(The following is the article I wrote for the 100th year anniversary of the ICM sisters, the congregation that founded St. Theresa’s College, my high school Alma matter. This was published in The Philippine Star on October 8,2010)
If I could only wear pink for all the days I went to pre-school, I would have done so. But because I studied in a very strict ICM school, I had to follow the rules.
That was my first taste of what it was like growing up in a Belgian-run school.
As I grew older, the rules spanned from wearing the proper Prep uniform, to the correct length of the trademark navy blue skirt, the no jewelry except for earrings and watch policy, to “don’t make your necktie a ballpen holder,” to “make sure all buttons of your high school blouse are closed.”
There were many boring rules we had to follow, and some even freaked the hell out of some of my more sociable colleagues — especially when we reached our teenage years.
Who went through high school without prom nights and soirees? We did.
Who went through high school without learning what CAT was? We did.
And of course there were the unique activities only Theresians like us knew about — such as the annual field demonstrations, the dance productions, song festivals and the graduation ball where our evening gowns were subjected for approval.
In St. Theresa’s College (STC), there were all sorts of Belgian nuns. From the sweet Sr. Yvonne, to the firm Sr. Pupe, the terror Sr. Tita and the always commanding Sr. Vicky.
The nuns seemed to meet our specific needs at specific times in our lives.
The sweet Sr. Yvonne always nurtured and spoiled us in prep. Sister Pupe disciplined the playful children in us in elementary, while Sisters Tita and Vicky made sure we acted like ladies in high school.
Must be traumatic for a kid growing up, right? But yes, I spent 11 of my best years in STC — in the company of nuns who restricted some fun, but drew out the best in each of us.
My Theresian education instilled in me the values of simplicity and humility.
The strict rules were meant to discipline us as we were growing up. Looking back now, I couldn’t be more grateful to my school for keeping us away from all the consumerism we now enjoy. We were allowed to enjoy and have fun — the way a child must. There weren’t superficial thoughts that the world was all beauty and happy, and that everyone was rich. We knew from day one that there were people less fortunate than us, and we were bound to help them in one way or another. We were made to realize that being a Theresian meant reaching out to them — sharing what little we have, even our time can already mean the world to them.
I loved Palihan days — that once-a-month day we devoted to visiting the slums, the orphaned, the elders. We as a batch would pray, help and make other people happy. And we sincerely did what we did, because it was the source of fulfillment in all the days we went to school.
We were taught that being simple and humble begins in one’s self — that you can’t be simple if you adorned yourself with all the fanciness in the world. To this day, I don’t go out for dinner or for any occasion for that matter, with more than a pair of earrings, a simple bracelet or a watch. A true Theresian will never be a fan of chunky necklaces, all glitter and gold.
We were also taught that simplicity and humility are core values you need to succeed. Compared to other schools, STC wasn’t as famous. In fact there were times I was asked where my school was in Quezon City. But yes, the fact that we were not famous as St. Scho or Poveda or Assumption at least during my time, we still managed to succeed. We never bragged about being one of the best exclusive schools for girls, although we were. We never bragged about being home to a number of famous women in news and film. We just let the rest notice us — if they must notice us, in their own sweet time
Translating that to us students, we were never too proud about ourselves, but we always believed in what we could do. When I was starting out in media, I didn’t really refer to my Theresian education unless I was asked. While deep inside me I know it would be an edge for me, I didn’t prod about it because I didn’t grow up in STC that way.
We never compared ourselves to others — because we were taught to always compete with ourselves. And that, to me, is the sweetest victory. I never thought I was better than other colleagues — because there will always be people that will come along that will be better than me. And so I have learned to push myself always to the edge, thinking I’m the only one of my kind — so that I am able to do better at what I do all the time. Yes, that probably is my secret for success — and that’s a fruit of being Theresian.
At 27, I have achieved little for myself financially, but I will not be ashamed to go back to STC because it will never measure me in monetary terms. Rather, my Alma matter will measure me in terms of how I have lived my life outside school, and how I have shone my light and become a blessing to others.
In my own little ways, I have blessed others through my stories and my outreach — but much is still to be done. Each day, I compete with myself for a better me, and a better opportunity to be the kind of blessing my Theresian education built me to be.
While I owe much of my knowledge to my equally good teachers throughout my 11 years in STC, I owe my values to the nuns who ran our school. I will forever be grateful for the gifts of simplicity and humility they instilled in me.
Yes, once a Theresian, always and forever a Theresian.
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