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April 2009

Steering Committee Daisy Barawidan Lala David Sherry David Marita Legaspi Cecile Lowlicht Sol Oca Mike Palileo Emma Villa-Real

Alumnae Profile
HIGH SCHOOL CLASS 1939 – Platinums!

Communications Committee Rose Constantino Gilda Fule-Prael Sylvia C.Leonard Salve Neelankavil Ronie Nieva Giocky Oca Lulut Valte

Editors Mike Palileo Yvette Jarencio

Emma Fernandez Villa-Real, SSAANA East Coast Steering Committee member and liaison to the Second SSA Conference, reports that big plans are underway for the Grand St Scholastica’s Reunion to be held in Las Vegas in July. As previously announced in Pergola e-Dyaryo, the grand reunion of all Scholasticans in the U.S., Canada, and the Philippines will take place from July 9-12, 2009. The venue for the weekend gathering is Bally’s Las Vegas. “Giving Back, Moving Forward Together” is the reunion theme chosen by overall organizers Eva Pascual Cullen and Blessy Valera (SSAA West Coast), Mila Magno and Zennie Bernardo (Canada), Emma Villa-Real (East Coast), Babes Mandanas Enrile, Orchid Crisologo Sedeco, and Girlie Reyes de Guzman (Las Vegas hosts), Gloria Topacio Caoile (Logistics) and Tessie Cruz Villacorta (Philippines). Special guest speaker from St Scholastica’s Manila who will grace the occasion in Las Vegas is Sr Josefina Nepomuceno, formerly SSC College president and presently Directress of Holy Family Academy, SSC branch in Angeles, Pampanga. A true Benedictine, Sr Josefina, or Sr Jonep (also known as Sr Lourdes in the 60s) studied at St Scholastica’s College from first grade until college. She received her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Michigan. She has occupied top administrative positions at SSC but we remember her more fondly as a teacher, classmate, and friend. Arrangements have been made for advanced alumnae registration through PayPal. The registration fee of $175 includes all meals on Saturday (breakfast, lunch, semiformal dinner dance) and all materials for the Saturday conference. Alumnae can call Bally’s Las Vegas directly to make room reservations. To take advantage of the special rate of $100 per room per night (single or double occupancy), make reservations before June 1, 2009. Refer to “SSC 09” – Bally’s direct number is 702-739-4111 or call 1 800 358 8777 before June 1, 2009.

M. Mary John gave each one a crown Ten members of High School Class of 1939 made it to their high school reunion in St Scho in February. The ten Jubilarians who made it to SSC—seventy years after—were Nemesia Badillo, Pacita Llamado Salcedo, Ligaya Villavicencio, Felicisima Ramirez Carrion, Rosario Sta. Romana de Leon, Nita Umali Berthelsen (absent in previous reunions because she used to live in Europe, but now lives in Manila with her daughter), Viging Domingo Gonzales (a stalwart at alumnae events), Nati Crame Rogers (well-known Philippine Repertory stage actress), Ginny Hidalgo Reyes (US resident who attended but got sick, is now back in the US), and Teresa Feria Nieva (long-time class organizer). Unable to attend were Diding Chuidian Albert (called in sick), Ma. Luisa del Prado (expected but didn’t show up), Remy Agra Palileo (usually attends but was not feeling well that day) and Pina Tobias de Leon (keeps in touch with the group by phone). The members of the class were seated in the front row of St. Cecilia's. When their names were called, M. Mary John gave each one a crown for the occasion. by Teresa Feria-Nieva and Ronie Nieva

SSC HS Class 1939 during their Golden Jubilee


April 2009

Grand Alumnae Homecoming 2009 -- Golden Jubilarians HS 1959
By Chell Jarencio-Bengzon

Bonding for the Golden Jubilarians started with a merienda-cena hosted by Helen Yuchengco-Dee at the Executive Lounge of the Yuchengco Building in Makati. The day after final dress rehearsals were held at St. Cecilia’s Hall, followed by dinner at Emerald Garden on Roxas Blvd…food galore…full of love, warmth, laughter and good cheer. The Grand Homecoming was held on 8 February 2009. The “Golden Gals” truly shared every moment with the other jubilee celebrants. Attendance was high - 44 of the 113 graduates, 12 of them Baliks. Classmates residing in the Philippines included: Renee Camu, Sr. Maribel Carceller, RSCH, Baby De Los Santos-Bayhon, Inday Francisco-Quisumbing, Maricar Garcia-Reyes, Margaret Kahn-Garcia, Patty Laperal, Angelita Lim, Amparito LlamasLhuillier, Cecil Maramba (Sr. Benilda, OSB), Evelyn ReyesSingson, Toni Serrano-Parsons, Libby Solano-Bustamante, Angeline Sy, Martha Sy-Go, Hedy Taylor-Toolen, Marlyn Villar-Tabuena, Eden Villegas-Arias and Ester Yu-Ang. Balikbayans who made a special trip to join in the celebration included Myrna Arceo-Horn, Alice Cavestany-De Guzman, Prescy Cruz-Almonte, Tess Esquivel-Labutong, Amaryllis Garilao, Kits Gonzales-Lopez, Chell Jarencio-Bengzon, Mille Limgenco-Barretto, Ditas Paguia-Fabian and MilaTolentinoMacaisa. Months of dance practice under the direction of our choreographer, Malou Javier, culminated in a performance unparalleled for Seniors.

Dinner after the show, catered by Alba’s, was served at the SSC grounds, with specially marked tables for jubilarians, their families, friends and other alumnae. The week after the Homecoming was reserved for more get-togethers. The trip to Villa Escudero in San Pablo, Laguna was reminiscent of school day excursions -a full day of giggling, munching and endless girl-talk. The tour was highlighted by a personal invitation from Mr. Conrado Escudero to visit his private residence to view his varied collection of antiquities. For the tireless, an escorted tour of Binondo and Intramuros was planned for the next day. There was a lot of walking under the burning sun but that was enough to burn off calories after heavy sampling of Chinese dimsum specialties.

On one occasion, Girlie Reyes-De Guzman exclaimed that she saw the most beautiful garden in Antipolo featured in a local magazine and wondered exactly where that was. The place turned out to be the villa of Baby Riego de Dios-San Diego. We were invited for whole day affair in Antipolo at Baby’s place and treated to a sumptuous lunch. We visited the shrine of Our Lady of Antipolo and went on a “casuy”-buying spree. Linda Roxas-Punsalan then escorted the group to the newly built Gawad Kalinga housing complex in Antipolo. The group also visited the Shrine of our Blessed Mother in Lipa, Batangas. Our classmate, Sr. Mary Grace (Cecile M. Rillo), former Prioress of the Carmelite Order in Lipa, made arrangements for a special Holy Mass at the Shrine. Through the efforts of Maris Katigbak-San Juan, we were granted permission by the Archbishop of Lipa to visit the actual site of the apparition of Our Lady located at the secluded church gardens. Maris hosted a “kamayan-style” lunch at a local resort followed by a tour of Casa Segunda, the Katigbak ancestral home in Lipa. According to family stories, Segunda Katigbak was Jose Rizal’s beloved in his younger years. For sure, there were impromptu meetings here and there…but none as complete as the above. (more on the next page)

Hips swaying, with a wink, flirtatious smiles, finger-pointing to the tune of Dancing Queen “…you can dance”…the Golden Gals brought the house down. There was dancing in the aisles of St. Cecilia’s Hall, shrieks…yelling at the seats…wild. The Golden Jubilarian dancers wore glittering, caftan style tops over black leggings, gold flat shoes (to avoid slippin’ n slidin’ on the stage floor). All other Golden Jubilarians were on stage “pa-indak-indak; pa-kumpas-kumpas.” 2

April 2009

Golden Jubilarians (cont’d) The success of our celebration was made possible through the initiatives of Melo Castro-Roa, President of the St. Scholastica’s Alumnae Foundation, Inc. (SSAFI). Melo has been our faithful Class Represent-ative through the years..

Easter Sunday or Pascung Pangasubling Mebie to Capampangans is traditionally celebrated like Christmas. Food on the table approximates the Christmas feast but noticeably the food is more Filipino. Perhaps it has something to do with the summer season which makes it more appropriate to serve tropical food, instead of Western temperate zone food which can stand our cool December climate. In our beloved town of Sta. Rita, Pampanga, Easter morning breakfast consists of what dreams are made of. Many families serve pistu, the requisite celebratory breakfast dish. This is paired with pandesal and a cup of suclating batirul with suman. It is possible that some sopas would be available, also some ensaimada which might then be carried over to the minindal or the mid-morning snack. Lunch would most probably consist of asado and a soup. Pochero might also be part of the meal, this time with meat instead of the pochero of Good Friday, which is made with fish. Unlike in the Western tradition, our Easter meals are varied, although there are patterns of seasonal cooking by town or region. For merienda or the afternoon snack, my grandmother made lacatan or glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and served with grated coconut (puto maya). What struck me even then was how it was so simple, almost austere compared to the backbreaking and very special bico of Good Friday when we were supposed to be fasting. My grandmother’s simple explanation was that the puto maya was symbolic (mibabague) of the white of the risen Christ. Very interesting, and if I took it further down the line of literary analysis, it would be pregnant with meaning. White and austere = pure and simple. I really haven’t asked around to find out if this was just our household tradition my Lola started late in her life (because I remember it but my mother and aunties do not), or if it is something more customary. In any case, have a delicious and Filipino (Capampangan, if you can) Happy Easter! by Karen, from Pots and Pans

Melo, Chell, Frank (Roa)

Thanks to Silvia Zarate-Santos and to Milette Luciano-Poblete who arranged for the tours and the colorful dance outfits. Also to the core group of organizers: Conso Chuico, Linda Chan-Go, Menchit Cruz-Dolor, Beth De Villa, Baby Festejo-Novenario, Martita Guinto-Reyes, Jenny Juico, Biyette Kilates-Mamon and Baby Riego De Dios-San Diego. As the saying goes, all good things come to an end.

We meet again as one…united…fit to dance…for our Diamond Jubilee Celebration in 2019!!!

Baby Novenario, Kits Lopez, Silvia Santos

Beth De Villa, Milette Poblete, Baby San Diego

Girlie de Guzman Hedy Toolen Maricar Reyes Amparito Lhuillier Sr. Maribel Carceller Margaret Garcia

These Goldens dream to meet again for the Diamond and the Platinum

Chell Bengzon, Evelyn Singson, Maris San Juan

Ester Ang, Conso Chuico (side view), Helen Dee, Eden Arias

Sr. Maribel, Alice de Guzman

Toni Parsons, Martha Go, Angeline Sy 3

April 2009

By Sol Oca

The “Women, God, and Prayer” retreat given annually by the Cenacle Sisters in New Jersey has always been part of my schedule for the year. This retreat for women from the East Coast started as an SSC alumnae activity, first attended by Daisy Barawidan, Mike Palileo, and Cora Rodil. I started attending in 1989, and it has been twenty years since. After an article was written in our newsletter about it, Magdalena Love (HS ’38) also attended. Other Scholastican alumnae have attended in recent years. This year I was joined by my SSC HS ’67 batchmates Lillian Gatchalian and Remy Luciano, and friends from the U.N. Divina Fesnillo and Chicky Cunanan. Tired and stressed out from the daily demands of the week, we arrived on Friday, March the thirteenth, at the Carmel Retreat House in Mahwah, New Jersey. Sr. Helen Beairsto, a Cenacle nun who is also Spiritual Director of the retreat, and other participants whom we have met through the years welcomed us with warm hugs. The theme of the retreat was “Women of the New Testament.” We looked at the lives of Mary our Blessed Mother, the Samaritan woman, the bent woman, the Syro-Phoenician/Canaanite Woman, Mary of Magdala, and Lydia. A volunteer read a passage where the Biblical woman was mentioned, followed by the singing of a relevant song, a more detailed presentation of the Biblical woman, and a guided imagery session. The best part was the sharing of the nineteen women present. We talked about the individual characteristics of the Biblical women, such as their being gutsy, flexible, nurturing, powerful, faithful, compassionate, courageous, patient, or generous. Sr. Helen asked us to answer some questions that she had prepared. To express ourselves in an artistic and creative way, we were provided with crayons, colored paper, clay in different colors, and colored pens, in a complete craft box for each of us.

Finally, when you unbend yourself, what a freeing experience it is! You are able to see the sky and the trees all around you, and when you stand straight, you never want to be bent again. This exercise made me aware that Jesus is always there to unbend or heal us when we ask. We learned during the discussion of Mary of Magdala that she has been misrepresented as a reformed prostitute by some readers of Scripture and even by the Oxford Concise Dictionary. Mary of Magdala was not a prostitute, she suffered a neurological disorder or was possessed by demons and Jesus healed her. Magdala means “watchtower.” Mary Magdalen is considered the first apostle, the one who saw Jesus after the resurrection. We also discovered the Biblical Lydia, a career woman who sold purple dye and who had determination, foresight, generosity, and personal charm. She lived in Philippi, the highway between Rome and Asia, so she must have had customers from Babylon and Rome. It was not known whether she was married or a widow. She sought the truth and when she heard Paul (and his disciples) preaching, not only did she become Europe’s first convert, her entire household was converted. This took place after the resurrection of Christ. There was a table in the center of the circle where we all sat where we wrote our requests for prayers during the whole retreat. On the table was a porcelain figure of a lady in purple, candles, a symbol, and a very colorful scarf for each woman discussed. To start the day on Saturday and Sunday, Joanne Riccardi conducted a yoga exercise which people were free to join or not. The Director of the Carmel Retreat House, Fr. Michael Wastag, celebrated Holy Mass on Sunday. In his homily he spoke of Jesus’ holy anger as He drove away the money changers and sellers from the temple. In our closing session we sang “I Rejoice in You.” We said the words of our Blessed Mother as we had the Eternal presence of God within us. We prayed to the Spirit of Life to remember the women, named and unnamed, who throughout time have used the power and gifts God gave them to change the world. We called on them to help us uncover within ourselves the power of the Spirit and the ways to use it to bring about the Kingdom of Justice and Peace.

During one session we were asked questions on power. What are the images and emotions that first come to mind when you think of power? How did influential women and men such as your mother, father, teacher, or religious leaders exercise power in your life? Can you name women who have exercised power in holistic ways? Can you draw a metaphor or a symbol for power? Are you powerful or weak? We were asked to take some time to speak to Jesus about these discoveries. In the session on the bent woman, Sr. Helen instructed us to walk around the area like the physically bent woman in Scripture, and then to unbend and share the experience. I found this exercise very interesting. As a bent person (this did not just mean physically but emotionally and psychologically as well), your vision is very limited. All you can see is the ground in front of you and glimpses of the area on your right and left. As you remain unbent, you begin to suffer aches and pains in the spine and neck.

“Women, God, and Prayer” continues to be an event to recharge one’s spiritual batteries. I love coming to this retreat because you arrive on a Friday worn out from all the busy-ness of your life, and on Sunday you leave refreshed, re-energized, and transformed because you have experienced the love of God in the prayers, stories, Scripture readings, and exercises that you have shared with these women. I consider the attendees my intimate friends even though I see them only once a year. At the end of the retreat, one receives gifts one did not even ask for. We went home with a purple cross that Sr. Helen made for each one of us, the symbol of power we made in clay. We went home rested and ready to face the world, alive to the opportunities, setbacks, joys, and challenges God has planned for all of us for the rest of 2009.
Next year the retreat is scheduled from March 19 to March 21 in the same venue. For more information about this retreat email

April 2009

by Sister Lydia Villegas, OSB

What I share today does not come from an interview with Mother Irene Dabalus but are my memories of her from the time she was Prioress of the Manila Priory (1975-1982), Prioress General of the Congregation of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing (1994-2006), until the present as Superior of the Tagaytay Community. Mother Irene was elected Prioress of the Manila Priory in April 1975. She had returned to the Philippines in late 1974 after completing a doctorate in philosophy and theology in Muenster, Germany with the rating of magna cum laude. On her final year in the Juniorate (period of temporary vows), M. Irene was sent to Grottaferrata, Rome, where she and the other Juniors of the Congregation prepared as an international community for final profession. However, she did not return to Manila for her final vows. She pronounced her final vows in Grottaferrata in 1967 and to begin her doctoral studies in Germany soon after. M. Irene fondly recalls her student days in Muenster. She relates her experience of wintry days when she and M. Mary John Mananzan would walk over expanses of snow-covered meadows, lie down on the snow and move their hands up and down in glee. An anecdote is told of a German child who seeing M. Mary John and M. Irene, said: “Look! One whole sister and one-half sister I have never seen in my whole life!” The ‘70s were difficult years in the history of the Philippines. The country was like a seething volcano ready to erupt as the socio-economic, political, and moral ills worsened under martial law. M. Irene was just over 36 years old when she assumed the office of Prioress in 1975. The Manila Priory’s response to this situation was the spelling out of Christ’s 1 total and integral salvation through the 4-pronged thrust. This was the Priory’s insertion into the mission of Christ and His Church. The Asian Bishops’ Conference in “Justice in the World” had declared that action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world appear to them as a constitutive dimension of the preaching the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation2. As the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of the Manila Priory started to re-orient our schools and hospitals, participate more actively in direct work with the poor, systematize the mission with the indigenous Filipinos, and send Sisters to the foreign missions, tensions were felt within and outside

the Priory. Yet M. Irene in her quiet style of leadership took everything in with equanimity and decisiveness. She believed in the Priory’s direction, understood the painstaking efforts of the sisters to be shaped anew by the demands of the Gospel, and was patient with each Sister, inspiring those moving ahead faster than the rest, accepting the mistakes of the new ventures, trusting that her Sisters through a healthy and faith-filled reflection on their participation and process would find the way through new trials and initiatives. To those who remained in our schools, the challenge to live out the thrust led to creativity and fresh initiatives. Each Sister found a place in the Priory’s 4pronged thrust. The Priory was fortunate to have in M. Irene a spiritual leader. Though she was not able to fully pursue the intellectual activities expected of Ph.D. holders because of her office (in the 1980s M. Irene was often invited to speak over national television in Germany, where she was introduced as “Schwester Doktor” on theological questions and issues on the Church), she put to full use the fruits of her studies and her wealth of experience as she facilitated community retreats, lending not only scholarliness but also down-to-earth challenges to spiritual growth and transformation into Christ as only a Shepherd could. In her we saw what it meant to live simply and be singleminded in our pursuit of justice, peace, and love. In her we saw how one was to accept graciously a wide spectrum of differences in perspectives and beliefs. To her we Sisters could be open and admit faults, mistakes, and shortcomings, for she listened and made us feel that we were okay in spite of everything. Above all, she showed us in her acceptance of us how to accept and relate to others too. M. Irene stood to influence not only her Sisters in the Priory but also the other religious in the country. She was Chairperson of the Association of Major Superiors of Women during the difficult years of martial law. I distinctly remember how in September 1977 the military seized a group of us religious from different congregations, seminarians, and lay leaders during a peaceful rally commemorating the anniversary of martial law. After dispersing us with water canons (the water was colored pink to identify us later), we were taken to Camp Crame for fingerprinting and interrogation. We were assured that we were not being arrested, but this was a lie, as hours later before the Commander we were accused of sedition and rebellion. After midnight M. Irene and the Franciscan major Superior came to see us and to face the military, as there had been an agreement that no religious could be taken without informing her/his religious Superior.
(continued next page)

April 2009

M. Irene Dabalus (cont’d)

M. Irene Dabalus (cont’d)

We returned to our convents in the wee hours of the morning under house arrest in the custody of our Superiors. There were tears as M. Irene was elected Vicaress General (vice Mother General) of the Congregation during the General Chapter of 1982 in Rome, for return she did no more. But the thrust and direction of the Priory was to continue, for her Sisters had made a commitment to God and His Church. And we took pride that our M. Irene had been called to international leadership. While in Rome (she was reelected Vicaress General in 1988), she continued to keep abreast with the developments in the Philippines. And when she visited the Manila Priory as co-Visitator with the Prioress General, M. Edeltrud Weist, for the official visitation, we knew how much she would have wanted to return, be an English teacher to little children in our provincial schools or be a rural missionary, but the call was to leadership on the Congregational level. She would learn more of the Congregation as she visited other priories. The demands of leadership were on a much larger scale and her Filipino heart remained Filipino while it expanded to embrace all other cultures. M. Irene was elected Prioress General in October 1994, the first non-German Prioress General. It was a new challenge to be the head and spiritual leader of a religious congregation with German roots. She was always grateful for this German heritage, and I venture to say that she saw how her solid education in St. Scholastica’s College with the German Sisters from Grade School to College (HS ’57, valedictorian; AB English ’61, cum laude; BSE ’65, summa cum laude) had prepared her for the new office. During her term as Prioress General, M. Irene took active part in the Union of International Superiors General (UISG) in Rome as one of its Executive Board (1998-2001). Among Benedictine women in the world, she represented the biggest group of Benedictine international congregations, (the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing) in the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum (an association of all Benedictine women, including cloistered Benedictines). As General Secretary for seven years, and mostly during the second term of M. Irene as Prioress General, I was privy to the work of the Generalate. Once more I experienced M. Irene as spiritual leader, mentor, and organizational leader. Leadership on the Congregation level entails giving of much time to administration but M. Irene knew that caring for the Sisters took precedence, especially during visitations.
(next column)

She continued giving spiritual conferences to the Sisters of the different Priories and to the Sisters of the Casa Community in Rome whose local Superior, the Prioress General herself is. Once more I saw her trust in the basic goodness of each Sister, experienced subsidiarity and sharing of responsibilities in her leadership. I felt the breadth of her vision and understanding of issues from a multi-faceted perspective, her love and compassion for each person, especially for those in need. Above all, I saw a selfless woman with more than three decades of leadership responsibilities. Where others would have been wont to complain like Jeremiah or any of the prophets, M. Irene accepted all with quiet grace. Such stance has invited deep respect and admiration from the Sisters and all those M. Irene has worked with. Today M. Irene takes care of the St. Scholastica’s Center of Spirituality and the St. Benedict Resource Center in Tagaytay. Since November 2007 she has been designing renewal programs for Sisters and lay leaders, conducting recollections and contemplative sessions, accompanying individuals and groups in their retreats. She remarks that she finds this ministry even harder than being Prioress General. And so it must be, for one has to attune one’s self to the workings of the Spirit in each person and co-discern with her where the Spirit is leading her and saying to her in the depths.

Visitors with Sr. Bella in Tagaytay ________________

Mural at the SBRC

Footnotes: 1. 4-pronged thrust that our institutional apostolate be socially oriented; that we foster non-institutional social apostolate; that we initiate direct missionary work in the Philippines; that we continue the sending of Filipino “Sisters to foreign missions., in A Compilation of the Messages of the Manila Priory Chapters 1971-2007, p. 35 ff. 2. Ibid., p. 34


April 2009

by Sherry David

I immigrated to the US during the martial law days, a few weeks after the travel ban was lifted. It was in New York City where I worked and pursued a Master’s degree in Marketing at night. The Manhattan single’s lifestyle beckoned as well. I found my way to lots of drinking, dating, and daring to keep me further occupied. Finally, after five years I completed my Master’s program. My first job was in Marketing Research with Clairol. To do the job, I had to understand how the products worked. So there I was, learning from professional hairdressers the ingredients and techniques of hair coloring, including repairing colordamaged hair. From hair I moved on to oral care in my next job at Colgate-Palmolive. Then I was offered a Director position at Airwick Industries (now Reckitt Benckiser) where I stayed for 16 years. When I joined Airwick, the products were air fresheners and toilet bowl cleaners. Notice how I went from hair to mouth to toilet bowl! The last four years with Reckitt—when I switched from North America to International—was really the highlight of my career. My assignment was to write a manual on global marketing research best practice. It was an opportunity to break out of the mold and produce creative, original work. I journeyed across six continents gathering information, consulting, and peeking into households in various cities around the globe. Travelling exposed me to so many fascinating cultures and events. One such trip was to South Africa where I joined a photo safari and discovered the beauty of wildlife. My travels did not end with the production of the manual. I continued to train company staff around the globe on the application of marketing research. After this global implementation I was promoted to VP in a global category. At this time I was at the peak of my career. Two years later our company merged with another and changes were made. I was offered a post in London but I chose to be liberated and explore a new facet of life—RETIREMENT! I quickly discovered that I was not mentally prepared for unscheduled days: no hurried breakfast, no business suits, no driving to work everyday. I did not know what to do with myself. What were my options? consultancy, school, golf, and volunteering. Coincidentally there was going to be a change of scene – my partner was going to be assigned to London. The travel itch quickly took hold and there I was in London – explorer extraordinaire. Of course it wasn’t easy. The first few months were a struggle. With the guidance of a life coach I was able to put direction in my life. I dabbled in consultancy, experimented with courses in anthropology, took golf vacations, but the volunteering bug bit the hardest. In the UK they have the voluntary sector, which is charities and community groups, like non-government organisations in the Philippines. Some are big institutions that have been around for many years, all for good causes. I got in touch with an agency that matches business professionals to a

charity requiring a particular expertise. I was matched with a Chinese association, needing marketing expertise. Through the course of my voluntary work with them, I discovered a Filipino-led group known as the Centre for Filipinos (CF). I had just read about them in an article in London’s leading arts and culture magazine and learned that this organisation was doing beneficial work to uplift the lives of Filipino migrant workers. I met the staff and volunteers of Centre for Filipinos through my colleagues at the Chinese association. I thought I was just going to dabble in voluntary work, but over time I was impressed by the staff’s commitment and dedication. I was also inspired by CF’s mission to help Filipinos in the UK through advice, information, training, and advocating for their rights and access to opportunities. Time, planning and management skills were what I could offer, and they put me to good use. I was a CF volunteer for three years, the last two years as Chair of the Board of Trustees. Retirement hasn’t been anything like I had imagined it to be. It is not the beginning of the end when you sit in a rocking chair somewhere and watch the sunset. Yes, it means being dependent on your reading glasses to see print and pictures. Yes, you have to take your medications and vitamin supplements. But retirement really liberates you to explore, to discover, to reflect. It’s all about starting something new. Two weeks after I arrived in London, reality set in: no structure, no routine, new city, no friends, and many grey and rainy days. Everyday I would turn on all the lights, make some calls, read the tour books and magazines, read e-mail, surf the Internet, and of course keep CNN on. It took some time but slowly I began to realize the potential of this new environment. Making new friends was the challenge because I was not working. My voluntary work with CF changed that. I met so many interesting people, and through my work with this charity touched their lives just as they touched mine. My experiences in London taught me more about giving – understanding what giving is all about. I’m thankful I had the energy and capacity to explore “give-back”—give and it recycles back. FIVE YEARS LATER It’s been a decade since I retired. We’re in a recession now, unlike the economic prosperity at the turn of the millennium. However, there’s no point dwelling on the shrunken (hopefully past tense, not progressive tense) retirement fund, can’t change it now, can only wait until the programs take hold and the economy picks up.
(cont’d page 9, col. 2)

April 2009

by Ronie Nieva

When our son Jonathan said he would be moving to Colombia in January after a year in Costa Rica, my maternal worries were instantly activated. Will it be safe? After all as recently as July 2008, the Colombian government rescued three Americans and a dozen Colombians from months of captivity by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). But the U.S. State Department's warning against travel to Colombia, first issued in 1990, now notes that although rural areas remain "extremely dangerous," violence has decreased "markedly" in urban areas, including Bogotá and Cartagena. In February, Steve and I went to see for ourselves. We met Jon in Cartagena, an old walled city on the coast in northern Colombia, whose wealth (from gold and slaves) in the 16th century made it a favorite target for English pirates and French corsairs. In 1984 the colonial walled city had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cartagena is the home of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the setting for several of his novels, including Love in the Time of Cholera. The movie Romancing the Stone was supposedly set in this city. Cartagena was a charming little colonial beauty. Our Hotel Charleston Sta. Teresa, one of the city’s landmarks, was a renovated convent of Carmelite nuns. The breakfast buffet was held under palm trees in the main courtyard which our room overlooked.

Much of the city’s physical beauty was due to its intense colors and balconies.

Walking around in the afternoon, we ran into live entertainment in the plaza. But there were signs that one still had to be careful.

Bogota After three days in Cartagena, we flew to Bogota, the sprawling capital city with 8 million residents. At 8661 feet it is the third highest city in the world, after La Paz and Quito. Unlike hot and humid Cartagena, Bogota was a cool 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hotel Charleston plaza and view from our room

According to our hotel taxi driver, security in the city has improved tremendously, with much credit due to the current President Uribe. There are still very few North American or European tourists in Bogota although cruise ships have started to visit Cartagena.
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April 2009

Travels of Ronie Nieva (cont’d)

Retirement of Sherida David (cont’d from page 7)

The center of old Bogota is the Plaza Bolivar, where you can have your picture taken with a llama (see below). Not to be missed is the Museo de Oro, with its breathtaking collection of more than 35000 golden masks, rings, necklaces, statues from pre-Hispanic Colombia. Another highlight is the Museo Botero.

Travel continues to be wonderful: St. Petersburg, Russia’s Hermitage museum was a collection to behold; Yangtze River, China with its awesome mountain scenes just like the Chinese paintings; Machu Picchu, Peru took my breath away. My golf game has improved slightly, enough to justify new equipment for this season. Hitting that small ball with that stick called a club requires hours and days of unrelenting perseverance and control but I do have a lot of fun playing. I have found LIFE AFTER the corporate upward mobility/stress/ achievement lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle of giving-back and exploration, which allows me to continue growing by learning new skills, nurturing relationships, and developing new resources. The article I wrote about five years ago ended with the idea of exploring “give-back.” At that time I was in London with the Centre for Filipinos, an eye opening, challenging, fulfilling, and fun volunteer position, which I relinquished when I returned to New York. It was frustrating trying to find a similar organization in the NY/NJ area until I realized the historical profile of Filipino immigrants in this area was not OFW. I moved off that objective and it didn’t take long for an offer to come along to serve on the volunteer Board of Directors of Asian & Pacific Islanders Coalition on HIV/AIDS (APICHA). Not exclusively Filipino but inclusive and close enough, so I agreed to join the Board. Originally, I thought of my “give-back” as targeted to helping Filipinos. However, it has evolved to sharing with others, preferably Filipinos, by utilizing skills, resources, and relationships I’ve developed. It’s more than writing a check or finding someone a job. It’s commitment and support that reinforce values directed at the common good. Giving back by sharing with community groups has the potential to create more impact, like the ripple effect on a lake. Exploration has led me to Yoga. It’s called Dahn Yoga, a process of achieving awareness of one’s body and completion of mind and spirit. Lower stress, openness, balanced right-brain-left-brain, are opening-up new avenues and slowly helping me identify and achieve the ultimate goal.
The Steering Committee requests East Coast alumnae to send their annual membership dues of $20 for two years (2008-2009) to the following address: Maite Arguelles 1463 Hancock Street Elmont, NY 11003 Please make the check payable to “SSAA-East Coast.” The Steering Committee extends its appreciation for your generosity during this difficult time of economic downturn. The alumnae effort to “give back” goes to good causes here in the US as well as in our beloved Philippines. Please update your contact information at 9

The city impressed us in its modernity and sophistication. Jonathan had been touting Bogota’s restaurant scene and we were not disappointed. In terms of both ambiance and cuisine, the restaurants in the Candelaria, Zona G, and Usaquen beat the Washington scene hands down. We visited Jonathan’s office, Mesoamerica, a new expansion enterprise from its Costa Rica headquarters. The office is located in Usaquen, a modern upscale section of Bogota, half an hour north of the Centro. His apartment, shared with an officemate, is in a high-rise building a few blocks away.

Hacienda Sta. Barbara house in front of hotel The whole area reminded me of Makati where high rises coexist with modern suburban housing. There is much that is similar between Manila and Bogota, between Makati and Usaquen. The parallels are reassuring.
COMMITTEE REPORT Lala David Amoros, chair of the Database and Recruitment Committee, is spearheading the effort to collect membership dues from East Coast alumnae to fund ongoing SSAANA activities. From previous collections of the annual membership dues of ten dollars, SSAANA East Coast has been able to send to SSC the total amount of $10,000 to support a number of scholars at St Scholastica’s College Manila. Funds from membership dues have also been sent to SSC to support ad hoc causes, such as a recent donation of $200 made by SSAANA East Coast to the SSAFI Committee formed to oversee the care of a former principal and high school faculty.

April 2009

Easter Dining in New York
By Leo Legaspi

likely from other countries. Asked to write on Easter dining, I did some research with my wife Marita and found some of these Easter goodies in New York City. Starting with some easy pickings, we found paska, a traditional Ukrainian Easter bread that is normally decorated with a cross. The Poles have something similar. You can most likely find Ukrainian paska at Veselka restaurant on Second Avenue and 9th Street in Manhattan. The last time we ate there, we saw a lot of pastries and breads – we hope to find some paska during Easter. If Veselka doesn’t serve paska, I imagine you can find it in some of the Ukrainian enclaves in Manhattan or Queens. Which reminds me – I’ve always wanted to attend Masses in different languages. There is a Holy Cross Ukrainian Catholic Church in Astoria, Queens. Maybe we can go to Mass there, then go to a Ukrainian restaurant in the area for paska or some other Ukrainian goodies. For those of you who are reading this and who live in NYC – if you haven’t been to Astoria or other parts of Queens lately – I encourage you to take the #7 train and explore this fascinating borough, which is billed as the most diverse spot on earth. Queens is also one of the absolutely best places for foodies. A typical Russian Easter treat is the kulich, which is a cake made with candied fruit, almonds, and raisins and spiked with rum and saffron. It is typically tall and shaped like a coffee can, and decorated with white frosting and pieces of candied fruit that read XB, representing the Cyrillic letters for "Christos voskres" -"Christ is risen." Veselka restaurant is still my top bet for finding kulich. Perhaps we can go to Mass at a Russian Orthodox church and find people selling or serving kulich outside the church or in some nearby restaurants.

I still remember Marita and me having tacos just outside a tiny church in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, right after Sunday Mass. Maybe the Russians and Ukrainians have the same custom? There’s a Russian Orthodox church on Park and 97th. Kulich or no, we’re going there. In Spain there is something called torrija, which is bread soaked in milk then fried in batter with honey or cinnamon sugar and wine – sort of like French toast with maximum cholesterol. Hey – I can make this myself at home! I don’t have to look for a Spanish restaurant or even wait for Easter. Not all Easter foods are sweets and pastries. The Brazilians have a dish called bacalhoada which is a stew made of salt cod fish, potatoes, and onions and topped with sliced hard boiled eggs. Marita loves most salted fish, most especially Filipino tuyo. I have to confess that I am not a big fan. I am almost 100% sure that I will find this dish at a Brazilian restaurant in Manhattan (Little Brazil on 46th Street is a good bet), Queens or Brooklyn. If we feel like it, we might even go to the Newark Ironbound District. We’ll go on Saturday for Brazilian feijoada, then go back on Sunday for the bacalhoada. To my very pleasant surprise, my research unearthed a lot of other Easter foods from different countries – pasquale from Italy, a bread made with flour, eggs, sugar, natural yeast butter, and candied peel; and fanesca from Ecuador, a hearty soup made with fig leaf gourd, fava beans, twelve different kinds of grains, salt cod cooked in milk, and garnished with hard boiled eggs and plantains. I’m getting hungry even as I write this. Maybe Marita and I will do an Easter pilgrimage. We’ll start with the bacalhoada for our main dish and then have kulich or paska for dessert. With any luck, we can do all of this with a few subway rides. Of course, we will attend Easter Mass, in Spanish or Russian. Happy Easter, and happy springtime dining in New York!

Pergola e-Dyaryo is a publication of St. Scholastica’s Alumnae Association – East Coast