THE ASSUMPTION IN US October 2021 | Volume 2
MRS. ESTANIEL’S BELL
by Marlu Balmaceda
In my first column, I had written about how and where it all started – in Grade One-B. Moving up to Grade One-A meant structured and more focused subjects like Math, Reading and Pilipino. Unlike in Grade One-B where we had a lot of playtime, we now had to sit still, listen to lectures, take notes and pray we wouldn’t be called by the teacher in class during graded recitation.
We had memorable teachers like Ms. Dulce De Vera for music and Mrs. Doldolea for Reading. The teacher I feared the most in Grade One-A was Binibining Beatriz who taught Pilipino. She was very strict and she called me once to give the Filipino word for “knife” which I couldn’t even pronounce then, much less know the Tagalog translation! So I was scolded for both mispronouncing it and failing to give an answer.
By the Second Grade I was a bit more confident in class. I found science fascinating because Ms. Norma Aguilar made it exciting for us with classroom experiments. She was our science teacher until Grade 6 and would later become Mrs. Aguilos. The terror teacher that year was Ms. Catherine who taught us the rudiments of sewing. Her impact on my childhood merited an entire story in my little book, Tombola and Other Stories. To this day I have a deep appreciation for exquisite embroidery and I can easily mend a tear in my husband’s shirt, thanks to Ms. Catherine.
Since Grade 2 had whole day classes, I also got to eat in school as a day boarder. My parents also gave us a small allowance which I would save to buy erasers from a small store under the stairs of the building. Mother Mercedes used to run that tiny store where we could buy school supplies and other little items we didn’t really need. The thrill of racing to that store during recess to purchase yet another scented eraser or whatnot, could have been where our fondness for shopping had taken root.
Being in Grade 2 meant that we got to occupy classrooms on the second floor of the Primary School Building. That was something I looked forward to because the view of the campus was very pretty from our vantage point. We shared the floor with the third graders who were considered the big girls – at least in my eyes they were.
Since we were the older students in that building, we would have a lunch break. To signal the lunch hour, a Grade 3 girl would run along the wide corridor while ringing a bell. I thought that it was the coolest job in the world and it became my ambition to be a bell ringer when I am in Grade 3! The teacher in charge of that bell was Mrs. Estaniel who taught Math from 11 am till noon.
So, when I was finally in Third Grade and had Mrs. Estaniel as my teacher, I knew that that bell would soon be within my grasp! But not so! I frankly had no idea of her basis for selecting a bell ringer but for the first few months in the new schoolyear, it wasn’t me. My 8-year-old analysis was that she most probably chose a good and well-behaved student. That motivated me to do well in her Math class if only to be able to ring that bell!
Finally, one day, Mrs. Estaniel called me to the front of the classroom and asked me to ring the bell! Oh, what inexplicable joy that was for me to hold that bell in my hand, dash out of the classroom, and run through the corridor while that bell clanged merrily to signal the lunch hour! And I would be a bell ringer on several occasions in my Grade 3 life.
Why do I now relate these seemingly insignificant events that took place more than half a century ago?
Because trivial as they may seem, the Assumption taught me valuable lessons that serve me very well to this day. Because of Binibining Beatrice I made a conscious effort to improve my vocabulary. Later on in Grade Seven, Ms. Marina Marquez would challenge me to further build this by learning three new words each day. Ms. Aguilar introduced us to the wonders of science from which evolved a curiosity to explore our beautiful world. And Mrs. Estaniel, without her even knowing it, drove me to be ambitious! With becoming a bell ringer as my aspiration, I learned how to hope and persevere. I was motivated to excel and be rewarded for it.
Our teachers, the sisters and the lessons they taught us have all remained in me. They are all precious pieces of the Assumption in us.
Marlu Villaneva Balmaceda ( HS ’78) belonged to the last Grade 7 class that graduated in Assumption Herran. Recently retired, she worked for over 30 years in corporate communications. An author and editor, her book titled “Tombola & Other Stories” is a collection of girlhood memories of growing up in the Assumption. She was a past president of the AAA and currently a trustee of Assumption College.