Tuesday, 12 May 2009

My Mentor And Friend Jean

waling waling, as rare and beautiful as Ma'am Jean

May is the birthmonth of one of the most influential persons in my life, my college instructor back at the UP later becoming my thesis adviser and thereafter my counselour on life and its intricacies.I was the odd student so to speak in the department. Because I was different I was later branded as “Miss Universe” in the department albeit sarcastically at the start but became a term of endearment on my final year. During that time, my adviser was quiet. I never heard anything from her that in some ways have let me down. The earliest memories I have of her is during classes, she takes the first five minutes of the laboratory class to share some insights in life. It might either be a favourite quote, or a bible verse. She would do her personal reflection which in turn nourishes the spirit of the students, me included. While some instructors were great critics, she has become the great encourager to us all. Yes, her name is Virginia and she is fondly called Jean. As her student, I found myself calling her Ma'am Jean.

Because of her contagious sunny disposition and positive attitude in class, the students flock to attend her sessions. I made sure she would be my thesis adviser otherwise I might not get interested at all and probably end up not finishing my degree from the university. I was not an excellent student nor tried my best to be one, yet she accepted me wholeheartedly when I have to apply as her advisee. In college, I enjoyed attending rehearsals in the musical plays much more than joining my classes. I was much surprised and happy when after one of those performances at the university auditorium, she took the effort to approach me amidst the huge crowd to tell me that she enjoyed the performance and congratulated me for being a part of it. From then on, I wanted to perform well in my academics too. That kind gesture from her inspired me to do good in class. I worked harder in my major subjects and I made sure not to be late nor miss classes most especially when she is the assigned professor.

Studying away from home has its ups and downs. It is quite advantageous because it has taught me a lot of risk taking and practicing my freedom of choice in making decisions about my college life and my day to day activities. I learned to be independent and somehow have to be emotionally mature because I have to face all odds that came to me, practically alone. It is very advantageous because I am always “on a test” whether I should go for the things I believe are good, deviate from the values and virtues that my parents, the church and the culture which I was brought up. Many times I end up struggling, facing difficulties on my own and leaves me yearning for the care, attention and love that I unconditionally get from home. This is where Ma’am Jean’s words of wisdom comes in to my life, nourishing my soul. Sure, I have my church choir and theatre friends whom I can share my struggles with- but nothing compares to listening from someone with such authority yet did not sound preachy nor acted with “holier than thou” attitude like she had been to me.

I have nourished my talent for writing simply because “ Ma’am Jean believed in me”. The then Department Chair was very strict and disliked me a lot for many reasons. He reached the point of verbalising to my adviser that I might not be able to finish my thesis writing on time due to my extremely odd behaviour as compared to my contemporaries . This happened when I am still writing my thesis outline. Ma’am Jean came to my defense by answering his superior that, she believed in my writing abilities and since I was working on my thesis topic, I never gave her a headache. When the administrative staff privy to such conversation told me this incident, I felt as if a wing has been given to me by my adviser. For me to fly and reach the heights that I may desire or wish for. It inspired me much to work harder and pushed myself to the excellence I have never sought in the early years of my college life. I spent many nights working late and read and reread everything I have to put in my thesis manuscript. The virus took its way and I upset her much without me knowing. She tried to correct my manuscript and I typed the suggested corrections faithfully but when the final draft is saved and printed, it remained the way it was. My adviser took it against me and thought that I was stronghead enough I even refuse her corrections. It took a computer techie to decipher what went wrong and eventually I was given the nod to finalise the manuscript. I was so happy and wanted to celebrate by going out of town for a nice swim in the beach. My adviser was so stressed and upset trying to track me down and when she found out that I am already away “for fun” she exasperatingly said(these were later told me after my graduation) that I am the “grace under much pressure” personified.

Interestingly, my love or interest of writing took me to places. Second, I never tried my best to be “with the crowd” but found the joy of being the “odd one out” and when I am in extremely difficult times, I remember that I am an epitome of “grace under pressure.” Finally, Ma’am Jean has taught me what truly acceptance means by accepting me for what I am, and what unconditional love means by practicing it on me. She even opened her home to me and I was treated like a family member afterwards.

The last time I talked to her was when I was in a hotel, during my first arrival from overseas studies more than three years ago. It has been a joy to listen to her voice- which sounded like music to me. From being my academic and thesis adviser, she has evolved as my friend, and without us both realizing it she has been a great adviser about love, and about life. In many ways she has been a source of strength and encouragement for me to go further in life, simply because in a place when there seems to be no one who wanted to believe in me, she strongly did. In my young mind and heart I wanted to make her not only happy but proud of me as well. I hope I did, and I will.

These and for many other reasons why I can’t help but miss Ma’am Jean. Happy birthday My dear Ma’am Jean! May God continue to bless you as you continue to become a blessing to others. And remember that unaware as you may be, your life has made a lot of difference in the life of others- me included.

And we still have to go out for dinner, just like what you wanted during our conversation three years ago.


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A kaleidoscope of people, landscapes, seascapes, skyscapes and things which, to my perspective- are wonderfully made. It features, but not limited to the faces of people who makes me happy and vice versa,man-made creations, lovely places where I have been-and wish to go to when I can.