CULTURAL POTPOURRI| A Holiday Encounter with the Assumption Nuns

HISTORICALLY speaking, the Assumption Order, established by St. Marie Eugenie de Jesus (1817-1895) in Paris in 1839, arrived in the Philippines in 1892.  The virtuous Assumption nuns founded a Normal School for Women Teachers in the walled city of Intramuros which bravely pioneered women education in the country.  Among the earliest Assumption students were Rosa Sevilla de Alvero, the founder of the Instituto de Mujeres; and Librada Avelino Carreon de Luna who established the Centro Escolar University.  Not to mention that the alumnae and present students of the Assumption College include daughters and granddaughters of Presidents, politicians, industrialists, and prominent figures of Philippine society.

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THE ASSUMPTION Nuns & friends at Pearl Farm Beach Resort

  When my Assumptionista cousin, Marina Suarez Magallanes, called me up to take care of eight Assumption nuns arriving in Davao right after Christmas 2015, I readily took on the honor for my dear cousin.  Leading the Assumption nuns in Davao was the 84-year-old Mother Maria Paz Moreta y Centenera, RA, whose Spanish grandfather, Emilio Eiedra Moreta, was among the founders of the Monte de Piedad in the country during the Spanish colonial rule.  Mother Paz entered the nunnery in Spain when she was 17 years old after WW II.  From among her 15 siblings, three became Jesuit priests and two became Assumption nuns  “You will come to realize early what life is for when you’ve experienced the tragedy and brutality of war.  I’ve witnessed Japanese soldiers in Manila killing Filipinos and foreigners and burning their houses including ours.  We had to live in the ruins of Paco Church that time with other survivors.  I’ve stepped on dead people.  I’ve eaten cookies with human blood on them.  I thus came to realize that life is too short that I decided then to offer my life to the service of my Lord,” Mother Paz narrated emotionally.

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ASSUMPTION nuns with Charito Lizada at the Bistro Rosario

     With a BS Education degree, Mother Paz taught English, Religion and History at the Assumption-Herran starting in 1952.  She founded Assumption-Passi in 1976 with the support of the sugar barons of the Lopez and Araneta families.  She was Mother Superior in Assumption-Iloilo and counts the Magallanes, Pamintuan, and Dacudao girls of Davao City as her treasured students in the past.  She is presently so happily based in Assumption-Malibay, Pasay City, which offers education to the underprivileged members of the community.  “There’s always too much work which is challenging for us nuns.  All the hardships we have to endure is a purification moment for us.  Even at this age of mine, I still enjoy overcoming challenges in my life,” said a smiling Mother Paz who speaks Ilonggo as fluently as Spanish, English and yes, Japanese.

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NUNS enjoying a beautiful view of Malipano Island

     On the other hand, Sr. Bernadette Tambunting Casas, RA, readily gave me an impression that she comes from a conservative, religious, middle-class upbringing which she really does.  The ever gracious and humble Assumption nun is based at the Assumption College’s San Juan Nepomuceno School in Malibay, Pasay City, and the Maryville Urban Development, a housing project for the underprivileged.  Sr. Berni celebrated her golden anniversary last year at the Assumption College in San Lorenzo Village, Makati City, with Cardinal Tagle officiating during the mass.  It was a well attended event with the prominent Assumption girls of the old school led by the Tantocos, Lopezes, Rufinos, Tambuntings, Sys, to mention some.  Yes, Sr. Berni was a classmate in Assumption College of Davao’s Linda Floirendo-Lagdameo whom she considers a dear friend.

     While in Davao, the Assumption nuns enjoyed visiting Eden (thank you, Mike Ayala and Gina Quirino), Pearl Farm (thank you, Linda Floirendo-Lagdameo and Sec. Loida), Crocodile Park (thank you, Jackie and Bianca Garcia-Dizon); plus attending the inauguration of the new Ateneo de Davao University chapel (thank you, Fr. Tabora and Benjie Lizada).  I would also like to express my gratitude to the nuns of the MTI Retreat House for the accommodation, Archbishops Valles and Capalla for the lovely post Christmas dinner with the religious clmmunity of Davao, and tita Charito Lizada for the nuns’ last supper at the Bistro Rosario.  Thank you, Amy Soriano-Diano and Josie Gempesaw-Barcia for the help.

     “I am impressed with Davao City especially those areas we visited with a still well-preserved, natural environment full of healthy trees and plants.  The presence of nature makes all the difference in creating a more humane community in contrast to the concrete jungle of highly urbanized centers and the squalid slum areas of Manila.  Our Davao vacation couldn’t have been more endearing without you, our dear friends.  Your presence was God’s way of incarnating His very own loving care and protection…This is my first time to experience the powerful intervention of Michael the Archangel…,” wrote Sr. Berni in her distinctive Assumption penmanship.

      Thank you, dear Sisters, for the enlightening encounter and the famous Assumption Tarts.

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