More than a decade ago, I was one of the few lucky students who passed the admission test at the TCA-LHS in Camiling, Tarlac – the finest high school in the entire Region III of the Philippines. I, along with 200 would-be freshmen was full of hopes, enthusiasm and energy to learn from the college’s leading Professors and Teachers.
The TCA-LHS, is located in Camiling, Tarlac about three hours north of Manila. The high school is the experimental ground of college students who are aspiring to be either teachers, agriculturists, veterinarians, engineers and economists. This is the place where both the young minds and the learned meet. Both set of students benefit from each other, sometimes the younger students (high school) challenge the wits of the older ones (college students). The plethoras of knowledge among the post-secondary students are being passed down to the students of the Laboratory School through their learning and teaching collaboration. Thus, the knowledge and experiences are rich and indispensable within the academe.
The high school’s curriculum is very different from what the typical high school in the area offers. Each grade level is divided into four different sections, each with fifty students enrolled. The top fifty students from the admission test is segregated to be in the SCIENCE Curriculum, where the area of concentration or the field of study among these students for the next four years of high school will be in Science, Technology and Mathematics. The next set of fifty students will go to what used to be called the NSEC (National Secondary Education Curriculum), which is similar to the standard curriculum offered by the high schools. The other two sections were separated into an all-boys class and an all-girls class. The all-boys curriculum focuses on the vocational, agricultural and technical training, which is similar to the technical schools. On the other hand, the all-girls class has a curriculum with emphasis on the home-economics.
The high school is identical to a universally-designed institute where there is constant differentiation of instruction happening, individualization of curriculum to meet the needs of every student, and appreciation of music, theatre, performing and visual arts. Thus, the students accumulate an array of diverse experiences, which are vital in their educational growth.
The high school is also an integral part of the college. It has brought a lot of fame and distinction to the college, making it the best high school in the entire Central Luzon area. Its highly thought-out curriculum and break-through initiatives in the research and development areas, are what makes this high school truly desirable. This is the only school where every graduating elementary student in the region aspires to study and to belong to in high school. This, and a few other reasons why TCA-LHS captures the number spot for post-elementary studies, including the following hands-on learning experiences (based from my own personal memories):
1. We had a lot of cooperative learning experiences, inside and outside of the school. For example, when we were Sophomores, we took a Journalism class with Ms. Rizza Rombaoa (now Manaois) and the expectation for this class is to come up with a newspaper complete with editorial column, editorial cartoon, feature article, sports section, appropriate headlines and photo captions. We had to work together as a group. We spent weekends, nights after nights at a group member’s house to plan the work; to delegate the tasks and to finally regroup for the final piece. Such unique outcome accomplishes the wholistic approach to learning, long before the word “wholistic learning” was popular in the area!
2. We wrote our own scripts to school plays (our version of Shakespearean literature and Greek myths), cheering squads, books, manifestos, newsletters and our Senior Research Paper (unbeknownst to many this research paper can be very expensive and labor-intensive that by the time we were in college, we were already experts in writing as many research papers/proposals required.
3. We were given the freedom to petition school rules – and we were never afraid to be turned down. If we were turned down, we were ready to move on with the Plan B and stick with it, until we win the case.
4. We questioned our teachers, interns and fellow students. (I bet you, you can still remember the time when one of the student teachers doing a demo-lesson on Geometry and Calculus cried, because one of your classmates, or even yourself gave him a puzzling question that challenged his wits!) Our minds were unstoppable; our vocabulary lashes out as a frog would aggressively captivate a flying mosquito into his tongue!
5. We created our own student council; conducted month long election campaigns throughout the college; prepared our speeches that branded us; we stood in front of thousands of students .We were trained to be orators, public speakers and also stand-up comedienne, at times! We practice democracy, quite a lot – and we were good at it, too.
6. We had rigorous training from the moment we got up in the morning (some of us would get up as early as 4:00 AM) until the school ends at 5:30 in the afternoon.
7. We learned how to methodically solve, interpret and graph College Level Math classes starting during our Freshman year (many of which, I already forgot! Sorry TCA-LHS Math teachers.)
8. I do not remember having an in-school suspension – or any of my classmates, being suspended. But I do remember the time when all the girls in our class had to march around the building with a sign on our chests that says, “I will wear my uniform properly!” after challenging the status quo on the school attire.
9. I do not remember any bullies – but I do remember the camaraderie and the sportsmanship among the girls and boys’ basketball teams during week-long intramurals.
10. We learned to live, laugh and learn – while tending our own vegetable gardens for the last two years of our high school life !( mind you, cultivating and expecting your garden to be robust is more challenging than proving a Theorem on Geometry with Ms. Sussana Sison)
These experiences have transpired in many of the former students of the TCA-LHS long after they left the four walls of their senior homerooms. Much of what we, the students learned from our high school Professors and teachers became our guide as we transitioned to college and post-graduate studies and also later on in our lives. Many of the graduates of the TCA-LHS have become noted doctors, practicing dentists, politicians, lawyers, professors, pharmacists, public employees and business owners. Many of them are exemplars in their own field of expertise.
My own high school class is a living example of the huge impact of the school’s rigorous curriculum. Over a decade after our high school graduation, many of my classmates became true to what they wrote about their dreams in our yearbook.
Take for example the following list:
a. Tara – became second woman in the entire history Philippines who graduated valedictorian from the Philippine Military Academy; currently a female military officer for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
b. Israel- ranked 13th the nation’s CPA board examinations; currently practicing in Luxembourg.
c. Mary-Ann – ranked 5th in the nation’s Geodetic Engineering licensure examination.
d. Arlene – currently a Ph. D candidate in education.
e. Joannalene – Executive Assistant to a VP for a world-renowned oil company in UAE.
f. Reuben – EFL Professor/Teacher at a University in Thailand.
g. Bong Carlo – employed as a Global Assistant Technician in Singapore
h. Bernadette – Senior Accountant for an oil company in Dubai
i. Beverly – College CPA at an International College in Makati, Philippines.
j. Bessie – Operations Manager at a US-based Company in Greenhills, Philippines
k. Anna – successful Entrepreneur/Business Owner
l. Maurane – Woman Certified Firefighter, Bureau of Fire Protection in the Philippines
m. Charlene/Cathy/Vanessa/Mary Grace/Marifil/Josh – Certified Public Accountants at well-known Makati firms/establishments
n. Joanna/Marlon – dedicated Educators, training young leaders for tomorrow
o. Sharon/Sherry-Ann/Josephine – Registered Nurses practicing locally and abroad
p. Chary/Joseph – well-traveled and winning medical representatives
q. Harold – Customer Service Representative for a US company
r. Gany – Veterinarian
s. Lordy – Veterinarian/Assistant Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine
t. Jynleo – Senior Police Inspector and also one of the youngest member of the Special Force in the Philippines
u. Mercedes – Accounting Executive at an International Company in Makati
Although the above-mentioned names are just a fraction of what my classmates have accomplished, there are many more undocumented success among my classmates as well as former students of the school that put smiles among the current and retired/former teacher of the laboratory school.
In my case, I must really say that it is in this school where I learned two of the most important skills I have in life, which is (a) to solve authentic, real-life and challenging problems and (b) to lead.
If we think about our own experiences in the school environment, there are a lot of unnecessary things that are required for us to do, in order to pass the course and eventually graduate. However, there are only a few experiences that influence our lives after school.
I can proudly say that because of those two skills, I am able to stand where I am and be thankful for all that I have. I can honestly and proudly declare the following statements about my alma mater, because of all the achievements and awards that most of the graduates have received:
TCA-LHS exists to help all its students move up not down.
TCA-LHS stands with a great purpose, which is to provide excellence in secondary education.
TCA-LHS remains the best high school in the province of Tarlac, and the entire Region III!
I am sure if I were to echo all the voices, of all the graduates of the TCA-LHS we can all remain true to the very last line of our School Hymn, and maybe to each and every line of its lyrics:.
Midst a Greenfield along the highway and on the verdant rolling hills
Stately stands our Alma Mater TCA ever dear; TCA ever lovely in our hearts without compare
Yield Praises, Love and Loyalty to our Alma Mater dear
When the school days glide by swiftly in the gates we walk away
Still the Truth and Faith She gave us, Shall to us Forever stay
Whether high place or in the lowly, faith may send us joy and fame
But to our Beloved College, ever faithful will remain
I know, I am –
And will always be ever faithful -
Ever loyal -
And ever grateful to the Tarlac College of Agriculture-Laboratory High School.
Please read: If you are a graduate, teacher, or know somebody who is a product of the TCA-LHS, please press ‘like’ on this post. You can also share this post to any of the social networking sites you use or via email. However you want to spread the word about how beneficial our beloved alma mater was to you, please do something to let everybody know that you once tread your footsteps along the TCA Boulevard.
***The following information is subject to change.
**** The video included in this post was copied from YouTube. To the author/creator of the video, thank you very much!