best-known regional schools in the Philippines. The tremendous NOTRE DAME SPIRIT lives on, something we share with Regis "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" Philbin and Joe Montana.

The Notre Dame Schools supply the majority of the manpower that runs Gen. Santos City on oiled wheels--from its Mayor and city council, its judges and doctors, its sales clerks and business owners, bank managers and taxi drivers, educators and nurses. For over fifty years, our Alma Mater contributed greatly to the increased literacy rate of the city, one of the highest in the nation, thanks to the Missionaries like the Oblate Fathers and OND Sisters, Passionist Fathers, Marist Brothers, and Dominican Sisters.

In 1947, the Oblate Fathers led by Rev. Frank McSorley, OMI (who later became the Bishop of Jolo) opened the first high school in Lagao Settlement. Fr. Joseph Milford, OMI was its first director. Its Mother school--Notre Dame of Lagao founded in 1947--celebrated its Golden Anniversary in 1997. In 1952, the Marist brothers led by Bro. Joseph Damian Teston, FMS took over the management of the high school. Now there are three Notre Dame High Schools, five Notre Dame Elementary Schools, and a college.

In 1953, the Marist Brothers opened its sister school Notre Dame of Dadiangas at the campus of the current Notre Dame of Dadiangas for Girls. Later a Notre Dame of Dadiangas for Boys was moved to where the college is now located. Notre Dame of Dadiangas College was opened in 1959. In 2003, Notre Dame of Dadiangas will celebrate its 50th birthday. For this milestone, the members of Notre Dame Alumni Association USA voted Gen. Santos City as its venue for the June 2003 reunion.
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