I didn’t plan to write this entry just yet as I am saddled with a backlog of other blog posts that I thought were more relevant. In fact, this event I am about to elaborate transpired a week ago. Old news, I pondered. But something happened just now as I poured over the photos I took last week and I am so touched.

See, a week ago, Kenny Tabayocyoc, a council member of Kamia Residence Hall at the UP Diliman Campus invited me to be their guest speaker for (Thank God It’s Summer), A Tropical Confluence Dinner. Part of the program is an inspirational message to be given by an alumnae of the dorm. Of course, I wanted to help them out. After all, Kamia was my first home away from home. I felt like traversing on a trip down memory lane. It wasn’t a convenient date though. I had to leave by 7:00 PM because it was Lauren’s 23rd birthday celebration. Things don’t always happen as planned. Rains delayed the program that was slated at the Kamia parking lot and the organizers were busy setting up the tables and chairs.

While waiting for the program to start, Kenny brought me inside Kamia Residence Hall for the first time in many years. The tile floors by the door looked worn from the passage of time as thousands of footwear scrubbed the tile color down to a grayish slab of cement. Wasn’t it 33 years ago since I last stepped foot at the door? I saw that a phone booth still hangs by the wall and today there are two. I clearly remember those days when a queue formed as residents tried to make a call. I remember the dagger looks aimed at this one resident who kept yakking away ignoring the queue of girls awaiting their turn to whisper sweet nothings to their steadies.

She led me to the lobby and soon, a flood of memories took over me as I reflected back during those days when I’d get giddy over a visitor’s intercom paging system. Still looks the same. Despite the wear and tear of the dorm, good thing Kamia didn’t have any lingering musty smell of old buildings.

Then the visitor’s waiting area where we also watched TV and partied the night away for the inter-dorm dances, a much needed break from our study routines. Kenny led me to the corner of the room.

And I was astonished!

An array of vintage photos of the Kamia Residence Hall residents (then called UP Women’s Dormitory No. 1 and later Sierra Madre) laid before my eyes. Kenny told me that these photos were all unearthed from the basement bodega. What treasures! I never even saw these photos when I lived there.

Kenny asked “Do you see your mom?”

I scoured briefly and shook my heard not knowing where to start . From what I knew, mom said she stayed only for the summer. I took photos of the vintage photographs for later scrutiny using the zoom feature of my Adobe Photoshop. For some reason, I took a closeup of these photos maybe because they were dated 1951-1952 about the time mom stayed in UP.

You know, mom’s photos during her UP days are gone or misplaced but I do remember her heart-shaped face, the high cheekbones, the red lipstick on her full lips, the quaint UP scenery and the fashionable 50’s dress and her tiny waist.

Just a few minutes ago, I zoomed in on the photo and lo and behold. My Mom!, a House Council Officer in 1951-1952. I never knew she was an officer! She was a sophomore then about the time UP Diliman Campus was just new. A wave of nostalgia hit me. I felt sentimental as I saw mom’s pretty face.

Mom is marked with a red cross on her dress
Enlarge Photo

I felt overwhelmed with this discovery since my siblings and I have been scouring for her old photos from her classmates and our relatives. I have very little memories of her as I wasn’t too close to mom but today, I finally understood the reason why I needed to be there to honor the residents of Kamia Residence Hall.

I had fun reliving these old memories and I was eager to give my message.

Let me share you the speech I shared with them. This is not only applicable to Kamia dormers but to all the other graduating students from other schools with or without living outside their homes.

My Speech to the Kamia Residence Hall Residents

Good Evening. Wow, It’s been 33 years since I last stepped here. My mom accompanied me here in 1975. She too was a dormer here in the early fifties.

Let me introduce myself. I am a mother of 3 wonderful children, married to a lawyer. I have a daughter and just like you is graduating this semester. Unfortunately we live in Manila and could not qualify for a dorm slot. She would have been a 3rd generation Kamia dormer. My eldest daughter is taking up her Masters in Comparative Literature, also at UP diliman.

The tradition of the UP education started with my mom. She graduated Cum laude in Education major in English and minor in Music in 1954.

Mom envisioned her children studying in her alma mater. “In college, you will study in U.P.” As far back as I could remember, mom always ingrained those words in our minds. (six out of seven siblings eventually did. One chose to study in Ateneo).

Alas, in the early seventies, martial law was declared. My relatives in Manila advised my mom that we shouldn’t study in Manila or else her children will turn into subversives. Whatever. Mom didn’t listen to our well-meaning relatives. She toured us around the U.P. campus during our enrollment. Driving through the majestic Acacia trees along University avenue, mom told us how the students planted trees in the campus. I never got to find out the location of the her planted tree. All I know is that she carved her name ““Sally” on the tree bark when it grew. She pointed out the quonset huts that the Japanese built. Her dormitory was in one of these quonset huts now replaced by Ilang-Ilang Residence Hall. Her stories of UP traditions (including the Cadena de Amor Festival, Hayride and Arbor Day, which have all died out today) fascinated me.

She had a photo of her just by that doorstep, leaning on the post with her fashional 50’s dress.

You can just imagine the freedom and the adventure that a Cebuana faced upon her first year in UP. I had to sacrifice the comforts of my lovely bedroom, cooked food, and security of a home. It was all worth it because I finally had the freedom to be myself. Dad and Mom warned us though that the moment we joined rallies and demonstrations, it was back to Cebu. They didn’t know it then but my sister and I joined lightning rallies. Student issues centered on Marcos, the dictator, Academic Freedom and the role of Iskolar ng Bayan in the midst of Martial Law.

Let me just give you some thoughts to live by, things I learned as I look back at living in Kamia Residence Hall and having a UP education. I was told to give you an inspirational speech. I am not here to inspire you. I am here to ask you to think about the words I will deliver tonight.

1. Parent Yourself

I was terrified on my first day at the dormitory. Thanks to my sister, Lorna who dormed ahead of me helped me through the first day. It felt strange to live in unfamiliar surroundings.

I did not know it then but my 44 year old mom was dying of cancer of the breast in 1975. She probably prepared us for a life without her. Mom died a year after in 1976 when I moved to Sampaguita dorm.

Later in life you will find out there are moments you are alone. Living independently taught me that I needed to take care of myself and when things go wrong, I call upon my inner strength to draw me out of the pit. Living without a parent forces you to be a parent to yourself, to nurture your inner child.

2. Establish Good Money Management Practices

Back then, 300 pesos seemed substantial for my food allowance and other living expenses. The thing is, we didn’t have high tech ATMS. Telegraphic transfers took a week. Even if my father could afford to send us more, he taught us to budget. I learned the art of being frugal.

This was so useful in my life after UP. Suddenly, I could not just ask money from my dad. I had to earn it now. No matter the state of your financial situation, you will need to implement some sort of money management or else all that money will be gone in an instant”. I have passed that on to my daughter, Lauren when she graduated in 2007.

It’s so funny how my money management policy has affected my kids. Tonight is my daughter’s 23rd birthday dinner and I wanted to eat out for a change.

Mom why make other people rich? Let’s just have dinner at home!

I was surprised, But we barely eat out for dinner! It’s a treat and it happens only once a year.

3. In life, there are second chances if you want to give it another chance.

How many got a boyfriend from UP?

I met my husband in 1978 a semester before I graduated. Whispering sweet nothings to my ear, ““I am going to marry you one day. I will be a lawyer. You just see.”

I was laughing inside and mused I would never marry this guy. He’s a bum. I won’t have a future with him. He is my boyfriend because I just want to have fun. I hate my boring student life. All those years in UP was spent studying in studying. Yes, I had a boyfriend for very shallow reason.

True enough, the following month, I found out he didn’t meet the university requirements of passing 21 units, 60% passing of all subjects and to have a passing grade in at least 4 units. He scored a grand slam. The verdict was expulsion from the state university. I knew there was hope so I dragged him to the college secretary for a reconsideration. He didn’t think there was hope but luckily, the college secretary Dean Martin Gregorio granted him a probation period.

In life, don’t be too hard on yourself when a roadblock hits you. Give yourself a second chance. Second chances are possible if You are open to the positive possibilities of the future instead of limiting the future by today’s feelings and circumstances.

4. Do not pressure yourself to be successful.

Usually, a successful life goes hand in hand with affluence. Sometimes success does not come immediately.

I graduated Food Technology but wasn’t really happy working in a factory so I decided to work for UP ISSI and combine my training on food technology and management. I loved my job. I even went into pioneering research. I felt I was at the top of the world to be of service to small and medium enterprises. So when I got married, I felt fulfilled and didn’t feel this need to be successful. Alas that only lasted till the kids reached their pre-teens. By the time they were in their teens, I felt something was amiss. Who was I? I am a homemaker, a mom who chose to stay at home, work part time as a property manager.

It became worse when my son died in 2000.

I went into an online business in 2002, a webhosting because no one would hire a 44 year old mom. Still, I felt I was still missing out. By accident, I went into grief advocacy and blogging. Never in my wildest dream did I expect to be more than just a netrepreneur. Financial blessings just came hand in hand as I helped others. Peer recognition through award giving bodies validated my passion for blogging and reaching out to others.

Being successful is achieving my personal goals despite various obstacles, attaining the results I desired for my life and being able to live comfortably…Not necessarily filthy rich. Most of all, I feel truly happy with my life and the accomplishments I have made thus far.

5. Try new things even if not related

As UP graduates, you have the ability to be flexible and willing to think out of the box. You are not confined to your course.

Come to think of it, my course was BS food technology and I had lots of chemistry subjects. The training to think and imagine the abstract nature of chemical compounds and mixture trained my mind to understand concepts beyond my education.

Like I said I moved on to studies on Business management, then real estate and now an online business.

6. God is there or Higher power as the case may be.

I am not going to preach you here.

Hard times can motivate us to bring out our best. We can use these times to move forward and upward to higher living, loving and growth. The choice is really ours to make.

Will we say ““Life sucks. Nothing ever good comes out of this…”? Will we ask our God what we’re supposed to learn from this experience?

Hard times don’t have to be there for us so we can be motivated to grow and change. But if it is there, we can learn to channel it into growth and use it for achieving what’s good in life.

My understanding of God did not grow on an intellectual level. It grew because of my experience with losses, starting with my mom’s death since I turned my life to the care of God. It was God after all who strengthened me to have faith, to move on towards a positive resolution of my grief.

7.Develop a sense of community

Everyone who has lived in a dorm do their best to live harmoniously. Learning to adjust to the quirks of your roommate or your roommate’s visitors. Trying to keep quiet during study hours, taking turns at the shower. We learned to be polite and civil.

The same thing happens at the workplace as you get your first job. You will meet strangers. You will have to live with diverse personalities. bossy people, lazy people, inconsiderate people. You continue to build communities in your office and even encourage team building.

By the sheer exposure to varied backgrounds in the dorm, you have enriched your lives.

Everything in life is about building community.

8. Maintain Work-Life Balance

Finding work-life balance in today’s frenetically paced world is no easy task.

In my earlier days as a UP student, all I did was pour over my books, or become active in school politics. I was the a councilor of the UP College council of Home Economics, in 1977. It was the first time that UP opened its doors to student council. I can’t recall much of it except that I struggled with my broken tagalog and surprisingly I made it. On my last semester, I became acting head of the Home Economics Student council which gave me the opportunity to be represented and working for the first University student council in the first semester of 1978-79. But I barely had fun for myself. I learned to finally let loose during my last year in UP.

Despite his busy schedule, Dad often found the time for random visits at the dorm.

Tonight is my daughter’s birthday dinner so I have to balance my commitment to give this speech to all of you and my family time.

With so many demands on my time — from events to family obligations — it can feel difficult to strike this balance. The goal is to make time for the activities that are the most important to you.

9. Laughter is the best medicine.

Laughter is the best medicine. We’ve heard the expression time and again. I know it’s cliche.

I believe that if people can get more laughter in their lives, they are a lot better off. We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.

10,Anything you really want, you can attain, if you really go after it.

We all have dreams. I never imagined to own a business one day but it was always there at the back of my mind. I never thought I’d be “alive” again after the death of my son. I had to reinvent myself. Give myself a second chance to be a better person that I could ever be.

Just do it.

Why did mom want me to live in a dorm?

Because she learned a lot about life when she was there and she didn’t want us to miss it for the world.

She prepared me for life even if she was not around anymore.

You have your own experiences probably more than I ever had in my UP days. I want you to honor your experiences. Take what you need from what I have just said and leave the rest.

A walk down memory lane indeed, and with the discovery of mom’s photo, I once again embrace the memory of my mother. She is alive and well in my heart.

About Noemi Lardizabal-Dado

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ gmail.com) for speaking and consultancy services in the following areas: Parenting in the Digital Age (includes pro-active parenting on cyber-bullying and bullying) ; Social Business ; Reinventing One’s Life; and social media engagement. Our parenting workshop is called "Prep to Prime (P2P): Parenting in the Digital Age (An Un­Workshop)" P2P Un­Workshops are conducted by two golden women in their prime, Noemi and Jane, who have a century’s worth of experience between them. They are both accomplished professionals who chose to become homemakers. This 180­degree turn also put them on a different life course which includes blogging, social media engagement and citizen advocacy. They call their un­workshops Prep to Prime or P2P, for short, to emphasize the breadth of their parenting experience. They tackle different aspects and issues of parenting ­­ from managing pregnancies, prepping for the school years of children, dealing with househelp, managing the household budget, to maximizing one’s prime life and staying healthy through the senior years.

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