01 February 2017

The Our Lady of the Rosary Academy Years


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In the sixties, the school to send children to in Lipa if a family could afford it was the Our Lady of the Rosary Academy or OLRA. The school was run by the Maryknoll Sisters, an American religious order headquartered in Ossining, New York.

The school was adjacent to the Cathedral of St. Sebastian, an antiquated structure even in those days. The walls had G-H-O-S-T written all over them. I remember loathing going to the bathroom to pee-pee because, it was whispered among the kids, the toilets flushed on their own and the door could sometimes slam shut even if there was no wind.

In front of the cathedral was a three- or four-story building that everyone just referred to as “Annex.” That was all there was to the school in terms of buildings; and the population could not have been more than a few hundreds.

The school was at one time coeducational from elementary all the way to high school. My older sister Rowena and older brother Ronaldo were already enrolled there; so I knew that I was going there, too.

I had nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys, when I was five years old. Thus, it was already midway through the school year in 1964 when my mother decided one day that I was well enough to go to school.

I have this vague recollection of my Mom taking me to school and enrolling me in a pre-Kindergarten class, for which my age was appropriate. After enrolment, I was quickly taken to a classroom where there were a lot of other young children like me. I only spent a day there. The following day, an American nun came along, took one look at me, decided that I was too big to be sitting in a pre-Kindergarten section and whisked me away to a Kindergarten class.

That was why, in 1975, I was still a month short of my sixteenth birthday when I graduated from high school.

I actually remember very little of my elementary years at OLRA, other than that we loved the American nuns to excess. They were always immaculately dressed in their white robes, wore gleaming smiles on their faces every day and were very approachable, especially to young children like us.

One day when I was in Grade Two, everyone in school from teachers to students wore long faces because the Maryknoll Sisters had made the announcement that they would be leaving Lipa in about a year’s time and turning the school over to an Italian religious order called the Canossian Sisters.

From older friends in the school, we heard that the reason why the Maryknoll Sisters were leaving was because they had “fulfilled their mission in the country.” Being a young boy, I pretty much accepted what I was told even if I never really understood what that mission was in the first place.

I recently wrote to the Maryknoll Sisters to inquire about the pullout. They withdrew, I was told, from the Philippines because they as a religious order were supposed to go to areas where there were no missionaries. Since the archdiocese and lay educators could very well take care of the education of young people in the Philippines, it was thought best that they moved on to where there was greater need for missionaries.

We all knew that the day when the Maryknoll sisters would leave was coming. After all, the boys of the high school department had already been turned over in 1962 to this ugly little school in Paninsingin called La Salle High School.

But we had no clue that it would be so soon. This was problematical; and, in fact, I used to swear to my older sister that I would never go to school at La Salle. Truth be told, there wasn’t a lot in the way of options.

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