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HUMBLE BEGINNINGS It was in the summer of 1995 when the idea of putting up a school for the welfare of poor but deserving students in Siargao and Bucas Grande Islands, Surigao del Norte came about. It was a brainchild of then Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) – Caraga Regional Director Dr. Sol Matugas. The school, which came to be known as the SIARGAO ISLAND INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (SIIT) was born with the able helping hand of the director's son Francisco Jose Matugas, plus the financial support of the Siargao Foundation set up by her husband, former Surigao del Norte Governor Francisco Matugas.

Harnessing her expertise in documentation, in compliance with permit application requirements, and in the installation of all necessary equipment and facilities prescribed by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Dr. Matugas easily obtained permits to offer Bachelor in Elementary Education (BEEd), Bachelor in Secondary Education (BSEd) and Associate in Computer Science courses by June of 1996.

Classes during its first year of operation were held in three classrooms at Gerona Building along Sto. Nino Street in Dapa, Surigao del Norte. The late Dr. Genevieve Guda was designated as the School Director. With her were three full-time teachers Raul de Castro, Jr., Jonathan Etcuban and Rey Baquirquir from Cebu City. Part-time teachers from the island were also hired to complement the teaching staff.

In just a matter of eight years since it opened with only 148 students, SIIT’s enrolment quadrupled to over 500 students by 2003. The phenomenal growth in enrolment was brought about by the expansion of course offerings. This then required the opening of additional classrooms in two more buildings along Sto. Nino Street.

On March 20, 1998, the first Commencement Exercises were held for the 15 graduates of its two-year Associate in Computer Science course. Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Regional Director Enrique Einar was the commencement speaker.

The year 2000 marked a new milestone in the history of SIIT, when the government granted recognition to its two-year Computer Secretarial course. With an initial enrolment of only 15 students, it did not take long for the new program to attract about 50 students. It was also during this year when the first batch of candidates for graduation from the baccalaureate degrees received their diplomas. Twelve students graduated with the degree of BSEd and 43 graduated with the degree of BSEEd. The candidates took pride in having Regional Director Joanna Cuenca of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Caraga Region, as their commencement speaker.

By 2003, permits were issued allowing SIIT to offer two new four-year courses, Bachelor of Science in Office Administration (BSOA) and Bachelor of Science in Criminology (BSCrim).

Two thousand five was yet another turning point in the history of the institute when the construction of the new Don Mariano Matugas building was completed. The availability of more classrooms, new equipment, laboratory and other facilities, including an Internet facility, encouraged more students to study at SIIT, which resulted in an increase of enrolment from 500 to almost 700 during the first semester of academic year 2005-2006.

Despite the continuing economic downturn that heavily affected enrolment of other tertiary schools with higher tuition fees, SIIT’s enrolment continually grew due to the opening of more academic programs, such as the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science (BSCS), Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (BSIT), majors in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics for BSEd, plus the two-year Licensed Practical Nursing Course (LPN), which is duly accredited by TESDA. Other schools’ loss became SIIT’s gain because students who could no longer afford their tuition fees had to turn to SIIT as a fallback for their continued studies.

Present Times

In order to keep pace with the rapid advancement in communications and information technology, SIIT pioneered the establishment of an Internet facility in the entire Siargao and Bucas Grande Islands. The islands, which comprise of the First District of the province of Surigao del Norte, is home to nine municipalities – General Luna (where the world-famous Cloud 9 is located), Del Carmen, San Benito, Pilar, Burgos, San Isidro, Sta. Monica, Socorro, and Dapa, the latter being the center of commerce, trade and industry.

Although the fully air-conditioned Internet cafe is primarily for the use of SIIT students, it is also available to the public during off-peak hours on school days and on Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays.

Despite the availability of four college annex buildings where the administrative offices, laboratories and classrooms are located, enrolment growth which is projected to increase by at least 30 percent this coming AY 2007-2008 will need more classrooms. Having anticipated such an increase, a new 10-classroom building is targeted to commence construction by early next year. It will be erected side by side with the present main Don Mariano Matugas Building.

Meanwhile, blueprints for the renovation and redesign of at least two of the four existing college campuses have been made. Carpentry and masonry jobs are almost complete to conform with the recommendations of the Regional Quality Assessment Team (RQAT), such that academic programs with more students like the B.S. Criminology will have its offices, laboratory and classrooms in just one building or campus.

The expected increase in enrolment this June will be due to the opening of a number of one-year and two-year ladderized programs under TESDA. The program designs are leading to four-year degree academic programs under CHED. Such programs include, among others, the one-year and two-year Security Services leading to B.S. Criminology; two-year Computer Hardware Servicing leading to BSIT, one-year and two-year Housekeeping and Bar Tendering leading to B.S. in Tourism and B.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Management, one-year Caregiver Course and other short-term technical-vocational and skills training programs under TESDA, which are in great demand by foreign countries these days.

TESDA has committed its full support to SIIT since the latter has now become the center for technical and vocational skills training in the entire island. Besides, it is the only tertiary institution that provides quality education with the lowest tuition fees. As a clear manifestation of its support, TESDA is offering scholarship grants to students of SIIT beginning the second semester of AY 2006-2007. It is TESDA’s goal to help schools churn out skilled manpower and accelerate employment under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s "A Million Jobs" generation program.

Flagship Academic Programs

The offering of the two-year Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program is the Siargao Island Institute of Technology’s own simple way of addressing the high demand for nursing graduates abroad. Poor but deserving students in the entire Siargao and Bucas Grande Islands are now able to pursue nursing course at the lowest cost.

The LPN program is patterned after the LPN curriculum of Camosun College of Victoria, Canada after SIIT’s founder had the chance to visit the college in November last year. As a matter of fact, Dr. Robert Priebe, vice president of Education and Student Services and John Boraas, dean of the School of Access and First National Education of Camosun College, paid a return visit to SIIT last November 18 to find ways of further enhancing the curriculum and to look at the possibility of an exchange visit of professors and students between the two colleges.

LPN is also accredited by TESDA and is leading to a four-year academic degree program for Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). In its initial offering this school year, the course had already an enrolment of two sections. More parents and students had been inquiring whether the school would be accepting first year enrollees in the present semester. By next school year, enrolment in this course is expected to double.

The LPN classrooms are fully air-conditioned and its laboratory is complete with state-of-the-art medical and nursing equipment, gadgets and apparatuses including human-sized dummies of the human body and human skeleton.

A full-time retired head nurse heads the LPN department. Full-time and part-time instructors like doctors and nurses from both the private and public health clinics and hospitals in the island are hired to provide quality instruction and experiential learning to LPN students.

It may be surprising and unbelievable, but it is true. One might not believe it also, but SIIT has the biggest total student enrolment among schools offering B.S. Criminology program in the entire province of Surigao del Norte. No less than members of RQAT themselves were the ones who pointed out that SIIT must further improve and upgrade some of its facilities especially for the aforementioned course since it has more enrolment compared with those in big schools and a university in Surigao City. Present SIIT enrolment in the program numbers to almost 300.

The first batch of more than 50 Criminology students who just completed their 200-hour practicum or on-the-job training at the offices of the Land Transportation Office, Bureau of Fire Protection, Traffic Management and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Surigao City graduated last March 2007.