Sta. Catalina College has carved a place of its own in the history of the Philippines in general and of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in particular, for indeed the history of the congregation and that of Sta. Catalina College are synonymous, for this college started when the Beaterio de Sta. Catalina de Manila was inaugurated on July 26, 1696 in the Walled City of Intramuros under the leadership of the Venerable Mother Francisca Fuentes del Espiritu Santo and the Rev. Juan de Sto. Domingo, O.P. who was then the adviser of the newly founded community of Sisters. This early in its foundation, the sisters started receiving into its fold young girls coming from poor families. They were given a well-rounded education on the Catholic faith, the 3 R’s and the Practical Arts like embroidery, painting, flower – making, etc.
Sta. Catalina College was formally established in 1706, destined to be egalitarian rather than elitist, the Beaterio – Colegio admitted Spanish Girls, mestizas, and natives.
When a normal School for girls was established in the Philippines, Sta. Catalina College was granted the privilege to confer the academic degree of Maestra Normal by the Queen Mother of Spain, in 1889, this privilege was confirmed by General Otis and Mr. George, the Superintendent of Schools.
From 1889 to 1935, Sta. Catalina College adopted the American System of teaching and English became the medium of instruction. The wives of the American officers were the first teachers of the students in the school.
The end of the nineteenth century was a period of expansion for Sta. Catalina College. At this time, the college enjoyed an enviable reputation. It assumed a leading role in the education of Filipino women. Its graduates were noted for their deeply spiritual training, grace and refinement in the society, and their ability to look after their children with great efficiency. This was temporarily interrupted with the outbreak of the Second World War.
In 1941, Sta. Catalina College was razed to the ground. The sister’s found temporary home at UST and later at the Retreat House of the sisters of Nazareth School in Sampaloc.
On May 8, 1942, the Sisters’ undaunted desire to continue their educational apostolate amidst the ravages of war was rewarded. Dr. Cecilio Putong, the City superintendent and Premier Tojo, the top Commander of the Japanese Armed Forces in the Philippines gave them full permission to use Mapa High School No. 2, a two – storey building along Legarda Street, Sampaloc, Manila, which was owned by Dr. Jesus Cacho. In June 1942, the school was formally opened. It became the training department of the UST School of Education.
After the war, a new site was acquired in Legarda, Manila. To answer the educational needs of the Sampaloc area and to accommodate the increasing number of students, a new concrete four- storey building was constructed and inaugurated in June 1953. Sta. Catalina College offered grade school, high school and college levels of education.
The College Department started with the offering of a Secretarial Course in 1953-1954, and BSEEd and BSC during the school year 1965-1996, which recognition was given in 1975. But with the rapid increase of colleges and universities in the area, the enrollment started to decline while the grade school and high school departments continued to progress. During the school year 1979 – 1980, the college department was temporarily phased out.
In 1980, Sta. Catalina College adopted the Catholic Schools System Development (CSSD) now called the O.P. Siena Schools – System Development (OPS-SSD) Program which proposed to improve and update the operation of the school and The Christian Development of its personnel and clientele. Alongside the program was the physical development of the school. The two wooden buildings, which housed the Grade School department was demolished to give rise to a new concrete building. Due to limited resources, it was constructed by phases. Phase I was started during the school year 1981-1982 and was inaugurated on November 22, 1981; Phase II was erected during the school year 1982-1983, while Phase III was constructed in 1983-1984 and was constructed in 1983-1984 and was inaugurated on February 19, 1984.
On April 17, 1985 and February 6, 1987 the initial accreditation by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and University (PAASCU) was awarded to the high school and grade school respectively. To date 2006 both grade school and high school has been granted Level II accredited status respectively.
In June 1985, The College Department re-opened the different courses as approved by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) with emphasis on the elementary teacher’s training program which later, offered Religious Education as Major. It was then a course offered on a scholarship program for poor but deserving students. To give the department a new direction, it opened its doors to male students.
Another significant event of the history of Sta. Catalina College took place on February 18, 1988 when the National Historical Institute awarded this school a HISTORICAL MARKER for its contribution in the building of the nation as the first school for girls administered by religious women.
During the school year 1988-1989, the ground floor of the main building was designed for the exclusive use of the college department. In order to provide additional classrooms for the high school department, the Sisters generously gave up the second floor of their convent, which was reconstructed to accommodate three classrooms.
During the school year 1991-1992, the government built the Legarda, Ramon Magsaysay Blvd. – Nagtahan Flyover. This project caused the demolition of classrooms and service rooms in the Grade School Department. To replace the lost facilities, a concrete building was constructed along Legarda St. connecting the main building and the grade school building. This annex was inaugurated on November 14, 1994.
In the Sta. Catalina College roster of graduates are famous names like Mrs. Emilio Aguinaldo, Marcella Agoncillo, the Filipina flagmaker, Remedios Kipping, Dona Julia vda. De Gonzales, Mrs. Cesar Bengzon, the Angaras, the Avas, the mijares, the Salvadors, the Romeros, and many others who have given luster to Filipino womanhood and family life, giving examples of true dedication to God, to country and to fellowmen.
Sta. Catalina College continues to play its role in the education of the youth in the Philippines. With the beautiful blending of the old and the new, it meets the challenges of the fast-changing educational scenario. During the 1996 Tricentennial celebration of the inauguration of the Congregation, a proposal entitled “HOW STA. CATALINA COLLEGE, MANILA WILL ADRESS THE NEEDS OF THE URBAN POOR” was presented to the Prioress General and her Council. The 1997 General Chapter of the Congregation finally approved the proposal. With the implementation of the program starting SY 1998, Sta. Catalina College once more revives and lives the spirit of the venerable foundress, Mother Francisca Del Espiritu Santo. At present the process of her beatification and canonization is being worked well by the Congregation. She will be the “first filipina” to be proclaimed saint, that we hope and pray.
Sta. Catalina College had lived for three centuries. It has seen the Spanish time, Japanese time, American regime and has witnessed the birth of independent Philippines. In the 20th century, Sta. Catalina College has lived through the Martial Law and supported the EDSA Revolution in 1986 and since then had been enjoying a new democracy. Being the “cradle” school of the Congregation, Sta. Catalina College will always be promoting Passion for Truth and Compassion for Humanity.