Humble Beginnings of the BIT International College Schools
Up until the eighties, people of the sleepy barrio of Cansibao in the eastern coastal town of Valencia, in Bohol, were primarily subsistence farmers and day laborers, living simple, quiet, and unremarkable lives.
It was in this barrio that Dionisio “Dioning” Balite came into the lives of Marcos Tapitan Balite (“Tatay Marcos”), a tenant farmer, and his wife, Ciriaca Salarda Dajalos (“Nanay Ining”), who hailed from the neighboring town of Garcia-Hernandez.
Orphaned as a little boy, Tatay Marcos – who quit school in the second grade – taught the young Dioning the importance of farming, hard work, and perseverance. Nanay Ining, fondly remembered by her classmates as “the smartest in our class but just too bad, did not have the means to go beyond sixth grade,” bequeathed to her son an intense and immense passion for education, even if that meant being at the mercy of loan sharks in the village.
For a Cansibaonan like Dioning who had reached the sixth grade, he was considered extremely lucky and privileged. He religiously attended school in between his duties of pasturing the family carabao, and helped out during the planting and harvesting seasons. He finished elementary school as 1st honorable mention, and from Valencia High School, as class salutatorian.
The scarcity that characterized his growing-up years was crippling. But instead of allowing it to dehumanize him, on the contrary, it emboldened Dioning to GO BEYOND life’s painful circumstances. Not only was his family so poor, he was also fourth in the line of siblings who all aspired to move up to college. Convinced that there was absolutely no way his parents could send him to college, he left for Tagbilaran to apply as a “working student” at the then-Rafael Palma College (RPC), which is University of Bohol today.
For lunch money, Dioning typed term papers for classmates, earning one peso per job. He scrubbed floors in his lodging house, in exchange for free accommodation. He survived his college years with only two pairs of pants, one of which he wore as battalion company commander for his Advanced ROTC classes. As “working student,” he worked as janitor-clerk at the registrar’s office, where he was eventually promoted to chief clerk, and then assistant registrar. From that time onward, he came to be called “Sir Dioning.”
Despite Sir Dioning’s challenging college days, he is well-remembered for his able leadership on campus. This was where he met his lifelong mentors and developed friendships that would ultimately form the majority of his following, in socio-civic, religious and political circles.
Soon, Sir Dioning was headhunted by the owners of the then St. James College (SJC), the present-day PMI Colleges, to become the registrar. By the time he left RPC, he had earned an associate in arts and an elementary teacher certificate (both with the highest honors), a bachelor’s degree of arts and science in education (both magna cum laude), a bachelor’s of laws, and an advanced ROTC. He also had hurdled the 2nd Grade Civil Service Examination in 1960 and the Adjutant General Classification Test in 1965.
In 1963, at the tender age of 22, Sir Dioning threw his hat in the political ring and was elected councilor in Valencia. When he was not attending sessions at the town hall, he was at SJC, where he was promoted to College Director in 1969. Meanwhile, he managed time to attend law school, and eventually passed the bar. He managed SJC until 1972, when at the age of 31, he ran, and won, as chief executive of Valencia. That victory made him the youngest mayor in Bohol and in Region 7, made most special because he did not inherit the position from political family connections.
While serving as mayor for eight years, he finished the Local Administration and Development Program at the University of the Philippines and a Master of Arts summa cum laude at the University of Bohol. He hurdled the Teacher’s Board Examination in 1973 and the Professional Career Civil Service Examination the following year.
Sir Dioning recounts his years as “working student” with not a hint of bitterness, but instead, with burning pride. Unfazed by life’s humiliations, always feeling restless and itching to be on his own, Sir Dioning, together with his wife, the former Lilia Ancog, launched Bohol Institute of Technology (BIT) in 1981, from virtually nothing.
Ma’am Lilia hailed from Bilar, and was Sir Dioning’s fellow “working student” at RPC. She herself came from a challenged background of small-time merchants. For a time, her paternal grandparents were landed gentry in Bilar, but by the time she was born, all of that land had been sold, and her family lived in penury. As early as grade school, she worked for her aunt whose family operated the biggest mill and variety store in Bilar. It was at that sari-sari store, where she worked as cashier that she acquired bookkeeping and basic accounting skills. After high school, knowing that there was no way she could continue her studies, she left Bilar to apply as “striver” at RPC. As fate would have it, she was assigned at the Registrar’s Office, where she met Sir Dioning.
A School is Born
From the dreams, the diligence, dedication and industry of Sir Dioning and Ma’am Lilia was born the Bohol Institute of Technology (BIT). BIT started out in a rented two-story ancestral house on Hontanosas Street in Tagbilaran City, with fifteen faculty and staff.
Sir Dioning prayed for the new school to attract at least 100 students on its first year, for the school to survive for a year. It was not 100, but 520 students who enrolled in such technical-vocational courses as electronics, refrigeration and air-conditioning, auto-mechanics and driving, master electrician, general radio communication operator, stenography, typing and bookkeeping.
On its second year, the rented house could no longer accommodate BIT’s enrollment, which had risen beyond capacity. BIT had to branch out by renting another two-story building on Maria Clara Street and Tabaco Streets. The location was dubbed as BIT Annex.
In 1984, Sir Dioning and Ma’am Lilia would erect wooden buildings along Gallares Street, on a property they finally could call their own. The one-story buildings, which came to be known as BIT Main campus, were torn down years later to accommodate the increasing number of students. Today, the Main campus boasts of a covered court and five- and six-story concrete buildings serviced by an elevator.
BIT has since grown into a province-wide consortium of schools in the towns of Jagna, Talibon, Carmen, to which schools in Butuan and Siquijor, named Balite Institute of Technology, would be added. BIT Tagbilaran, renamed after as BIT International College or BIT-IC, stands as the flagship school.
The BIT School System now boasts of close to five hundred teaching and non-teaching staff, thousands of students and alumni. It offers all levels, from the first grade through postgraduate, including a graduate school and a College of Law. The System offers an array of courses: engineering, computer science, industrial technology, midwifery, nursing, radiologic technology, criminology, maritime, business and accountancy, hotel and restaurant management, teacher education, and arts and sciences. Sir Dioning is President-Emeritus of all six schools.
Sir Dioning’s school administration and leadership skills easily suited him for the succession of roles that he would soon play. He served as the President of the Bohol Association of Higher Educational Institutions, the Bohol Private Schools Association, the Association of Private Schools and Technical Institutions of Bohol, and Vice-President of the Philippine Association of Private Technical Institutions. He has also served as president of the Technical Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in the province of Bohol. While managing the growth of BIT, Sir Dioning also worked toward a Doctor of Philosophy, which he completed bene meritus. As fate would have it, in the May 2016 elections, the people of the province of Bohol elected Sir Dioning as their Vice-Governor.
Equipped with knowledge and experience of school administration, Sir Dioning and Ma’am Lilia fed and nourished the fledgling institution of BIT like it was a seed of grain. Together, they have built a solid educational foundation especially for the impoverished youth of Bohol, something that no Boholano had ever attempted before.
They have sown seeds of hope and ambition in the minds of young Boholanos, who otherwise do not have the chance of an education. They care for the students like their own children and grandchildren, guiding and caring for them, so that one day, they, too, will grow and become agents of change.
Sir Dioning and Ma’am Lilia are blessed with the opportunity to re-live their lives a thousand-fold through the aspirations of these young Boholanos. Through them, they are able to look back at their own lives with profound fulfillment and overwhelming gratitude. Their life stories are an inspiration to Boholanos whose lives are fraught with poverty and onerous challenges. They have touched the lives of thousands who live in the margins of society, ushering in hope despite their struggles, and transforming families and communities by giving them confidence and security.
Sir Dioning and Ma’am Lilia’s passion to help the disadvantaged sectors of society as educators has never waned over the years. It has grown more intense and in bigger proportions, through their six children who are now pillars of the BIT-IC System. The family has touched and impacted more lives and people who, for their part, now serve humanity and are effecting changes in Boholano society.
Through its graduates, BIT IC carries a GLIMMER OF HOPE, the message of POSSIBILITY and the UNDYING COMMITMENT TO UPLIFT THE LIVES OF BOHOLANOS THROUGH EDUCATION. Today, BIT has metamorphosed into A BASTION OF SCHOLASTIC EXCELLENCE, INDUSTRY, SERVICE AND AFFORDABILITY.
Graduates have topped licensure examinations, and the BIT IC schools have posted 100% passing rate in board examinations. Thousands of BIT graduates now man overseas vessels and police stations, provide health care as nurses and midwives, develop websites and create computer programs, and mentor students in schools around Bohol and in nearby provinces. They are now living icons to BIT IC’s thunderous cry that anybody can GO BEYOND!
BIT IC has become the Boholano youth’s Bridge to an Infinite Tomorrow, where their dreams can come true.
BIT IC today represents the EMPOWERED Spirit of the Boholano, the haven wherein they can unleash waves of their best to maximize their potential and attain their dreams, regardless of their origins and circumstances.