International Schools – Iloilo Alternatives

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For the foreigner with children considering relocation to the Philippines, a key consideration is finding good schools for them.  Often this means living in Manila or Cebu City where there are well-regarded international schools. That’s fine for the corporate employee whose employer will foot the $5,000 to $10,000 tuition and who has to live in the cities for their work.

Cebu International School, Cebu City

Cebu International School, Cebu City

The international schools essentially create enclaves; secure, air-conditioned, English speaking cocoons of first world standards and values.  Fellow students are a mix of the children of foreign businessmen, diplomats, NGO directors and the indulged offspring of the Filipino elite.  Soccer fields often replace basketball courts.  The students are being prepared for admission to universities in Europe, the United States and Japan and readmission to life in the first world. The main point of international schools is to provide an education based on an American [or British or Australian] curriculum. This approach tends to immerse students in the foreign culture and isolate them from Philippine culture.

Maybe you can’t afford the tuition to an international school.  Maybe you don’t want or need to live in congested, polluted Manila or Cebu City. Here’s another alternative to consider. Iloilo has a very large, influential, and well-integrated Chinese-Filipino population.  Early on, in an effort to keep their children connected to Chinese language, culture and values, Iloilo’s Chinese community founded and supported several thriving “Chinese schools” including Iloilo Chinese Commercial High School (ICCHS or “Washiong” or “Huasiong”), founded in 1912, and the nearby Sun Yat Sen High School.

Today these Iloilo Chinese schools welcome foreign students.  They can be a good alternative for foreigners who want to prepare their kids for opportunities in Asia or back in the US or Europe working for employers doing business in Asia. The kids grow up in Asia and speak multiple languages (English, Tagalog, Mandarin). They are comfortable with life in Asia and are imbued with an Asian cultural literacy not obtainable in the US or Europe. After graduation, they go on to college in the Philippines or elsewhere.

 

I have a retired American friend who settled in Iloilo City to allow his son to attend ICCHS, get a Chinese education and learn Mandarin. So far, he’s happy. The cost is about $600 per year including tuition, uniforms, textbooks, and supplies. The facilities are generally adequate at these schools — a big step above public schools — but still will seem quite basic to most foreigners.

Another good possibility are the elite Catholic schools in Iloilo City.  The one that I am most familiar with is Assumption Iloilo.  The facilities and location are somewhat more upscale than the Chinese schools.  There is an English-only rule in class.  Students may have to pay a fine if they lapse into the local language, Hiligaynon.  This works.  Every Assumption-educated Ilongga I know speaks English well.  We’ve spent a great deal of time with a Filipino family whose daughter attends Assumption.  She an impressive young lady, poised and accomplished.  We also know several other adult alumni of Assumption, including our landlady and our attorney.  All are educated, well-spoken, urbane and decent people.  Assumption is not only strong on academic skills, it also insists on discipline and teaching basic values, but not in an overly austere way.  I’m not a Catholic, but I would not hesitate to choose Assumption for my daughter if I had one.  Assumption does accept boys in the elementary grades but is primarily a girl’s school.

Ateneo de Iloilo (Santa Mario Catholic School)

Ateneo de Iloilo (Santa Mario Catholic School)

Please feel free to suggest corrections or additions.  There are many other private schools in Iloilo City.  I’ll try to add information and photos as I get them.

Comments (7) Write a comment

  1. Hi,

    I have had heard about a reformed Chinese school in Ilo-ilo, which offer dormitory to kids who needs to be corrected on behavior. I have an eight year old son… actually i just got him this year and he has some problem. And I am willing to send him on a reformed school. Will you please pass me an information on what and where this school in- Ilo-Ilo is? Thank you

    Reply

  2. Rey,

    Thanks for your good wishes and the fascinating insights on “Washiong”. I showed your message to a friend who is fluent in Chinese, the one whose son goes to ICCHS. He speculates that Washiong should be Hua Shiong, the Hua referring to us (the Chinese) and Shiong to commerce – basically what you have said.

    Reply

  3. Hi Robert, How you doing? Glad to receive your e-mail. I wish I can explain to you in chinese characters where the name Washiong came from, unfortunately I already forgot most of the chinese character I learned when I was studying chinese. Lack of practice is the culprit. Washiong came from two chinese character WAH & Shiong. Iloilo Chinese Commercial High School when translated into chinese will be Ilong Wah Siong Tiong Oh. As far as I know, they still maintain the dormitory inside their main campus in Iznart Street, in my time in the 70’s, we had around 150 more or less students coming from all over Philippines and even abroad staying inside the dorm. But I don’t know how many they have right now. hey, happy to hear you built your house in Tigbauan, you are really an asset of Iloilo, with your website you help promote Iloilo. Thanks a lot.

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  4. Rey,

    Thanks for your comments. I’m curious as to where the name “Washiong” came from. I have never seen it before and Google does not shed any light.

    Way cool Bob

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  5. Thank you for your website, I am now living in San Diego but was born in Iloilo City. I too was an alumni of Washiong, that school bring me a lot of happy memories. Iloilo is the educational center of Western Visayas, students coming from Manila and as far as Mindanao go to Iloilo to study. When I was studying at the University of San Agustin, some of my classmates were from Zamboanga, General Santos and Cotabato. Even Washiong’s dormitory, almost all who’s staying there are from other parts of the Philippines and even abroad. Robert, you are cool.

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  6. Iloilo Chinese Commercial School (Washiong) is one of the best school in Iloilo. We migrated here in the US year 20 years ago. Sending your kid here to a private school is too costly so it was decided for her to continue her highschool in the Philippines. We did our research and turned out Washiong is one of the best school in Iloilo.

    Reply

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