Sister Mary John Mananzan, O.B.: A life like nun other

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines - She's founded centers for migrant workers, stood shoulder to shoulder with workers on strike, and sheltered whistleblowers from those who would seek to harm them.

She's gathered women of different backgrounds and put out several books tackling the myriad issues that women face today in the modern world.

And when she's taking a break from all of that, she's either reading a John Grisham novel or perfecting her Shibashi moves.

A member of the religious community certainly isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you read all of the above, but 73-year-old Sister Mary John Mananzan is all that - an empowered, free-thinking, feminist - and a nun to boot!

"I'm proud of being a feminist! I am aware that women are discriminated against and they are oppressed," she proclaims. "Buong buhay ko ikino-commit ko sa pag-e-empower ng women para lahat ito ay mawala."

Even as a young woman still named Guillermina "Jill" Mananzan, she already knew that working with the poor and the oppressed was something that she would be doing for the rest of her life - all that she needed to find out was the best way to do it.

"At the time, kung gusto mo mag-work for the poor, kailangan mo mag-madre. Wala pa 'yung mga social work na ganun," she shares. "I also had an interest and a curiosity about the interior life. And the longer I stayed, the surer I was that this was the life that I wanted."

It certainly helped that the life that Sister Mary John led with the religious wasn't confined within the four walls of the convent. Becoming a nun during the First Quarter Storm and Martial Law allowed her to experience life with the downtrodden, and further cement her conviction.

Since then, she has never turned back, immersing herself in the various causes and advocacies that have come her way. Previous posts she has held in St. Scholastica included being a high school teacher, a full college professor, and a college for 18 years. She is the current Prioress at St. Scholastica's Priory, and was president of St. Scholastica from 1996 to 2002. She is a fierce feminist advocate and has been instrumental in establishing Gabriela and the Institute for Women's Studies at the St. Scholastica's College. She has fought corruption by providing sanctuary for truthtellers like Jun Lozada and Colonel George Rabusa. The most recent challenge lobbed at her has been to establish a mission hospital in Catarman, Samar.

Sister Mary John, however, says that she doesn't actively seek out the many causes that she has fought for over the years.

"I don't look for heroism. If there is a need, I will answer it, and if people think it is heroic, eh di ok. I believe in responding to whatever challenge is facing me, but I don't look for them," she says.

She is even working towards passing down onto the students under her care at St. Scholastica's College this zeal for activism and social change.

"Ang education namin sa mga kolehiyala at hindi lang how to earn a living. They have to be good citizens. They have to see what is in society and they have to transform society. 'Yun ang aming thrust," she says,

In this 60 Minutes interview, Sister Mary John Mananzan looks back at a life that has definitely not been contained within the four walls of the convent. Whether she is being bombarded by fire hoses alongside other activists, or sharing cramped quarters with poor families in Tondo, Sister Mary John Mananzan is certainly a nun less ordinary. (Ronald S. Lim)

What is the challenge you're addressing now?
MARY JOHN MANANZAN (MJM): Right now, I have a new project that is so outside my usual expertise. I have to open a mission hospital in Catarman. The bishop in Catarman said that it is the poorest province, and he invited us to put up a hospital. I've never put up a hospital in my life! I have to look for funding and resources! It's a real challenge, but I believe that if you have a dream, and it is worthwhile proceeding, all the forces of the universe will align themselves to make your dream come true.

It's not just my belief, it's the story of my life. I'll give you an example. I put up a migrant workers center in Spain. I'd been there for only a year but I thought that our 50,000 Filipino migrant workers needed a center where they could come together. There was a Third World organization that was helping people. They told me to make a permit na ibibigay nila sa Department of Labor. Gumawa ako, and they accepted it for one year.

Ngayon I needed a place, a big one, in the center of Madrid, and it must be rent-free. Anong say mo (laughs)? But I got it! Sinabi sa akin that there were sisters there, Auxilladoras de Purgatorio, Helpers of Purgatory! Wow, ano 'yun! The Mother General said they have changed their priorities, and purgatory ngayon ang Third World. At dahil helpers sila ng purgatory, helpers sila ng Third World. So sabi nila, they have a building in the center of Madrid, five minutes away, and that they used to have a catechetical school there. They said that if I could use it, use it. Eleven little rooms and one big sala! But it's 20 years' dust. But we got it!

SCB: The universe is conspiring indeed...
MJM: That's one. Pagdating ko dito, I put up the Institute of Women's Studies, the funding agencies asked me me. "Do you need funding, Sister?" I said yes (laughs)!

The first funds came from the Ford Foundation, $70,000. I was making a project proposal for an intercultural course for women in society. It will take women from Asia-Pacific countries and have them work with us in the Institute. Kinailangan namin magkaroon ng bahay, ng opisina. Saan kukuha ng pera?

The president of St. Scholastica's College said ipa-quote natin kung magkano ang three floors. Five million lang noong 1990. Sabi niya, they would give me two and a half million if we could get help from someone else. At dahil wala pa akong idea, we started with the initial two and a half million. We started in January. In September, I got the money from a funding agency in Austria. Marami pang iba! Meron kaming farm na ginawa.

A nun with a purpose
SCB: You talk about how the universe always conspires to make your dreams come true. Was it always your dream to become a nun? Or were you dreaming of something else?
MJM: I always tell people not to ask me why I entered, but ask me why I stayed (laughs). I was only 19. Ano ba alam mo at 19? But I was here for high school, was here for college, nagdadala ako ng mga libro ng mga madre. And at the time, kung gusto mo mag-work for the poor, wala pa 'yung mga social work na ganun, kailangan mo mag-madre.

At the time, I also had an interest and a curiosity about the interior life. Ano ba 'yung life of prayer na 'yan? Ano ba 'yang kay St. Therese of Avila na 'yan? Ano ba 'yung Dark Night of the Soul? Nandoon naman 'yung basic, but at 19, hindi ka makakagawa ng mature decision. But I decided to enter. I graduated in March, by May, I had entered. Ang sabi ko, kung Shindi para sa akin ito, bata pa ako para mag-asawa. Eh kung late na ako pumasok at hindi pala para sa akin? The longer I stayed, the surer I was that this was the life that I wanted.

SCB: What made you sure?
MJM: It was the First Quarter Storm (laughs). Nakita ko noong Martial Law that there was a certain role for Sisters. Sisters are credible in the Philippines, and because we had institutional support, we could reach more than the ordinary person. Nakita ko during Martial Law, when you had to struggle with the poor and had to take risks. Sabi ko, that is what we are nuns for, we announce the good news and denounce the bad news. And there is a lot of danger in denouncing the bad news in this country. Na-reinforce talaga kasi nakita ko na may relevance ang pagiging madre ko.

SCB: Weren't you afraid when you joined the political rallies?
MJM: Hindi (laughs)! Ang dami kasing tao. Iba ang adrenaline kapag kasama mo ang mga kaibigan mo. You trust them, it's okay to die with them (laughs). But I never really felt afraid. I knew that there were some dangers, hindi naman ako masyadong naïve. Even nga nung kasama ko si Jun (Lozada), they would tell me, "Mary John, don't you realize that when Jun is assassinated, tatamaan ka rin ng bala?" But of course, at this time I had already lived my full life. It's better to die that way than with Alzheimers (laughs).

Not looking for heroism
SCB: Were you interested in activism early on in your life?
MJM: Wala pang activism noon eh! Naging aktibista lang ako nung madre na ako. I was in Europe when Martial Law was declared, studying in Germany and Rome. But they had student activism in Germany. They would sleep on the ground. Dito na lang ako natuto. Ang baptism of fire ko nga eh 'yung La Tondeña strike. Doon ko talaga nakita na may nagpupukpukan.

SCB: Were you surprised at what you were able to accomplish at the time?
MJM: Hindi ka nakakapag-isip ng ganoon. Pero pagkatapos ng La Tondeña strike, we went all over. Naging chairperson ako ng task force on the conscientization of church personnel. We wanted them to help with the struggle of the poor, to be in solidarity with them.

Changes in her life

SCB: What brought about these changes in you?
MJM: Ang nakapagpabago sa akin ay 'yung pakikisalamuha ko sa mga tao sa iyo. Magkakasama kami at kapit-bisig, binobombahan kami ng tubig from a fire hose. Natutulog kami sa Tondo, sa bahay ng isang poor family, kasama 'yung mga anak. So palaging natatamaan 'yung mukha ko nung mga kamay nila habang natutulog (laughs). Tapos ang kasama kong maligo, baboy (laughs)! Para ka makaligo, dapat itulak mo 'yung baboy gamit 'yung paa mo para di ka lusubin ng baboy. Ito pala 'yung reality na hindi ko nakikita sa kumbento where you have a nice room at may pagkain ka palagi. Four days lang kasama ang mga mahihirap, talagang makikita mo ang Diyos.

Kapag dinadala ko ang mga estudyante ko sa Smokey Mountain, sinasabihan ko na huwag silang maglagay ng panyo sa ilong nila kasi nakakainsulto. Pero ang sinasabi ko sa sarili ko "Ako rin, gusto kong maglagay ng panyo!" (laughs)

SCB: Why do you bring your students to places like Smokey Mountain?
MJM: For exposure. In 1975, St. Scho adopted in its General Chapter a four-pronged thrust. All our institutions must be socially-oriented. The school must have a thrust for education, justice, and social transformation. That is done in all our 10 schools. Ganon talaga ang education namin sa mga kolehiyala. Hindi kayo nandito to learn how to earn a living. You have to be a good citizen. You have to see what is in society and you have to transform society. Ganon naman talaga ang aming reputation.

Falling in love
SCB: So at no point when you were younger that you thought you could do more outside the convent?
MJM: Hindi. Parang my whole world is wide, well I fell in love three times (laughs). 'Yun ang fascination ko, sa Germany lahat nangyari 'yun.

SCB: Really?
MJM: Sa university. Basta Filipina ka kasi doon, para kang orchid in the garden. I was flattered, siguro I wasn't really in love. Pero sa tingin ko in those three times, I thought I would marry this guy and after three months, what? Parang ang mundo ko napakalawak and then it will narrow down to domestic, parang liliit 'yung mundo ko, that's how I felt. I am a normal person, but
I really have the same emotions as everybody else. And given the unfamiliar setting, you become vulnerable.

SCB: Are you glad you experienced that too?
MJM: I'm glad that I went through that phase. A girl came up to me and said "Ay mamatay ako kasi may broken heart ako, sister." Sabi ko, kasi baka magpapakamatay eh, no man is worth dying for. I know it from experience (laughs). I tell them after five years, makakalimutan mo na 'yan. After five days sabi sa akin, "Sister nandito ako sa Holland, nakalimutan ko na po 'yun."

SCB: (Laughs) Curious lang sister, were the men Filipino?
MJM: No. There was no Filipino among them (laughs). In a sense I was happy that God gave me that chance to know what being in love means, what anguish it takes. Mas mabuti na 'yung alam mo, 'yung nag decide ka nang tunay.

A well-traveled nun
SCB: People think the life of a nun is constricted...
MJM: Hindi naman totoo 'yun eh. My goodness I'm the most traveled nun. I lived in Spain for three years, I lived in Italy for three years, I lived in Germany for three years, constricted ba 'yun? And I have gone to, siguro 56 countries to give talks. One day in Spain, I just came from the airport, may mama sa bus, pinaringgan kaming dalawang madre. Sabi niya, "I really pity these nuns, they're so confined in their convents...." I really couldn't help it and I said, "Excuse me señor, you know I just came from my 34th country. Does that sound constricted?" Itong tao na 'to, akala mo kung sino siya na naaawa sa amin, wala kaming nakikita. Susmaryosep!

SCB: Do you feel you've had unique experiences because you had opportunities...
MJM: I'm not typical but kahit hindi ka mag-travel, it doesn't mean na ang mundo mo maliit. We are trained to be socially-oriented kaya talagang malapit kami sa tao. Ibang mundo 'yung urban poor, ibang mundo 'yung peasant, talagang magiging open ka sa lahat.

Naging open din ako sa lahat ng religions - Buddhism, Hinduism, Muslim - and I really saw them for what they are, talagang maraming prejudices against them. So in my latest book "Woman, Religion and Spirituality in Asia", I really went to different countries through the Asian Public Intellectuals grant. My research proposal was I would like to interview women from different religions in their own countries. Because I've done theoretical research about religions, gusto ko makita how religion handles women in reality. I went to Malaysia, India, Thailand and Japan and interviewed women.

What I discovered is that in all religions, there are really jewels in spirituality. Nilagyan ng Diyos ng gems ang lahat ng relihiyon and it's up to me if I will make use of these gems. Pero kung gusto kong matira sa isang maliit na box, na ang pangalan ay Catholic box, at ikakandado ko 'yun, sususian ko, itatapon ko 'yung susi, choice ko na 'yun. Pero why do you want to live in a box? My conclusion was that religions have both liberating and oppressive factors. And I went through all their scriptures and I looked at passages that are positive and negative or neutral to women. In all these scriptures, you will see the very negative about women, some positive ones, a lot of them ambivalent.

We have an association called TARA, composed of different women from different religions. Every two years, we meet, meditate together on a topic, for example violence against women.
Then lahat kami will write about violence against women in our point of views and then we come together and discuss the whole thing. We have seven books because we have met for seven years. I really feel that they are my sisters, when we come together, para kaming magkakapatid.

SCB: When we interviewed Fr. Robert Reyes, he said that when he takes up a cause, sometime the higher levels of the Church don't agree with him. Has that happened with you?
MJM: I'm so grateful to my congregation kasi sabay-sabay kami siguro namulat, kasama 'yung mga superior ko. I never even once felt that I was pushed into a corner. My appreciation of my congregation is that natuto kaming mag-discussion, magpalitan ng kuro-kuro, magbakbakan. Pero we still respect each other. I've never had any problem with my congregation.

SCB: But the reality is that some members of the Congregation may not agree with you...
MJM: There was a time that we were raided here by 13 armed men. Hindi ko alam kung robbery lang 'yun. Meron kami ditong CCTV, nakita naming kung ano nangyari. But before that we had to make an assessment. It was an assembly of the two communities here, the priory and the school community. We were the ones making the assessment at may nagtanong, "Ang tingin ba natin itong pagka raid sa atin is just for robbery?" Sumakit na 'yung tiyan ko doon kasi ang alam ko hindi, ang alam ko ako ang rason kung bakit sila pumasok.

Hinarap ko silang lahat. I said that the robbery was just incidental, that they're either trying to intimidate us or trying to start a fight with us. I told them that as their Prioress, what do they want me to do?

I thought they would answer something like "You are endangering us, you better stop!" (laughs) Ang unang nagsalita ay isang 85-year-old sister na naging dean ko. Sabi niya, "You know, Mother, I am already old, I cannot make it anymore. The only thing I can say is that this is a part of our vision-mission."

Anim silang matatanda, na akala kong takot, anim silang sumuporta, parang nag-confirm ng ginagawa ko. Siguro 'yung mga negative hindi na magsasalita kasi mukha na silang kontrabida diba (laughs)? Sabi ko, "If you can't say what you want to say now, I will be in my office. You can come and tell me exactly what you want." 'Yung isang bata, nagtext sa akin, sabi niya, "I just want to tell you Mother that I really think that you're doing this not for yourself but for our country and even for the world. We just have to sacrifice." May dumating naman na isa pang bata, saying "Nag-usap-usap na kami, Mother, ang tingin namin in this time in our lives, we need a leader like you."

SCB: What is your stand on the RH Bill?
MJM: There are a lot of things in the RH Bill that I'm in disagreement also, only that I don't feel like demonizing the whole Bill. I believe that women need medical care as mothers. As a Catholic, I think everyone is against abortion, no doubt about that. Sa contraceptives, I would say na sana mag nuance na walang aborticiding contraception. Ang dapat i-critique sa RH Bill, 'yung parte na hindi okay, bigyan mo ng alternative, ng suggestion. Pinag-aralan talaga namin 'yan. Ang hirap lang talaga minsan may mga tao na hindi man lang nabasa kaya, sabi ko sa sisters ko, you can go to the rally of the Church, but read the Bill first. 'Yun ang condition ko sa kanila para alam niyo kung bakit kayo nagrarally, hindi 'yung basta sinabi.

SCB: With your experience with the poor, has it made you look at some policies of the Church and perhaps think that changes are indeed needed?
MJM: Yeah. I don't believe that population is not a problem. I think it is a problem. I just went to our adopted communities in a coastal town. May isa dun, 14 ang anak, ang liit ng bahay. If we are pro-life, we have to be pro-life not only in birth but after birth. That is the real pro-life na you should be interested in, the life not only of the fetus but also what happens afterwards, 'yung quality of life.

If you're a Catholic and you're advocating natural family planning, okay lang 'yun. In reality naman, kung talagang titignan mo, very ideal 'yung natural family planning kasi mag-uusap ang mag-asawa, if the marriage is okay. Ang tanong ko, how many marriages are okay? Ang tingin ko, you have to take reality into account.

Proudly feminist
SCB: Growing up in a Catholic school, we had observed that nuns achieve more than priests. Why is that so?
MJM: Alam mo ang sagot ko diyan, kasi kami may womb (laughs)! I'm sick and tired of hearing, she can't do it, wala siyang balls. We are nurturing life and therefore we have so much concern. So may pakialam kami sa lahat kasi parang binuhay namin 'yun eh. We are really, really interested in improving life, and having a good quality in life. Kung minsan ang mga lalaki kasi puro analyze (laughs)!

SCB: But have you influenced some men already (into your way of thinking)?
MJM: Oo, lahat ng nagpunta sa aming Institute of Women's Studies (laughs). Meron nga kaming mga lalaki na napabago ang pag-iisip kasi we have what we call, gender studies for men.
Nabago na namin ang kanilang machong pag-iisip.

Ang mga lalaki, biktima rin ng stereotyping at conditioning. For example natisod ka, ano ang sasabihin ng nanay mo, "Oy, 'wag kang iiyak, boys don't cry!" That's conditioning. Ang daming expectations sa mga lalaki kaya minsan insecure kaya naglalasing at nambababae. Sexual expectations, sexual performance, na ikaw ang bread winner.

Nag reunion kami, tinanong ko sila kung ano buhay nila after that gender issues for men. Sabi nung isa, "Sister nag-apologize ako sa aking asawa." 'Yung isa, "Eh kaya ko naman palang maghugas ng pinggan". Ang maganda pa, 'yung head ng aming Fine Arts department, sabi niya he rejected six advertising designs kasi sexist. It was a car advertisement, may isang babae na naka mini-skirt on top of the car. Sabi niya sa estudyante "What is this girl's legs doing on top of this car?" Di ba ang gandang pakinggan galing sa isang lalaki na sensitive na siya.

SCB: Are you comfortable with the tag "feminist"?
MJM: I'm proud of being a feminist! Meron kasing mga stereotype ideas about what feminism is eh, akala mo gusto lang manggulo ang babae. Of course not! We don't want our men to dominate our women but do you want women to dominate men? Of course not, we do not want domination at all! We want to be different from each other but equal.

I'll give you a definition of feminism. One, do you notice or are you aware that there is such a thing as a woman question? Ano ibig sabihin nun? There is an exploitation, discrimination, oppression of women and it cuts across class, race, nationality. It is structural, ideological and it is global. You realize there is a problem.

Two, if you realize there is a problem, are you committed to doing something to change it? If your answers to one and two are yes, you are a feminist - kahit na lalaki ka.

SCB: Are you one of the founders of Gabriela?
MJM: Gabriela was not founded by just one or two persons. In 1984, many did not know that the Center for Women Resources is actually the mother of Gabriela. Girlie Villariba and I convened a consultation and we invited women's organizations. Kasi nung namatay si Ninoy Aquino, nagsulputan ang mga grupo like WOMB. Nung nagsama-sama ang mga ito, one of the resolutions was to put up an umbrella organization called Gabriela. Sinong founder? Lahat ng mga nag attend ng consultation na 'yun. It's really the organizations that came together that founded Gabriela.

Whistleblowers under her wing
SCB: Do you always support whistleblowers who approach to you?
MJM: No. First of all this sanctuary program of major religious superiors, nandiyan na since 1975. Nung napasa 'yung Anti-Terrorist Act, alam namin magkakaroon ng mga ganito, so we kind of revived it. Si Jun Lozada lang kasi ang naging one of the high profile, pero ang dami-dami namin sinupport na whistleblowers. Pati nga ' yung Ampatuan witness na pinatay, nanggaling din sa amin 'yan. We have a Task Force Detainees and we have a sanctuary committee, ang head niyan si Sr. Cres. We do not accept anybody who doesn't write to us asking for sanctuary. We first investigate the credibility of the person. Ang tinutulungan namin 'yung nakakatulong sa bayan, hindi something personal.

SCB: What do you think of Col. George Rabusa?
MJM: I'm taking care of him, although he is not in our sanctuary because he's with Department of Justice (DoJ). We give him all the moral support. I always text him and I try to lift up his spirit. Kailangan niya ng dasal eh, galing kasi siya sa world na 'yun although I believe in his conversion. Ang kanyang way of saying it is "Pinaparusahan ako ng Diyos!" 'Yung ganun. "Ang dami kong kasalanan Sister." Nakakatawa kasi nangungumpisal sa akin nasa stage kami sa St. Paul Manila. (laughs)

But anyway, I had to tell him na hindi ka pinaparusahan ng Diyos only that you had to lose only your human props so you can return to God, kasi kung hindi you are so full of all these money, glory, mga babae, kung anu-ano diyan. Wala kang time sa God eh. Eh inalis lahat ng Diyos yun kagaya ni Job para wala kang makapitan kundi Diyos. So I tell him, "Do not look at it as a punishment. It is a loving gesture of God to bring you back to him." "Hay salamat naman Sister!" Ganun siya.

SCB: A lot of people don't find as much comfort in the Church as much as they used to. What would you say to them?
MJM: Go to the nuns (laughs)!

SCB: (Laughs)
MJM: We never send away anybody. Kung si Jesus, mas makasalanan, mas gusto niya pang i-put over his shoulders. Kaya sabi ko eh bakit ganun ang tingin nila kay Rabusa? Even Heidi Mendoza defends him. In a forum in St. Paul, Heidi said puwede ba tayong tumayo at palakpakan natin si Rabusa. She said let us not make any distinction between 'yung hindi kasama sa racket dahil ang pagiging hero is not what you did in the past but what you are willing to do now and in the future. That is correct!

Crazy about Angry Birds
SCB: What do you do to relax?
MJM: I do Shibashi. I taught Shibashi in Switzerland for four years. It's tai chi-qigong. Mayroon akong libro na ginawa about Shibashi. Nakakatawa ang nangyari dito, kasi may dalawang Germans who called from Moscow, "Sr. Mary John, may we come to the Philippines to learn Shibashi from you? We have only six days." "Huh, you will come to the Philippines and you will not go to Boracay, ganyan ganyan." "No, we just want to learn Shibashi." So dumating sila, dinala ko sa Mendez farm namin, tinuruan ko sila for six days, then nung nag graduate na sila, umuwi na sila. Tawa ako nang tawa. Sabi nung isa, "I will teach it to the women of Russia."

I also swim during excursions. Relaxed na relaxed ako. Binigyan din kasi ako ng gift na iPad kaya nagawa ko na lahat ng Angry Birds. Kaya 'pag on the road ako I don't mind the traffic, basta nag a-Angry Birds ako!

SCB: Sister, are there many young girls who still want to become nuns ?
MJM: It was less than before although it's picking up again. The other year, we had 13 pero apat na lang ngayon. Last year, we had eight, siguro six or seven this year. It takes nine years before one becomes a full-fledged nun. Within those nine years, you can leave. And even if after nine years may probation ka na, you still have to write a letter to the Vatican, to the general and to the Pope. Nine years kang pag-iisipin kung talagang gusto mo. Alangan namang hindi mo pa alam after nine years. Sobra naman yun ano (laughs)?

Siguro lang kasi there are more opportunities now for women. Kasi nung araw, lahat ng student leaders namin pumapasok. If you look at a certain generation, lahat Student Catholic Action president, lahat ng top leaders, pumapasok lahat yan. Ngayon hindi na (laughs).

SCB: What do you want to achieve for the Catholic religion?
MJM: I don't want to achieve anything (laughs)! I just want to live it. Ano ba ang ibig sabihin ng achievement? I just want to live my own interpretation of what Jesus is all about actually. Ako bilib talaga sa personality ni Jesus and his message.

SCB: The usual criticism sa mga bata ngayon, they're apathetic, they don't really care about their country? With your experience, would you say that that's true?
MJM: No, some may be like that, but some are really socially interested. May mga apathetic, yes. But I cannot say na majority of them. It's really the way you present it to them, especially if they get to listen to people, yung mga farmers, pakikiusapan mo sila. May exposure program nga kami they can stay two or three days doon sa urban poor. Siyempre mayroon silang outreach where they teach cathechism, nakikipaglaro sa mga bata na 'yun. Pero kung talagang theoretical, talagang wala silang ganun. Hindi mo naman makukumbinse 'yung mga bata just by having a seminar. Dalhin mo sila dun.

SCB: You've mentioned in one of your talks that grade school students in St. Scholastica's write letters to their congressmen, senators, mayors.
MJM: Yes! 'Yung tungkol sa nuclear plant nga eh, sabi nila, "If you really want to test it, why don't you test it there in Paris (laughs)? Why are you testing it here in the Pacific? We still would like to grow up!" Imagine they wrote the Prime Minister of France, 'yung Ambassador...Grade 3 at 4 students, nakakatuwa talaga.

SCB: What's the best feedback you've gotten from a student?
MJM: I was in a Cathay Pacific flight, tapos 'yung stewardess pumunta sa akin. "Sister, do you remember me?" Diyos ko naman, paano ko ma-reremember? Sabi ko "Your face is familiar but I cannot remember your name." "I was one of your first graduates in the Women's Studies and I tell you no pilot can make hanky panky with me." Di ba cute!

May mga nagsasabi sa akin, "Sister 'yung sinabi mo sa akin nun, hindi ko makalimutan and it has helped in all the crises of my life." Ano ba 'yung sinabi ko sa iyo (laughs)?
Nakakalimutan ko na kasi eh. Pero maganda 'yun na may nasabi ka sa kanya na nakakatulong pala sa buhay niya. Siya pala she was hanging on to those words.

Tingin ko parang 'yan ang reward ng mga teachers. It takes a long time but it will come. Si Kissa, for example, from kindergarten from college dito, hindi siguro alam ng teachers na mayroon naipunlang seeds of courage sa kanya. Pero nung lumabas siya, Clarissa Ocampo na siya, she bravely testified on the transfer to the Velarde account. All of us were very proud of her. It worked pa rin naman 'yung pagpasok natin ng social orientation sa mga bata, yung integrity, truth, na even after 40 years, it turns out that these seeds had been deeply planted in the students.