Monday, August 21, 2017

"There is always the last of a distinct breed."

Manang Madre is among the last of a fine breed of religious sisters.
Dr Abe V Rotor

All from San Vicente, Ilocos Sur: Manang Madre with Rotor clan: Fe (former UP professor), Cely (retired teacher), Veny (Franciscan sister). Sister Francisca Trinidad Rotor, SPC - devoted Vincentian and Paulinian
San Vicente is a small town, three kilometers west of Vigan, the capital of Ilocos Sur. The town takes pride in honoring its outstanding sons and daughters, among them, a diminutive, frail looking religious sister, who devoted her whole long life to the development of children through education and devotion. Author's Note: Search in this Blog, the life of Sister Mamerta Rocero, SPC, also a native of San Vicente. 

There is always the last of a distinct breed, reminiscent of The Last of the Mohicans, a novel written by James Fenimore Cooper. After that a new breed emerges.

Manang Madre is among the last of a fine breed of religious sisters.

She lived a full missionary life with the zeal and dedication of a Mother Teresa. She was simple and humble, and remained a trusted friend, mentor and spiritual adviser.

This is Manang Madre to us. We knew how good and courageous she was even at a very early age. She would warn us of approaching Japanese soldiers, and lead us into an underground hideout, hushing us into complete silence. Like a sentinel she knew when it was safe to go out and resume our chores and play. We would have known more fear and uncertainty were it not for her assuring presence and company.

There was this incident just after the war that Manang Madre risked her life in saving my sister and brother who were trapped in a live charcoal pit. This is the dugout stove chamber used in boiling sugarcane juice to become muscovado or red sugar. It was a miracle, Dad and the people who came to the rescue afterward, likened her to a "guardian angel,"

Manang Madre remained our older playmate and guardian of sort. Mother died at the onset of the war, so that having Manang Madre around filled a vacuum in us. Dad always reminded us to be good to her.

There was a time Manang Madre invited us to see her glass aquarium. There beside the window, the morning sun cast a prism on the green Hydrilla and Elodea plants with numerous tiny bubbles forming and clinging on their leaves. One by one the bubbles rose and popped daintily. A dozen colorful fish gleefully played in the sunbeam. This indeed made a lasting impression in me to become a biologist someday. When I became a professor, I devised an laboratory project for my students, a natural home aquarium without electric-driven pump and filter. It was patterned after Manang Madre's aquarium.

It was peacetime. Things were going back to normal. Wounds healed, so to speak, leaving but scars. School reopened. Manang Madre soon entered the convent without our knowledge. But she wrote often, sending us cards, stampita and religious medals.

It was many years after when I saw Manang Madre in the former Vigil House at St. Paul University Quezon City campus. She had retired and was wearing an implanted heart pacer. I too, had retired from government service and was teaching part time in that school.

In spite of her conditions she helped me build the school museum with her collection of stamps. She was a a philatelist. She helped me in the eco-sanctuary, the botanical garden of the school. She was a gardener. So with the school's outreach program in Barangay Valencia. She taught for many years children and adults alike. Why don't we map our family tree? I asked. She had indeed a very good memory to the third generation and fourth consanguinity. I treasure the map she made.
The last time I saw her was in 2009 at the new Vigil House at Taytay, Rizal. I was attending the annual school retreat. It was a bright morning. We were walking among the flowers that lined a big fountain pond fronting the modern edifice.

Manang Madre and two other religious sisters formed a triumvirate in the family. They all belonged to St. Paul of Chartres congregation.

  • Sister Nathaniel Rocero, SPC, the intellectual, sometimes branded activist for her concern for the poor, a Ph.D. holder in English and Literature, proponent of traditional and classical philosophy. 
  • Sister Mamerta Rocero, SPC, the scientist, biologist, researcher, she revived the ethnic values of plants, humanist, also a Ph.D. holder (meritissimus). Her dissertation: "Ethnobotany among The Itawes," published by the National Museum. 
  • Sister Francisca Trinidad, SPC, educator, school administrator, extension specialist, teacher to countless children as if they were her own, as if they were like us who once grew under the her protection. 
Across the fence roared countless vehicles, smoke rose from smokestacks in the distance. The air was heavy with smog. A parade on wheels displayed colorful banner, amidst blaring announcements and reverberating music, while Manang Madre was being laid to final rest in the SPC sisters' cemetery. I remember the last part of The Last of the Mohicans. To quote:

"We are not alone. We may be of different races, but God has placed us so that we journey on the same path."

Sister Madre and her kind, assure us that we are not alone. They are the bridge of unity, ages and generations. They have placed us in that same journey, leading us all on the same path to God." ~

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