Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Marian Connection

I named my first born daughter, Fatima, after a former student at Maryknoll College high school where I taught for one year- right after graduation from college in 1975. I am ashamed to admit now that, yes, I did not know Mama Mary that well then, even if Maryknoll (now Miriam College) was a famed exclusive, Marian, Catholic school.It was actually in St. Mary's Academy (now SMCB) in Baliuag, Bulacan that I had a deeper, more personal knowledge of Mother Mary, owing mainly to the many retreats, recollections and seminars that I had to attend to as a faculty member. But more importantly, the personal crises ( yes, that many!) I had to endure during the years I was employed at St. Mary's led me to the foot of Mama Mary's statue in the school chapel. Oh, I can't forget the many times I cried alone, first in the upper floor chapel of the old Holy Family building and later at the ground floor chapel of the newly constructed elementary school building.

I consider it a blessing to have known some RVM sisters who lived true to their vows as daughters of Mary. (There were others who didn't, sorry!) Likewise, it was a blessing to have known Marian priests such as Fr. Monic Cadiz, who was instrumental in instilling Marian values not only among student retreatants but to the teachers as well.

I was accepted for a teaching position at SMA in 1986, just after the EDSA revolution. That first year was a very memorable and eventful year for me. That year, Alex Villangca was kidnapped for ransom during one lunch break. As soon as it was reported to me by Irene Yabut, who saw the kidnapping near the church, we tried to find ways to contact the family. The Villangca siblings came at once, and because I was the one who called them using the phone of the RVM sisters, I was subjected to so many interrogations and investigations. A policeman even went to my house in Plaridel, Bulacan, which caused me so much anxiety I had to absent myself from school later. It turned out Alex was kidnapped by a public school principal who was heavily indebted. Hence, the ransom demand.

It was also in 1986 when a female third year student from my advisory class (Alex's section)was supposed to have been "sinapian" by evil spirits during class. S. Naty came and asked the class to recite the rosary. The girl was trembling and shouting and was very, very strong, with a different voice which somehow led me to believe that these things really happen. Scary, really scary.

In the elementary level, a child was kidnapped and was killed by his kidnappers when the family refused to pay ransom. He was found inside a sack thrown in a ditch somewhere in Baliuag.

Coming from Plaridel, I had mixed emotions about living in Baliuag, the new community I was to serve for the next thirteen years.

Maybe it was a sort of a baptism of fire. Maybe. But during those early years, I was still a "hilaw na Marian". The turning point for me were the early 90's when I had to ask God for many, many blessings and changes in my life. My husband then has just finished law school and was about to take the bar. During the many times that I prayed, I came to realize that one of the best ways I can ask the Son of God for blessings is through His Mother. I was not disappointed. Despite the many difficult trials my family had to face on ALL fronts, there was Mama Mary, a listener and a doer. Through her intercession, the good Lord has answered my prayers through different persons and things. Like S. Cely and S. Paula, who were both sensitive to their teachers' needs and woes. S. Luz Dela Cruz, despite her formidable character, gave me a lot of review materials for my husband. When we decided to relocate to Baliuag, since all my three kids were enrolled at SMA, God led me to a house with a very good neighbor- the Sauco family. Their matriarch, Tita Elsa has been a very accomodating and caring neighbor. The circumstances we were in during those five years we lived in Baliuag were the best years in my married life. I attributed the many miracles and faith experiences that enriched me to Mama Mary who, to this day, remains as my number one "kasangga" against all odds.

Whenever I am in an awkward situation, I immediately pray the Memorare, whether I'm stuck in traffic or I am dealing with a very corrupt government employee as an assistant of my husband. I do not leave the house without a Rosary in my bag. I know I still have a long way to go insofar as my Marian devotion is concerned, but as it is, I can say that I always try my very best to be as faithful as Mother Mary.

I do not think I could have this kind of veneration for Mama Mary had I not become an SMA employee. My St. Mary's experience exposed me to so many people, in and out of the school, who lived the values of Mary- values such as loyalty, dedication and constancy. Among my peers, Mrs. Myrna Bondad stands out as one of those with these virtues. Her loyalty to SMA and everything that it represents is awesome and remarkable. She is the one constant in the life of the school, next to the retired Ms. Herminia Demetrio. If she wishes, she could be more financially productive in another turf, owing to her superior academic achievements, but she chose to stay where she can be productively happy. The many faculty members who still sweat it out at SMA, despite and inspite of, can be said to have been inspired by the Holy Mother.

Leaving St. Mary's in 1999 was a personal choice. It was a multi-factorial decision. I felt some kind of "burnt-out" in school (I looked at lesson plans and other paper works as necessary evils then). On the home front, there was a more urgent, pressing demand for me to quit teaching. I made the decision to leave a year before I tendered my resignation. But it was a very difficult decision. Looking back, I believe that what made it easy for me to turn my back on the job I so love was the inspiration from Mama Mary's fiat- "Let it be done with me according to your word". I had this fear of the "unknown" at the time since it was unclear to me how I can be productive as a mere assistant to my husband. But then, through constant prayers, I came to realize that all beginnings start with a yes, and so from then on, Mother Mary's ultimate yes has become a very powerful inspiration and guide in my journey. I can't imagine how a 14-15 year old woman, with her openness to God's plan, can say yes at once and change the course of history. Come to think of it, was there a woman in our times who was confronted with a dilemma more difficult than those that Mary faced in her lifetime? I guess none.

My yes, my fiat, like Mary's, changed the course of my personal history. There were bumps every few miles along the way, but I am assured that I have a never-ending lifeline to my MOTHER MARY.

*Image from*- Many thanks.