How I spent the Mother’s Day-A A +A
By Mimi Olarga
Points of View
Saturday, May 17, 2014
BUT there’s no class on a Sunday! Yes, but there’s a celebration on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass inside the nine-hectare Sisters of Mary (SOM) Girlstown, which looks pristine at 5:45 in the morning.
A sea of 3,500 girls lifting their own green plastic chair and forming straight columns inside the gym was a fascinating sight. The choir started to intone the psalms; I heard angelic voices responding in unison. Each girl sits with her own family of 44 other girls as two Sisters are watching over them.
As the congregation continues its practice of the chants and the songs, the SOM Girlstown alumnae started to arrive.
SOM students from Korea who were there for vacation also turned up in their yellow shirts. Two priests from the nearby congregation arrived to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
It was Mothers’ Day and my visit to the SOM Girlstown in Brgy. Biga 11 in Silang, Cavite was an experience I will always treasure.
With my niece Gladys, herself an SOM alumna, and other alumnae, I really took time out of my hectic seminar in Manila to visit the place.
I was amazed to know the big number of enrolled girl-scholars here. At Sisters of Mary, girls and also boys (there’s a Boystown just in the other part of the locality) from poor families receive free food clothing, shelter, medical/ dental services and of course, quality secondary education with technical-vocational orientation.
The latter would help the graduates find a job after graduating from high school.
I also learned that the freshmen students who come from as far as Mindoro and the hinterlands of Cagayan started school last April.
The SOM students are taught dressmaking, computer hardware servicing, consumer electronics servicing, technical drafting and autoCAD, mechanics and driving, machining and welding, and electrical technology. I was so amazed to learn that the young gals’ shorts, tee shirts and uniforms are, according to the SOM alumnae, sewn by the students themselves.
True to the school’s vision, the students from the poor families can break free from the clutches of poverty through education. At SOM the Sisters are really serving the Lord with joy by educating the students.
Another touching scene I witnessed was when the students showed the Sisters their esteem and love on Mother’s Day. In a short program which followed right after the Mass, the students and alumnae showered the Sisters with songs and dances, flowers and self-made cards, homemade food and fruits.
The girls in SOM are away not only from their mothers but from their families. Though they are allowed to go home during school break, it’s only during a designated day every September that their families come to visit.
With proper orientation to their parents and guardians, the girls have to bear the homesickness so they can finish their education.
The Sisters of Mary have girls and boys schools in Cavite, and in Cebu. The school started its operation in the Philippines in 1985 as it served as home and school for deserving students coming from poor families.
SOM was founded in Busan, South Korea in 1964 by the Servant of God Msgr. Aloysius Schwartz who was deeply inspired by Our Lady of Banneux of Belgium, the Virgin of the Poor, “to educate the orphans, abandoned and very poor children.”
Then Pope John Paul II granted the congregation the decree that it is a religious institute of pontifical right on March 2, 2000. From Korea, the mission was brought to the Philippines, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil and Honduras. The SOM Girls and Boys Towns are assisted by Fr. Al’s Children Foundation.
That Sunday I spent at the SOM Girlstown was truly enlightening and inspiring.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 17, 2014.