THE DWU JUBILEE REUNION: A FEEL OF HOME
Sunday, October 1, 2000 was two days away from the feast day of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the Millennium Doctor of the Church and patron saint of the Divine Word University of Tacloban. On this Sunday, close to 400 hundred DWU alumni, former faculty members and administrative staff, as well as friends and associates renewed ties and friendships at the DWU Jubilee reunion held in the PNP Multipurpose Hall in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
A Coming Together
The context of the festive gathering was captured by a photo exhibit, which was conceptualized by Flerie Creencia, DWUJF member of the Board of Trustees. It included photos of past administrators, primarily past directors and presidents - from the time when the school was still Tacloban Catholic Institute to when it became St. Paul's College, Divine Word College, and finally Divine Word University until its closure in 1995. Photos of DWU campus buildings and students in DWU uniform brought nostalgia, especially to those who had once been students ofthe school. Also prominently featured on the exhibit board was the article of Fr. James Heiar, SVD, titled "Will the University Reopen?" - originally published in the Summer 2000 issue of Divine Word Missionaries - an SVD magazine in Techny, Illinois. Fr. Heiar spent almost 12 years of his missionary life as an SVD in DWU Tacloban - teaching literature and serving in various posts such as being campus minister in the college and a chaplain in St. Paul's Hospital (Divine Word University Hospital).
While the exhibit captured in print memorable past events, the Reunion brought life and vigor to these memories through the presence of a huge turn out of attendees who shared the same hope and goal - the reopening of DWU. Among those that graced the occasion in support of this cause were Leyte Governor, Remedios Petilla; former Tacloban Mayor, Uldarico Mateand wife Luz; former Leyte Governor, Benjamin Romualdez and wife Juliet; and former First Lady, Imelda Romualdez Marcos - herself a DWU alumna. Other distinguished guests included Mr. Alex Montejo, DWUJF Adviser, and his wife Lily; and Mr. Cresente Almeria and wife Leonor. There was a big delegation of attendees from Tacloban, led by Reo Rama, DWUJF VP for the Visayas and Mindanao, and Imelda Nartea, member of the DWUJF Board of Trustees. Three SVD religious also attended the Reunion: Fr.Orly Guzman, whospent 17 fruitful years in DWU in various capacities; Bro. Paul Boncaras, who worked in administrative and research positions in DWU; and the famous Fr. Bel San Luis, noted columnist and retreat master. The SVD presence was very much appreciated by everyone in the crowd. It brought back fond memories of dearly loved SVD missionaries who had been assigned to Tacloban and of close collaboration between the SVD and the DWU teachers and staff in the educational apostolate in the past.
Spicing up the Evening
The Reunion formally began at 6:00 PM with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which was concelebrated by the Camp Crame Chaplain, Fr. Felipe Nepomuceno, and former DWU Chaplain, Fr. Orly Guzman, SVD. The theme of reconciliation, which is the inspiration ofthe DWU Jubilee Foundation, happened to be the focus of that Sunday's gospel. Fr. Orly took up this same theme when he said the prayer before meals. He specifically asked for God's blessings on the realization of the mission of the DWU Jubilee Foundation to restore DWU to its rightful educational apostolate in Leyte and Samar as soon as possible.
After the mass, dinner followed during which time, the EMCEEs, Nina Regis and Aaron Redubla, steered the program of activities and entertainment portion for the rest of the evening. Liza Noel, Chair of the DWU Jubilee Foundation Board Trustees, spoke some words of welcome and explained the Reunion rationale. Sammy Yap, President of the DWU Jubilee Foundation, presented the Foundation's vision and mission, which is to reopen DWU and in the spirit of the Jubilee Year, heal the fragmentation that caused the closure of the University. He ended his speech with a strong conviction that "Divine Word University will open, come what may!" and rallied the audience's support for this cause. This created a high point for a loud round of applause, filled with hope and anticipation for the fulfillment of the dream. That dream is anchored on the spirit of prayer, which the Foundation stresses to be an integral component of is vision and mission. The DWU Jubilee prayer, which all in one voice recited at the Reunion, serves as a reminder of this.
For the rest of the evening, there was music and dancing. The first to dance were Imelda Marcos with Filomeno Arteche, III followed by Kokoy Romualdez with his wife, Juliet. Festivity was in the air as the dancing crowd swayed to the beats of boogie, cha-cha, swing, or purely sprightly disco music. In between dancing and singing, consolation prizes were given to deserving groups who were present. The Oldest Attendee and Loyalty Award went to Mr. Cresente Almeria, now 79, who studied from grade school up to college at The Tacloban Catholic Institute, the beginnings of DWU. Mrs. Leonor Montehermoso-Almeria, on the other hand, got the award for the Faculty with the Longest Tenure - 25 years of service. Many will know that it was Mrs. Almeria who composed the DWU Hymn. At the Reunion, she led the audience in the singing of the hymn while, at the same time, accompanying this on the keyboard. Still on the awards, the Montejo family got the award for the Biggest Family Group in attendance - 11 members present. The competition for this award was between the Noels and the Montejos; the latter won by 3 points. Other awards went to the following: Mr. Fred Balbuena for the non-academic staff with the longest tenure; HS Batch '83 for the largest group in attendance; Ms. Eloisa Furer, Ms. Blanca Granda Mendoza, and Mr. Edwin Tiu for the attendees that had come from the farthest place. Now residing in the U.S.A, they were in the country as 'balikbayans' and made it a point to attend the Reunion while here. Fr. Orly Guzman, SVD also got a special Award of Appreciation for breaking bread with the Reunion crowd at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
There was no boring moment at the reunion. While the Rubber Band provided the main entertainment, the singing and dancing Warays did not leave the band to do this alone. No less than Imelda Marcos, on popular request, went up the stage to singwith the band. When, after the first song, she was prevailed upon to sing again, she chose a lively Waray song. No Rubber band could take the place of Mrs. Almeria on the keyboard to accompany Mrs. Marcos for her dramartic rendition of the song, filledwith Waray folk humor. It deserved the huge round of applause! This and the couple other songs by alumni made for the fiesta atmosphere, Leyte-Samar style. The singing and dancing were also punctuated by the raffle draws. Lots of prizes were at stake, including appliances such as electric fans, a VCD, a TV set, a washing machine, and a refrigerator. By popular demand, Leo Almeria's three lovely flower arrangements for the stage decor also became part of the rewards for the winning tickets. The recipients took home not only appliances with practical import but also fine art work with aesthetic value.
At a little past midnight, the reunion ended with the last round of dancing to the bouncing music of the Rubber Band. Lightness, comfort, spontaneity, and closeness spelled the mood of the evening. It reminded us of home!
The DWU Jubilee Foundation, Inc. gratefully acknowledges the support for the Reunion of the following sponsors, donors and benefactors:
Bank of the Philippine Islands
Mr. Aniceto Franco
Mr. Amado Sevilla
Ross Systems International
Liza Noel and Family
Villa Dolina Township
Philippine Resins Industries, Inc.
Mr. Ricardo and Thelma Codina
Mabuhay Vinyl Corporation
Garrido and Associates
Secretary Ricardo "Dong" Puno
Congressman Sergio Apostol
Claus and Brenda Petersen
Gonzales Batiller Bilog and Associates
New Glory Glass & Aluminum Supply
Creencia Law Office
DIWA Learning Systems
Tonyboy Marchadesch & Family