by Venus Parmisana, Loreta Fajardo & Jean Graciela Penola

Hawaiian-inspired decorations bedecked the halls of Café Hermoso as mentors from the English Department paid tribute to Retiree Professor Merle Valbuena in a Testimonial Dinner, Sunday, September 13, 2009.

Clad in colorful floral clothes matched with fresh kalachuchi and gumamela, the teachers could not aptly show their endearment and gratitude to Maam Merle on a night of light nostalgia, fun, happy tears and mementos well-deserved by one who had served the Institute for 30-long years.

The occasion was formally opened with the remarks delivered by the teary-eyes Department chairperson, Prof. Nancy Q. Echavez. Expressing her salute and gratitude, Maam Nancy recounted the moments when the English teachers went on a 3-day trip to Dipolog, dubbed as DDD Escapade (Dipolog-Dakak-Dapitan), where everyone was feted in her beach house. She warmly welcomed the “escapaders” with sumptuous seafood meals and siesta under the cool breeze of mid-afternoon wind at the Katipunan beach.

Professors Luvizminda dela Cruz. Lorna Caponong and Rizza Eubanas expressed deep admiration, thanks and appreciation to Maam Merle’s kindness, generosity and endearing qualities. In almost tears-in-between speeches, the three went on espousing how she has been a good colleague, spiritual partner, mother, ninang, and friend not only to a many of her colleagues at the college but also to everyone she has touched through the years.

As one of the guest speakers in the gathering, Chancellor Marcelo P. Salazar not only stressed on the charism that an outstanding teacher, like Maam Merle should possess but also emphasized on the leadership qualities emanating from the passion and zeal Maam Merle has over the years of loving her vocation, being a teacher.

The Chancellor made mention how she has made impact to her students with these qualities such that Rizza Eubanas and Fatimah Joy Almarez, her former students who are now serving the department as teachers as well, have sought to emulate her in their own little ways.

In a Hawaiian motif and light-hearted mood, CASS Dean Nora A. Clar further made the occasion apparently memorable as she conveyed her utmost admiration to Prof. Valbuena being one of the best faculty members in the college. Stressing further that the college was sad about her retirement and kidded that she hoped the good ones will never retire; she ended by enlightening everyone that one’s priorities are considered when deciding to go on private solitude.

The rest of the night showed the intimate, entertaining and hearty moments with Maam Merle which included the song rendition of Sir Rudy Yu; the video montage by Michelle Caracut, which brought us to a trip down memory lane; the Trivia segment by Venus Parmisana where questions about Maam Merle’s likes and dislikes, dreams and thoughts were raised to check how well the teachers have come to know her. Similarly, in a highly-spirited and congenial mood, the mentors heated up the floor and shared great moments with everyone present. The occasion was well-planned by Program organizers Jean Graciela Penola, who also choreographed the Hawaiian dance, Amado Guinto and Dr. Lerry Valdez and Tess Villabona. The program host was Fatimah Joy Alamarez.

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