SSC’s Daughters True
The college graduation ceremony of St. Scholastica’s College (SSC) is distinct for its order and precision, always rendering it solemn and dignified. It’s best described as German-like, as the congregation belongs to the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing. But to me, what makes it truly special is that the guest speaker is always a Scholastican alumna, the year’s PAX Awardee, not just some public figure or a politician.
The PAX Award is the school’s highest award, given to outstanding alumnae who have made significant contributions to society and demonstrated excellence in their field of endeavor. It began auspiciously in 1979 with awardee Justice Cecilia Muñoz Palma, called “a child of history” because of the many significant firsts in her life. Other awardees include Cory Aquino; Sr. Christine Tan; Lucrecia R. Kasilag; Doreen G. Fernandez; Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB; Ma. Ceres P. Doyo; Josefina Trinidad Lichauco; Karina A. Bolasco; Clarissa Ocampo; Anita Magsaysay Ho; and my classmates Chita Vallejo Pijano and Paulynn Paredes Sicam.
Last Thursday’s ceremonies honored Ma. Luisa Vallarta Chikiamco and Rizalina Edwina Gervasio Mantaring, worthy additions to the PAX Roll of Honor. Riza Mantaring, with her phenomenal Sunlife success, is better known, so today I would like to highlight my classmate and childhood friend Chikiamco, who passed away three weeks ago on May 12.
Marisa was someone we were banking on to take care of us in her aging years, the way she did classmates Gerry Picar and Aline de Santos. She abandoned the trappings of her privileged life to be director, on a purely voluntary basis, of Anawim, a shelter for the abandoned elderly in Rodriguez, Rizal. Anawim is an old Hebrew word from the Old Testament meaning “the poor and lowly ones.” The class had long known how deserving she is of the PAX award with her largely unheralded apostolate.
A few days before she left us, SSC president Sr. M. Christine L. Pinto, OSB, had called Marisa to bring her the happy news. She never told anyone about it, as it seemed the least of her concerns. She just said, “Sister, I cannot be there anymore.”
So, a posthumous ceremony took place, with one of her closest Scholastican classmates, Milou Locsin von Einsiedel, introducing her, and Marisa’s daughter Angela, for whom Marisa was legal guardian, accepting the award and making a response.
Admittedly, It seemed unfair and intimidating to have 19-year-old Angela Joanna
Pianar speak before the large audience in the cavernous PICC, but how she exceeded expectations. She spoke so candidly, so articulately as she spoke from the heart. She
began with disarming candor, “To be honest with all of you, it’s quite nerve-wracking to stand in front of all of you, as two weeks ago, I, myself have just graduated high school from Assumption College, San Lorenzo.
“So, what can a high school graduate say to all of you college graduates, who are much older and much wiser than myself, that would make a difference in your lives?”
What rich insights Angela offered—life’s lessons learned through years of having Marisa as her parent: Step out of your comfort zone, welcome someone into your life with open arms, do everything with love, take courage in living life.
Marisa was a happy and content single woman at 54 when she decided to be mother to Angela, whose biological mother could not care for her. “She was never obligated to raise me and take care of me, but she wholeheartedly said ‘yes’ to this call and molded me to become the woman who proudly stands in front of you today.”
The SSC 2019 graduates were fortunate to learn from the lifetime of selflessness that Marisa Chikiamco exemplified, and from Angela, 19, just about to embark on her life, like all 300 of them. Angela’s parting words: “I am proud… I am the daughter of a woman of faith, a woman of love, and a woman of action. May she be equally proud of me as I try to live out the lessons she has taught me.”
There were many things reassuring about the voice of the youth as personified by Angela Joanna Pianar.
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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