Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Things I learned in Catholic school I never thought I'd appreciate... until now

Don’t sneak out with a boy; introduce him to your parents!

I had my first boyfriend when I was fourteen, and I was terrified. It was highly prohibited in my school — an exclusive school for girls — to entertain boys who wanted to initiate courtship within campus vicinity. I couldn’t take him home either, because I knew my parents would FREAK-OUT. I had to weigh my options, and decided that sneaking around with him after school (i.e., walking hand-in-hand just outside of school, still technically within school vicinity but not inside the school) would be the smartest, safest thing to do. 

Nope. I still got caught.

And by my father, no less.

I wasn’t exactly grounded, although I did get a long lecture about trust and honesty, especially when it came to boys. My parents didn’t believe in grounding us, but they were pretty good at making us feel like crap with the ‘I’m so disappointed in you’ lecture. Dad said it would’ve been easier had I just introduced him to them. 

This was us, post-secrecy.

So, I did. And everything else went smoothly after that... until we broke up a few weeks later. Hi, Rey! We're still friends. :-)

Male teachers are not all that. 

I had a major crush on my Geometry teacher. I thought he was so intelligent, humble, kind, and looked so much like the Paddington Bear. 

My Geometry teacher.

I bombed math my entire elementary and high school (and college) life, but I did okay in Geometry, because I wanted to impress him. 

I would say 98% of our all-girl school population had at least one crush on a male teacher. But later on I learned how silly that really was, just because having men anywhere within a block from our campus was such a rarity. I would look back and cringe — not at my Geometry teacher because he still remains pretty awesome in my book — but at some of the more popular male teachers who weren’t really all that great.

When you spend more than a decade of your life and all your formative years in an all-girl school, boys become such a novelty that they are regarded with so much unnecessary prestige. It’s pretty tragic.

Take Home Economics class seriously before it’s too late. 

I failed sewing. I botched crochet class. I gave diarrhea (to myself) when I attempted to make chocolate ice cream from scratch. My nanny made most of my art projects. Now that I’m a wife, I realize the true value of Home Economics whenever my husband’s jeans get caught in the dryer or when I need to adjust the hem of my dress. My husband is even better at sewing than I am!

A quick infographic on things I suck at.

Less is more. 

In school, simplicity wasn’t just a suggestion — it was an actual school rule. We had very specific expectations about how to wear your hair and what color clips and hair ties are appropriate (i.e., white, blue, and black. Sometimes, you can get away with brown). No jewelry except for small stud earrings. No nail polish. No heels. No frilly socks. And absolutely no make up.

Puberty was especially hard for me because, like most women (and men), that was when I felt like I was at my ugliest. That was when I really felt the need for a cute, pink bow on my hair, drop earrings that moved when I turned left or right, a decent manicure, a little bit of a heel, and for the love of God — concealer! But I couldn’t, because vanity would basically get me in trouble with the school director. Yikes.

And she was a nun.

Double yikes.

I hated vegetables.

Now, I celebrate the same kind of simplicity I once hated when I was that Catholic school girl. I love no-make-up days, I despise high-heeled shoes, and my favorite thing to wear is black. I now see elegance in simplicity, not frustration or boredom. Simplicity is actually pretty darn beautiful after all.

Hard work pays off. 

I was a lazy kid in school, but mostly because I was constantly unmotivated. I had very low self-esteem and thought that being surrounded by brilliant classmates made me even less of an achiever than I already was.

Me in high school.

The thing is, my school was so strict and traditional that they still didn’t give me a break, no matter how depressed I got for feeling stupid. Through the years, I hated that. I hated the fact that I wasn’t given positive reinforcement and encouragement in school. I hated the fact that I always felt like I was punished with a really sucky grade no matter how hard I tried.

So, I just stopped trying.

Looking back though, I am thankful for this brutal honesty and the non-negotiable to work your ass off if you want to earn a certain grade. And although I still don’t agree with the culture of negativity I experienced -- where encouragement and positivity were kept at a minimum, and consequence and punishment were pretty much routine -- I now value setting a higher standard for myself, and for my students, now that I am a teacher myself. It’s just that I see myself as more child-friendly and ‘progressive’, if you will; not rigid and overly strict. Change the bad, keep the good.


I realized that, even though I keep promising myself that I would give my future kids a much more positive, liberating school environment one day, I still undoubtedly carry with me some valuable things from Catholic school. I guess, in the end, I will always be a Catholic school girl at heart. I spent eleven years there after all.

Wait a minute... I earned my bachelors degree from a Catholic university, too! Make that fifteen years. Wow.

39 comments:

  1. I bet you studied at Assumption :)

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    1. I studied in St. Theresa's College. I do have a lot of friends from Assumption though! I know they are just as strict. ;-)

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  2. I was also a Theresian and felt the same too! Especially the simplicity part. I guess studying in an all-girl school is awesome after all! I just wish we had prom.

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    1. We tried to get away with an underground prom, but someone snitched. :( We did have some sort of 'dance' during our junior/senior year, though! The catch was that boys were not allowed. LOL!

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  3. im 16 and am studying at your alma mater

    and it feels hella awkward

    to read your life story that sums up my current experience right now

    also did you know we're not allowed to sit on the ground anymore?

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    1. Not allowed to sit on the ground?! That's crazy! What was their reason for it?

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    2. Cause they said that sitting on the ground wouldn't be so lady-like and also while eating ..

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    3. I can't help but notice this really!:-) I was a Theresian all my life and sitting at the lawn under tha acacia tree had always been part of my childhood..too bad the new breed of Teresas will miss the fun part of rolling on the ground while throwing grasses to each other during lunch time..aww I suddenly miss STC!;(

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  4. I'm a Theresian and had a crush on my bio teacher, totally relate haha :)

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    1. You must be from a later batch; we didn't have a male Bio teacher during our time. We did have a male Physics teacher, though!

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  5. Was Sir Ben your geom teacher? Haha

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  6. That's one of the many things i will surely miss doing in stc, wearing my paddington hat while biking to and from stc. :)

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    1. I didn't know you used to ride your bike to school! That's awesome. I remember Sr. Simone used to do that, too.

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    2. I started biking on my 2nd or 3rd year of teaching, I think. I figured I'll be able to come to school earlier, save money since I no longer have to take a tricycle from Mcdo Retiro and a jeep coming from Blumentritt, and at the same time have a regular exercise. (though the last one seems not effective because I'm still cuddly as a bear). hahaha

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  7. Hi! I am a mother with two grown up daughters. I like your story because it sums up the story of every teenage girl who went to an exclusive catholic school. I have to share this with my daughters and they would have fits of laughter because I'm sure they can relate to this. This is good material for making a short story book or article :)

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  8. in claret, we also have crushes on our professors. it's fine. what is bad is some of us have crushes on our classmates.. gaaay!

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  9. Awesome, I can totally relate except for the boyfriend part because I never had one during high school, I had girl crushes tho....=))

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  10. I guess all Theresians went through the same experience anf learning as you. I'm a Theresian and proud of it. :-)

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  11. this post went a little viral on facebook haha! it's so awesome and true :)

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  12. theresian life in all its totality. i will never regret graduating from that school.:)))

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  13. OMG Paddington Bear! Sir Geom/Narvaez? This year is his last year in STC daw :(

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  14. didn't you have any crushes on girls?? just curious haha because most of Theresians in HS have like girl-to-girl relationships. what do you say about that?? =)))))

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  15. i totally relate to this! STC REPRESENT! :-)

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  16. oh my.. theresians.. i remember them organizing an underground prom.. is that Mr. Quiambao with you on the photo? :)

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  17. I was smiling from the 1st sentence of your article 'til the closing statement. My eldest child and only girl graduated last year in STC. She is embracing the simplicity virtue though she is now enrolled in a science high school where girls and boys of her age follow the mainstream. Thanks to the Theresian values, thanks to her Alma Mater. Kudos to YOU, kudosTheresians!!!!

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    1. A belated congrats to your daughter who graduated from STC last year! It's such a great feeling when I hear of younger Theresians who still embrace the STC virtues -- especially that of simplicity -- even after STC. It goes to show that the school taught us well!

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  18. Hi Karla, I can't stop reading this for the nth time and I can relate to most of what you said especially the motivation part. You see, I was a Theresian graduate way back in the early 2000s and I thank the school for its Spartan academic training. It helped me stay motivated and eventually I graduated well in college with high honors, got a great job, traveled a part of the world and am now an entrepreneur. But, the truth is, the academics in STC was the only one keeping me sane and motivated me to do my life goals. But socially, I suck. I was at the bottom of the food chain. I was bullied and worst... in a girl's school. I was a chubby kid in high school and dark due to many years of playing in the sun or just being a kid in a kid's world. Worst, I had a flat nose and big bulbous lips. These girls would drew caricatures of me in the blackboard and during unsanctioned soirees' they would drop a sly comment or two and tell me I would never amount to anything because I'm ugly. I guess what hurts the most would be field trips which I'm secretly dreading because it means another trip without a seat mate, another person who would treat me like a plague. Unfriendly and unkind jest from here and there until you feel like you want to cry, punch them straight out (do it old school like in a coed) , or wish have that never ending wish that they would be thrust in an endless hell after high school.

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  19. But the truth is, maybe I was just too angry at them that I just heard them... Heard the worst parts and punches... Because deep down they must be lonely too. On an overnight retreat, we were given a meditation activity. The moderator asked us to close our eyes and imagine that we are going home to a peaceful house and in the front door, our mom in her dusters welcomed us after a long and weary journey. In this meditation, our moderator asked us to envision a friendly, understanding and benevolent parent; someone who is concern about our well being and just love us for who we are. And this is where the damn gave in... about half of those who bullied me just cried their heart out as if they felt a part of them dying. I realized right there and then... that these girls must be pressured to be molded in that particular status quo. They should be perfect. And maybe they're tired of being perfect. A lot of them are pressured to have boyfriends just because half of their friends from other exclusive girls' schools have their taste of the Ateneo and La Sallean cake and eat it too! After exams, they go into major bitch fits. They're my first insight to what addiction is. They're addicted to the smell of gas, addicted to put tiny and almost visible slashes in their forearms as punishment for not excelling and hooked up on the idea of them created by their trophy wives' moms. Sharing this now is like remembering an E! True Hollywood Story take on Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes. But it is still not an excuse to make another person feel like nobody just because they feel small or insecure or in their own way unwanted

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  20. After high school, we went our separate ways. Through Facebook and some true friends (yes! I still have friends from High school mostly upper class men) I learned that some Queen Bees really had it all. They're successful corporate persons and maybe judging by their pictures have some semblance of real happiness; not the varsity type of smile I've often seen them wear around school back then when we were kids. And of course a lot of Queen Bees learned that real life is more than high school. They did eat a part of life's cake. They had their boyfriends (gorgeous ones as well) got dropped by the bakery and produced a bun or two, finished college in six years time and are now our certified alumni organizers and over all perfect Stepford wives (still living with their parents) but that's life and you have to admire them for their tenacity of choosing how to live their life (not just survive) and soon some newly married classmates made them their inspiration (funny how life turns out but its true).

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  21. As for the Losers, that's me and a couple of rebels who choose then to hide in the safety of a closed classroom every break time and risking being punished by Ms. Sacdalan, well it turned out life wasn't unkind at all. We eventually grew out of our puberty. Find out we can loose that extra weight, stay out of the sun as much as possible and got a fairer complexion, got enough dough to fix our noses, get a lipo or too or afford an expensive haircut and what do you know? We can be our own Queen Bees after all. Its just that we choose not to trample on other people. Some of us became doctors, a few became lawyers, and a lot of us, believe it or not, are in PR, Sales, Investment and Marketing. We have flings and boyfriends, we saw parts of the world and realize on our own that though on bad days, high school seems as fresh as yesterday, it is what we choose to do in our future that matters and that's the education we get in a tough institution that made us stronger persons for it

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  22. It would have been the triumphs of our lives to attend our alumni homecoming this year, flaunt our success in front of our bullies and give them a dose of their medicine. But being the STC Losers that we are, we choose to make peace with out past, congratulate them for them own achievements, move on and boycott the event and just have a party of our own.

    Thank you again for telling some of the truths that we had in a rigid and highly competitive all girls' institution like STC. I hope this time, time is kinder to us. Best regards on your writing, Karla! We'll be hungry for more!

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