Monday, July 15, 2013

The Schools I Attended - Part 2, UP & Maryknoll

The schools I attended – Part 2, UP (University of the Philippines) & Maryknoll College

 The reason I considered being an engineer was because my father was a civil engineer.  I wanted to be chemical engineer. It had gotten into my head that I wanted to make perfume, an idea that sprung from my attempts as a child to make scents from our sweet-smelling jasmine flowers.   

My mother should have known that my mind was not suited for engineering, but she liked the idea and she accompanied me to the University of the Philippines in Diliman to enroll. I did not think about it until later that my mother had a strong attachment to the UP. She had attended it; and my father had been an engineering professor and Advisor of the Tau Alpha Fraternity at the UP. (I never quite appreciated the importance of the latter, but I would hear about his having been Advisor decades after he died, so it must have been significant.) 

Since my SATs and high school grades were good, I was accepted without any problem. We lived in Malate, which was very far from Diliman, and so Mama placed me in a UP dorm, the Ilang-Ilang if I recall right, where I shared a room with three or four other young women.  The deal was that I would go home to Malate for the weekends.  Since students at the UP wore “civilian” clothes, Mama had many clothes sewn for me, which made me feel like a kind of fashion model.

So there I was, a transplant from an all-girls school in a big university, and one of my main preoccupation was showing off a new dress every day.  I am a bit ashamed to say I couldn’t hack university life.  There were too many things going on. First, I was simply not cut out to be an engineer; second, the university was too large and too impersonal.  By this I mean the teachers didn’t even know me, something I was not used to. So I floated from class to class feeling off-kilter. There were a lot of boys and parties, but I had a difficult time juggling my social life with the academic. In the end, I did fine with all my courses except Math, which zipped through Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus in one semester. I could have died!  During our finals, one classmate, a young man who had a crush on me and who knew I was a goner, pushed his test paper over so I could copy his work.  Since I was raised by nuns, I never even considered cheating, and so I did not accept his offering. I got an Incomplete for Math.  The teacher Ms. Brown later kindly explained to me that I deserved an “F” but she decided to give me an Incomplete instead. She said I could take a summer class and get caught up.

Fortunately after one semester I figured out I was not thriving in this environment and told my mother I wanted to return to an all-girls’ school. She enrolled me in Maryknoll College where I scanned the different majors and decided Communications Arts was the easiest. I did take that Math summer class, which was a breeze, since it was Math for liberal arts students. 

Maryknoll College was run by the American Maryknoll nuns, and they were quite different from the Belgian nuns of St. Theresa’s College. The Maryknoll nuns encouraged another way of thinking.
 They allowed us more freedom of expression; they encouraged independent and innovative thinking.  When we took up Homer, we simply kept a journal about what we read and we could say anything at all about our readings.  The Communication Arts classes that included Scriptwriting, Journalism, Film and Television classes were child’s play.  Our German professor, Dr. Wolfgang Harting, liked us and gave us a lot of leeway to explore this new major, Communication Arts. For instance, he allowed us to earn credits if we apprenticed in a media office for the summer.  I worked in a TV station for a summer and got an “A.”  Our Spanish teacher, Mr. Magsaysay also allowed the Communication Arts students to present a program in lieu of a dreaded written exam.   

School truly was fun.

It was also the time when we met young men in soirees and parties; but somehow in a smaller college it was easier to remain focused on academic work even while we socialized. I was a consistent dean’s lister. Frankly, I think in a small college teachers can spoon feed the students. But whatever the case may be I learned a lot and was enthusiastic about going to graduate school.  I loved movies and decided I wanted to be a film maker.

In my senior year, I looked up the best schools for film making, narrowing it down to UCLA (University of California in Los Angeles). I took the necessary GRE and applied and was accepted. However there was a six-month gap between graduation and my departure for California, time I spent working in a new government office, the National Media Production Center.  This office was revamped by then-President Ferdinand Marcos and we (Communication Arts majors) had received invitations to work there. Four Maryknollers worked there in various departments. I was in Documentary Film making but to be honest I didn’t know very much and the senior staff members covered for me a lot. They were quite proud of the four Maryknollers in their midst and they used to spoil us. Eventually the other three Maryknollers did contribute a lot to the office, but since I left for UCLA soon after being there, they didn’t get much from me.  During this time of my life, I was simply unfocused and didn't know what to do with myself. Some of our classmates had gotten married, and I didn't know if I should follow that path, but at the same time, I was aware that the young men who hung around were not right for me. (One fellow thought it was perfectly all right for him and his buddies to go drinking and be with prostitutes!)

Going to California with a clear-cut academic goal and a new environment to explore was an excellent alternative.

tags: Philippines, Maryknoll College, UP, University of the Philippines, Tau Alpha Fraternity, Cecilia Brainard, Quezon City, education, Filipina, National Media Production Center


Chris Doctor said...

Dear Cecilia,

Prof. Mariano Manguerra was Tau Alpha's first faculty adviser. He was a professor in civil engineering.

We have photo of him on our Tau Alpha Facebook Page.

Go to the bottom of the page and click on the photo.


Chris Doctor
Calgary, AB

Cecilia Brainard said...

Thank you Chris Doctor for letting me know. I was truly happy to see his picture; I've never seen this before! Cecilia Manguerra Brainard