Northern Luzon Adventist College

Photo courtesy of North Philippine Union Conference Archives.

Northern Luzon Adventist College

By Lowel J. Domocmat


Lowel J. Domocmat is professor of theology at Northern Luzon Adventist College, Artacho, Sison, Pangasinan, Philippines. He has served the church for 22 years as field pastor and professor of theology. He and his wife, Maria Carmela L. Domocmat, DNP, have three children. Currently, Domocmat is pursuing a PhD in religion at Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, Silang, Cavite, Philippines.

Northern Luzon Adventist College (NLAC) is a Seventh-day Adventist boarding institution of higher education. It is operated by the North Philippine Union Conference and located in Artacho, Sison, Pangasinan province in Luzon, Philippines. It is situated on 27 acres of land along the national highway 210 kilometers north of Manila, the capital city. The college started as a church school in 1923, became an academy in 1931, and expanded into a senior college in 1992. Currently the college offers education for kindergarten through graduate school.

In the 2017-2018 academic year, the college enrolled 1,051 students (216 elementary, 368 high school, 427 college, and 40 graduate students). The college offers Bachelor degrees in theology, psychology, English, general science, history, mathematics, nursing, accounting, business administration, information technology, office administration, and education. The college offers one graduate degree, a Master of Education.

Developments that Led to the School’s Establishment

The first church established in the province of Pangasinan was in Artacho, the same village (or barangay in Filipino) where NLAC is located. On April 28, 1919, Victoriano Lapitan wrote to Roy E. Hay, the director of the Northern Luzon Mission based in Vigan, Ilocos Sur province, requesting that a preacher visit Artacho. A few months later, Lapitan met the Adventist pioneer colporteur in the Philippines, Robert A. Caldwell, in a train station at Baguio and secured a subscription to the Signs. After carefully reading the Signs, Lapitan was convinced of the seventh-day Sabbath and started keeping it and sharing his new knowledge with relatives and friends.1 Leon Z. Roda, a Filipino pastor pioneering the work in Northern Luzon, was sent to Artacho. He conducted a two-week tent meeting in the village, which was followed up by Filipino workers, Juan O. Afenir and Tito P. Atiga. Their work resulted in 30 baptisms and a church was organized near the end of 1919.2

From Artacho, the Adventist message spread to various places in the eastern part of Pangasinan province. As the church membership grew, founding church schools became a priority. Through the leadership of William B. Ammundsen, the director of Northern Luzon Mission beginning in 1921, the mission started many church schools. The aim was to “start a school in every place where we have enough children to warrant it, and also to conduct an intermediate school as a feeder to the academy in Manila.”3 This was about eight years after the work had started in Northern Luzon, Philippines.

Founding of the School

The church school in Artacho was founded in June 1923. It was the second church school to be established in the Northern Luzon Mission—the first was at Narvacan, Ilocos Sur province. Thirty school children applied for admission in 1923 in grades one to five.4 The first teacher was Tomas A. Pilar, a graduate of the Philippine Adventist Academy (now Adventist University of the Philippines) who had taught at Narvacan Church School, but transferred to Artacho Church School in 1923.5

The school’s progress was evident from its building program. In 1924 the first classroom made of indigenous materials was remodeled into a 24-foot by 48-foot classroom with a galvanized roof and walls made of bamboo. It was erected on a newly purchased lot of about an acre. At the same time, intermediate grades were added along with a second teacher, Romualdo Cabansag.6 In 1925 more classrooms were constructed. The Far Eastern Division granted the school’s request to offer eighth grade in 1926.7 This prompted the renaming of the Artacho Church School to Ilocano Junior Middle School in 1926. Urbano Oliva was the principal. At the same time the school was relocated to its present site. Regarding the missionary spirit of the newly founded school, Juan O. Afenir of the Northern Luzon Mission in his 1925 annual meeting report said, “Many of the unbaptized young people who come to the schools are instructed and baptized, and thus our schools become centers of light.”8

In 1929 steps were taken by the school and the mission to transform the school into an academy serving the Northern Luzon Mission territory. As the school population grew, two buildings were built to serve as dormitories for boys and girls. In June 1930 additional teachers were called to teach in the middle school—Quintin Cabansag and Andrea Cadiz. Cabansag served as the principal.9 In 1931 the Ilocano Junior Middle School started to offer high school education as approved by the church and the Department of Public Instruction of the Philippines. In this same year the school was renamed Northern Luzon Academy.10 It had 68 students with Cora G. Lugenbeal as its first principal.

As Northern Luzon Academy continued to grow, during the first half of 1932 the mission and school leaders started to construct an administration building, which was later described as a fine building of cobblestone and cement on the school lot of about 14 acres.11 Additional lots were later purchased, expanding the campus to 27 acres. The following year, two new dormitories were built with indigenous materials. There were eight faculty members in 1933 who were committed to training students mentally, spiritually, and physically for usefulness to the community and the church.12 In 1934 the school was granted government recognition.13

The value of learning how to work was emphasized and practiced from the school’s formative years. Students planted fruit trees, native and foreign vegetables, rice, and corn. There was also a sewing department that produced mosquito nets. These industries helped students fund their education.

History of the School

Northern Luzon Academy earned a reputation for quality education. In 1935 the academy was ranked third among the 108 schools in the region in spite of its humble facilities and modest library collections.14 Unfortunately, in 1938, the boys’ dormitory made of indigenous materials burned down. Fortunately, only one student received a minor leg injury, but the school lost the shoe and bindery shops, as well as 30 sacks of rice that were stocked under the dormitory.15 By 1939 the boys’ dormitory was rebuilt along with a girls’ dormitory. The construction of the second story of the administration building was started the same year and completed in 1941 through the leadership of Roman E. Senson, the school principal.16 One side of the second story served as the school chapel and the other half housed classrooms and offices. The school year 1941-1942 had 320 students and marked the highest enrollment since the school’s founding.17

During World War II the school closed from 1942 to 1945. On January 13, 1945, the boy’s dormitory burned down and the second story of the administration building was bombed. Fortunately, the cobblestone walls of the first floor of the administration building were only partially damaged as were the other structures of the school.18

On July 2, 1946, the school reopened and reconstruction of the destroyed buildings began. Materials purchased from the war surpluses of the American base were used to rebuild classrooms and restore the boys’ dormitory to its original design19 while the girls’ dormitory was repaired from salvaged materials. In 1947 government recognition was renewed. By 1948 the administration building was occupied, although the second story was not restored.20 The chapel, dining hall, and kitchen were located in the rear of the building. Teachers’ residences were made of Quonset-huts bought from the American base. A water system was also set up from a spring on a nearby mountain.21

Northern Luzon Academy’s reputation was further enhanced by attention from the Philippine government’s Bureau of Education. On October 26, 1961, the school was the chosen venue for teacher in-service meetings that were usually held at Dagupan City due to its strategic location. Although the school was located at the far northeast section of the province, the supervisor chose Northern Luzon Academy to host the in-service in order to show the school to the 79 participants coming from the 33 schools in Pangasinan province. After a demonstration by first and second grade teacher Feliciana D. Brillantes, the Bureau of Education superintendent commented that, “If I had a child in those grades, I would surely establish my home in Artacho and put him ‘under Miss Brillantes.’” Attendees were encouraged to “learn some lessons from Northern Luzon Academy.”22 Moreover, the academy was a recipient of the Award of Merit for Outstanding Quality Work given during the golden jubilee of private education in the Philippines celebrated by the Agno Valley District of the Bureau of Private Schools.23 During the celebration of the golden anniversary of the academy on April 9-11, 1973, the district superintendent of the Bureau of Private Schools of the Philippine government declared in her speech: “Northern Luzon Academy is the pride, not only of Seventh-day Adventists, but also of the Agno Valley District of the Bureau of Private Schools.”24

Another building program was launched in the early 1960s, resulting in the construction of the library, teachers’ duplex residences, clinic, shop, home economics building, and auditorium. The auditorium, named Aguinaldo Balinao Hall in honor of the former mission and school treasurer, was financed by a mission-wide fundraising campaign started in 1958.25

When the school was founded in 1923, it was envisioned to be a feeder for Philippine Adventist Academy. But as the Adventist work in Northern Luzon progressed, it became evident in the second half of the twentieth century that a college was needed in the region. Thus, a vision to transform the school into a college was conceived during Petronilo J. Barayuga’s tenure as school principal. As a result, in 1989 the academic program of the high school was granted Level 1 Accreditation by the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges, and Universities.26

In February 1990 the Northern Luzon Mission Executive Committee approved the plan for opening a college program and endorsed it to the North Philippine Union Mission. Having been granted a permit from the Philippine government and the approval of local denominational leadership to operate as a junior college, the school started to offer Bible courses in the summer of 1990 to church school teachers lacking the required religion units because they graduated from non-Adventist institutions. Forty teachers from the Northern Luzon Mission took the summer classes with Nestor C. Rilloma instructing. By June 1990, the school started to offer a Liberal Arts program (four-year college degree) in which 37 Adventist young people matriculated.27

On April 11, 1992, the North Philippine Union Mission Executive Committee (now a conference) approved the plan of the school to become a senior college and recommended it to the Far Eastern Division Council. Leaders from the Education Department of the General Conference visited the school in November 1993, which led to the final approval for Northern Luzon Academy to become a senior college named Northern Luzon Adventist College.28 With the elevation to senior college status, campus facilities were expanded with the construction of college classrooms, a library, a nursing building, and phase one of the new ladies’ dormitory. Petronilo J. Barayuga became the first president of NLAC and Nestor C. Rilloma, the academic dean. Both men were instrumental in the development of the college. In 1992, NLAC was ranked second among “Excellent Private School[s]” and rated the “Cleanest and Greenest Private School in Region 1.”

In order to achieve the college mission “to nurture students in a Christian way of life and prepare them to become servant-leaders who are competent, committed, and consecrated to the service of God and humanity,”29 the college continued to seek denominational and non-denominational accreditations. In 1995 the college received accreditation from the Adventist Accrediting Association (AAA), and in 1996 it was granted Level I accreditation from the Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines (FAAP) through the Association of Christian Schools and Colleges-Accrediting Agency, Inc., (ACSCU-AAI). The latter accreditation was upgraded to Level 2 in January 2001.30

As the twenty-first century began, to NLAC’s physical plant were added a new college library, phase two of the ladies’ dormitory, biology and physics laboratories, additional college classrooms, a new elementary building, and phase one of the new men’s dormitory. In 2009 the Philippine government permitted the college to matriculate foreign students, and for the first time four African students transferred from a sister institution. At present the college has about 100 foreign students, mostly from the Republic of Angola and Papua New Guinea.

NLAC has consistently been a top performing school based on the results of the Philippine government licensure examinations. Several times between 1998 and 2014, NLAC had a 100 percent first-time pass of its nursing and education graduates.

Historical Role of the School

When NLAC was founded, it was intended to serve the Adventist young people of Luzon. But over time, Adventist and non-Adventist students from Visayas and Mindanao, and from other countries came for a college education. Students were drawn by NLAC’s campus values manifested in faculty members’ and administrators’ care, support, and desire for student success.31

NLAC is also active in its community. The college adopts barangays (villages) in the town where socio-economic programs are implemented to improve livelihood, nutrition, mental health, community health, and infrastructure. The goal of these programs is to improve the quality of life. In addition, the college actively supports the mission of the church in its constituencies. During semester, Christmas, and summer breaks, Voice of Youth teams of more than 100 students are organized and sent to different places in central and northern Luzon for outreach efforts. Two Sabbaths a month, small groups of students, along with their faculty sponsors, minister to small churches. The Bachelor of Arts in Theology program blends theory and practice. Through its Field School of Evangelism, theology students make friends in the community, give Bible studies, and initiate health-related programs. Thus, the training of the mind, the heart, and the hands is emphasized and practiced throughout the college.

In the college’s first quarter century, its graduates served the church as pastors, nurses, teachers, IT technicians, accountants, and in many other positions both in the Philippines and internationally. With a reputation for competence, dedication, and integrity, graduates of the college contribute significantly to the denomination’s workforce, serving as secretaries, teachers, principals, college professors, union and mission directors, accountants, and mission presidents. NLAC alumni are also leaders in government, private institutions, and corporations.

Fulfilling Its Mission

What the college needs most is to be continually guided by its mission and vision in all areas without exemptions. The mission of the college is “to nurture students in the Christian way of life and to prepare them to become servant-leaders who are competent, committed and consecrated to the service of God and humanity;” and its vision is “to be the center of quality Adventist Christian education responsive to global needs.” That is, the faculty, students, facilities, and staff must be instrumental in the fulfillment of its mission and vision which is the determinant factor of its success.

Principals, and Presidents

Artacho Church School (1923-1926)

Tomas A. Pilar (1923-1925); Cayetano Bangloy (1925-1926)

Ilocano Junior Middle School (1926-1930)

Urbano Oliva (1926-1929); Quintin Cabansag (1930-1931)

Northern Luzon Academy (1931-1992)

Cora G. Lugenbeal (1931-1939); Roman E. Senson (1939-1942); Jose Herrera (1945-1948); Urbano M. Oliva (1948-1952); Juan O. Afenir (1952-1953); Victor C. Cabansag (1953-1956); Demetrio M. Echanova, Jr. (1956-1958); Ban B. Alsaybar (1958-1963); Justiniano Tawatao (1963-1966); Victor C. Cabansag (1966-1972); Juanito V. Afenir (1972-1976); Alejandro P. Miguel (1976-1978); Victor A. Areola (1978-1980); David R. Rafanan (1980-1984); Nora V. Tambaoan (1984-1987); Angelina M. Corpuz (1987-1988); Petronilo J. Barayuga (1988-1992)

Northern Luzon Adventist College (1992-present)

Petronilo J. Barayuga (1992-2000); Arnulfo N. Castillo (2001-April 2005); David R. Rafanan (May 2005-March 2006); Nestor C. Rilloma (2006-2012); Claribel M. Dingoasen (2013-2015); and Nepthali J. Manez (2016-present)


Afenir, Juan O. “1925 Report of the Northern Luzon Mission.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1926.

Afenir, Juan O. “From the Northern Luzon Mission.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, August 1930.

Afenir, Juan O. “Northern Luzon Academy’s Golden Jubilee.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, August 1973.

Alsaybar, B. B. “A New Auditorium for Northern Luzon.” ARH, August 15, 1963.

Alsaybar, B. B. “Ground Breaking for Lugenbeal Memorial Hall.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 1963.

Alsaybar, B. B. “I Just Want to Show Them Your School.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, February 1962.

Ammundsen, William B. “Northern Luzon Mission, Philippine Islands,” ARH, April 12, 1923.

Armstrong, V. T. “In the Midst of Ruin.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, February 1946.

Armstrong, V. T. “Rebuilding the Philippine Northern Luzon Academy.” ARH, May 23, 1946.

Bradley, W. P. “New School Buildings in the Philippines.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1932.

Cochran, James. North Pacific Union Gleaner, October 2, 1919.

Crisler, Clarence C. “An Evening and a Morning in a Village of Northern Luzon.” Missions Quarterly, Second Quarter 1925.

Domocmat, Lowel J. Lasting Influence: Stories of Students Nurtured at NLAC. Pangasinan, Philippines: Joriel Publication, 2012.

“Excerpts from Letters.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1945.

Hay, Roy E. “Notes from the Philippine Union.” Asiatic Division Outlook, December 15, 1919.

Jackson, Samuel E. “From the Philippines.” Field Tidings, March 10, 1920.

Loewen, M. E. “Building Operations.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, November 1948.

“Losses in the Philippines of Buildings and Contents.” ARH, April 5, 1945.

Lugenbeal, Cora. “The Northern Luzon Academy.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, December 1933.

Northern Luzon Adventist College. Faculty Handbook. Rev. ed. Pangasinan, Philippines: Northern Luzon Adventist College, 2015.

“Notes from the Ilocano Field, P. I.” Asiatic Division Outlook, August 1, 1923.

“Pastor P.J. Barayuga: The Man Behind Building up NLAC.” The Reflector, June-August 2013.

Ragsdale, A. M. “Optimism Under Trial.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, February 15, 1938.

“Recommendations Adopted During the Spring Council of the Far Eastern Division Committee, March 19-31, 1926,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, May 1926.

“Reports Presented at the Division Meeting.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, March 1935.

Rilloma, Nestor C. and Jose F. Sarsoza, Jr., eds. 100 Years Back to the Future: Celebrating God’s Goodness. Manila, Philippines: Philippine Publishing House, 2005.

Senson, R. R. “Northern Luzon Academy.” ARH, November 20, 1941.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Rev. ed. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996.

Sevrens, Oliver F. “Our Academy in the Philippines.” Asiatic Division Outlook, July 1922.


  1. Roy E. Hay, “Notes from the Philippine Union,” Asiatic Division Outlook, December 15, 1919, 7; Samuel E. Jackson, “From the Philippines,” Field Tidings, March 10, 1920, 3; James Cochran, “[Letter to the Editor],” North Pacific Union Gleaner, October 2, 1919, 8.

  2. Jackson, 3; Cochran, 8.

  3. William B. Ammundsen, “Northern Luzon Mission, Philippine Islands,” ARH, April 12, 1923, 21.

  4. “Notes from the Ilocano Field, P. I.,” Asiatic Division Outlook, August 1, 1923, 12.

  5. Oliver F. Sevrens, “Our Academy in the Philippines,” Asiatic Division Outlook, July 1922, 6.

  6. Clarence C. Crisler, “An Evening and a Morning in a Village of Northern Luzon,” Missions Quarterly, Second Quarter 1925, 14.

  7. “Recommendations Adopted During the Spring Council of the Far Eastern Division Committee, March 19-31, 1926,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, May 1926, 12.

  8. Juan O. Afenir, “1925 Report of the Northern Luzon Mission,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1926, 17.

  9. Juan O. Afenir, “From the Northern Luzon Mission,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, August 1930, 6l.

  10. R. R. Senson, “Northern Luzon Academy,” ARH, November 20, 1941, 19; Cora Lugenbeal, “The Northern Luzon Academy,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, December 1933, 5.

  11. W. P. Bradley, “New School Buildings in the Philippines,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, July 1932, 2; Lugenbeal, 5, 12.

  12. Ibid., 12.

  13. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, rev. ed. (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996), s.v. “Northern Luzon Adventist College.”

  14. “Reports Presented at the Division Meeting,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, March 1935, 5.

  15. A. M. Ragsdale, “Optimism Under Trial,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, February 15, 1938, 7, 8.

  16. Nestor C. Rilloma and Jose F. Sarsoza, Jr., eds., 100 Years Back to the Future: Celebrating God’s Goodness (Manila: Philippine Publishing House, 2005), 74.

  17. Senson, 19.

  18. “Excerpts from Letters,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1945, 3; “Losses in the Philippines of Buildings and Contents,” ARH, April 5, 1945, 24; V. T. Armstrong, “Rebuilding the Philippine Northern Luzon Academy,” ARH, May 23, 1946, 18; Rilloma and Sarsoza, 74.

  19. V. T. Armstrong, “In the Midst of Ruin,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, February 1946, 2; Armstrong, May 23, 1946, 18.

  20. M. E. Loewen, “Building Operations,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, November 1948, 4.

  21. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia.

  22. B. B. Alsaybar, “I Just Want to Show Them Your School,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, February 1962, 16.

  23. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia.

  24. Juan O. Afenir, “Northern Luzon Academy’s Golden Jubilee,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, August 1973, 12.

  25. B. B. Alsaybar, “Ground Breaking for Lugenbeal Memorial Hall,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 1963, 11; B. B. Alsaybar, “A New Auditorium for Northern Luzon,” ARH, August 15, 1963, 16.

  26. Rilloma and Sarsoza, 75.

  27. “Pastor P. J. Barayuga: The Man Behind Building up NLAC,” The Reflector, June-August 2013, 20-21.

  28. Ibid., 21.

  29. Northern Luzon Adventist College, Faculty Handbook, rev. ed. (Pangasinan, Philippines: Northern Luzon Adventist College, 2015), 5.

  30. Rilloma and Sarsoza, 75-76.

  31. Lowel J. Domocmat, Lasting Influence: Stories of Students Nurtured at NLAC (Pangasinan, Philippines: Joriel Publication, 2012), 69-70.


Domocmat, Lowel J. "Northern Luzon Adventist College." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed September 21, 2021.

Domocmat, Lowel J. "Northern Luzon Adventist College." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access September 21, 2021,

Domocmat, Lowel J. (2021, April 28). Northern Luzon Adventist College. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved September 21, 2021,