The primary and singular distinction of SSC (St. Scholastica College - CAP) is its pioneering introduction of formal music education in the country through Sr. Baptista Battig, student of Ludwig Deppe, then the last living pupil of Liszt.
Born in 1870, Sr. Battig marked her centennial in the Philippines in 1970. She had just began in her native Breslau, Silesia, an auspicious concert career when she answered a call to the religious life. At age 30, she became a nun in the Benedictine Order founded by St. Benedict and his sister St. Scholastica. Sr. Battig was sent to the Philippines in 1907, leaving the Benedictine headquarters in Tutzing, Germany. She was to teach music in this country for the next 35 years.
Her first music classes in Manila were in a modest room in Singalong with a single, second hand, borrowed piano. To demonstrate her theories — beauty of tone being the most important of these — she gave two concerts whose overwhelming success drew countless pupils to her classes which were later held in an impressive building adjoining St. Scholastica College, the St. Cecilia’s Hall.
Much later, as interns we were allowed to leave our study period so we could attend the recitals of the students of Sr. Battig or of her own graduates. The earliest of these were Barbara Cuaycong, Eugenia and Marcela Agoncillo, Blanca Castillo (later Mrs. Dinglasan) all of whom became my piano mentors, Imelda Katigbak (later Mrs. Dayrit) mother of pianists Menchu Padilla and Amelita Guevarra, Pilar Blanco, mother of Ingrid Santamaria. Eugenia Agoncillo gave me valuable pointers on reviewing music performances. Luz Katigbak, who graduated under Marcela Agoncillo’s tutelage lectured to us on music theory and composition, music history and music appreciation.
All music schools in the country directly or indirectly trace their beginnings to Sr. Battig who introduced Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, Schubert, Brahms, Chopin et al, their works, to quote Celine Olaguer Sarte, forming the backbone and the glory of piano literature. Way back in 1933, as the zealous, pioneering Sr. Battig marked her 25th year of piano teaching in the Philippines, she wrote: “Great is my desire to see the dear children of the East rise in the musical world to the same level as those of the West. May all my earnest endeavor bear fruit and lead to a plentiful harvest; and may my profound desire be realized some day.” There is absolutely no doubt that Sr. Battig’s desire has been more than fulfilled.
Photo from St. Scholastica College website