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Newsmakers

AC velada 2021: ‘Back to BACics’

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
AC velada 2021: âBack to BACicsâ
Silver jubilarians and velada organizers: (from left) Marga Santero, Lillian Golez, Drea Zulueta, Pia Arcangel, Ruby Neri and Nikki Bustamante.

And that, dear readers, is not a typographical error. My alma mater, the Assumption Convent (AC) held its annual, much awaited velada or homecoming this year, and the hosts, the High School Class of 1996, deemed it relevant to have the theme, “Back to BACics.” The “AC” in “BACics” standing for “Assumption Convent.”

“When our class ‘96 started planning for our velada we really wanted it to be as simple as possible,” explains batch ‘96’s Andrea Zulueta Lorenzana. “In the years pre-pandemic, the velada had been one very big show. When our class got together, we really wanted to tone down our activities, so that the maximum amount could be handed over to the mission schools, or at least we wanted our donation to be much more significant than our costs. So even before the pandemic, our theme had already been ‘Back to BACics,’ going back to what it means to come home to Assumption.”

The veladas past, also known as “Old Girls’ Day,” were nothing short of spectacular, with seats to the Mother Rose Hall as coveted as that to a BTS concert. As Assumption Alumnae Association president Clarissa Lim Velayo said in her speech, delivered virtually to alumnae around the world, husbands, wives, mothers, grandmothers, daughters would line up for three hours and even stand on the wings of the stage just to get a glimpse of their loved ones dancing for three minutes onstage! Then there would be food booths brimming with old staples from the HS cafeteria like siomai and Assumption tart, followed by after-parties held by the different jubilarians — from diamond to silver!

This time, everything was done virtually, with the different batches sending videos of their performances. Aside from featuring the dazzling and energetic performances of the different jubilarians, this year’s unique velada trained the spotlight on the oldest living alumnae, Caridad Cu-Unjieng Papa, sister of the venerable Mother Esperanza Cu Unjieng. Mrs. Papa now lives in California with one of her daughters.

The Golden Jubilarians.

Because of the pandemic, only the Mass celebrated by Fr. Luis Lorenzo was live, with a limited number of attendees led by AC Provincial Superior Sister Lerma Pangantihon, r.a. (“First time I have seen more sisters than students at Mass,” Fr. Luis quipped.)

Though the velada was a virtual show, the school spirit and the exhilaration born from it was as real and crisp as an Assumption tart.

***

The Mass was celebrated by someone with close ties to the Assumption.

“The year 1996 probably brought me to my closest encounter with the term, Assumptionista. My ninang was married that year, and since she conducted the AC chorale, the choir sang for her wedding,” Fr. Luis began.

“Call it tragedy or providence, I would never really encounter Assumptionistas again until just four years ago when the AC chorale sang for my ordination and first Mass,” he recalled. So he couldn’t really say for sure what an Assumption girl is like.

The night before the homecoming Mass, he received encouraging text messages from “titas” whom he realized only then and there were from the Assumption, women who had encouraged and supported him in his ministry many times in the past.

“I began to see more clearly that which lies beneath all the beautiful singing I had grown up to love and appreciate,” he shared. So then he came up with an answer to his question, “Anong ibig sabihin ng Assumptionista?”

“You all have a tremendous capacity to care and love! How much you have helped the less fortunate in these times, even now through this velada!”  How much you have organized rosaries, recollections, and zoom Masses for the sick and the departed! How much you have messaged, called, and sent food and gifts across the nation if only to console the weary in this very difficult journey! How much you have tried to keep your children and your spouses close to God, teaching them to pray, or at least praying for them so that their faith would keep them strong and fighting the good fight! Yes, all these I have seen this year from so many of you, and funnily enough, without the least bit knowing that you were and are an Assumptionista.”

And on a personal note, Fr. Luis added, “In my case, one never realizes he is a son of an Assumptionista until he’s actually loved enough to learn what his mother has always tried to show him and teach him to sing, that love can never mean I’ve done enough.”

Fr. Luis Lorenzo. Screenshot by Chary Ozaeta-Gohh

***

Before the song and dances of the various batches, Assumption College president Dr. Angela Regala welcomed all AC high school and college alumnae and students, “Home.”

“Back to BACics,” she said, “is also a reminder to stay true to what is most essential and rekindle life’s values to get through what has turned out to be a much more prolonged crisis than anyone has ever faced.”

She harkened back to the words of the school’s founder, Saint Marie Eugenie Milleret: “Our faith must act upon our life, transform our mind, fill our affections, and renew our love.”

“This is the call and character of Assumption women: Be women of faith and action,” Dr. Regala urged.

And noting that no one has been spared the challenges of the pandemic, some suffering more than others, she exhorted AC girls to echo St. Marie Eugenie’s battle cry: “Across the darkness, I salute the dawn.”

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

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