History of Saint James’ High School

A Look at the Past, A Glimpse into the Future
A Historical Perspective of Saint. James’ High School

After the United States had stabilized its political governance over the former Spanish colony, the American Episcopal Church started its ministry in 1901, led by Charles Henry Brent, the first elected Bishop of the new Episcopal district.

The first mission in the Mountain Province area was established in Bontoc, Mountain Province as early as1904. It eventually branched out to Sagada in 1910, and included Besao as an outstation, administered by Frederick Meredith, J. McCutcheon, and John Staunton Jr. The church of St. Anne was built through the collaborative efforts of these missionaries and the persistence of Deaconess Anne Hargreaves who went on furloughs in England to raise funds to support her ministry in Besao. The first mass was celebrated in Besao Proper on March 18, 1910, followed by numerous baptisms.

In 1912, Agustin Ambucay, the municipal district president (town mayor), transferred the seat of the government from Besao Proper to Kin-iway in spite of the opposition from the Besao Proper residents. Consequently, this move prompted church authorities to relocate the Church’s administrative center to Kin-iway, the building of which was named Saint James Chapel.

In 1913, Saint James’ School, under the directorship of Deaconess Hargreaves, was established as a charitable educational institution that offered instruction in academic subjects and training in vocational endeavors such as weaving for girls. A multi-purpose was constructed to serve as a dormitory for girls, a classroom, and a clinic.

On Sundays and other church feast days, Deaconess Hargreaves required students were required to attend church services in Sagada. For athletic competitions, students also traveled on foot to Cervantes, which was then the capital town of Mountain Province, In recognition for her dedication and accomplishments in Besao, Trinidad, and Baguio, Governor General Leonard Wood handed her a letter in appreciation prior to her departure for England. Upon her return, she fell ill and died on September 6, 1923. Deaconess Anne Hargreaves was buried in the church cemetery in Kin-iway.

From 1923 to 1941, Vincent Herbert Gowen served as the resident priest of Besao and director of St. James School which at this time was well established as an elementary institution from Grades 1-7. An L-shaped shingle-sided building was constructed on the site of the current rectory, housing the rectory, three classrooms, a hall,a boys’ dormitory, and a chapel. The staff included locally-hired educators from Besao, notably Santiago Padalla, Dedaco Olat, Luke Bagano, Manuel Ambucay, Esther Sagalla, and Diana Telagen. Vincent Herbert Gowen is credited as the lyricist of the St. James School Loyalty Song.

In 1941, the school was forced to close its operations as the Japanese military occupied the school buildings and the American personnel sent to concentration camps. Most mission structures were subsequently destroyed by American bombs in 1943, except for the newly built Saint Benedict’s Church. In 1952, a smaller but re-built St. James School re-opened under the leadership of Willis Henton as Rector and Headmaster. As the public school system took over Grades 1-4, St James became a Grades 5-7 elementary school. The faculty at this time included Bernabe Dacwag and Philip Estangki.

The years1956-1964 were marked by the transition of both St. Mary’s School and St. James’ School in Besao into secondary educational institutions and phased out the elementary program. Local teachers and clergy gradually replaced American administrators: Ramon Alipit as Priest In-Charge and Headmaster of the school in 1956; Manuel Kiley and Alejandro Tauli in 1964.

On July 24, 1964, the Department of Education authorized St. James to start its high school program. In 1965, John L. Botengan Sr. was the appointed Teacher-In-Charge of the school while Rev. Archie Stapleton acted as Principal for both Saint Mary’s School and Saint James’. There was one advisory council for both schools.

In 1968, a complete high school was established and subsequently recognized by the government on July 6, 1970. That year, John L. Botengan Sr. was appointed principal of the school. Among the first teachers were Philip Estangki, Pacita Estangki, Elizabeth M. Tao-ing, and Arthur Doyodoy. Leo Aragon served as the school treasurer.

In 1966, Grades VI and VII were eventually phased out while the Junior High School continued with the gradual opening of the second and third years.

In June 1968, St. James School achieved the full stature of a four-year high school as first batch of 29 seniors graduated on March 27, 1986. In 1973, Mr. John Botengan Sr. was became St. James’ first native-born High School Principal.

Through subsequent decades, St. James School has experienced major challenges that have shaped its history from what it was to what it is at present. It has seen the rise and fall of student enrollment (recounting 368 students as its peak in 1995). The school has also endured competition as the government established public high schools in Kin-iway, Besao Proper, and Agawa), which effected a major loss of enrollment and a turnover of faculty. It continues to grapple with financial stability as the school will receive no further subsidy from the Church by 2007. It has survived many tragedies, one of which claimed the lives of three teachers in a jeepney accident on their way to Bontoc to celebrate Teachers’ Recognition Day. However, for every tribulation, the school has its abundant share of joys and successes as it continues its educational Christian ministry, which is the very essence of its existence.

Today, St. James School endures with a stable student and faculty population, continued support from the Besao community and the St. James School alumni, and help from other individuals and institutions such as International School Manila and Brent schools. St. James School in 2004 boasts of its new library and its new Internet website. Thanks to its enthusiastic faculty, its ardent supporters, and most of all its students who are well prepared to pursue their academic and career endeavors. St. James can truly be proud of its history and heritage, and can be worthy of your confidence that indeed, with St. James, your child’s education comes first.

Acknowledgement to the following for the materials and records provided:
1. Rev. Willis R. Henton (deceased)
2. John L. Botengan Sr.
3. Sylvia K. Yongaan
4. Rt. Rev. Edward P. Malecdan
5. Edith L. Polilin



  1. I was searching for the national accreditation standing of St. James’ High School in the net but I couldn’t find any. Does this mean that SJS has not yet applied for the accreditation of high schools. If not, I think it’s high time for its employees, alumni and students to work for this.

  2. I am with batch 1976 so Please verify if the following statement as written in the article is correct.
    “In June 1968, St. James School achieved the full stature of a four-year high school as first batch of 29 seniors graduated on March 27, 1986.”

  3. just wannna answer the accreditation…
    check this site http://www.deped.gov.ph/private/private_excel.asp

  4. Pau,
    Your link seems to be about DepEd recognition as of SY 2008-2009. Accreditation is with PAASCU and the like.

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