Cory’s special affection for teachers

PRESIDENT Cory Aquino had a special affection for teachers. She appreciated their singular role in the transformation of society, as the molders of the youth and the beacons of their future. Truly, the influence of teachers is eternal. What they impart to the present is handed down from generation to generation by their grateful students.

Outstanding teachers. Though now retired, I still remember the grammar basics taught by Ms Leticia Ramirez, my English mentor at Mapa High School and the discipline inculcated by Ms Isabel Fajardo, my Grade 4 teacher at Juan Luna Elementary School in Sampaloc, Manila.

President Cory’s deep affection for teachers probably explains the special place in her heart for Metrobank Foundation (MBF), the corporate social responsibility arm of the Metropolitan Bank (Metrobank). According to MBF president Aniceto Sobrepeña, only two foundations were listed in the former president’s official biodata during her lifetime: her headship of the Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation and her chairmanship of the MBF board of advisers. (She serves though as honorary chair of other foundations.)

The Aquino family invited MBF, through MBF executive vice president Elvira Ong Chan, to sponsor the televised Mass on the first evening after President Cory’s demise on August 1.

Metrobank annually celebrates its anniversaries by highlighting the favorite MBF projects of President Cory: the Search for Outstanding Teachers (SOT) and the College Scholarship Program (CSP). Given the vast financial resources of Metrobank, one would expect it to crow about its increased profitability or its institutional stability. Instead, it “bright-lines” the 10 SOT winners.

Awardees this year. And so, as it marks its 47th anniversary on September 4, Metrobank will honor this year’s outstanding teachers: Lourdes L. Matan (Mag-Ubay Elementary School of Calbayog City), Gemma G. Cortez (Dasmariñas Elementary School of Dasmariñas, Cavite), Benjamin M. Martinez (San Sebastian Elementary School of Tarlac City), Eva B. Imingan (Nellie Brown Elementary School of Olongapo City), Shena Faith M. Ganela (Philippine Science High School of Iloilo City), Rochelle D. Papasin (Philippine Science High School of Davao City), Ma. Petra A. Romualdo (Minapan High School of North Cotabato), Zoilo J. Pinongcos Jr. (Leganes National High School of Iloilo), Dina Joana S. Ocampo (University of the Philippines, Diliman) and Ramon S. Del Fierro (University of San Carlos of Cebu City).

The MBF search is the most competitive, most demanding and most highly rewarding quest for excellence among teachers nationwide. In addition to a gold medal and a trophy, each winner gets a whopping P300,000 cash award from Metrobank Group chair George S.K. Ty.

On September 3, the awardees will also have a special audience and Malacañang photo op with President Macapagal-Arroyo. The SOT panel of judges this year is co-chaired by Supreme Court Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro and Rep. Ruffy B. Biazon.

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Gerry and Ninoy. Former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga will launch next month a new book, “The Lives and Times of Gerry Roxas and Ninoy Aquino.” This is yet another gripping first person account of the most turbulent events in the Philippines during the past century. While focused on the role of Gerry Roxas and Ninoy Aquino, the book places in objective and engaging perspective the battles for democracy and nationhood during the dark years of martial law.

Compelling and inspiring, this Salonga masterpiece saves for posterity little known vignettes recounting the heroism of these two great men. And while too modest to include himself among the country’s brightest political stars, the brilliant Salonga could have been – like the two bosom friends he writes about so glowingly – the best president of this country. Indeed, Roxas, Aquino and Salonga constituted the awesome troika who were poised to lead us to political and economic heights had Ferdinand Marcos not hijacked our country to the quicksands of history.

Salonga’s admiration for Gerry and Ninoy cascades down to their political heirs, Mar and Noynoy. Is it any wonder why the country’s oldest living statesman is batting for a Roxas-Aquino tandem for the 2010 presidential election?

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Congratulations to Father Catalino Arevalo, SJ, for being conferred an “Award of Recognition” during the 9th General Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC) held recently at the Pope Pius XII Center in UN Avenue, Manila. Known as the spiritual adviser of President Cory and acclaimed by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin as the “Dean of Filipino Theologians,” Arevalo was singled out as the main author of the final document of the first FABC Assembly in Taipei in 1974.

I was invited to attend the FABC’s final Mass on August 16 as lector for the First Reading. I specially appreciated the homily of the special papal envoy, Francis Cardinal Arinze. He stressed, “People come to Mass, not for recreation but to adore God, to praise and thank Him, to ask pardon for their sins, and to request other spiritual and temporal needs.”

Thus, he exhorted the 117 archbishops and bishops representing the Catholic Church in Asia to avoid “questionable or downright mistaken innovations or idiosyncrasies of some enthusiastic clerics whose fertile imagination invents something on Saturday night and whose uninformed zeal forces this innovation on the innocent congregation on Sunday morning.” Touché!

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