The town of Jolo is one of the oldest communities in the Philippines. It used to be the center of trade and commerce prior to the arrival of Islam and Spanish conquestadores. Jolo, then, was the seat of Sulu Sultanate, until it was transferred to Maymbung in the late 19th century. At the very heart of the town of Jolo, there rose proudly Notre Dame of Jolo College, the oldest college in Sulu.

The journey of the College started when the Oblate missionaries from the United States of America were sent to the Philippines. Arriving in Manila in 1939, three of the seven pioneers, Frs. Emile Bolduc, George Dion and Cuthbert Billman arrived in Jolo on the same year. They came to the archipelago not to impose the Christian religion to its inhabitants, but to make a difference in the lives of the people. They offered education which would eventually change the perspectives of the people, especially the youth, towards life and the choices to make, and to see the world outside the lens of Sulu. Thus, in 1947, a year after the declaration of Philippine Independence, the first Notre Dame School, known as Mount Carmel School, was established. The school, which started with a handful of elementary students, was supervised by the Missionary Sisters of Saint Augustine. These Belgian sisters, however, did not stay long in the province. They went out of Jolo in favor of bigger cities.

As its enrollees grew in number, and by the demand of high school education, Notre Dame high school was put up and ran by the Oblate Fathers with the help of the Order of Presentation Sisters (PM). The PM Sisters came to Jolo in 1955 through the invitation of Fr. George Dion, OMI to show the close connection of elementary education to high school. It was on this year when the name of the school was changed from Mount Carmel School to Notre Dame Elementary. As the school gained recognition, the number of enrollees rapidly increased.

The continually growing number of students gave Fr. Emille Buldoc, OMI the idea of putting up a school for the college level. Bound by their commitment to educate the people of Sulu, Bishop McSorley, OMI supported the idea of Fr. Buldoc, and on June 14, 1954, Notre Dame of Jolo College was founded with Fr. Maurice Hemann, OMI as its first rector. This was a dream came true for the youth of Sulu whose parents could not afford to send them to school outside Jolo. The population started with only fifty-eight students enrolled either in Secretarial Science or in the two-year Elementary Teacher’s Course (ETC), the first two courses offered by the College. The faculty members were composed of the Rector, Sr. Marie Eustelle and Louise de Notre Dame of the Presentation of Mary (PM) and nine lay instructors.

Although the enrollment on its first year of operation was insignificant, the College, however, continued to show progress. Thus, on its second year under the supervision of Fr. Robert Callahan, OMI, the second rector, two more courses were offered: Liberal Arts and Bachelor of Science in Education.  In 1956, Fr. Charles Prass, OMI served as the third rector of the College and Bachelor of Science in Commerce was then added to the curriculum.

 Fr. Francis J. Crump, OMI followed as the fourth rector in 1959. On the same year, the college department was separated from the high school department. With this set up, Fr. Crump eventually became the first president of Notre Dame of Jolo College. During his term, three more courses were added to the course offerings: Pre-Nursing, Pre-Engineering and the Nautical Courses. Mr. John Hermane Arrakan was the lecturer in nautical courses and Captain Jacob Gonzales served as consultant. The offering of nautical courses was inspired by the vast sea that surrounds Sulu archipelago. Its inclusion in the curriculum was anchored on the mission of the Oblate missionaries to encourage the youth to explore a kind of occupation involving the sea and marine resources.

  Initially, classes in college were held only in the evening. This was to give chance to those students working during the day. However, with the increase of enrollees in 1962, it was decided that classes should also be held in the morning and in the afternoon.

        Year 1960 saw a milestone in the history of Notre Dame of Jolo College. The Graduate School was opened based on the appeal of public school teachers and government officials for a provision of venue for graduate studies. It appears that, from the past to the present, Notre Dame of Jolo College is destined, through its provision of quality education, to be the leading formator of leaders, which the province of Sulu needs.

        Notre Dame of Jolo College rigorously developed and served its purpose to whom it caters the most, the poor people of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. By the 1960s, under the umbrella of NDJC, the Sulu Star, the only provincial newspaper at that time, was launched by Fr. Cuthbert Billman, OMI along with the Coordinated Investigation of Sulu Culture (CISCUL), which was organized in 1961 in coordination with Ateneo de Manila University. Fr. Gerard Rixhon, OMI was the first director of CISCUL. The two projects became the brain cells of the socio-economic, political and cultural activities of the people of Sulu archipelago, be they a Tausug, Samal, Badjao or Christian migrants. In 1962, to help uplift the socio-economic status of the people it served, Notre Dame Jolo Credit Cooperative was established, and in 1968, Notre Dame Cottage Industry was put up to provide training and employment to out-of-school youth of the province. The training included mat weaving, abaca weaving, sewing, embroidery and shell and wood craft.

        NDJC continued its journey of progress and development, giving hope and bright future to the people of Sulu. By 1967, the school was transferred to its current site.

         As Notre Dame of Jolo College continued with more improvements and developments on its educational system, changes were also done in the elementary and high school levels. The PM Sisters were recalled to their Mother House in Davao to supervise their growing school there. In 1959, through the invitation of the Reverend Vicar Apostolic, the first group of Dominican Sisters joined the Notre Dame family. They took the responsibility of running both girls high school and elementary. Its first Mother Superior was Rev. Mother Enriqueta, OP.

         Another significant event in 1959 was the taking-over of the Notre Dame School for Boys by the Marist Brothers. With the increased of enrollment, a two storey building was erected in a lot at Gandasuli Road that would serve as classrooms for Notre Dame high school male students, at the same time, a home for the Marist Brothers.

       Indeed, the Dominican Sisters and the Marist Brothers contributed so much in injecting positive outlook to life in the minds of their young students, which, when they came to college was cultivated into a driving ambition to bring Sulu into a place of splendor. 

       In 1973, Fr. Jose Ante, OMI became the president of the College. It was in this same year that NDJC received its accreditation from Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU). During his term, Fr. Ante systematized the community projects of the College. These projects were Housing Projects, Community Organizations, Health Projects, Nutrition Programs, Adult Literacy, Christian Children Fund, Fishing Association and greater specialization in Cottage Industries. Through these projects, the Oblates would live true their mission “Serving the Poorest of the Poor”. This was put to test when a disaster hit Jolo in 1974. Fr. Ante was left with the gigantic tasks of not only to reconstruct the College, but also to give attention to the needs of the people in the community. As a result, on this very year, Community Extension Service was established by the College.

       Demands for Notre Dame education, on the other hand, continued to prosper. As an answer to these demands, in 1975 – 1976, two more courses were added to the curriculum. These were Midwifery and a 4-year course in Social Work.

       In 1976, Fr. Benjamin De Jesus, OMI assumed presidency, followed by Fr. Emmanuel Sison, OMI in 1981. In order to give importance to the role of student services in the College, he initiated the completion of a building that housed the offices of the Director of Student Affairs, the Mahardika Student Government, the School Clinic, the Book Service, the School Paper and the Guidance Office. Fr. Sison, OMI was sent to another mission in 1985, and Fr. Ante, OMI, who was then the president of Notre Dame University was named as the president. In his absence, Fr. Rodolfo Jacobe, Jr., OMI was designated as the Officer-in-Charge of the College. It is important to note that year 1985 marked another milestone in the history of the College. It received its third accreditation from the PAASCU.  

        Fr. Rodolfo Jacobe, Jr., OMI was installed as president of the College in 1989. By 1990, a new course in Nursing was opened to the public in response to the needs of the province for more nurses. By 1991, Fr. Ruben Ma. Gomez, OMI was sent to Jolo to be the president of the College after Fr. Jacobe, OMI. A year after, Fr. Gomez, OMI was replaced by Fr. Amador Castillo, OMI, who assumed presidency for only the first semester of school year 1992-1993.

      On July 24, 1994, Fr. Federico Labaglay, OMI took over the presidency. His term saw many changes in the College. aside from giving attention to the operational system of the College, he sent teachers off-campus for professional development.      

       From past to present, it is the vision and mission of Notre Dame of Jolo College to be the leader of change in the province of Sulu. It has shaped the lives of young men and women who are now seen occupying leading positions in almost all known institutions in Sulu, both public and private. It has produced graduates that occupy key positions in politics. The wings of ambition have brought many of its graduates to foreign lands. There, they have excelled and have continued to uphold the values of a true Notre Damer: God Fearing, Respectful, Innovator, Competent and Committed.

       Fr. Charlie M. Inzon, OMI, the current president, has initiated the formulation of those Core Values, which have become the anchor on all endeavors of the College. Fr. Inzon, OMI is an innovator. He sees beyond the present needs of the College as evidenced by his full support of the Faculty Development Program, both degree and non-degree and his concern for the social development of the students. The new RLE and Criminology building and improvements made in the library and the ND Review and Resource Center are also proofs of his innovations and endeavors.

       He is the man behind many milestones that bring glory and honor to NDJC since 2009 when he assumed presidency. It is during his term when the College, for the first time produced a topnotcher in the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). It is also during his term when the first home-grown lawyer passed the Bar Examination. Under his supervision, he empowers all sectors to carry out tasks in line with the vision and mission of the school. It cannot be denied that NDJC has bloomed under his supervision.  It has earned a five-year accreditation from the PAASCU, and has been granted the permit to operate two more courses: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Bachelor of Science in Management Accounting.

       Hail to Notre Dame. Whatever the future may hold for the College, one thing is for sure, NDJC will continue to fulfill the legacy of its forbears, the pioneers of the Oblate mission.

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