Mother Mary Josephine Rogers founded the Maryknoll Sisters and the first Catholic Normal School in the Philippines.
You’ve been officially adopted by Mary knoll,” dabbed Marla Yotoko-Chorengel, a dedicated and driven alumna of Maryknoll College Class 1963. Marla also launched the Maryknoll/Miriam Family of Authors in time for this year’s golden jubilee homecoming. Although labeled as coming from a rival school, my friendship basket held true-blue Maryknollers like shiny apples. Among them, Nitnit, Evelyne, Jopee, Meldy, Angge, Betsy, Tere, Tani, Onic, Mar, Omang, Ina, Jean, GinaO, Minerva, Dolly, Lolita, and Ogie. Our paths crossed and intertwined beginning with jolly, carefree soirées, jam sessions, double-dates and later on, in pursuit of common dreams and desires that took us across the seas and into different time zones.
“Now, we’re the golden lolas,” exclaimed Chuchie Bince-Segovia.
What have the years taught? A lot. Has anyone noticed how our memory has become selective? “We keep meticulous attention to details of the past while struggling to remember what happened in the course of 24 hours,” said Nitnit Tongco.
For Gina Acosta-Liebermann, a throwback on the American nuns: “Sister Elizabeth Mary introduced us to drama, musicals, and puppetry. One time, she characterized the concept of fear. Despite her unwieldy habit, she swept across the stage flagging her arms to escape Simon Legree, (the cruel slave owner in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that debuted on Broadway in Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s The King and I).
Our nuns were real people with normal, everyday cravings. Sister Mary Miller, dean of Academic Studies, loved moist, chewy brownies, like me. Once, I saw the dean of students, Sister Miriam, and Sister Mary, chasing each other across the library, up and down the stairs, giggling with abandon.
Corinna Banipayo-Mojica continued, “The Maryknoll sisters left an imprint by leading a life spent in building character with a sane and realistic attitude. In the midst of their unbending faith and intellectual toughness, their sense of humor was sparkling and contagious.”
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On the other hand, life was not a bed of roses. There were worrying tales of ravaged faces from illnesses that tortured the body, numbing the senses and sometimes stilling life. But equally, there were signs of hope when the spirit found renewed strength. With friends and family by her side, the wave of negativity passed quickly. For Grace, Minching, Mar, Angge, and Vivian, there was comfort in knowing that “in a little while, the God of all grace will Himself restore, confirm, and establish you.”
Back to the daily grind, no one blinked when an Aide Memoire circled the globe on the forthcoming 50th anniversary of High School Class 1963. It was time to mobilize women energy (what’s left of it?) for a penultimate hurrah, definitely not the last. Not wanting to bite more than they could chew, Class 1963 focused on three projects: raise funds, publish a book, and stage a dance extravaganza.
Nitnit Tongco and Meldy Gabriel-Merchan grappled with pesos and converted dollars as they balanced the class account; Gina Ordoñez and Corinna Mojica edited and compiled 90 profiles into a book, Kaleidoscope, for launching by year end, and Nini Mendoza Mitchell with Dolly Galang taught, screamed, pulled hair (theirs) to get the girls dancing like J. Lo, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, and Apl De Ap. “Best attempt, huh?” groaned Nini.
For those residing abroad, Puritchi Bince and Minching Sanvictores kept Viber, Skype, Voxer, and Magic Jack hot on the trail of Internet-savvy (or challenged) gang mates. Finally, when everyone touched ground for the grand reunion, Ogie Balmaceda orchestrated the tours, trips, and bonding breaks.
Come D-Day, in a darkened stage, jaws dropped at watching cousin, sister, wife, and grandmother transform into dancing belles. They were rolling down the river like Proud Mary(-knollers), beating it (ah, you mean breaking leg?), getting loud (cause hard of hearing?), and getting dirty (not on your life, Black Eyed Peas!). When the grandkids hopped on stage, total madness erupted. “Isn’t she a spitting image of her fantabulous lola?” clamored the goody-goodies.
Maryknoll has metamorphosed to Miriam. When the old girls returned for a walk-through the school grounds, it seemed like they never left. Once again, they were happy, content, bursting in hues of the sun, dazzling like the 4th of July. The future was full of promises. Fulfilled.
Someone said that we should cherish our memories because in time, they will turn to gold. For Class 1963, that time has come.