Ms. Bernardita S. Paclibar and Ms. Nenita P. Bernardo…my beloved cousins, my strict teachers

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.

Pat’s Journey in Life…(for Pat Sulleza Pellero)

Pat’s Journey in Life

(for Pat Sulleza Pelletero)

By Apolinario Villalobos

The gauge of the person’s desire to succeed in life is the degree of his or her enthusiasm in achieving such at all cost. A couple of years ago, I met a girl who at a very young age became a discreet prostitute along Avenida so that she could pursue her studies until she was adopted by a retired couple who treated her like their own. Children in depressed areas that surround Divisoria, a bustling center for wholesaling of local produce, derive earnings by waking up as early as two in the morning to gather vegetable trimmings to be cleaned and sold along the sidewalk. Only when they have sold enough to earn a little for their allowance, do they prepare themselves for school.

There are more inspiring stories that can pinch one’s heart, not for pity but for admiration. One of these is that of Pat’s. Upon graduating from high school, she decided to work for her college studies to lessen the burden of her parents whose income could barely suffice for the needs of their family. When she applied as a Student Assistant in the convent of the Oblates of Notre Dame (OND), she was readily accepted because of her outstanding academic record and remarkable character.

The determination to finish her studies boosted her strength as she faced the task that lay ahead. Though a little shock was felt during the early days of her stay in the convent, she got used to waking up at 4:30AM to start doing the household chores, one of which was braving the early breaking of dawn to buy pan de sal, popular local bread for breakfast. Other things had to be done until before 11:AM as during the time, she had to teach catechism at Tacurong Pilot School until 11:45AM. The remaining fifteen minutes till noon was spent walking her way back to the convent. From noon until two in the afternoon, she had to do other chores, after which she was left with thirty minutes to prepare herself for her classes which started at 2:30PM, until 8:00PM. That was her typical weekdays and weeknights. Saturdays were for laundry and weeding of the garden and doing research. Sundays were of course for the Mass and whatever were left of the chores, and the evenings were for studies.

Hectic was not enough to describe the life of Pat as a Student Assistant, but it prepared her for more pressure when she worked at Ramie Corporation (RamCor) when she graduated. She topped the qualifying exam given by the company for applicants. During the early days of Tacurong, ramie fiber was one of the products that it proudly produced. Another company, Kenram, cultivated the fibrous plant together with kenap. As with the abaca fiber of Albay province, ramie and kenap were among the top exported products of the Philippines, until the plantations in Tacurong were supplanted with African palm.

The time of Pat’s employment at RamCor was also the height of the unrest in the area due to the Muslim-Christian conflict which necessitated the stationing of a contingent of the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. Call it fate, but due to the unrest which caused the arrival of the men in fatigue, Pat met Ed (Eustaquio Edmundo Pellero), a Cebuano, and who was a member of the said contingent. As love can move mountains, so did theirs that also moved aside mountains of apprehensions because of financial limitations.

After her stint at RamCor, Pat taught for a while at the Sultan Kudarat National High School, now a Polytechnic University extension in the province. When the situation in Mindanao improved, the couple went to Manila and finally settled in Cavite. Pat still did her part as a working mother with her employment at the Philippine National Bank, until she finally decided to quit so that she could spend her time attending to the needs of their growing family. The couple is blessed with three offspring, Brendo Amor, Satea Mae, and Jonah Maureen, as well as, grandchildren, Lourdess Gem, Lorcan Gyo and Vaugn Eric Zain.

Pat grew up in a closely-knit family that espoused discipline and fear of God which molded her character as she was growing up. The traits could have been what the OND nuns perceived when she applied for a job as Student Assistant, and by her husband when he wooed her. She tried her best to imbue the same traits to her children who became successful in their chosen careers.

Pat is a town mate and our path crossed through the facebook after more than thirty years. I knew her as a chatty gal when she was in high school and college, making her easy to go along with. She could easily set the mood of conversation into something lively to put everyone at ease. Her satisfaction in life, proved that success is not spelled by money. She was successful in her hard-earned college degree, well-thought conjugal partnership with an equally hardworking guy, having equally well-disciplined offspring and healthy grandchildren, and today, contented as a retiree. All of these, of course, she owes to the only One whom she trusted ever since in her life when she embarked on a journey along its perilous corridor, beset with challenges.