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CELEBRATING 50 YEARS

THE AUGUSTEENER ALUMNI MAGAZINE


The Way We Were

A pioneer graduate Armin Maribelle Montefalcon-Vera Cruz (1970) tells us a detailed account of her experience at SAS.

E

xcept for a few remarkable inci dents, my memories of high school are not that vivid. But that is not at all surprising because those years happened 46 years ago. Academics and school-related extra-curricular activities exclusively occupied my high school years and not much of gallivanting. Helen Theater, the only cinema and entertainment center operating in Iba during those days was the only place where we could unwind and deviate from the routinely home-school-church-home schedule. No truancy at all, not because we were little saints but because we were happy and contented with what were available in our little world. I sure had my share of little mischief but not grievous enough to require a visit to the principal’s office or a demerit in my deportment grade.

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I’ve heard the saying that high school is the rite of passage from adolescence to early adulthood. Very true indeed! The growingup pains, adventurism and frustrations of adolescence bring unique experiences that inspire and sometimes disappoint. But when one is able to overcome these seemingly endless frustrations with the right values learned and Christian virtues lived, a strong character is formed. This, in my view, was exactly how we were taught and trained in St. Augustine’s School.

“Being pre Vatican II babies, we were trained to sing the Gregorian chants, the psalms, church songs and say the liturgical responses in Latin.”

The Augusteener December 2012

Nothing much changed from elementary graduation to my first months of high school. I was the same tiny girl in braided hair who used to jump over the fence behind the school to avoid the few meters of walk around the block from our house in Sagapan. I had the same set of classmates. This time we were no longer treated like children but as young adults. Sister Mary Gertrude was the first high school principal and concurrently the Sister Superior. I remember her as the soft-spoken nun who had incredible patience with restless teenagers. Sister Mary Agnes Pauig, the disciplinarian but loving principal with a powerful and beautiful singing voice succeeded Sister Gertrude. She saw us through high school and understandably she was the teacher who influenced us the most. Her close guarding especially over the young ladies paid off and she made sure everyone kept up with the rules of the school.

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It was under her ward and tutelage that we honed our talents, whether in singing or acting in stage plays. Early this year, I visited her at the St. Paul Vigil House in Tanay. Although already advanced in age, she is still the charming Sister Agnes that I used to know. It was really touching that she remembered and recognized me. This brief narrative will be incomplete without mentioning a few experiences we had in both elementary and high school. In grade school, all pupils were directed to speak the English language while inside the campus. No one was exempt; the rule applied to everyone from kindergarten to the higher grades. There were patrollers who monitored the violators and those caught were made to face every class to admit they broke the rule. It was more fun than punishment for us. English was not only to be spoken but also to be written in the correct grammar. In one spelling quiz in our 5th grade, one classmate spelled xylophone correctly and wrote, “The xylophone went to Manila.” He also wrote, “I left my larynx at home.” Our teacher could only exclaim while shaking her head, “Your sentence is grammatically correct but semantically wrong.”

Being pre Vatican II babies, we were trained to sing the Gregorian chants, the psalms, the church songs and to say the liturgical responses in Latin. It seemed easy and natural for us because our parents and grandparents prayed in the same manner. Also, very clear to my memory were the sleeps over at the Sisters’ Convent during the Holy Week, particularly for the midnight Easter Vigil Mass when we have to sing for the celebration. In whispers, we were curious about how the nuns live but we never uncovered much of the mystery; and to this day I still wonder if the nuns then used mirrors when combing their hair.

I also remember my first taste of teaching when I was assigned as a catechist at the Palanginan Elementary School, a prelude to my future career. We would take the tricycle to our assigned school and on our way back, we would drop by A6&R cafe owned by the Ladrillono family for thirst-quenching drinks of ice-cold Coca Cola.

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These friendly ties get stronger and continue through the years as they are sealed with being “kumares” and “kumpares” when we stood as sponsors for our children’s baptisms and weddings. Highlights of our junior and senior years were the declamation contests, the stage plays and the glee club performances. All of these required a lot of patience and endurance for long hours of coaching and practice, just so we can deliver our parts well or learn and master new songs. SAS then, was well known in the entire province of Zambales for students who excel in these areas. The school thespians who regularly acted for major roles in our annual school plays were Lynn de la Rea, Jean Escusa, Cecilia Achacoso, Lourdes Orge , Raymundo Blanco Jr., and Manuel Farrales The value of academic excellence was always impressed on us by the school. And those in the honor roll easily qualified entrance to prestigious schools for college. From our ranks have risen a prominent and respected UN-IFAD official, an Agricultural Attaché, an Assistant Vice President at the Philippine Airlines, certified public accountants, entrepreneurs, teachers, nurses, lay Church workers and homemakers. Each one has his/her version of success. Some were career-driven while some preferred to live simple and peaceful lives but nonetheless happy and fulfilled.

My high school years are memorable because of the friendships I have developed with classmates and school mates. These friendly ties get stronger and continue through the years as they are sealed with being “kumares” and “kumpares” when we stood as sponsors for our children’s baptisms and weddings. Every time we get together, we are reminded of how we were in high school. We always enjoy recalling those days of childhood innocence. They are precious, unforgettable, and irreplaceable memories. We may not have laptops, iPads and iPhones then, but we communicated well. We listened and took to heart the advices of our teachers. We learned to take our responsibilities seriously.

I would like to end this short trip down memory lane with greetings of goodwill to all members of SAS Class 1970. We have gone a long way, from the youthful optimistic teens of the 60’s to the accomplished and confident soon-to-be “senior citizens” of the cyber age. What we have become, we owe significantly from our alma mater and teachers, who in partnership with our parents taught us how to live meaningful lives, not only for ourselves but also for others.

Every time we get together, we are reminded of how we were in high school. We enjoy recalling those days of childhood innocence. They are precious, unforgettable, and irreplaceable memories. We may not have laptops, ipads and iphones then, but we communicated well. We listened and took to heart the advices of our teachers. We learned to take our responsibilities seriously.

The Augusteener December 2012 | 03


A Tribute to St. Augustine’s School:

50

years of Golden Harvests

Rosemarlene Montefalcon (Class of 1972)

D

uring the decade 60’s, the Diocese of Iba was called Prelature Nulius, only because it was just a small community of Catholic faithfuls in the entire province of Zambales, from Olongapo City down to the last town which is Sta. Cruz. In 1961, the late Bishop Henry Byrne, an Irish national, was then the head of our Vicariate, the Prelature Nullius of Iba. He loved the Zambaleños. Thus he decided to put up the very first Catholic learning institution in the capital town. It was in 1962 that our Alma Mater, the St. Augustine’s School (SAS) was officially opened and received government recognition as a private sectarian school established by the Missionaries of St. Columban led by Bishop Henry Byrne. This parochial school was delegated to the St. Paul of Chartres (SPC) Sisters for management. And this was the reason how it came about that SAS is a St. Paul Parochial School. According to the pioneer graduates, their very first school was the Knights of Columbus building beside the St. Augustine Cathedral where the Diocesan Pastoral Center now stands. Their classrooms were make-shift ones with blackboards as their dividers. They had only one section for each grade level. And that time, teachers who were nuns were able to teach their pupils one on one because of their small number. They only transferred after construction of the original school building made of wood was finished. It was the first Filipina Sister Provincial Superior of the Sisters of the St. Paul Congregation in the Philippines, Sr. Madeleine Denaga who assigned four of her nuns to start managing the St. Augustine’s School in Iba.

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Sr. Clemencia Dimalibot SPC, was the First Local Superior. She taught kindergarten, Sr. Mary Thomas Fadera, SPC Assistant Superior taught Grade I. Sr. Mary Mildred Pimentel handled grade II and Sr. Mariette Pimentero, SPC handled grade III. They were the first SPC sisters who were dressed like flying nuns during that time.

“These Sisters tried their best to give the first pupils quality education that pleased Bishop Byrne and the Columban priests” These Sisters tried their best to give the first pupils quality education that pleased Bishop Byrne and the Columban priests. They also got the full support of the pupils’ parents. The students were trained to speak English within the school campus. The commuting pupils, who were only grade 2 and 3, prayed the rosary in the jeeps on their way to and from school. Every morning the sisters brought the children to church for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament while Bishop Byrne used to be in the cathedral going up and down the middle aisle praying the rosary. The pupils who were formed in lines getting out would be greeted one by one by Bishop Byrne standing at the door way who surprisingly knew everyone by name.

The Augusteener December 2012

The first pupils impressed their teachers very well because they showed intelligence and innate talents. This was observed by Sr. Mildred who was herself a gold medalist in dramatics during her high school years at the St. Paul College of Quezon City. She staged the play, “Our Lady’s slippers” with Josefina Garcia as the mother Mary and Rosemarlene Montefalcon who played the lead role in the play. Sr. Mary Mildred was also a musician. She developed the singing talents of the pupils to the surprise and admiration of the Columban fathers. The grade II and III pupils then could already sing beautifully the requiem mass in Latin. When Sr. Mildred was transferred, Sr. Marie Lawrence Español SPC took her place. She was a classmate of Sr. Mildred at St. Paul’s Quezon City also a silver medalist in dramatics and a musician too. It was this time when she staged the plays, ‘The Ladies Retirement”,

St. Augustine’s School started with just one section in each grade. Even then, SAS students were coming from nearby towns like Palauig and Botolan

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and “The Bamboo Cross” with Mary Jean Escusa, who was really gifted with a golden voice as a singer vocalist and Raymundo Blanco in the lead roles. Both plays were staged for high school students. Sister Maria Pura Ramos SPC then came, another nun who was well known for her ability in dramatics. She staged, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, with Ma. Cristina Pastores in the lead role. “Our Father” is one of the really great plays ever produced by then SPC sisters. On the other hand, Edgar Yap and Manuel Farrales did well in declamation. St. Augustine’s School started with just one section in each grade. Even then, SAS students were coming from nearby towns like Palauig and Botolan. The school canteen was just a small table with a few bottles of soft drinks, a box of candies, a two or three boxes of biscuits or sandwiches with margarine, just for some pupils who did not bring their packed snacks for recess prepared by their parents. Sr. Clemencia was in charge of the little canteen and then came Sr. Lydia who took over her.

Now the mustard seed that has been planted by the SPC nuns especially the pioneer ones, Sr. Agnes, Sr. Clemencia, Sr. Mildred and Sr. Mariette together with the late Bishop Byrne, Rev. Fr. Dennis Egan, Fr. Malcolm McKeating and Fr. Thomas Faye has now become a very big tree, sturdy and still going stronger at 50 years of existence.

The nuns and priests who continued to develop and to nurture this “mustard seed” all these years are worthy of praises and emulation. Luckily, we have that vacant space in front of the sisters’ convent. The land was believed to be a former cemetery a long time ago, the reason why the soil was not suited for a vegetable garden because it was full of cement and stones. So instead, the boys planted papayas since it needed small space only for the seedlings with two yards apart and just two papayas for each boy. Now the mustard seed that has been planted by the SPC nuns especially the pioneer ones, Sr. Agnes, Sr. Clemencia, Sr. Mildred and Sr. Mariette together with the late Bishop Byrne, Rev. Fr. Dennis Egan, Fr. Malcolm McKeating and Fr. Thomas Faye has now become a very big tree, sturdy and still going stronger at 50 years of existence. The nuns and priests who continued to develop and to nurture this “mustard seed” all these years are worthy of praises and emulation.

The school had programs from time to time, so the students had to bring the chairs down from the classrooms for the audience. Gardening was a subject in the curriculum for the boys. It was a problem, though, because the school grounds have no enough space for planting.

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The Augusteener December 2012 | 05


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