A Brief History Of ISM

Article by: Georgia Limcaoco

Photographs compiled by: Patrice Yam

When this school year’s freshmen graduate in 2020, ISM will be celebrating its 100-year anniversary! In the past hundred years, the world experienced a second World War, the Japanese invaded the Philippines, and Martial Law was declared. During all that time, ISM, formerly the American School, carved a rich history of its own.

In 1898, the United States colonized the Philippines, and many American families began to arrive in the country. They needed to find a way to educate their children, but there wasn’t much choice of American education in the Philippines. Out of necessity, the American School was founded in 1920.

“The biggest problem was finding a location for the growing demand of students increasing each year,” writes Lou Gopal, an American School alumni from the class of 1962. His blog, Manila Nostalgia, looks back at “pictures and stories of the Manila [he] remembers.” The American School shifted location multiple times, its first campus being a small two-story building on Taft Avenue. This belonged to the Episcopalian Church, and the school was forced to move two years later. The American School moved a few more times before settling on the Donada Street campus in 1936.


In 1941, the Japanese invaded the Philippines and seized the campus to use as a prison. All Americans were forced to move into an internment camp, where students were able to continue their schooling. Thirty-four students received their diplomas, but by 1946, people were too weak to continue schooling. The class of 1946 did not graduate. Despite these circumstances, the American School reopened after the war, and the school policy began to allow mestizos and Filipinos to attend.

“That shows how strong our sense of school and community [was],” says Stephanie Hagedorn, Director of Admissions and Advancement at ISM. “Even under the worst of circumstances, the people that were a part of the school were determined to keep things going, and we went from that little church to a school of 2200+ kids.” Edgar Krohn, one of the students of 1946, was given an honorary diploma along with the class of 2008.


In 1961, the American School moved to Bel-Air, Makati, and began to diversify. In 1970, “the school [thought] of changing its name to reflect the changing enrollment patterns” (American International School Alumni Association of Manila) and became the International School of Manila. In 2002, ISM moved into its current campus in Fort Bonifacio.


Today, ISM is considered one of the best schools in the country. The old Donada campus is now the Arellano University School of Law, and the Bel-Air campus is now the Century City Mall. 1920 to 2016 has certainly been a long and eventful journey for ISM.