When our beloved Poveda teacher and directora Maruxa Pita turned 83, some of her former students hosted a special birthday merienda — with a huge chocolate cake (her favorite sweet treat) — cum fund-raising activity for her Makabata School that has been serving the poorest of the poor students in the Pasig area. The institute for the less fortunate runs on donations from generous souls since it was established in 1995 with the prodding of Bishop Soc Villegas and Fr. Adrian Magnait. The first students were the young sampaguita and Sweepstakes ticket vendors in the EDSA-Ortigas area who were taught cathechism with very basic subjects in arithmetic, reading and writing. A hot meal after class was a bonus because they were allowed to bring leftovers to their hungry family members.
At 83, Spanish-born Maruxa forgets her age and is always cheerfully rushing through her daily activities. She makes sure that the Makabata enrollees belong to the poorest families and finds them living in rickety carts, tiny hovels and even under bridges with no roofs.
“They are very, very poor. They don’t live in houses. They live in cave-like dwellings because their homes do not have windows. They are afraid of thieves and there are are no less than five to 10 children in the family. The homes do not have beds, there is no floor, no tiles, no furniture, nothing,” she says.
The children are then educated in a private school setting and given uniforms, books, daily meals and other tools needed to learn their ABCs. Nothing brings her more joy than to learn that her high school graduate has been accepted to college or a vocational class.
With the new school year fast approaching it has been rather difficult because there are around 200 students enrolled with teachers’ salaries rising. Despite these, Maruxa is optimistic that the institute will be able to carry on as she believes that education is most important in changing her students’ lives, “Because the worst concept of poverty is ignorance.”
When Maruxa was only 17 years old and living in Madrid, she followed her older sister Chita and joined the Teresian Association that was founded by Fr. Pedro Poveda; he was declared a martyr and saint by Pope John Paul in 2003. Arriving in Philippines in 1957, she was one of the main stalwarts of Institucion Teresiana, a new school for girls (boys were accepted for kinder classes only). Together with Filipina Teresianas — that included Chuchi and Mila Pacia and their cousins Angeles, Rosa and Teresita Barcelon — they provided an educational setting that was quite modern for its time. Students felt their kindness, goodness and patience as I vividly remember that they were with us from the moment morning classes started, ate lunch with us in the canteen and were at the gates to say goodbye in the afternoon to make sure that no student was left alone. Getting honors was not as important as being a well- rounded person in studies as well as in sports and extra curricular activities that included regular outreach projects.
Lucky are the Makabata students that our beloved directora Maruxa is now their foundress and guiding light in their search for a better tomorrow.
* * *
Tax deductible donations can be made to: Makabata School Foundation Inc., East West Bank account #: 11202 00 34702 Hanston Building, Ortigas Center, Pasig. For information, call 656-1289, e-mail email@example.com or www.makabata-school.com.