A Southridge Alumnus Takes Pride in His Alma Mater
By Mann Rentoy
I am a Southridge alumnus. One of the 1,000++ Southridge has so far produced. Batch? It doesn't really matter much. Suffice it to say that I was there right from the first days of Southridge. One of those who experienced cohabiting with snakes and frogs and getting lost in a thick ipil-ipil forest during the first years. After all, it was that time when Alabang was practically still a wilderness, a “far-flung barrio in the metro”! Oh, that was fun! Of course, we also had classes. We just had to exert extra effort to hear what the teachers were saying because the carpenters in the first floors would usually compete with their voices. I won't tell you who usually won. I'll just mention that I hardly remember my Biology and Geography. But I learned rhythm and tempo and acquired an ear for regular throb and pulse. Thanks to the constant pounding of hammers. Oh, yes, that was fun!
I'm not really sure how I found myself one late night toiling on this testimonial article. I'm really not the best person to make one. There are too many other far better graduates, people whose credentials would have put to shame even the best harvests of those so-called "old, antediluvian" schools. They could have actually asked Dr. Francisco Sandejas, Batch '84, lst Summa cum Laude graduate of U.P. Applied Physics, Valedictorian of his batch, and now a doctorate degree holder from Stanford University and highly respected in his field (and should I say, happily married to the highly popular Christine Jacobs?). Or they could have asked Nonie Buencamino, Batch '85, who has won several acting awards from practically all the major award-giving bodies in the film industry in the country. Or they could have even asked Governor David Suarez, Batch 96, or any of the handful of honorable congressmen that the school has produced.
Nevertheless, I think I have a lot to say. See? I am a happy alumnus! I want to tell the world of the wondrous things I have learned in this beloved institution. My goal is not really to outline here the values I learned throughout my stay in Southridge. I'd just like to outline the top three things I acquired, as a result of the half-a-decade's formation I received from this Alma Mater.
First of these is social concern. I really never learned what it meant to give a piece of one's heart to the poor until I was introduced by Southridge teachers to the wonderful, exciting world of teaching Catechism to a group of public school students, whose lives are as uncertain and bleak as today's tabloid headlines. Most of those students I taught perhaps never even got to reach high school. They were grade three and four students who had to start working in public markets and vending in the streets a year or two from then to complement their parents’ meager income. They were students who would go to school in Muntinlupa in their shirts and pants that would remain unwashed for two to three days. Even laundry soap had already become a luxury for most of them. Worse. Even clean water was.
Today, I still teach Catechism to poor children in some public schools. And whenever I would have the occasion, I would organize one-day work missions to some depressed areas to distribute some relief goods, or to give donations, or to brighten up the day of some poor children, or simply ... to give a piece of my heart to the poor. Southridge taught me this. Southridge trained me to become like this!
Second in my list is the drive to achieve excellence in whatever I do. When Southridge took me in, I was like an ugly duck, drenched in my own waters of mediocrity. Skills? Poor. Talents? Pathetic. Capabilities? Pitiful. It's amazing the early Southridge teachers still had interest in spending time to mold the likes of me.
Let me tell you a story. There once was a student in Southridge who was so poor in his communication skills that his classmates would usually laugh at him whenever he would attempt to speak in English. Pronunciation was bad. Grammar was horrifying. Vocabulary was abominable. One day, Mr. Manny Escasa, the English teacher, announced that he would require certain students to stay in school up to 4:00 p.m. to attend remedial classes in English. Needless to say, this student was one of those obligated to attend, under the threat of having to serve punishment in the detention room for non-attendance.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that ugly duckling, that pathetic student, that otherwise trash of a creature that I am telling you about ... is here and now the one addressing you in this article. Still pathetic. Still ugly. But at least with a greater knowledge of the English language. Southridge gave me that. Generously! In abundance!
Then, of course, the 3rd in my list is the acquisition of values and virtues which every Southridge student is barraged with throughout his stay in this school. Every time I am confronted with choices in life, the face of Dr. Tonton Torralba, our then School Director, talking about virtues like "sincerity", "charity" and "temperance", "fortitude", "cheerfulness", and "prudence" (every Southridge Latinist would have noticed the double Ciceronian triplet there) still comes back to my mind. Or the voices of Fr. Cruz and Fr. Rosales, two former Chaplains, still reverberate in my mind reminding me about such simple yet important ideas like loving Our Lady, loving the Mass, loving the Church (yes, that's another Ciceronian triplet!). Southridge gave me that.
And now. I realize that behind all these three things I have just mentioned is the underlying spirit that Southridge has: the Opus Dei spirit! Behind these three things that Southridge tries to inculcate in every student is precisely the very driving force that pushed the school's founders to set up PAREF more than 30 years ago. Social concern. Excellence in work. Virtues and Values. How Opus Dei! How very much like Opus Dei! And even that, Southridge gave to me. Generously. Abundantly.
Other alumni may want to give their own testimonies. For me, this article just about sums up what I feel about my Alma Mater. Many years from now, when we would be ready to celebrate our golden and diamond jubilees, I am quite sure I would still be saying exactly the same things that I wrote here as my testimony. And perhaps with a few additions of achievements to back up my claims. Nevertheless the three things will still be there. Thanks a lot, Southridge!
Mann Rentoy is a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) where he earned a double-degree in AB Journalism and AB Literature, and an MA in Creative Writing. At present, he is finishing his PhD studies in the same university.
He was the Founding Executive Director of Westbridge School in Iloilo City. He was in the first batch of graduates of PAREF Southridge School, where he also taught for 15 years, occupying various posts including Principal of Intermediate School, Vice-Principal of High School and Department Head of Religion. As Moderator of “The Ridge”, the official publication of Southridge, he won 9 trophies from the Catholic Mass Media Awards including the first ever Hall of Fame for Student Publication, for winning as the best campus paper in the country for four consecutive years.
He is the Founding Executive Director of “Character Education Partnership Philippines”, or CEP Philippines, an international affiliate of CEP in Washington, DC, USA, which provides training and resources related to Character Formation Program in schools.As Founder of CEP Philippines, he has been invited to speak all over the country, as well as in Washington D.C., San Diego, California, USA, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.