Farewell, Sr. Lucy Togle, OSB

Dear Sr. Lucy,

I was thinking about you last week and I told myself I would have to write you, to tell you how I was doing, to ask how you were doing. I wonder if I was thinking of you out of the blue because you were thinking of me.

You are definitely one of the most memorable people in my life. You have done so much for me, from when I was still in high school and you were the assistant principal. I think you also taught a class or two, occasionally. I don’t remember much, but I know you encouraged me to keep writing and entrusted with special projects. You listened to me and paid attention to what I was doing. I did not think you would remember me after I had graduated. Au contraire. You were the principal when I visited the faculty room one day, when I was picking up my younger sister, who was in her freshman year in high school. Out of the blue, you asked me what I was doing, if I was working.

I was not.

“Good,” you said. “How would you like to teach in the high school?” you asked.

I was a bit flabbergasted and not sure what to say. I had a degree in mathematics for teachers up my sleeve, but I had not mentioned it. Despite my degree, I had not really thought of getting into teaching. I had been thinking of taking my master’s degree, but had not acted on it because of my personal situation at the time.

“I need an English teacher,” you said.

“Okay,” I said, excited. I could not believe my luck. I did not think I would be back to teach at my alma mater. The invitation to teach was an honor and something I also needed, not having a job just then.

“By the way, what was your major?” you asked.

“Mathematics for teachers,” I said, hesitantly.

“That’s okay,” you said. “Come in next week to do some paperwork. I want you to go to Ateneo so you can enroll for your masters. Fr. Galdon will be happy to have you.”

“Okay,” I said. “Thank you!”

“You should start reporting here in May,” you said. “We have planning workshops and seminars before classes begin in June.”

“Okay.”

And just like that, I found myself enrolling at the Ateneo de Manila University, meeting Fr. Joseph Galdon, S.J., who has since passed through the pearly gates, and attending two summer courses, one of which was a methods class for teaching English. All of a sudden, from an intense focus on math and numbers, I was back in my milieu with several other students, most of whom were already teachers and taking a summer course for professional development.

When I was done for the summer, I reported right back to SSC and you introduced me to the other English teachers. I was happy to meet former teachers, who were equally happy to welcome me into their fold. Later, I would hear from co-teachers that I had been labeled the principal’s pet–again–because I had been given that label first by classmates, then by co-teachers. I tried very hard not to spend so much time in your office and, instead, spent more time with Me-an or Tita Medy when they weren’t too busy.

In that first year, you called on me time and again for help in editing and planning little projects. You made me the adviser for the drama club. You invited me to be your co-editor for the first literary chapbook of student works. Later in the school year, you invited me to interview some new teacher applicants. I had to take a maternity leave when I gave birth to Bianca Margaret in October and was back teaching in January. At the end of the year, you told me you wanted me to head the English area.

Things moved very fast after that. During the summer of my first year as subject area coordinator, you encouraged me to revise the curriculum for the English area. You also let me implement the initial survey for my master’s thesis, which would be a longitudinal study, following all the students for four years as they practiced using journals in English classes to learn creative writing. As part of revamping the curriculum, you let me design and introduce independent classes in public speaking for all levels and I became their speech teacher because you knew I had been a proficient public speaker in high school. You also let me start a Reading Circle and a Forensics Guild, for which I served as adviser for the first few years of their existence. In my second year of teaching, you also started to send me to other branches of SSC to deliver all kinds of workshops and seminars to other teachers as well as selected students. Because of you, I got to travel more around the Philippines–something Mrs. Cova continued when she became principal and you moved to Bacolod. I was happy to visit Bacolod to deliver seminars and workshops there. It was at those workshops that I gained a few new friends, including one who later raised Bian. I was happy to know she was studying where you were principal because I knew she would be watched over, nurtured, cared for, and loved.

We used to exchange letters quite frequently, until I became so busy I did not have time to even write. For that, I am sorry. I wish we still wrote and many times, I would have the urge to write. In fact, I did write a couple of times after I left teaching at SSC, but never received a reply from you.

Now and then, I would hear news about you. I always prayed you would continue to find happiness and fulfillment in your work.

Today, I scrolled down my Facebook wall to see what friends had been posting throughout the day and very close to the top, I saw this notice shared by Charlie Azcuna. I’m glad she shared it, because I had been thinking of you and now, I must say farewell.

Thank you for encouraging me, trusting me, and pushing me forward and upward. Thank you for believing in what I could do and believing I could do anything you asked of me. Thank you for providing me with opportunities to grow, improve, and serve others. Thank you for understanding me and not putting me in uncomfortable situations. Thank you for watching over Bian, taking her under your wing, and giving her the same opportunities you gave me. Above all, thank you for allowing me to work closely with you on several projects that were mutually dear to us both.

Dear Sr. Lucy, I will always remember you because of the many ways you have helped me become the woman I am.

You have earned your rest. May it forever be a peaceful one.

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