TARLAC: The country's oldest high school and seat of the oldest public school system — Tarlac National High School (TNHS) — celebrated its 120th founding anniversary on Thursday.

School principal, Dr. Yolanda Gonzales, said in a phone interview with The Manila Times, that there was a Mass on the school's founding day — while a video presentation of TNHS' history was shown to students to instill its significance in the nation's education system.

TNHS was founded in September 1902 by American Thomasites and has since educated prominent statesmen, including the late Foreign secretary Carlos P. Romulo, who was a signatory for the Philippines to the United Nations Charter when it was established in 1946 and the first Filipino secretary-general of the United Nations 4th Session General Assembly in 1949.

Other significant people who were graduates of TNHS were Jose Roy Moncada, the first senator from Tarlac who has a town named after him; former University of the Philippines president Onofre Corpuz, who later became secretary of the Ministry of Education; and lawyer-journalist Jorge Bocobo who was the principal author of the Civil Code of the Philippines.

In 2017, the Tarlac City council passed a resolution that sought recognition of TNHS from the National Historical Commission (NHC).

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The resolution, authored by former councilor Glenn Troy Caritativo, requested the city government to make a representation with the NHC to recognize TNHS to be among the national historic sites in the country.

"No wonder why in every significant national undertaking, there are Tarlaqueños in the frontline and behind the scenes of any victorious struggle," said Caritativo, noting that its restoration is badly needed.

TNHS' main Gabaldon-type building and social hall was the site of the first school operation in 1902. It was razed by fire on Oct. 28, 2015.

"A raging fire left heaps of gray ashes and rusty steel bars and other debris that made it look barren and desolate and its significant value in history is imperiled," the resolution said.

It also sought that a commemorative marker be placed in the area to concretize its standing in the nation's history as affirmed by several historians and book authors.

"The fact that TNHS is a pioneer school in its significance in honing skills and intelligence of young people in the early stage of Philippine republic, this country owes a great deal of intellectual guidance from it that nurtured the minds of Filipino leaders," the resolution stated.