Saturday, August 20, 2011
In Disney’s RATATOUILLE movie, the unsmiling and dour-faced food critic named ANTON EGO, tasted a dish that suddenly transported him back to his childhood days. His countenance changed as he gamely savored the dish he was giving a critique on, and the warm childhood memories that accompanied the dish showed dramatically in his facial expression. He actually smiled, and proceeded to devour the rest of the dish with childish joy. In our family, we call such an experience a “ratatouille moment”. It is that warm, wonderful, indescribable feeling you’d get when you bite into food that reminds you of a great dishes from the past.
Welcoming Alumni, Family, and Friends
On a different scale, being part of the 5th St. Mary’s School Sagada Alumni Family and Friends (SMSSAFF) Conference that was held in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge was a drawn out 3-day “ratatouille moment”. My wife and I joined the host committee on Thursday, August 4, as alumni, family and friends started arriving to register for the event. We met relatives and friends from Michigan, Colorado, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and Illinois – there could be more states represented, and I believe there were those from Canada, but those states mentioned were what I remembered.
My wife and I didn’t graduate from St. Mary’s School (SMS) in Sagada – but my mother-in-law did. So did my dad (batch ’56), my mom (batch ’65), and my 3 older sisters who belonged to batch ’87, ’88, and ’90. Two of my brother-in-laws were also graduates of SMS. I was supposed to be a member of batch ’92 – but I was shipped to Manila for high school and missed all the fun. Still, I didn’t feel left out. The St. Mary’s tradition runs strong in my family and during the reunion, I somehow felt like I was representing my parents and sisters as they were not able to attend.
Anglican Mass and SMS Missionaries
The reunion / conference was held in an episcopal church also known as St. Mary’s. The Anglican church service on Saturday morning was the first time I’ve attended in years. (My family now have affiliated ourselves to evangelical, non-denominational churches in more recent years.) It was the same traditional hymn mass I remember from my Sagada childhood with great fondness. Members of the alumni served during the service, and the hymns were also handpicked by them. At the end of the service, when the attendees started singing the SMS hymn to the tune of O Danny Boy, I felt a tinge of regret that my family members (my mom especially) who were supposed to be there were absent.
Saturday evening was cultural night. The theme for the conference was about honoring Sagada’s teaching missionaries who were from various Anglican dioceses across the United States. These missionaries served in Sagada’s St. Mary’s school in the early 1900s and stayed in Sagada until the 1960s. In the photo slideshow which started the evening, there were images of SMS alumni who eventually settled in the US, visiting these same missionaries during their later years right here in their home country. I can only imagine what those missionaries may have felt like.
Having stayed here in the US since 2006, I cannot imagine sacrificing comfortable living here and going to a strange mountainous land in the Far East to spend time with a group of people and culture that is too foreign from the one you’re used to. And after all the hard work and time spent, you actually get to see the fruit of your labor by having some of your students get to visit you back in your home country. Indeed, a theme that I’ve heard from the older alumni during the conference was of thanksgiving – the alumni are thankful to those brave teaching missionaries for the opportunities that it has provided the students and their families not just in their lifetime, but also for the next generations to come.
CONTINUED here... A Taste of Sagada right here in Chicago – Part II