A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the school that was the site of my formative years, the Holy Child Catholic School. I went there to inaugurate, together with His Eminence, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, an auditorium that we helped put up. It was an auspicious occasion because it was the 75th year of the school.
My visit there evoked a lot of memories and realizations. That school, and Tondo in general, was where I spent most of my childhood life. Looking back, many of the things I have accomplished today were probably conceived in that period of my life.
The person that we have become is the product of our life stories and our interpretation of the world through the lives we’ve led, particularly through the earliest formative years of our development. Our lives are shaped by that fork in the road, where a lot of crucial decisions are made by us on the basis of the values we have.
In my case, it was my Nanay Curing’s influence that formed the core of my values, my character. Helping her sell shrimps and fish at the market developed my appreciation for hard work and perseverance as the building blocks to a successful life. I learned how to communicate with, and respect other people. I was taught that honesty and integrity matter in dealing with customers and people in general.
But the initial education I received also allowed me to develop my character. I was enrolled at the Tondo Parochial School, which was the name of this school that received me with open arms after I was forced to drop out from another school because I had to work at an early age.
The Tondo Parochial School was one of two parochial schools set up in Tondo by the Catholic Church for poor residents of Tondo. It was founded by Jesuit priests in 1945 immediately following World War II. It moved from its original location to Plaza Hernandez just beside the Santo Niño Church where the Tondo Orphanage used to stand.
The Tondo Parochial School was very serious in providing excellent education to underprivileged kids by providing the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to make them responsible, productive, and “conscienticized” citizens.
In the classrooms of this school, under the tutelage of my mentors, I learned not just my ABCs and my multiplication tables, but also the value of self-respect, of loving and giving to others, of what it is to be human in the community of God. It reinforced many of the values my mother taught me. It galvanized in me the virtue of self-reliance but at the same time realizing that I was a part of something bigger.
When you were just a kid you don’t realize how you are being transformed by the people around you. You study, play, and go home. Or, in my case, study, work and sleep. But hindsight has a way of clarifying things. When you think back, you see markers in your past where you learned stuff or made important decisions. I have had a lot of markers in my life and my experience at the Tondo Parochial School is something that I will always cherish.
In a very special way, the auditorium we inaugurated in my alma mater is my way of saying thank you for helping me become the person I am today. And it came with the hope that it can help the Holy Child Catholic School, under the able leadership of Rev. Fr. Nolan Que as school director and Ms. Ofel Lumawig as principal, continue its mission of forming the minds of the youth in the service of God, country, and family.