Jewish alumna of PWU comes home | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

MARGOT Cassel Pins during her homecoming: ‘Shalom’ from Israel to ‘open-hearted’ Philippines
MARGOT Cassel Pins during her homecoming: ‘Shalom’ from Israel to ‘open-hearted’ Philippines
MARGOT Cassel Pins during her homecoming: ‘Shalom’ from Israel to ‘open-hearted’ Philippines

MANILA, Philippines—It was history in the making when Margot Cassel Pins, 84, a Jewish alumna of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU), visited the campus as  the special guest during its 96th founding anniversary celebration at the Conrado Benitez Hall, Taft campus, Manila.

Cassel Pins was one of the 1,300 Polish Jews who  availed themselves of the “Open Door” policy of Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, who offered visas to Jews being prosecuted in Germany during World War II.

The young Nazi Holocaust survivor was only 7 years old in 1940 when she and her cousin Lotte entered third grade at the PWU Elementary School, now the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School, known as the first progressive and nontraditional school in the country.

They stayed on until  seventh grade, graduating from PWU in 1944. She continued her studies at the American School in Manila and left the country in 1949.

Coming back after 70 years, Cassel Pins was beautifully dressed in polka-dot black-and-white   slacks, with  short, whitish, puffed hairstyle, and had a big smile for everyone when she addressed the over 500 PWU officials, students, faculty, alumni and guests.

Speaking in crisp, clear English, she kept the audience in awe and admiration as she recalled the sweet and bitter memories of school days and of war, notably the bombing of Manila which she and her family witnessed.

In an emotional close-to-half-an-hour speech, Cassel Pins said, “I am going to talk, but I have no words—for the love and care and the extended hands that you offered me from the minute that I got off the plane.”

“It reinforced the feelings that I had as a child when I attended school here,” she added.  “I can’t believe that I have been blessed with health, enough to stand here and appreciate this very same hall to which we came as grade-school pupils once a week, when we had an assembly every Friday.”

“As a child I experienced the  ‘open hearts’ at this university —from the teachers and costudents, as well as the government, which helped us restore our family’s dignity.”

Cassel Pins fondly recalled the wonderful experiences and life lessons she learned from “Mama B,” referring to the late Francisca Tirona Benitez, key founder of PWU, principal Naty Osorio and other teachers.

Last Dec. 3, through the wonders of video conference set by PWU and the Embassy of Israel in Manila, Cassel Pins had talked to the PWU  community from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel.

Here, she shared memories of her young life at PWU, where she “learned jumping rope and playing jackstones, learned the ideals of democracy and heroism in the books of Dr. Jose Rizal, and lessons on the revolutionary Katipunan of Andres Bonifacio.”

“These lessons and experiences during my formative years made the foundation in me—getting the sense of dignity, independence and courage in one’s belief,” she said.

Back in PWU, with the assistance of Israeli Ambassador Effie Ben Matityahu, Cassel Pins said with a broad smile, “I had to say ‘Shalom’ to you from a country that appreciates you very, very deeply.”

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