Ms. Ofelia Salas: "Ms. Alma Mater"

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Ms. Ofelia Salas: "Ms. Alma Mater"

Post by icemint on Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:07 pm

(Note: This article, by Ms. Guia Albano-Imperial, was reprinted from UE Today's April-May 1997 issue. Ms. Salas passed away on March 13, 1999.)

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Ms. Ofelia Sandoval Salas (UE BBA 1949 and the Alma Mater statue's is a story that begins in 1952. It was the year the UE Alumni Association Inc. was formally organized, and, looking around for an executive secretary, then President Francisco T. Dalupan saw her-- the slim, tall and graceful graduate of 1950 who started with UE at the old R. Papa building.

The day day they met, Offie was offered the classic job on the spot. Asked to give up her position as clerk at the Post Office-her-first job-Offie hardly had a chance to refuse the President's proposal, which came with a P120 monthly salary. (She bargained and got a slight increase of P130).

But Offie never looked back. Her eyes still sparkle as she recalls how proud and happy she was for landing the job. "Imagine going home to my Alma Mater?"

So, who is the Alma Mater?"

To most she is merely a symbol of whatever happens in the mysterious learning process. At hint though that it is more than going to and from a place called school would be what poets use to describe it-in affective verbs like "imbibe", "drink" and "nurture". For somehow, the edifice, its grounds and everything that goes on in it gel and become personified in a student's psyche, even take on a name- Alma Mater, literally meaning "mother of my soul."

It was she whom Offie refers to, under whose roof and wings she led "oh so happy days. I enjoyed being there sp much, I wanted the feelig to go on. To me, those days were very meaningful." After graduation, she did continue schooling with secretarial and education courses. She even attempted to go into law school.

To those who knew Offie, this is nothing unusual-her attachment to UE is no mere platitude. Schooling was life, and it showed beautifully in her. Majoring in finance, she was very inch "a campus figure" and "the gal with the 'figure" and the graceful walk," as a fan once wrote in a column in the Philippine Business College Journal.

Early in her freshman year, 1948 (Those days, we took only 120 units apportioned in quarters so we finished in two and half years"), Offie already led the newly founded Kappa Omega Sorority. It had for the first activity a "Cotton Ball", where crepe, brocade, and Chantilly lace were vogue.

The year after, in 1949, Offie was voted first President of the just-instituted UE Women's Club launched on Labor Day, the significance of which lent meaning to everything the club initiated Its big thing on induction day was a campus beautification-more specifically, greening-drive. From thereon, with advice from then Dean Amparo S. Lardizabal, Offie and her officers focused not only on coaxing plants to bloom but also started classes in dramatics, dance home arts, handicrafts and special cooking. (UE graduates whose talents had been drawn out especially in dance and theater became the luminaries of the country's arts scene).

Balancing her feminine pursuits, Offie also excelled in sports as a swimmer and the captain of the women's volleyball team. In her time, the team was frequently read about in the sports pages of national dailies.

Not surprisingly, the 1950 Graduates Special Awardees announced in the campus journal included Offie. Cited for her accomplishments, she was singled out "for her devotion to the interests and programs of PCCBA student organizations, and for her loyalty to the school." Hers was a Diploma of Merit.

While the rest of her batchmates made good their adieus on graduation day, Offie still figured in school activities the following year, like the musical festival at the UE Hall, sorority initiatives suchs as blood donations, and bonfires for the CPA topnotchers.

The job offer then by President Dalupan wasmore a consequence rather than an accident. And with it, Offie got her wish-- to stay and be wiht her Alma Mater. Was "for always" perhaps onher mind?

As Alumni Association Executive Secretary, she would come "home" every day to UE--to an office at the dentistry morgue in the former Science building. A. D. Narciso. Association President, and Jess Casino, Editor of its newsletter, would drop by. Offie's job was full time under the advisorship of then Vice President for Alumni Affairs Vicente Albano Pacis, and with an assistant who worked for four hours a day "assigned to me when I asked for help. It started getting difficult for only one person."

She took her first mandate from President Dalupan- to bring in as many graduates to the reunion as her popularity could draw- seriously. She worked hard through former officers of the organizations she led and friends. Once the list was drawn, the letters went on their way and, like arrows, hit the mark of positive response because the addressees not only knew Offie-most of them were her fans.

While reunions remained the Association's main event yearly, Offie's job was expanded. With updates about alumni constantly pouring in, and with the list increasing, producing and mailing the newsletter too, preoccupied the office. "At one point, we were mailing by the sackfuls," Offie recalls.

Her concern for the organization she led as a student by then had transferred to new graduates-fresh alumni-whom she helped to get clearances, transcripts of record and even jobs. She was touch with all the personnel managers of bog companies whom she called for recommendees.

Offie was always in a whirl-- in between the reunions, there were dances, bingo socials and sports events. All these she now recalls, were meant (to use Albano Pacis' terms) to "husband" the Alumni Association.

Twenty years would simply pass by-- with Offie "married" to the Alumni Association. She had made UE her home; the alumni, her own family; and her memories, meticulously recorded and kept as mementos, a houseful.

When she left in 1972 to finally get on with a life and a job in the "real world" as Securities, Marketing, and Purchasing Manager of the television station RPN, Offie still carried with her her UE Badge. At Broadcast City, she was known as "pillar of love and dedication." But she was described, most of all, as a "Big Sister to the UE Alumni."

For many years, among thousands of graduates a homecoming and the Alma Mater were synonymous with Offie. "Maybe it was because I was always around. They could always call on me or visit me here,' Offie states.

This afternoon, in a pretty house which she attests "the Lord built," amid albums and yellowed clippings of the campus personality with a "beautiful countenance", as the RPN guys put it, Offie talks about the work the Association did as if 50 years had not passed.

Something here was being glossed over--and the story must be retold. What happened during the meeting inside President Dalupan's office and the 1952 Alumni Association Officers who decided to have figure of the Alma Mater designed and sculpted as their major project? The question is now thrown at her.

She recalls: "Ikaw ang kukunin kong modelo," Tolentino had shot at the young Offie so suddenly and in such a straightforward way that she withdrew with embarrassment. "Nahiya talaga ako," she reveals inher thick Coronin(Palawan) accent. But Dalupan put her in her place as soon as the artist left. He told her, "You should be proud that a famous sculptor saw you." Later, Tolentino returned and "he took pictures of me from different angles, in half-body and full shots, "Offie discloses. The picture-taking was done to spare her the tediousness of "sitting in" as model.

Then Offie was thrown into the grind of raising funds. "I had to forget about being a model. People I approached to fund the statue might have thought it self-serving if I told them," shw looks back, laughing. Still the pressure of reaching P10,000 in ten years (then a huge amount) pushed back the incident with the sculptor farther back until she was no longer sure.

The statue was crafted in 1952. The same year Offie "started to give the best of my life--but happily--to UE," and in turn was looked up to as the drawing figure for the alumni--like the Alma Mater, perhaps? Tolentino, in his artist's eye, must have seen not just the beauty of countenance and elegance of figure in Offie, but the heart and spirit that cared like a "spiritual mother."

By coincidence, Offie, even since her UE days, had been involved in civic projects for the disadvantaged in her native Palawan, to whom she helped bring medical missionaries and provide hospital equipment from funds she gathered from the US. At this writing, telling the Coronians that she is through with "their physical needs," she brings them to Life to the Spirit seminars.

These days, she is fully dedicated to church work in her parish at BF Homes, Quezon City. As a member of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, she visits the sick and those in prison, bringing "words that nurture, and gestures that comfort the lonely." Miss Salas still "mothers" graduates--this time of life.
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