It was a scene straight out of a typical school day 15, 20 or even 30 years ago. Groups of girls, large and small, were gathered in circles, chattering away. And to complete it, the requisite warning: “Girls! Please be quiet! You are being too noisy!”
Back then, the girls would quickly bow their heads out of habit. But this time, the room was filled with laughter. After all, the “girls” were no longer in their checkered gingham uniforms, toting pocketbooks and backpacks. Instead, they were in their corporate attires and toting their daughters, happy to be back home in the arms of our beloved alma mater, Poveda.
Many things have changed, beginning with our school’s name, which has gone from Institucion Teresiana to Poveda Learning Center and now, St. Pedro Poveda College.
The campus itself has also transformed immensely, from the open-air gym and cafeterias to modern two-story facilities and an air-conditioned coliseum-style gym complete with bleachers. I almost couldn’t find my way to our book launch venue, the chapel.
And speaking of the chapel, there it was, no longer the cozy nook we grew up with, but a beautiful and light-filled church.
But one thing had not changed: the Povedan, with all her stories and passion and her Povedan family, still full of love and support for its daughters. But listen closely, and you will notice that these are not just ordinary stories, and this love is a kind of love that has endured through generations, all beautifully documented in the book “Cuentos y Recuerdos: Povedan Spirit in Action” (Stories and Memories).
More than just a book launch, last week’s celebration was in thanksgiving to all the alumnae who gave their time and effort to complete this book, gratis et amore. The task of editing fell on Ms Chuchi Pacia and Angie Talavera-Bautista, while putting together the rest of the book fell on the “Cuentos” Team, comprised of Irene Atayde-Almario, Mariles Abello-Borja, Twinkle Caro, Koyen Cipriano, Mary Anne Lorenzana, Agnes Blas-Lorenzana, Jacquelyn Ramirez, Patty Morato-Roa, Sam Santos, Elisa Custodio-Sta. Ana and Pia Trinidad.
The team also included the tireless Kritzia Santos, who would text at 2 a.m.; Alessa Libongco-Lanot, who designed and laid out every page of the book; and Heather Europa, who even flew to Bukidnon to create the perfect video that had everyone tearing up.
“Cuentos” was born in honor of the school’s patron, St. Pedro Poveda, a Spanish priest who spent most of his life living in a cave in Guadix, Spain. St. Poveda devoted his life to the outcast gypsies. He worked tirelessly through social action to help address their material needs while ensuring their spiritual growth. Soon he realized the need to break the generational curse of poverty that the young gypsies faced. He put up a school in the caves, and the rest is history.
Today, there are Povedans everywhere trying to continue the mission-vision we grew up with, and this book is a reminder to all that “all of us should be involved… there is a role for everyone and a sphere of action to get things moving.” (P. Poveda)
The 50 cuentos tell of the different ways that social action can be lived out. It doesn’t matter what one’s circumstances are. There is always a way to change lives around us and to give. As my favorite Povedan maxim goes, “You do not need to be rich in order to give. It is enough to be good. He who is good will always have something to give.”
Take, for example, the cuento of Mr. Teofilo Baguio, better known to the community as Mang Bags, our very own Chuck Norris. Technically, he is the head of security but in truth, there is no title that can ever cover everything that Mang Bags lovingly does for us.
To begin with, can you imagine memorizing the name of every student from Kinder 1 to fourth-year high? Now, try matching each name to the corresponding parent, guardian or car that regularly fetches this child.
Gift of love
Mang Bags has stood by our gate for the last 28 years and continues to do so, ensuring each child’s safety. And if you see him 12 years after graduation, he will still call out your name perfectly, as though it were just yesterday. To each and every student, he gave his gift of love.
“Araw-araw, paggising ko, nagdadasal ako na maging safe tayong lahat mula sa umaga hanggang dismissal. ’Yon talaga ang pinakaimportante sa akin, ang safety ng mga bata. Kaya rin siguro binigay sa akin ni Lord ang gift na matandaan ang lahat ng mga pangalan… ’Di ko talaga ma-explain kung paano ko ito nagagawa, pero ito ay para siguraduhin na ligtas sa panganib ang mga bata.”
In the case of Maruxa Pita, a Teresiana and Mother Teresa Awardee in 2011, she has given us not just Spanish classes but her entire life, having chosen to live in the country for the last 53 years and now, devoting her life to the less-fortunate children of the Makabata foundation school.
With her short white hair, cheerful “can-do” attitude and quick stride, señorita Pita is a beacon of inspiration to all who encounter her, but her own inspiration comes from a former student of St. Poveda himself, who said, “He made of me, a person.”
Today, after 16 years, her Makabata School has more than 150 students from kindergarten to high school, with graduates taking vocational courses, while others have found productive employment as electricians, managers and educators. With all the lives she has touched, we can imagine many of them saying the same thing of señorita, “She made of me, a person.”
Then there are the cuentos of our sisters who have gone on to travel roads that led far beyond the walls of comfort such as Erika Pineda and Shaina Tantuico of batch 2006.
This duo formed Jeepneed and have been living in General Santos for the last two years, building mobile science and technology laboratories for rural public schools. Their story is one among many that we may hear every day, but their thoughts, such as “The feeling of ‘never enough’ goes hand in hand with hope, with the ‘what can be’ of the coming years…” are the kind of thoughts that make me look forward to what the future holds for these girls and what these girls have in store for the country.
Meanwhile, Noelle Wenceslao, batch 1998, shares the kind of story you want to read your daughters at night—a story about hard work, sacrifice and humility. She has traded in much to get to where she is now, which not many may understand but she only has this to say;
“I never did understand why they make it sound so tragic. My life is no tragedy. My methods may be unconventional and my resume uncanny, but it goes down to what I can give back to the world that let me live in it.
“I traded the big corner office for the great outdoors…” To those who may not know, Noelle was one of the three Filipino women who reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2007. In doing so, they became not only “the first Southeast Asian women to reach the summit but also the first women in the world to do a traverse of Mt. Everest.”
She was also part of the Philippine Dragon Boat Team “that set a new world record in the 200-meter Premier Mixed Event and became the 2009 world champions in Praque, Czech Republic. This year, they won six Gold medals and again claimed the title of 2012 world champions in Milan, Italy.”
“I traded the high-powered corporate executive suit for the uniformed public service…” as a Sergeant in the Philippine Coast Guard. “I rank near the bottom of the military hierarchy… It does not matter what I have done, only that I do my job. I answer phones, make coffee… and sweep the floor to the best of my ability. This, among others, is my humble service to my country.”
There are so many more amazing stories in this book meant not just for Povedans but for everyone looking for more hope and inspiration out of everyday life. But perhaps better than sharing their stories is discovering the guiding philosophy underneath all their actions: stewardship.
As Angelika Bautista-Viloria, batch 1984, put it, “The basis of stewardship is gratitude… when we realize that nothing we have is ever really ours, we will always be grateful to a good, generous and gracious God…”
And with gratefulness comes generosity. Not just the kind of generosity the “gives to a need” but rather, stewardship, which “needs to give,” at all times and at all costs.
“Cuentos y Recuerdos” will also be launched on Dec. 17, 6 p.m., at Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street, Taguig. Call Patty Roa at 0917-5938787 or Koyen Cipriano at 0917-8146124. All proceeds go to the St. Pedro Poveda Scholarship Fund and the Youth Disaster Response.