Ms. Bernardita S. Paclibar and Ms. Nenita P. Bernardo
…my beloved cousins, my strict teachers
By Apolinario Villalobos
Looking back to the days when I was young, I fondly recall my cousins who have been part of my growing up. One was “Ms. Paclibar”, a cousin who was also my teacher in Grade Three, and who was known for her strictness. She was fair, as inside the classroom, I was treated as just one of her pupils. I also experienced spanking and ear-pinching. But every time I visited my “lola” Sayong, their mother, she would offer me fruits from their yard, especially, ripe guavas. If none has been picked on that day, she would tell her younger sister, Heidi (but I fondly called “Lily) to pick some for me.
She chose to stay single till the day she died, as were most of the teachers of the past years. It was a most appropriate decision because when their parents were ageing, she contributed a lot in caring for them. When I was in college, I recalled her hair to have changed color from brownish black into cloudy white, but fitted her mestiza features. That was also the time that she began calling me by my nickname, while I called her “nang Deting”, as when I was in elementary she would call me in school by my family name. I failed to attend her wake and funeral as I was out of the country when the news of her demise reached me.
In college, a cousin was also one of my teachers, “Ms. Bernardo”. She handled our science subjects. A University of the Philippines graduate (BS Pharmacy), she was supposed to be a pharmacist by profession. But after a short stint in such field, she chose to stay put in our town and teach in the only Catholic school, the Notre Dame. Practically, she was among the pioneers of the school together with the Canzanas, Jamorabons, Romeros, Josefina Lechonsito, and, Mr. Nicolo who later became principal of the Tacurong Pilot School.
As a science teacher she was in-charge of the school “laboratory” with its donated few microscopes, few boxes of thin crystal slides, preserved insect specimen in jars of formalin, and science reference books. It was in that sparsely –furnished room where I saw my first amoeba and other flagellates, cross section of leaves and stems, and microbes in a drop of water from a canal. What took root in my memory was her admonishment of the whole class for the failure of one or two classmates , with a clear reminder that no one can help us but ourselves in order to have passing grades. Being a perfectionist, she expected all of us to pass, and eventually, graduate. We shared the same idea that the school and books can help but intellect is innate in all of us, hence, we become what we are by our own doing…which made me proud of her and our parochial school with its sparsely furnished library.
She exuded sophistication in her tailored dresses, mostly cotton, as she gracefully walked her way from their house to the school and her being slender helped a lot in radiating such image. Her seemingly eternally coiffed hair also added to her classiness.
Their father was our clan’s “Tata” who contributed a lot in making our town what it is today, a flourishing city, as he was a long-termer Vice-Mayor. When he finally succumbed to complications which forced him to stay home, my cousin and teacher whom we fondly call “nene Nita” stayed by his side, until a full-time caregiver was hired.
Today, at an advanced age of almost eighty, “nene Nita” lives at their ancestral house with her youngest sister, Judith, while the younger brother, Nonito, lives not far from them.
Both the Paclibars and Bernardos are among the pioneer families of Tacurong City. But, to my two strict teachers…and beloved cousins, my recognition is more than their being members of the prominent pioneer families of our place. They are among those to whom I owe much of what I am today.