Wednesday, October 5, 2011

*268. My Teachers' Yearbook: TERRY SANGUYU & PAULA SUEMURA

Like most Mabalacat kids, my early learning years were spent in the town’s largest public school—the Mabalacat Elementary School. It was located right next to the municipio, at the side of the big church, a typical Gabaldon building of concrete, slightly elevated, with large swinging capiz windows and wooden flooring. Beginning at age 6, I went to my classes here along with 30 or so classmates, our education and character molded by a series of teachers who left varying degrees of impressions on our young minds.

My first grade teacher was an oldish but kindly schoolma’arm named Madam Gomez, whose first name I have forgotten. My second grade teacher was even older, Mrs. Roberta de la Cruz by name. The next year, I made it to the elite special class supervised by the very animated Mrs. Salud Manarang; there was never an idle moment with her. About this time, I became more aware of how special our instructors were. My Grade 4 teacher was a young graduate of Normal School, Miss Angelita Dayrit, who was my every idea of how a smart, sophisticated and modern teacher should be.

When it came down to my last two years at M.E.S., I was determined to make it to the classes of the school’s most popular teachers who both had great reputations for being progressive and effective educators—Mrs. Paula (Suemura) Alfaro and Mrs. Eleuteria (Sanguyu) Paquia, class advisers of the top sections of Grade 5 and 6 respectively. Sure enough, I was privileged to be a student of these two teachers who proved to be the most influential in my course and career direction.

I didn’t realize that my teachers were batchmates at then Holy Angel Academy (now University) in Angeles, Pampanga, from the Class of 1959 as their yearbook shows. Holy Angel, then and now, was a leading educational institution founded by Don Juan D. Nepomuceno and Fr. Pedro Santos—they were still personally involved in the affairs of the school in the 50s. Many high school graduates from Mabalacat pursued their college studies there, as the fees were affordable and the quality of education, very high.

Back in 1959, Mrs. Alfaro was still unmarried at 28, and was still known as Paula Suemura y Madlangbayan. Her yearbook described her thus: "Her friends call her Poling and her co-teachers call her 'Sayonara'. Her friendly attitude has made her win for herself many friends and her sweet smiles have magnetized many men".
She had Japanese ancestry, I think her father was a Japanese from Okinawa, and this was apparent in her flawless Oriental complexion--one classmate even likened her to a Japanese doll. She also walked with a bit more energy as she went from class to class. She was not as expressive as other teachers but one memory of her still remains vivid to me to this day. In 1967, she lost her young son to some disease and I recall the whole class going to the funeral wake and seeing her inconsolably crying with grief-- I had never seen such an outpouring of profound sorrow from her before.

We’ve always addressed Mrs. Eleuteria Paquia as “Madam”, so it was a surprise to know that in college, she had a thoroughly modern nickname—“Terry” and that her maiden name was "Sanguyu". A cum laude graduate, "Terry is patient and industrious. In addition to her particular stocks, she is gifted with natural curly air and academic talents".
I remember her as a big, dark woman with a trademark mole—a Mother Earth of some sorts, who had beautiful penmanship and who spoke English with a perfect diction, enunciating each word with clarity unlike any other. Naturally, English became my favorite subject, but she also taught Social Studies with much facility. When she became Mrs. Paquia, we often times chanted her name in secret games—“Misis Paquia, Misispak ya" (she is cracking).

I lost track of my two “Madams’ after our graduation, and I have not seen them since. I would, however, hear occasional news about them; I knew for instance, that Mrs. Alfaro became a school administrator of Mabalacat South District and then went to the U.S. Mrs. Paquia, I think, taught all her life, tutoring even my younger siblings in the years that followed. Sadly, I would hear of her passing in the 90s.

Looking back now, the best part of going to school in the 60s was not just exploring new worlds and meeting new friends, but also sitting in the classes of Mrs. Alfaro and Mrs. Paquia, and literally learning from their knees. But in 1959, in those simpler, gentler times, they were young and eager women freshly graduated from college, about to embark on a lifelong journey that would see them become our second parents, teaching with patience, mentoring with compassion while ennobling their chosen profession.

1 comment:

acquiroz said...

Alex, Miss Jovita Gopez was my fifth grade teacher in Apalit during the Japanese occupation. My parents knew her because she was from Mabalacat. She was tall and skinny and wore her hair in a bun but she was like you said "school marmy." I remember she loaded us with homework and actually checked them. She may be the same Miss Gopez you knew.
I knew Miss Suemura also because she married my 2nd cousin, Engr. Benigno Q. Alfaro in the 50's. We lost contact after I left for the US in 1957.