BY Melinda G.Tua (Sui Eng Go)

SULU TONG JIN SCHOOL, located on the island of Sulu Philippines; in the city of Jolo.  This was the once prestigious private Chinese school of Jolo since the early thirty’s (1930s).  It was officially closed effective June 2000 due to the deteriorating political situations in Jolo.  The escalating kidnap for ransom since 1999 not only affected the local residents of Jolo; but, nationwide and internationally when the Abu-Sayap kidnapped the twenty-one (21) Sipadan tourists in one of Malaysia’s diving resort in April 2000.

In the early thirty’s, the Jolo Chinese residents were fortunate to have Sulu Tong Jin School.   Most of the teachers  in Chinese came mostly from mainland China, no wonder students can speak the Xiamen or Amoy dialect.  The students of those days are now in their late eighty’s and some have gone ahead of us.  During the Japanese war, the SULU TONG JIN SCHOOL was used by the Japanese as a school to teach school age children to learn Japanese.  Unfortunately just before the Americans came to Jolo, the school was burned.

The Americans occupied the Philippines and Jolo in the late 1940s.  In 1946, SULU TONG JIN SCHOOL was rebuild and hundreds of school children came back to school.  During the early fifty’s and sixty, if some of you can recall, the SULU TONG JIN SCHOOL is known for excelling in the different academic contest held in the different schools in Jolo.   And I (Sui Eng Go) was assigned  along with Students who left Jolo to further their studies excelled in the different areas of learning. Many are now successful businessmen, doctors, nurses, engineers, architects etc.  God had been so good to Tongjinians and God so wonderfully blessed each one of you.

Some teachers I can recall during the fifty’s are our Principal, Mr. Lim Hau Kang, our teachers, Mr. Charles Lim(Lim Sian),   Mrs. Cheung Siok Chu (Chueng Sian),   Mr. Lim Ho Chi,   Mrs. Carmen Siao Canizares,  Mr. Tan Keh Sio( a resident of Jolo),   Mr. Simeon Que,  Mr. Yusop Tan,  Mrs. Eustaquia Chio, Mrs. Teresita Tapia Burias,  Mr. Rufino Chio,  Mrs. Maria Magango Penafiel,  Mrs. Giok Seng Que etc…; Carmen G. Lu was a teacher in the elementary level so were Mrs. George Yap,  Ms. Carolyn Tan,  Ms. Nene Tan,  Ms. Yap Sio Po,  Ms. Aie Kiao Yap,   Ms. Aie Tee Yap,   Mr. Liao,   Mr. Tan Ke Siu,   Mr. Verar Lim,   Mr. Kennedy Kunnang.   Also, Ms. Susie Evelyn Ang was a teacher in high school around 1970s while Ms. Bettie Lim and Ms. Giokbin Que were teachers around 1950s.

Other Sulu Tong Jin School teachers remembered by Dr. Josiah Ang  (circa 1960) are: Elizabeth Aspiras (Seniors),  Teresita Burias (Juniors),  Lilia Chiong (Sophomores),  Helen Garcia (Freshmen) and such others as Ms. Emilia Garcia (Pilipino),  Ms. Yelo (Economics),  Ms. Escudero (Biology),  Ms. Quino (Spanish),  Mr. Saad Yusah (Physics),  Mr. Eugene Lim and Ms. Betty Lim (Math),  Rev. Art Pimentel (Bible),  Fr. Hilario Lim, SJ (Asian History),  Mr. Pete Torres (Scouting),  Mr. Blu Pinafiel (Band),  Mr. Tan Hue Chin (Arts/Scupture),  Ms. Yong Hua Yam (Taiwan History).

Before Town of Jolo was Burned
Before 1974, the Sulu Tong Jin School was a beautiful structure. It stood tall and proud.  It was a two story structure located at More Avenue, Alat, Jolo, Sulu.  The school and grounds were well maintained.  It had a beautiful brick wall and gate which was the entry way into the court yards.  There was a full basketball courst and grounds for soccer .  Around the wall on the inside was planted with trees.  It was the only Chinese school in Jolo.  The school had competitions with the Notre Dame High school.  The auditorium was located on the second floor.  There was two classes in this auditorium.  They were the third and fourth year classes.  In the back of the school the teachers had bed rooms for visiting teachers, office for the principal and  The teachers had to clean these rooms.  Candles were used to clean the floor and to be used as floor wax.  The was also a kitchen that was in the back of the school.  It was not until the late sixties that real floor wax was bought and used.  There were school dances and there was dance practice every day in the auditorium.  On october 10 was the national Chinese Day, with programs all day.  The school band would go out among the town to let the people know that it was October 10th.  There were programs and competitions going on all day.  There were many contests and prizes were awarded.  The towns people would all come to watch these programs.    

Whole Town of Jolo was Burned
The whole town of Jolo was burned during the war with the MNLF in 1974.  Sulu Tong Jin School was also burned.  Thus, many residents evacuated to Zamboanga, many did not come home anymore and made their residents in Zamboanga and elsewhere.  Those who came back are a minority… so for eight years SULU TONG JIN SCHOOL was not in operation.  In 1982, some residents went out asking for donations to rebuild the school and soon they were able to raise some funds but not enough to build a two story building which was the configuration of the original school building. This reconstruction was only a one story building with eight classrooms, an office and a canteen.  Of course the big school playground was still there, so in 1982, Mr.Yusop Tan acted as principal and they were able to get two Chinese teachers to start Pre-school.  Because of some internal problems, the school was closed the next year.

Re-opening Sulu Tong Jin School
Late October 1984, Mrs. Tan Yap Aie Kiao came to Jolo and soon we were discussing with Mr. Tan Swee Kiat, the late Mr. Rafael Kock Lay Tua some Chinese residents and I  discussed about the possibility of re-opening Sulu Tong Jin School.  Preparations were made and they appointed me the principal of the school.  So my first duty was to apply for a permit to re-open the school.  I went to the Department of Education Culture & Sports and began to get all the documents I needed. I remember a supervisor made it hard for me, instead of giving at one time all the requirements I needed, he gave it one at a time so I have to go to the office everyday.  The janitor saw me and reported to the Superintendent of  my plight .  One afternoon as I entered the office of the Supervisor, I was surprised to see the Superintendent in his office.  As soon as I greeted them, the superintendent immediately told the supervisor to help me accomplished the papers immediately, so from that on the Supervisor changed his attitudes and he was so good to me, in no time at all I was able to accomplish the application papers. Thank God for a kind and gentleman Superintendent, Mr. Ibrahim Albar.

This same supervisor later became so good to me and helped me in the many problems we faced with the school establishment.  He also told me that the lot where the school is located is untitled and gave me tips to apply so it won’t be taken by somebody who are interested of the property.  I told Philip Peng Go, my brother and because he had some friends working in the Department of Land, we  were able to get the title of the school lot about two thousand one hundred square meters. Praise God.

It was not an easy road in re-opening the school… one problem after another came but God who is our Provider solved  it for us… English teachers are easy to get but not Chinese teachers.  But, there were some who are still in Jolo who came and helped the school like Mrs Tan Yap Aie Kiao, the first two years, Mrs. Maadil, (daughter of Cheung Sian), Brenda Lim, Tan Keng Ling, now Mrs Johnny Hablo, Evangeline Yap Tua, daughter of Dian Toy now Mrs. Andie  Tua (my daughter in law), Kuan Bee Giok from Zamboanga.

Our first batch of elementary graduates graduated in 1991. From there, they went to Notre Dame School.  After High School, they went to different colleges in Zamboanga, Cebu or Manila… many of them graduated last March and are now successful professionals.

Closing the Sulu Tong Jin School
I hated to leave SULU TONG JIN SCHOOL this year, I thought I could still go on for another ten or fifteen years but the prevailing situation early this year cannot warrant my safety or the safety of the students anymore. In September 2000, there was a bombing incident at the school.  For the last year,  I would go to and from the school with security, I’m not used to that…    Early this year, my son Andy asked me to resign from the school because he does not have the millions to redeem me in case I willl be kidnaped.  So now with a heavy heart, I told the Board of Trustees of my resignation.  The Board decided to close the school because many pupils are transferring to Zamboanga.  I am now residing in Zamboanga with my grandchildren and daughter-in-law.  My husband, Kocksuy Tua and son Andy Tua are still in Jolo working to continue the traditions of the GOTECKLENG  HARDWARE & LUMBER.  We pray that we will be together in Zamboanga some day.

Comment by Melinda G.Tua:  If you have any information to add to this brief account of SULU TONG JIN SCHOOL please feel free to contact Walt or Rosie. In fact, I told Walt I will be sending more information when I go to Zamboanga.  I’ll have to go to Jolo to see some of my school files.  I can also send pictures old and new for all Tongjinians to view.  Can you still sing our School song?  It begins with “SUN POO TI SI,SOY POO SEN” God bless you all, Tongjinians.

Comment by Walt Okon:  Melinda G. Tua wrote this account on the Sulu Tong Jin School in November 2000 when her heart was still hurting over the closing of the school that she and many loved so much.  I personally visited the school in Jolo march 1998.  It was during the time when the children were doing their school recitals and talent contests.  I remember how impressed I was with the children and the teachers.  I remember how amased I was with the quality of the talent and remarked that American school children did not do such complected talent shows with such quality.  Also, I was impressed with the teaschers and their interaction with the students.  Truly, Jolo and the Plilippines suffers a loss with the closing of the Sulu Tong Jin School.  A loss of progress.

NEWS > Provincial >             Wednesday, April 26, 2000 12:50 AM ZE8
Abu Sayyaf behind Sulu blasts near the Sulu Tong Jin School.
                 In Sulu, authorities believe the Abu Sayyaf, also known as the Al Harakatul Islamiya, is behind two grenade blasts in Jolo last Sunday (April 23, 2000)

                 The bomb blasts were reportedly an attempt to divert the military from its operations in Basilan. Thirteen soldiers were wounded in the explosions.  In the first explosion, an unidentified man lobbed a grenade in front of a military outpost, leaving six troopers injured.  In the second, seven soldiers were hurt after another grenade went off near the Tong Jin Elementary School, minutes after the first blast.  Fourtuinetly, no children were hurt.

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