Fil-Ams’ inspiring stories sparkle in St. Theresa’s 75th year book
Women from various professions who have lived and made their mark on American society are among alumnae of St. Theresa’s College Quezon City honored with the publication of their personal stories in a book commemorating their alma mater’s 75th foundation anniversary.
They may or may not self-identify as “Filipino American,” but what is undeniable is their identity as Theresians.
Solitaires: Stories of Light, Life and Love details the transformation of 82 graduates from different fields and generations. Like the centerpiece diamond after which the anthology is titled, they stand out, having overcome challenges to become the best versions of themselves, shaped by the institution’s guiding principles of leadership, excellence, advocacy, discipline and discipleship, service and simplicity, truth accountability and reform.
Solitaires crowns the school’s diamond anniversary celebration. While highlighting the inspiring lives of alumnae, the project is a benefit for the outreach programs of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, such as providing meals for those in need and transportation to school for children in otherwise inaccessible areas.
The project began with a call to the Theresian community through class representatives for first-person narratives. Event Chairs Lilian “Yay” Reventar and Alumnae Association head Marissa Go oversaw the project. Editors Marily Ysip Orosa, Lorna Kalaw Tirol and Evelyn Opilas reviewed and classified the stories. Kankan Ramos designed the product while Maria Nimfa Fallarme Ronson interviewed the laureates for companion videos bringing deeper insight into their memories.
Each tale is distinct as it reflects the writer’s Theresian spirit. “We wanted to capture and connect the dots of our experience, from our foundation to today,” Reventar stressed.
Aligned with their school’s mission to nurture those in their “evangelizing education” to “commit… generously in responding to the call of God to participate in the realization of God’s reign of peace, love, freedom, solidarity and Justice,” the graduates pursued individual aspirations on distant shores including the United States, where their formation was tested, their mettle proven.
TERRY SAMALA DE GUZMAN
Terry Samala de Guzman states her current profession as a career/life coach and business consultant, the fruit of her multidisciplinary journey that began in her early days as a newcomer in New Jersey from Manila after she graduated from college in 1974. Her upwardly mobile and itinerant career started in corporate finance at American Express in New York before she became CFO of Bellcore’s (Telcordia) Consulting Division. She shifted to education to become COO of Ethical Fieldston School, also in New York. and then headed up the Finance and administration department as senior associate dean of University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. By 2014 she was COO of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Perhaps because of, rather than despite her success, De Guzman held dear the needs of her birthland. She founded UNLAND, a nonprofit that provides educational opportunities for youths in the Philippines and the United States. She continues to sit on the board of Piedmont of Virginia Community College Foundation. Her book, “Here I am, Learning along the way”, illustrates her core beliefs that illuminate her way.
MARILOU SAZON POTTER
Marilou Sazon Potter surprised herself when she became a software engineer after completing her computer science studies at San Francisco State University. Technology was in its nascent stage at the time, and her father suggested that she consider earning a degree fundamental to a tech-related career. Today she is an unsung hero in tech, leading a team of technical writers for a Boston company specializing in prescriptive medicine for cancer. She also co-authored a college computer textbook on PC concepts.
Journaling was Sazon Potter’s earliest form of writing. In the US, however, she learned about herself, her hidden skills and her untested strength. She fell in love, got married, became a mother, and then a widow in some 10 years. She can smile when she talks about how she carried on for the sake of her then 9-year-old daughter knowing she triumphed over sorrow and fear. That fortitude comes from her background as a Theresian through high school graduation in 1970, she said, assuring readers there is healing from the most excruciating pain.
BERNADETTE ABRERA TJARKS
Bernadette Abrera-Tjarks gained her expertise in mental health at Catholic University in Washington, DC where she earned a PH D in social psychology after acquiring her BS Pre-Med at the University of the Philippines. Today she teaches psychology and statistics online and is a university lecturer in Texas.
The STCQC HS ’67 grad worked at American Airlines and GTE/Verizon Wholesale Business Development Division. Her narrative honors her father, whom she lovingly describes as a “towering figure” and whose passing “blindsided” her.
“The congruence between STC values and my father’s attributes kept me focused during my schoolyears,” explained the middle child. She constantly won medals for excellence and praise from her parents as a result. Beyond school, however, her desire to please in relationships waned, leading her to reflect on what truly matters.
MARICHELLE ROQUE LUTZ
Marichelle Roque Lutz ultimately resumed her journalism that peaked in Manila as editor in chief of Woman’s Home Companion when she married a missionary and uprooted to Pennsylvania in the early 1980s. Undeterred to settle comfortably into her transplant life, she looked up and tried out jobs detached from the glittering scenario of fashion shows and celebrity parties typical of invitations inundating mail boxes of women’s magazines. No one was surprised when Roque Lutz eventually joined the newsroom of Intelligencer Journal in Lancaster County until she retired. In 2018 she penned her memoir “Keeping It Together” and is working on a novel.
Her narrative is a veritable act of contrition that bares her regret for shunning her childhood best friend and fellow journalist – over a boy. The story manifests the STC HS ’57 grad’s humility and grace as she asks forgiveness when her former bestie’s life is cut short.
NINA CABRERA MUNOZ
Nina Cabrera Munoz was among 5 Theresian sisters who strongly believes her educational “path” was a crucial “strand” that prepared her for her legal career. Law, she says, “looks glamorous on TV but it’s tedious work.” She’s a workaholic, she admits, a perfect fit in the law arena where “analysis and verbal combat” are prerequisite.
Now a retired administrative law judge in workers’ compensation in Los Angeles, Cabrera Munoz defies the docile Asian stereotype. When she came to the US, the STC HS ’70 grad vowed “never to become a second-class citizen” and aimed for the top wherever she went. At 1980s giant Prudential Insurance Company, she took advantage of the educational perk offered in her department, choosing law as her next field.
She dedicated 20 years practicing law, enhancing her understanding of both plaintiff and defense ends of cases. Confidently she took qualifying exams and was appointed by the governor through the Dept. of Industrial Relations. She chose to highlight her STCQC education in her narrative because it led “internally” to the pinnacle of her career. “The 12 years in STC you carry throughout your life travels with you, something you wear inside you – maybe the drive for excellence or whatever the occasion demands,” she affirmed.
“Solitaires” is a keepsake for everyone who attended or who has a loved one who attended St. Theresa’s College. It is also a road map for anyone seeking role models, especially those living far from home, away from their comfort zone.
Cherie M. Querol Moreno is the proud daughter of a cradle to high school Theresian. “Solitaires” is available at for PhP880 or $25 plus postage and handling at https://www.stcqcaa.org/solitaires