Reflecting on the Bikini Girls of STC Cebu
by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
It's the kind of summer scandal that a small place like Cebu in Central Philippines loves.
First, pictures of two teenage convent girls in bikinis (reportedly holding a bottle of liquor and a cigarette) appeared in Facebook. The girls, who attend St. Theresa's College (STC), an exclusive girl's school, were barred from attending their graduation ceremony.
The parents of the girls filed a law suit; Judge Navarro of the Regional Trial Court ruled in their favor, saying, it was "un-Christian" and possibly illegal to stop the girls from attending their graduation ceremony.
The girls with their mothers and sheriff went to school on the day of the graduation and guards prevented them from entering. In short, the nuns defied court orders.
Public uproar prompted the nuns to write an official statement, owning up to the fact that they had prevented the students from attending the graduation rites despite the court order, and that they had filed a very Urgent Motion for Reconsideration. The nuns insisted that the students were barred not only because of the bikini photos, but because the photos were obscene, sexually provocative, and revolting; the students had broken school rules when they posted and uploaded "pictures on the Internet that entail ample body exposure." Further, while the students claimed that the pictures were taken at a family picnic, the incidences occurred in a public place - hotel, bar or club.
The Judge apparently spent sleepless nights after the order was disobeyed and finally inhibited himself from the case, saying two of his daughters graduated from STC.
Last I heard, the case is being raffled off to a family court.
As a graduate of St. Theresa's College, Cebu and Manila, I have been asked repeatedly about what I think about this case. My reply has been: "The St. Theresa's nuns are strict. They were strict before and apparently they remain strict now."
I don't have all the details of course and have just read news reports and emails from friends about what happened. If it is true that the bikini pictures were taken at a bar with a girl holding liquor and a cigarette, and this photo was published in Facebook - I can understand how the nuns would prevent the girls from the graduation rites.
St. Theresa's College isn't your regular high school. It's a convent school where students are taught proper values along with the academic subjects. Parents who enroll their children in STC know this; in fact many of them pay extra to put their children in exactly this type of school so their children are "raised properly and taught right from wrong."
Likewise the students in STC know what is expected from them; the nuns make that very clear from Day 1. Their standards are high; they are strict disciplinarians.
If students don't want to follow the rules or style of this convent school, then they shouldn't bothering enrolling there.
I am not "siding" with the school because I am perturbed that the nuns defied the court order;I don't know if their filing the Urgent Motion for Reconsideration made it legally all right to prevent the girls from participating in the graduations rites. Or did the nuns' arrogance exceed legal boundaries this time? Will they be jailed? - I think not. Will they be fined? Perhaps.
I can just imagine the drama that went on that day, with the parents and girls and sheriff arguing with the guards, the other girls and teachers trying to carry on with graduation rites when their minds were riveted on the "outcasts" outside.
This story continues to evolve as I write. At first, the public felt sorry for the 16-year old girls; but when the story surfaced that the picture had been taken in a bar, not a family picnic, people started asking questions. There are always two sides to a story.
I'll write addenda to this article as the story evolves.
The photo is circa 1963 - St. Theresa's girls in San Marcelino
COMMENT FROM ARACELI LORAYES:
The nuns aren't just strict; they're stubborn too, when they believe they're right. Just think of the closing of the college department; that created an uproar too, and parents went to court. I understand that now they realize it was a wrong move, since vocations have dwindled. And not just stubborn; tough, too. As social progressives, the STC nuns are battle-hardened veterans of street confrontations.
But I digress. I had a feeling that there was more to the story than meets the eye.
I have a feeling that these girls had a history of flouting school regulations, to which their parents turned a blind eye. Scratch a misbehaving student and you'll find "kunsitidor" parents, or weak parents. The problem is that such parents put their girls in a school like St. Theresa's and then abdicate all parental responsibility, expecting the school to do their job for them. It doesn't work out that way.
I think there was a better way for the school administration to express its displeasure then to call them lewd and lascivious; but on the other hand, if the girls were flaunting their sexuality, they have to expect hurtful words to come their way in a conservative culture like Cebu's.
If the nuns flouted the court, well, they had a precedent in Leila de Lima's flouting of the Supreme Court order to allow GMA to travel abroad. In both cases, the disobedient ones felt that they were doing right, and relied on technicalities.
My fearless forecast: to save face, the parents will huff and puff, and when the furor dies down, quietly withdraw the charges (especially if the nuns had the foresight to print the pictures, and present them in court, which opens them to public scrutiny). And STC's enrollment will jump, due to those parents who think, "That's just the sort of school I want for my girls."
Supreme Court Decision Reached on Bikini Girls of STC Cebu
tags: Cebu, Philippines, Catholic school, education, St. Theresa's College