Thanks took 63 years from pupil, 82, to teacher, 91
Already standing 5 ft 7 inches tall even then, Teresa Alvina was nonetheless a somewhat timorous student who would always listen with keen interest to Carmen Geronimo-Pascual, her home economics and math teacher at the V. Mapa High School in Manila.
She could never bring herself to approach Geronimo-Pascual to express her gratitude and tell her what an excellent teacher she was and how she had been motivated to learn by her teaching.
It took Alvina 63 years to finally go to her now 91-year-old former teacher and utter the words, “Thank you.”
Not that it was any easier today for Alvina, 82, senior vice president of the Atlas Publishing Corp.
For two years she had looked for her former teacher without success before she finally thought of writing to Education Secretary Armin Luistro for help in locating Geronimo-Pascual.
The Inquirer published the letter and the story of Alvina’s search last Tuesday, Sept. 20.
“It is never too late. There is no time element in saying thank you to your teacher,” Alvina said after she was finally reunited with her former teacher.
Last Thursday, a Department of Education employee got in touch with her, informing her that they had found Geronimo-Pascual’s address through the latter’s daughter, Teresa, a branch manager of the National Housing Authority.
Finding Geronimo-Pascual had apparently taken time because she and her family had relocated from their Balic Balic, Sampaloc, home to Filinvest.
As soon as she got the information, Alvina did not hesitate to set up the meeting.
The meeting happened on Saturday at the house of Geronimo-Pascual in Filinvest II, Batasan Hills, Quezon City. Another old student and classmate, Aurora Ramirez, joined the reunion in which the talk revolved around school memories after World War II.
“I was an ordinary student. But she was an extraordinary teacher. Let’s put it this way: I never fell asleep in her class and neither did any of my classmates,” said Alvina, who graduated from high school in 1948.
Several notches above
According to Alvina, Geronimo-Pascual stood out from the other teachers for never being “bookish” and for having a teaching style that engaged the attention of everyone in her class.
“Mrs. Geronimo-Pascual was several notches above the other teachers,” she said.
“I never told you this. You were a person to emulate and I liked the way you taught,” she told her former teacher.
Still quite lucid, Geronimo-Pascual said she clearly remembers Alvina as the tallest girl in her class and someone who belonged to the “intelligent group” of her students.
Alvina, who never married, said Geronimo-Pascual may have influenced her to become a part-time instructor in several Manila universities after she finished her political science degree at the University of the Philippines, Diliman.
Two years ago, Alvina came up with the idea of finding her former teacher during a get-together with her high school classmates.
“My classmates would always talk about their favorite teachers and I would just listen to them quietly, but my silent choice was always Mrs. Geronimo-Pascual,” she said.
She thought she would look for and thank her favorite teacher.
“We are already in our senior years. I thought maybe it’s about time to at least thank her,” Alvina said.
She went back to V. Mapa High School and talked to the principal who couldn’t do anything but refer her to another person as the principal was only 2 years old when Alvina graduated and had only started teaching at the school in 1983.
Mrs. Geronimo-Pascual retired from teaching in 1980 after 35 years of service, Alvina learned.
She talked to many people and searched the records at the National Statistics Office and Government Service Insurance System, but “all came to a dead end.”
Her search became even more difficult when most of the class records at V. Mapa were destroyed by Typhoon “Ondoy” in 2009.
And then Alvina heard about the “Thank you, Teacher” campaign of the DepEd to mark National Teachers’ Month each September and the World Teacher’s Day on Oct. 5.
Last Sept. 5, she wrote to Luistro thinking the education secretary would have the means and the authority to help her, and personally delivered the letter to the DepEd headquarters in Pasig.
The nonagenarian teacher said she was “deeply touched” that a former student would go out of her way just to say, thank you.
She said it was the first time any former student of hers had paid her a visit.
For Alvina, it was “only the beginning” of a new connection with her former teacher.
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