The Palawan National School (known as the Palawan High School until 1965) was established as a junior high school in Cuyo, Palawan in 1907 under the auspices of the so-called Thomasites (American educators who came to the Philippines upon the departure of the Spaniards at the turn of the 21st century). Its faculty was composed jointly by a few Filipino and American teachers while its students came from Cuyo itself and the surrounding islands including Agutaya, with as few as 12 students attending the initial first and second classes. It functioned as the first and only public secondary school in the northern part of Palawan until 1936 when it was transferred to Puerto Princesa, then still a municipality but had already been declared as Palawan’s capital.
The school’s third-year class was opened in 1922, with the first graduates belonging to the class of 1924. My father, the late Vice Governor Francisco F. Ponce de Leon was a member of that class with Dominador Arcinas their class valedictorian (he later became a municipal official of the new municipality of Magsaysay in Cuyo Island), and Pablo Nangit their salutatorian (he came from the Nangit clan of Agutaya, an uncle of my late colleague in the legal profession, Atty. Jess Nangit Itaralde).
As Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s capital at that time had no secondary school, education leaders deemed it more advantageous for the high school to be transferred to the provincial capital. The provincial chief executive then, Governor Higinio Mendoza supported this proposal and forthwith effected the school’s transfer from Cuyo Island to the provincial capital. People said this caused the defeat of Gov. Mendoza in that year’s local election. In 1965, the school’s name was changed to Palawan National School (PNS) by an Act of Congress. In 1989, the late Speaker Ramon V. Mitra and myself authored the legislation integrating various public secondary schools in Puerto Princesa with the PNS. This came simultaneously with the enactment of the free, public, secondary education act. Speaker Mitra and myself with about a hundred congressman were the authors of this landmark legislation for the country’s youth.
PNS had its centennial celebration in 2007. I was elected over-all chairperson of the celebration and with the full support of prominent PNS alumni, we held anniversary activities months before, culminating with the main celebration month in March 2007. Hundreds of PNS graduates in Palawan, from elsewhere in the country and abroad converged at the PNS grounds for the festive, 100th year-commemoration of its birth.
Through the years, the PNS has built quite an excellent reputation of being a highly respected-public high school, thanks to its quality education dispensed by qualified educators and faculty members. During my four-year stay at the PNS (1963-1967), we were under respected principals, Gonzalo Fernandez, succeeded by Eugenio dela Cuesta. Others who came after them include Madame Rebecca Arquero (chosen in the early 1990s as Southern Luzon’s best performing secondary school principal) and my schoolmate, Nenita Francisco Capage. Some of my best teachers were the late Emerenciana Carlos (mother of Atty. Allan Carlos), and Mrs. Marcial, Mrs. Puno, Mrs. Timones, Mr. Paz, Mr. Quillope, Mr. Sarsagat, Mr. Pacaldo and several others whose names had escaped from memory. A number of prominent government and political leaders in Palawan as well as military officers graduated from the PNS. Among them, I remember former congressman Alfredo Abueg Jr. (who became a deputy speaker of the House of Representatives), 1971 Constitutional Convention delegate Jose Nolledo, Atty. Telesporo Paredes Jr. (who became a city councilor) and many others. Two PNS graduates rose to star rank in the Armed Forces of the Philippines – retired Rear Admiral Mike Rodriguez and Major-General Eduardo Matillano. Also from the PNS were Boy Acosta (a former aide of Pres. Fidel Ramos), who graduated from West Point, Engr. Roland Rodriguez, a former executive director of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development and the late president of the Palawan State University, Dr. Teresita Salva. In my case, a member of PNS class ’67, I could humbly take pride in having become a congressman of the 1st district of Palawan (1987-1995) and later as Palawan’s Vice Governor/Acting Governor and Dean of the Palawan State University, School of Law. Also, my family could perhaps claim as having the most number of family members as PNS alumni – from my father down to my older brother, Bobby and sisters, Elsa, Mildred, Diana, myself, Lorna, Jose Francisco, Roy and Jean.
Lawyer to his convicted client – I have good news and bad news for you.
Client – The bad news first, Attorney.
Lawyer – You have been sentenced to die by electric chair.
Client – What’s the good news?
Lawyer – I was able to reduce the electric voltage for you.