An Emerging University Town In Abucay, Bataan
- Fr. Joemar L. Sibug, O.P. () - January 23, 2008 - 12:00am

Traveling by land, approximately 119 kilometers north from Manila, or 50 kilometers west across Manila Bay, one reaches the agricultural and fishing town of Abucay, Bataan. It is the site of one of the oldest Catholic churches in the country – St. Dominic Parish Church, built in 1588 by Spanish Dominican friars. It was in this church where Tomas Pinpin co-authored and printed the earliest books in the country.

After more than 400 years since the Dominicans first set foot on our archipelago, Filipino members of the Order of Friars Preachers, more popularly known as Dominicans, are back in the same town where their predecessors first settled – in Abucay, Bataan. This time, they are not building another church, but an emerging university town. From Manila, it is about two and a half hours travel by land, and approximately forty-five minutes by Ocean Fast Ferries.

Since its foundation in 1620, Colegio de San Juan de Letran has another new campus – a sprawling fifteen hectares of what used to be pastureland in Barangay Gabon. By virtue of a municipal resolution, the site where the campus is situated is now known as Dominican Hills. Situated at approximately 600 meters above sea level, Letran-Abucay is about twelve kilometers away from Balanga, the province’s capital, and eight kilometers from the center of the town, accessible through the road now called Dominican Hills Avenue, connected to the Roman Highway.

In 2000, construction started in the fifteen-hectare area, donated by Mayor and Mrs. Liberato Santiago, Mr. and Mrs. Nicanor Soriano and Gov. and Mrs. Leonardo Roman. From the front entrance of the administration building, on a clear day, one can catch a view of the skyline of Manila across Manila Bay on the east. Surrounding the campus are several mountains, including Mt. Samat and Mt. Mariveles on the south, and Mt. Silangan and Mt. Natib on the west. Standing at 1,253 meters above sea level, Mt. Natib is the highest peak within Bataan Natural Park.

One of the main attractions of Letran-Abucay is its relatively undisturbed natural area and environment. On cool mornings and hazy afternoons, fog descends from the mountains and envelops the campus. From the months of December up to February, the climate in the area of Letran-Abucay is similar to that of Baguio City. Incidentally, in the neighboring town of Orani, there is a place called Little Baguio, referring to the kind of weather in its vicinity. Indeed, it is an ideal place for study. Architect and environmental planner Yolanda David Reyes incorporated the natural topography of the site in the overall design and conceptual master planning of the campus. A dormitory at the back of the main building houses both students and employees alike.

Now on its second year of operation, Letran-Abucay is the first Catholic tertiary school in Bataan, offering courses in Information Technology, Hospitality Management, Communication Arts, Electronics and Communications Engineering, BS Secondary Education, Business Administration and Accountancy. It hopes to offer more new courses in the future, including BS Nursing.

February 1, 2008 marks the 2nd Foundation Anniversary of Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Abucay, Bataan. With the theme: “Letran Abucay@2: Moving Towards Excellence”, activities are lined up for the week long celebration which will commence on January 28, 2008. One of the highlights of this celebration is the Science and Math Academic Regional Tournament. Endorsed by the Department of Education in Region 3, it is where elementary and high school students from Region 3 will compete to find out who is the best among them in Science and Math. Prizes at stake include trophies, medals and cash for the first, second and third placers. Letran-Abucay, as an emerging university town, promotes the values of academic discipline, competitiveness and excellence among the youth, not only of Bataan, but of the entire region as well. To excel and to soar high, that is what is meant by “Arriba Letran!”

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