Fire hits Lucena Catholic school moments after New Year Mass ends
LUCENA CITY—A six-hour fire broke out at one of the oldest Catholic schools in Quezon province on Tuesday, some 30 minutes after people who went to the New Year’s day Mass had left the compound on Merchan Street here.
Firemen said no one was hurt as students of Sacred Heart College (SHC) were on holiday break and the nuns and personnel running the school were able to leave the buildings before the fire spread. The blaze started at 8:30 a.m. and was put out at 2:46 p.m., the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said.
BFP officials had yet to establish the cause of the fire.
“The wind was so strong, causing the fire to spread quickly, from one building to the next,” said Arnel Avila, Lucena City public information officer, who was at the school compound just as the fire was raging.
The main building, which houses a computer laboratory, chapel and dormitory for nuns, was destroyed.
BFP or school officials did not say how many nuns were staying in the dormitory.
A nun from Daughters of Charity, the group managing SHC, was crying as she looked at the main building’s façade. She turned to one of the school’s employees and said: “Thank God, no one was hurt.”
The nun said the Mass held at the school had just ended when the fire started.
SHC is in a residential district at Barangay 2 but no other structure outside the school compound was hit by the fire.
School for poor
SHC started as Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, a charity school for poor children, founded by Hermana Fausta Labrador, a Filipino laywoman, on April 27, 1884, according to “Witnessing to a Glorious Heritage,” a coffee-table book on SHC history.
The school was initially housed in buildings owned by benefactors from the city until 1944, when the structures were destroyed by fire.
Teresita Vitto, a former SHC student now based in the United States, said the school transferred to its present site in 1958, from its former location on Enriquez Street.
Using his mobile phone camera, Avila took 33 minutes of video of the fire as it was raging.
The video he posted on his Facebook page had been shared 3,670 times and was viewed 80,000 times by Tuesday noon.
Chericel Marie Esteban, 29, a graduate of SHC who is a nurse in Saudi Arabia, said: “Our batchmates were all in tears when we learned and saw several videos of the fire on the internet.”
Esteban, who was in Lucena for the holidays, said she was devastated when she learned that the school chapel was destroyed.
“The chapel played a big part of what we are today. It’s the part of the school where we stayed and prayed hard to pass every examination, especially the government board exams,” she said. —DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.
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