For Lola. I like to tell people that Lola was one of my first writing teachers. But to be honest, I no longer remember the contents of our first lesson. I only remember that the school needed someone to represent it at a feature writing competition the next day, and at 11 years old, I didn’t know anything about journalism, much less feature writing. Lola took out the same old blue journalism textbook she must have used in her own classroom, and she walked me through it. I ended up winning first place that year and going all the way to nationals. I didn’t win nationals, but it planted the seed of the idea that writing was a way for me.
I started to pay more attention to writing as a tool, writing as a craft, writing as something more than what you did for homework — writing as a way of knowing yourself and making yourself known to the world. Much of the direction my life has taken since has been because of writing. I can only wonder how things might have been different if Lola hadn’t been there to teach me, to be one of the first to water the seed.
Lola and Lolo also offered me windows to the wider world. The small, provincial kingdom of my childhood was one without internet access or cable TV. But because I had an English teacher for a lola and a librarian for a lolo, I had a steady supply of books, magazines, and comics, full of distant lands and remote planets to explore. Lola and I would take turns with her monthly Reader’s Digest, or I would raid her and Lolo’s bookshelf for murder mystery novels. In my memories, their room is one of sunshine and comfort and also the promise of treasures to dig out of their collection. While I don’t remember Lola feeding my stomach — unless I was taking her cookies or eating her Strepsils like candy — I remember how she and Lolo happily fed my sense of humor and my imagination.
Now that I am older and have been in my relationship for over a decade, I also think of how Lola was one of my earliest models of love. Of course, as a young girl, I dreamed of love in the form of first kisses and whirlwind romance. But in her devotion to Lolo, Lola showed me a love that feeds you when you can’t feed yourself, makes sure you take your medicine, helps you up and down the stairs, cleans you up and changes your diapers, sits with you in your frustration and sadness, and stays by your side till the very end. My idea of what it means to love someone for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, comes from Lola, and it’s just one more thing from her that will stay with me for life.
I am also a teacher now. I will admit, it wasn’t the career I had imagined for myself; I wanted to take my writing lessons to the world of fiction or journalism, if only so that something with my name would join Lola’s bookshelf or her collection of clippings. But I’ve been surprised at how much I enjoy working with students. My other Lola, Lola Ning, pointed out that I’m following in my Lola Nene and Lolo Ely’s footsteps, and that simple thought has helped me to enter my classrooms with purpose — to see if I can be the kind of teacher Lola was.
I am sad that as I started teaching, Lola and I could not talk shop because it was hard for us to have even simple conversations. I wish I could ask her how she dealt with unmotivated students, how she got a noisy classroom to quiet down, or how she dealt with a mountain of papers to grade. I wonder what she would have thought of teaching in the age of hybrid learning and AI, or if I could pick up any teaching strategies from her that would be timeless.
My main clues to the teacher Lola was come from all of you — the fact that many of her former students are here or want to be here, and that many of you visited her over the years. I won’t get to ask Lola about the kind of teacher she was, but I know she was someone her students wanted at their reunion parties, someone people went out of their way to visit, someone who was sent lots of fruits and ice cream because they simply remembered her, even as they became lolos and lolas themselves. Thank you for your stories and for keeping Lola’s memory alive.
In her last years, Lola often struggled to remember who I was, or that I was her granddaughter. On one of my last visits, she mistook me for one of her former students. It wasn’t inaccurate. Never mind that my class had just three of us grandchildren, she said to me that my class was the smartest. I said, “Well, I had a great teacher.”
Dr. Katrina Paola Bañas Alvarez
Associate professor, Communication Studies
De La Salle University
In the corridors of our high school, Mam Bañas stood as a beacon of inspiration. She was a teeny, tiny dynamo who proved that precious things do come in small packages. With a seemingly fragile frame, she wielded a strong influence, guiding us towards expanding and embracing life.
Mam Bañas, you opened our eyes to a kaleidoscope of experiences. From the magic of musicals to the subtle nuances of drama, you helped paint our world with hues of creativity. Through your nurturing guidance, we dared to be ‘outstanding’ poets and short story virtuosos, thinking our words could touch the stars. You didn’t just teach; you unleashed a symphony of talents. We became actors, singers, writers, and artists under your gentle push and firm belief in our potential. You brought us beyond the confines of classrooms, urging us to capture life’s beauty with pencils, crayons, and watercolors.
Your legacy isn’t just in the lessons of literature; it’s etched in the paths we chose in life. Many of us found clarity and purpose because you made the journey clearer and the choices easier. You were not just a teacher; you were a guide, a mentor, and a conscience.
At the age of 99, you are now home in God’s heaven. May you shine as a star, forever casting your light over the memories we hold dear. As recipients of the precious gift of being your students, we send you off with a harmonious crescendo of love and admiration. With open arms, we know that God’s heavenly angels welcome you with a thunderous and joyful hallelujah.
Thank you, Mam Bañas, for making our high school days fuller, richer, and eternally memorable.
Ana Patrice Ceniza-Montebon
We remember our English Teacher Mrs Alejandra Reyes Bañas with much love. She taught generations of students at Silliman High School. We are forever grateful for the love, care and mentorship of Maam Nene. Our prayers and heartfelt sympathies go out to Linda Bañas Alvarez and family.
President/Chief operating officer
DTC Promos Inc.
Praising God for the life of Silliman’s most favorite English teacher, Mrs. Alejandra Reyes Bañas. I was rooting for her to reach her 100th bday and was hoping to organize a Mega Celebration that will involve her many former students that included many outstanding achievers in various fields but God had a better gift for her that she’s probably been praying for … eternal rest in His presence. She was a giant among the teachers at Silliman University, past, present and future. Her legacy lives on! Hugs to her daughter and our Masscom classmate Linda Bañas Alvarez and to the rest of her family. Wishing we could be there for you now.
Brand-builder/Events marketing innovator