Paying tribute to an iconic school principal

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star
Paying tribute to an iconic school principal
Two surviving sisters of 11 siblings: Sr. Miriam Raymond Victoriano and Sr. Marie Victoriano.

Anyone who went to St. Paul Pasig for kinder or grade school in the ‘70s and ‘80s surely knows Sister Miriam Victoriano, the school’s iconic principal. I attended the school from 1973 to 1978, and never forgot Sr. Miriam teaching us that girls shouldn’t chew gum. “Girls who chew gum look like goats,” she warned. To this day, I don’t chew gum because I don’t want to look like a goat!

Sr. Miriam will thus always be 50-something in my mind, and so it came as quite a surprise when I found out recently that she will be celebrating her 102nd birthday on Feb. 18 this year!

What follows is a tribute to an unforgettable, beloved figure from my childhood.

Sr. Miriam, formerly Teresita Victoriano, was born on Feb. 18, 1921, to Jose and Maria Elvira Victoriano. She was the first child of what would be an eventual brood of 11 siblings. At a young age, she was already a responsible, reliable, and dependable daughter who looked after her siblings and loved reading stories to them. One sister recalled how Teresita was quite the disciplinarian who was way stricter than their mother!

Teresita went to Liko elementary school for her primary education, and to the Institute of De Mujeres for high school. She went on to obtain a degree in teaching at Maryknoll College.

Teresita loved music and was always a star of their family’s after-dinner music fests. Her parents wanted so much for her to be an opera singer that they hired Nelia Manalo, the Philippines’ famous soprano, to be her voice coach!

But God had other plans for Teresita after college. She became a kindergarten teacher at St. Theresa’s College until the Japanese occupation in 1942. After the War, under the spiritual direction of Rev. Raymond Gough SJ, she began her discernment for the religious life. On April 30, 1950, Teresita entered the congregation of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartes. Seven years later, on Dec. 8, 1957, she professed her final vows and henceforth became known as Sr. Miriam Raymond Victoriano SPC.

Her academic mission began as a grade school teacher in St. Paul Manila, where she was eventually appointed principal of the grade school in 1970. Due to the growing clientele of the Paulinian Apostolate, St. Paul College Pasig was opened as one of the educational institutions administered by the congregation of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartes (SPC). Sr. Miriam, along with a few other members of the congregation, became the first community of SPC Sisters in this new campus.

July 7, 1970 marked the Foundation Day of St. Paul Pasig and the birth of its nursery and kindergarten departments under the guidance and supervision of Sr. Miriam, the first superior and kindergarten principal of St. Paul Pasig. She was well-loved by the children and deeply respected by teachers and parents. She was strict yet gentle, firm yet kind, and had a smile that lifted the spirits of those she encountered in a profound way. Sr. Miriam will always be remembered by Paulinians of SPC Pasig as one of the greatest values formators of their childhoods.

The year 1990 marked a new chapter in her mission as she joined the community at St. Paul University (SPU) in Tuguegarao City as first assistant superior and dean of the College of Education. SPU was Sr. Miriam’s home for 15 years until she retired in 2005. In 2006, even after retirement, she remained active in the congregation and enjoyed her time with the sisters in the individual house community.

Here are a few tributes from former students of Sr. Miriam.

Grace Poe-Llamanzares, senator: “Sr. Miriam is the heart of St. Paul Pasig. She is a pillar from which the SPCP community was built. I remember every morning when students, including me, got dropped off at the carport, she would be the first one to greet us. She knew all the students by name. As soon as the bell rang, and we had sung the national anthem and recited the Panatang Makabayan, we would hear her familiar voice on the Public Address System. She would begin her talk with ‘Good morning children’ and proceed to remind us of the values we should uphold, to have faith in God, and to follow our school regulations. She would then announce any upcoming activities.

“Sr. Miriam was not just a principal who focused on administration. She was very hands-on and was involved with the student body. Her approach was very personal and nurturing. She was a mother figure to us, strict yet compassionate. She upheld academic excellence and supported the development of arts, culture and sports in our curriculum for a balanced and well-rounded education.

“Sr. Miriam is a pioneer and is a fine example of a strong woman in a leadership position. As I look back, I can only imagine the minutiae of her daily tasks and responsibilities. She ran an entire new school system, yet she was always accessible and present in our campus life. I will always be grateful to have experienced the leadership of a principled, hardworking and dedicated woman at an early age. Sr. Miriam, you are truly one-of-a-kind. Thank you for nurturing me, together with countless students, when we were most fragile and impressionable. You are a blessing in our lives.”

Katrina Ponce Enrile, businesswoman: “I wish Sr. Miriam the best of health and thank her for the dedication she was able to selflessly share with our alma mater.”

This is how the columnist remembers Sr. Miriam 50 years ago during grade school at St. Paul Pasig. The school’s iconic principal is turning 102 this Feb. 18.

Maria Michiko Caruncho MD, pediatrician: “Best wishes to Sr. Miriam on her 102nd birthday! Sr. Miriam is an inspiring model of grace, kindness, and compassion. I am truly grateful for the years I spent in St. Paul with her at the helm. May her wisdom continue to inspire others, may God continue to bestow His blessings upon her, and may the coming years bring her good health and happiness.”

Pauline Cari Perez, SPCP Batch 1989, architect and visual artist: “You have cared for all with the kindest heart. How I am today is a reflection of your teachings to be simple, courteous, humble, kind and always having a fear of the Lord. Thank you again, Sr. Miriam.”

Susana Tabbu, SPUP college instructor/Oman lecturer/ DepEd senior high school teacher (division of Cagayan): “Nun of the ‘NONES.’ This statement encapsulates her existence for me as well as for many. She is the Sister who shall look for the needy literally in their economic status, but more so in the spirituality of her future educators. She exudes an endearing beauty from a very compassionate heart that is unfading. Her sweet voice radiates within, as her goodness penetrates our inner core. She is the greatest guru who enabled many to be Christlike educators for generations to come.”

In 2010, Sr. Miriam celebrated her Diamond Jubilee as a member of the congregation of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartes.

In February 2021, her family celebrated her 100th birthday. In a tribute video, family members praised and thanked the Lord for the fullness of Sr. Miriam’s life in fulfillment of His mission. Allow me to borrow a few lines from that video to thank our beloved Sr. Miriam for being the gift that she is: “We thank you, Sr. Miriam, for embracing us with the love of God, for teaching us that there is no other path than that of righteousness, and for molding us to be true Paulinians who are warm, simple, loving, and zealous. Your teachings will live in our Paulinian hearts forever.”

Happy 102nd birthday, Sr. Miriam!


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