Long before the Spaniards came to the Philippines the Chinese were already trading with Filipinos. Eventually some of them intermarried with the natives and decided to stay leaving behind the hardships the experienced in China.
It was therefore not surprising that when the Spaniards colonized and united the islands, the “Las Islas Filipinas” was already inhabited by Chinese-Filipinos. When the Americans took over the Chinese population was widespread throughout the country.
In Cebu, just like many places in the Philippines, the Chinese were well established even in the rural areas. These Chinese immigrants who started a new life in the Malayan peninsula came penniless, armed only with the big dreams and a strong will to succeed
When the Americans came, the Chinese were effectively integrated into the Filipino way of life, and in fact the Filipino way of life was well-impregnated with Chinese customs, traditions, and beliefs. Just like all aliens in the country, the Chinese envisioned of educating their children in the mores and traditions of their forefathers. They sent their children to Taiwan or to mainland China to acquire the needed education. They found the scheme cumbersome and expensive. When the Americans encouraged the opening of private schools, Mr. Liao Sing Lek, the most well known Chino in Cebu City and locally known as Don Liao Contino, started educating the Chinese-Filipino Youth in Cebu in 1915
Using his own funds and resources, he imported three teachers from his homeland. Mr. Lao Chun Tek was the first principal with Mr. Uy Kick Kiong as disciplinarian and Mr. Tiu Chong Kiao from Shanghai as in charge of the English Department. About 200 students were initially enrolled with free tuition fees. Additional teachers were employed as the students grew in number. The free tuition fee was later rescinded and minimal fees were charged to defray the operational cost of the school.
The Cebu Chinese School was housed in a 3-storey building owned by Don Liao Contino. It started with grade one follow by grade two and so on until grade seven in 1923. The classrooms were in the second floor while the third floor served as teachers’ dormitory with free board and lodging. From their salaries, the teachers from China were able to send money to their families. All supplies, facilities, and equipment were provided by the benefactor. Having been managed by Chinese educators, the school followed the Chines curriculum. With the subsequent employment of local teachers starting mostly with Americans, English was taught starting grade three. English was limited to Reading and Language.
On the second year of operation, Don Liao Contino formed the Board of Assembly to help him manage the school financially and academically. From the Chinese community were the officers and members of the Assembly namely, Mr. Tan Unchuan, his brother Mr. Tan Un Ho, Mr. Sy Hong Choy, Mr. Cang, Mr. Tomas Liao Lamco, Mr. Yap An Ton, and others. Election of officers was done yearly. Don Liao Contino continued to be the school’s benefactor until the school could financially provide for its operation.
When the first batch of pupils graduated from the elementary level in 1923, the need for additional classrooms was felt to house the high school students. In 1923, the Board of Assembly raised funds to build a three-storey building at corner Dimas-alang and Leon Kilat streets. More teacher imports were hired to manage the high school level. The English Department was handled by American teachers. The first Dean was Mr. C. C. Lam, followed by Mr. Richardson. The Chinese Department was handled by Mr. Liu Chun Tek.
In 1925, another Chinese School named Cebu Sun Yat Sen High School located in Colon Street was established by another group from the Chinese community. The administrators of both schools decided to merge in 1938 to promote unity and economy in operation. The merger came up with the Cebu Chinese High School with Dr. S. Su as the director. All school buildings however, were burned during the war
In 1946 after the liberation, the Cebu Chinese High School was reorganized and housed in a makeshift building at D. Jakosalem St. With the Assistance of Atty. Calderon, a war damage claim was filed with the War Damage Commission. Due to the indecisiveness of the school officers and the Board, only eighty thousand pesos (P80,000.00) was collected from the three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00) previously claimed. Contributions from well-wishers were added to reconstruct the present school and administration building at Dimas-alang Street.
Towards the end of the forties, disunity prevailed. In 1950, Dr. Su and some teachers withdrew from the school and founded the Chinese Institute of the Visayas. With the able leadership and coordination of Mr. Limkakeng, a Board Member, the two schools reunited in 1952 and retained the name Cebu Chinese High School.
A new dedicated school administrator, Mr. Chen Lieh Fu, was installed in 1958. He reorganized the Administrative Staff and supervised the school. Between 1950 and 1960, the three-strorey elementary school building with the auditorium at the top floor in corner Dimas-alang and Climaco Streets and the Jakosalem branch housing the Kindergarten and the Elementary which included a social hall and a teachers’ dormitory were built.
Towards the mid-70’s, the College Department was organized. The gap between the High School building and that of the Elementary was spanned with connecting classrooms. However, the added rooms were inadequate for the college population which expanded in the succeeding years. In 1984, another college building was constructed in an adjacent lot.
From its establishments in 1915, the school enjoyed the recognition of the American Government.
Years later after the Philippine Independence, on May 30, 1950, the Cebu Chinese High School was Incorporated under the Securities and Exchange Commission and assigned Inc. No. 5120. Registered as non-sectarian, it was open to students of all nationalities.
In October 16, 1916, the Board of Trustees passed an amendment of its Articles in Incorporation changing the name from Cebu Chinese High School to Cebu Eastern College. It was duly approved on March 19, 1962 by then Mariano G. Pineda, Securities and Exchange Commissioner.
In the mid-seventies, during the Filipinization of all foreign schools in the country, the Cebu Eastern College became a non-stock and non-profit corporation owned by Chinese Filipinos. Filipino Administrators were appointed. The Chinese Philippine Education curriculum was adopted.
Due the excellent performance of the school on the national level gleaned from the NCEE achievement, it gained an accreditation status from the DECS, which started with DECS Order No. 51, s. 1993. The English curricular offerings were enriched with the Chinese curriculum. More contact hours were devoted to high school math, algebra, trigonometry, and advanced math using the Chinese curricular. The teaching of the Chinese language was retained in a view of the need of the Chinese business community. These are not required subjects for a student to graduate. However, speech, typing, computer education, journalism, and business math are required. Performance wise, the Cebu Eastern College has always been within the top of 250 Best Performing Schools in the country as disseminated in DECS Memoranda. With more than 200 graduating students every year categorized as Cluster A by the DECS, CEC obtained 18th place throughout the country and first among the Visayas and Mindanao schools. This is with respect to the NCEE/NSAT government tests administered annually by the NETC.
The Cebu Eastern College after the meritorious served of the late Dr. Chen Lieh Fu, Ms. Josefa Yap was assumed as School Administrator. In spanned of 4 years in administering the school she died. Since the Administrator died she replaced by Ms. Kho Siok We. Ms. Kho served the school for only 2 years after that she resigned due to sickness.
For now the school managed by the son of the Late Board of Trustee Mr. Frederick Ong Sr. is Mr. Frederick K.D. Ong Jr. He is now serving the school as School Administrator. Mr. Ong Jr. created a new young committee to takes care of his works while of his absences. He fielding Mr. Johnny Lee Sy as the School Director , Mr. Cabanes as Academic Director , Mr. Jefferson Go as School Affairs, Mr. Brian Ong for Facilities, Mr. Steve Villabert for Academic Consultant and Mr. Eric Ong as Assistant School Administrator.