Meet Our “Agot”…Erlina Diaz
…proud alumnus of Notre Dame of Tacurong
By Apolinario Villalobos
During my college days, I had the opportunity to meet people with interesting personalities. They were very much different from my high school buddies as our college that time was co-ed. During my high school days, the girls were separated from us boys. While we were under the shadow of the Oblate Director, the girls were under the wings of the Dominican Sisters.
Although I got separated from some of my high school friends who were financially fortunate to pursue their college in bigger colleges in cities, most stayed behind just to be with the Oblates. Our motley group of Liberal Arts students was the smallest compared to those who belonged to BS Commerce, and the combined BS Education and Elementary Education.
From among the new faces, Ruel Lucentales and I sort of naturally and casually got stuck with a bespectacled and frizzy-haired, though cute girl from Isulan – Erlina Diaz. In no time at all, we developed some kind of a clique – the three of us, although, we were still close to our other classmates such as Norma Burias (now Mrs. Boeh), Cesar Cruz, Talama Makilala (Saavedra), Luz Garnica, and many more.
Ruel and I called Erna our “agot” which in the Hiligaynon means “youngest”. Before classes would start, the three of us were spontaneously drawn toward each other. And, as if on cue, would ask each other about what each of us got for the previous day’s assigned readings. There were times that our discussions would result to ill-feelings due to pride as nobody would like to give in and come out wrong. But, after a few days, we would again be meeting, as if the previous serious discussions did not happen.
We parted ways after graduation. While I joined Philippine Airlines, Ruel got stuck with the Department of Social Welfare which both of us worked for as working students when we were in fourth year, while Erna taught at the Notre Dame of isulan where she finished her high school. Ruel, later became the Director for Region XI of the said agency based in Davao and moved up to the national level as Assistant Secretary, the position he held at the time of his demise. Erna on the other hand, moved on to become the Principal of their school. And, as I have developed some kind of loyalty with PAL, I stayed with it for twenty years, after which I drifted among companies and government agencies as Consultant.
One time, I surprised Erna with an unannounced visit in her new-found retirement job as the High School Principal of the Valdez Mother and Child City College (VMCC) (Tacurong), founded by Dr. Bonifacio Valdez, one of the prides of our Alma Mater and city, being an indefatigable civic leader who heads several organizations. Erna was still wearing spectacles and with a strong Hiligaynon twang in her accent, but the sharpness In her delivery of words as she spoke was still evident. With fondness, we recalled days spent with our teachers and classmates. I purposely did not remind her, though, that our batch was the last, as the college department of the school was temporarily closed due to the meager enrollees aside from the prevailing unrest at the time.
As I was treading the dusty path from the gate of the VMCC toward the main road when I bid her goodbye, I was feeling great with the thought that we may be the fortunate last batch of our dear school, Notre Dame, but we showed our best as we are proudly and continuously waving her banner of green and white.