January 26, 2018

Turning Pearl

Woodrose@40-405TURNING PEARL

By SansanV. Misa ‘87

When I heard that Woodrose was turning 40, it got me quite excited. It meant that the school had grown by leaps and bounds. It also meant that my batch (’87) was turning 30 (pearl). You see, back in 1977, when the school opened its doors in a grand, old house on the corner of 4th and Gilmore Streets, I was in Grade 2. Many of my fellow “pioneers” spent a good ten years in Woodrose; four in Gilmore and six in Alabang.

Gilmore was a former home, complete with a courtyard and a huge garden. We were 76 girls from Grade 1 to Grade 5. Each year, they would add a grade level. Lunch breaks were fun, with the older girls teaming up with the younger ones for a challenging game ofagawanbase or touch ball. Sportsfests started. Contests were held. Clubs were formed. It was a fun time in a big house with so many “sisters.” A few of my classmates were cousins, while some had sisters in higher or lower grade levels. Everyone knew each other. My own sister was our class adviser. At that time, we had no school song. However, Ms. Lorenzo, our first directress, loved the song “Fill the World with Love.” And so, that was our unofficial school song, and in hindsight, as Leah Puyat said, those words were our marching orders.

The school opened in Alabang in 1981. Our uniforms were changed the year before from brick orange to the present plaid. Our skirts were itchy. We were surrounded by fields. There was only one school building but we were all right. The usual sports fests were held, this time with red and blue teams. The sisterhood was alive and well. Those were great years.

The first high school batch graduated in 1984. Three years later, it was our turn. Most of us felt that the school was only too glad to say goodbye to the batch that was famous for its naughtiness. You see, we were the batch with the most suspensions. I suppose that at a time when we were eager to find our own identities, we were also hard-put to toe the line, which we resisted with all our might. We annoyed our teachers to no end but loved quite a few of them dearly. That resistance would be futile in the end, though, because as much as we knew how difficult it could be to “conform” and be moulded in true Woodrose fashion, we relented. After all, we had great times, too, as the kookiest, most creative batch. I think it’s called A.D.D now hahaha.

And so, as Woodrose’s Ruby anniversary came up, the “sisterhood” of Gilmore girls as well as the “Alabangers” cooked up a number of fund-raising activities for the school. There was a movie premiere, a dinner-dance party, a musical and even a comedy show, among others. Meetings were held, Viber group chats bounced off our phones, assignments and suggestions were made in preparation for the big day. A special chat group worthy of mention is one that Bubbles de Mesa (’84) started. It gathered all the Gilmore girls for a special number in the homecoming.

Fast forward to November 18…we trooped to Woodrose(not without the usual Saturday afternoon traffic) and gawked at how huge the school had become. Some of us were in charge ofregistration. With the other batches that graduated after us, we felt like a true bunch of titas. Then again, our former teachers had hardly aged! How crazy was that?It was a time warp of sorts, and a recollection of fun times to be celebrated. Our batch, the noisy, rowdy class, had the most number of attendees, being pearl jubilarians, and we were determined to party (resistance was futile, we realized, again).

After the mass, registration, the national anthem, the school song and the welcome remarks from hosts, Leah Puyat (’86) and Erika Canoy-Sanchez (’94) a speechfrom WAA President Trina Chavez-Reyes (’94) and a special number from the Woodrose Dance Crewcame the videos of the jubilarianbatches.The montage of photos feverishly dug up from our respective bauls were a poignant collection of fun flashbacks of tears and laughter. It brought back so many memories which we had tucked away for so long. It made us miss our home and the sisterhood even more. Special thanks go to Suzette Montinola (’87) for putting our batch video together.

Two batches participated in the lip sync battle: 1997 and 1987 (our batch). It was a head-cracking thing to think of a number. You see, our class is fiercely competitive. We like to put on a good show. After much wrangling, intensive practices and discussions on costume design, five of our classmates performed an unforgettable number from the musical, “Priscilla.” Our girls (Angie Gonzalez-Hager, Pauline Calero-Eizmendi, Tisha Zarate-Caeg, Anna Marco and Suzette Montinola) were decked in fiery wigs, drag make-up, full, fluttering false eyelashes, high heels, and costumes fit for the Rio carnival, complete with huge, flowered headpieces. Outfits were colourful flared pants and silvery sexy (but decent) dresses. Yes, their dance and lip sync number brought the house down and had everyone dancing, laughing and singing with them, and our batch eventually won. It was a feat that set a precedent for other batches to follow, or even outdo.What wouldn’t you do for your batch and your school, right?

WAA decided to give lifetime achievement awards to three teachers. This was done through online voting. Recipients included Ms. Adajar, Mrs. Yupangco, and Ms Eugenio. Ms. Bautista received the award for Ms. Eugenio who could not make it as she was unwell. A beautiful duet, Changed for Good, by Marie Puyat (’98) and Hazel Antolin-Rosero (’02) was sung in their honour. It was so moving.

And then it was time for us Gilmore girls to sing our own “national anthem.” It started with a video of a number of girls who had settled overseas. They each sang a number of lines from FILL THE WORLD WITH LOVE. The rest of us on stage joined in singing the song which, I remember, we used to sing as kids at every one of the school’s special occasions.We sang it for the first time in decades as a tribute to our dear Ms. Luisa Lorenzo.I’m sure she would have been proud to see us all grown up.

To thank the school staff for their tireless efforts throughout the years, 30 Christmas baskets were prepared and given to them. During our time, I could count with one hand how many they were who used to do double duty. The school and its grounds have remained pristine after all these years.

A speech rendered by Executive Director Dr. Villegas was a simple and warm welcome, with thanks for a successful and well-attended homecoming. She also appealed for us to continue helping the school.A new high school building is also set to be completed soon, to which the WAA, through different batches, has made a significant contribution. She also said something that made my jaw drop. She said sorry on behalf of the school if it or its personalities, had hurt us in any way. It was a heartfelt, magnanimous apology. “We are sorry if we were too harsh,” she said. Apart from being gobsmacked, Dr. Villegas was admirable for her humility. Admittedly, it is not easy to run a growing school full of headstrong girls. I suppose it never was. We did not understand it then.On the morning after the homecoming, I remembered what Dr. Villegas said and I found myself in tears. Perhaps there were indeed hurts that needed healing. And perhaps the healing had to begin somewhere, somehow. Hopefully, that speech can be published and read by other alumnae who, for one reason or another, have refused to come home.

We were more than happy to be home, to reconnect, to party, to be silly and to remember the good times as we now look forward to better times together as a special kind of sisterhood.

Thank you, WAA, for making it happen.

After all, when the mothership calls, resistance is futile.

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