California Maryknollers unite after 45 years

Golden State Maryknollers fulfill the vision of their alma mater, from left, seated: Liza Lomotan-Mullins, Bel Alinea - Tengco, Rose Ysip Capistrano-Rokicki and Nati Santos - de Jesus; standing: Cherie Querol Moreno, Joanne del Rosario, Marivic Paloma- Go, Jerri Lyn Go - Pang, Nida Barretto-Dantes, Emily Siy and Rosanne Mabanta - Watson.
Retired from academia, Nida Barretto-Dantes, Liza Lomotan- Mullins and Nati Santos-de Jesus listen to Jerri Lyn Co-Pang’s early days with the phone company.
From the corporate world, Rose Ysip Capistrato-Rokicki and Joanne del Rosario found a calling to service.
Social justice drives Cherie Querol Moreno, Emily Siy and Marivic Paloma-Go.
Rosanne Mabanta-Watson has begun a new career as independent travel agent.
Bel Alinea-Tengco leads the pilgrimages ministry of her Catholic parish.

PACIFICA, Calif. – The proud Pacific paled next to the sapphire wave that rolled recently into this coastal town in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Inspired by their classmates in Manila, 11 Maryknoll College alumnae from Northern and Southern California reunited May 3 to renew ties formed 45 and more years ago.  They wore varying brilliance of blue to signify the anniversary of their graduation from the institution named after its founders, the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic of Ossining, New York.  Maryknoll colors are blue and gold.

Two months earlier, 50 fellow members of Class 1974 had descended on Conrad Hotel in Manila to launch their Sapphire Jubilee that will culminate at the Homecoming on Sept. 7, 2019.  And the call out to the rest of their 195 classmates everywhere to return to the alma mater resounded.

“MC74,” as the Core Group based in Manila has named their batch, is trumpeting “Woman’s Empowerment: How our Maryknoll education has made us Women of Substance” as its theme.  The class boasts members who excel in various fields from arts and education, to law, business and public service, in private, government and nonprofit; some have retired, others vow never to retire and still others have devoted themselves to raising healthy and productive children and grandchildren.

In 1989, the school took the name Miriam College with the departure of the sisters and the takeover of Filipino lay administration. In 1999, the policy to accept male students in the collegiate level ended, but the student population continued to grow and strengthen its reputation as a liberal arts college emphasizing “academic excellence, communication skills, competence, individuality and social responsibility.”

The jubilarians who gathered in the San Francisco Bay Area represent half of 22 classmates known to date to be residing in the Golden State.  Three will be flying to Manila to participate in the once-in-a-lifetime festivities.  Those remaining will toast each other at a grand reunion at the end of September.

The alums who raised their glasses and wished each other the best were, from Northern California:  Bel Alinea-Tengco, major in Business Administration; Cherie Querol Moreno, Communication Arts; Jerri Lynn Co-Pang, Math; Joanne del Rosario, MCHS70; Marivic Paloma-Go, Math; Nati Santos – de Jesus, Communication Arts; Nida Barretto-Dantes, International Studies; Rosanne Mabanta-Watson, Communication Arts, and Rose Ysip Capistrano-Rokicki, Business Administration.  From Southern California: Emily Siy, International Studies, and Liza Lomotan-Mullins, Business Administration.

“It is heartwarming to reconnect and get to know classmates better post Maryknoll days.  We are blessed,” said Liza Lomotan -Mullins, retired director of Treasury Service for the City of Los Angeles, who was also treasurer of Pepperdine University and executive director for Cash and Investments with the UCLA Foundation.

For some, the get-together gave first opportunity to exchange more than the hi or bye they swapped in class, the hallways, the chapel or library, the smoking lounge or at the famous French Cafe outside the cafeteria by the parking lot in the sprawling campus on Katipunan Road in Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

“‘It was good to see beautiful your faces and hear your amazing life stories,” said Jerri Lyn Co- Pang, who attended Maryknoll for junior and senior year.  She relocated to California shortly after graduation and worked at Pacific Bell till she retired recently.

Rosanne Mabanta-Watson, retired International Admissions director at San Francisco State University, read the message from MC74 Homecoming Class Chair Menchu Genato Henson, former San Miguel Corp Vice President – Sales and Franchising Director for its Monterey subsidiary.

Each responded to the appeal to give to the fund to purchase 20 new sewing machines to update the equipment of the Miriam Adult Education “Dressmakers’ Haven Project.”

They held hands and bowed their heads as Rose Ysip Capistrano-Rokicki, painter of inspirational art who was corporate sales manager for Wyndham Suites and director of sales for an international hotel group in Chicago, led a prayer for 15 classmates who have passed on.

The reunionists gave updates on milestones of the intervening years since receiving their diplomas, pouring commendations for triumphs and offering empathy in adversity. All encouraged commemoration of their sapphire anniversary to honor their school and acknowledge their formation as leaders in their careers and communities.

“‘You never know what to expect when you haven’t seen friends in over 45 years.  You have all these mixed emotions, excitement, anxiety perhaps even a little trepidation:  All of which immediately went away after we greeted each other with warm hugs and a feeling of sisterhood.  How nice to be pleasantly surprised,” noted New York-born Joanne del Rosario, current Mayor of Colma.

The 1970 Maryknoll High School graduate went on to the college for her freshman and sophomore years before returning to the US to earn her certification as an Executive Administrator.  Her batchmates assured her she belonged and congratulated her for being the first Filipino American woman to own the title of Mayor in all 9 counties of the San Francisco Bay Area when her peers on the Colma City Council voted to give her the gavel 10 years ago.

Del Rosario is co-chairing the MC74 Bay Area & Beyond Sapphire Jubilee celebration with Cherie Querol Moreno, executive editor of Philippine News, who is also Commissioner with the San Mateo County Commission on Aging and founder/executive director of the violence prevention nonprofit ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment. Querol Moreno and Emily Siy also serve on their batch Core Group.

Completing the steering committee are retired City College of San Francisco HR staff Nati Santos- de Jesus as secretary; retired 35-year controller of Maltby Electric Supply Co.  Marivic Paloma- Go, treasurer, and Mabanta Watson, social director.  Retired air cargo industry cold-transport expert Marissa Magsaysay- Johnson and John Muir Health East Bay corporate real estate administrator Marites Vargas-Reyes missed the lunch but will collaborate with Liza Lomotan-Mullins in facilitating the audio-visual presentation that promises to bring the highlights of the Sept. 7 Homecoming in Manila across the Pacific.

Realtor and church leader Bel Alinea-Tengco and Nida Barretto-Dantes, who recently retired from her work in education, shared their classmates’ optimism that more classmates will reach out and join the grand reunion in California.