I hope this letter finds you well.
I am the mom of Katrina "Niña" Asedillo. I write to you as a tremendously grateful parent whose daughter will be graduating this month from Miriam College Senior High School, after spending 11 years at your institution. It was a transformative education in the truest sense of the word and we cannot be more thankful.
Please allow me to share snippets of our daughter's experience at Miriam College (MC).
When our daughter Katrina was in Grade 2, she came home and showed me her class directory. It contained names of the students' parents, guardians and contact numbers. She told me that her Homeroom teacher explained to them a few things. She told them that not everyone had two contact numbers for both parents; She said that not all parents live together, sometimes, one parent might be working abroad, sometimes a child is raised by only a single parent, and that the guardian may be a grandparent or a relative taking care of their classmate. This story moved me to tears. That one afternoon in class made me realize I enrolled my daughter in the right school. That brief explanation from her teacher opened her eyes to single parent households and OFW parents. It made her understand that some of her classmates had different circumstances from her and allowed her to move out of her comfort zone.
Niña also told me that she had classmates practicing different religions. During the preparations leading up to her First Communion, her classmates who were not Catholic were given the option to join if they wanted to help out as part of the choir or ushers for the ceremonies. MC celebrates diversity but more importantly, it has taught my daughter to be tolerant and inclusive. These were not just platitudes while our daughter was at MC. The school walked the talk and did its best to be fair and truly inclusive. It has reminded my husband and I of our UP education which imparted to us the same.
When Niña was in Grade 7 and 8, MC gave her the chance to join World Scholar's Cup in Hanoi and Yale. The school with its dedicated teachers and coaches provided so much training and support. In one of the events, she ranked number 3 out of 2,500 scholars besting students from elite Singaporean private schools as well as international schools from Beijing and Shanghai. Niña told me that was the day she realized the internet was a powerful tool in education and a great equalizer. She realized there was no limit to what she could learn for as long as she had access to the internet and its tools.
When she moved to MCHS, we found out that academic rigor was a proud MC tradition. Our daughter was fortunate to have qualified for all three advanced classes - in English, Math and Science. She enjoyed these classes immensely and told me all about her brilliant and passionate teachers who taught them everything they knew. They were very small classes (less than 15 students per class). She told me about the excellent Physics, Biology and Chemistry labs at MCHS. I was amazed that MC invested so much in their best students.
Female empowerment were not empty words at MC. It was evident in the big things and in the small details too. Details like naming its HS sections after women who have impacted the world whether history chose to honor them or not. Rosalind Franklin who was denied a Nobel Prize is one of the Grade 12 sections. Niña looks forward to her yearly tradition of looking up the women her batch sections are named after during the first week of school.
When Niña, moved to Senior HS, she would tell me about her STEM related classes especially her research classes. I realized how MC took all these very seriously with such outstanding teachers. She would show me her output at the end of every semester and I was pleasantly surprised to see the quality of her work and her groupmates'. MC's senior HS students' research output could rival that of a college student taking up a science course or even the medical students that I teach. Their research foundations are solid (from writing excellent reviews of related literature, scientific discussion, to very accurate citations). Niña likes to tell me these goalposts define her generation - respect for science, science communication and research.
It was during the pandemic that my husband and I realized that the skills she has learned from MC along with all the tools the school provided allowed her a very smooth pivot and transition to a digital world. While the world grappled with massive changes, Niña helped our family in so many ways to shift to a digital platform. MC prepared our daughter superbly for this. I saw it in the ease with which she led her school publication, The Magnificat as Editor-in-Chief. She used an online management software called Notion to work seamlessly and efficiently with 51 group members, some of whom she had never met, and some in different time zones. The girls came up with 5 publications in one school year, all working from home, online. MC taught them excellent editing and presentation skills which helped achieve all these. I was just so impressed with the MC girls doing the art and layout for the publication. I could not believe that they were just in high school! Their Club Moderator as well as her Asst. Principal for Student Affairs, Ms. Sofia De Guzman, were so supportive and allowed them to set up a website showcasing the school publication, adding old issues into this digital archive and setting up several social media sites to expand their reach.
Because MC trains its students in science communication and in making excellent infographics, Niña ended up helping some of my physician colleagues who were in a crunch. Some of my allergologist friends who are part of the Philippine Society of Allergy were tasked to come up with an algorithm to manage allergic reactions to the Covid-19 vaccine. This algorithm had to be simple, easy to read and use on the field. The artist they hired could not come up with an infographic within the deadline that the DOH had set. Niña ended up making one for them in about 3 hours which was eventually approved and used by the DOH in all vaccination centers in the country when our country finally first rolled out Covid vaccines in March of 2021. It helped saved many lives. Niña and I sometimes laugh because the original file of this historic infographic is in her Canva premium account provided by MCHS.
During the early months of the pandemic when our country was reeling from the economic impact of lockdowns alongside a large number of Covid cases and deaths with no vaccines yet in sight, MC once again surprised us with the announcement of massively discounted tuition fees for the upcoming school year. During the hour of our country's greatest need and its students, MC delivered and showed to our daughter what it meant to be part of nation building by honoring its commitment to making quality education accessible to all, no matter the circumstances.
Niña tells me that her most memorable experience in her 11 years at MC was a trip to Sapang Munti, a small community of the Dumagat Tribe in the mountains of Norzagaray, Bulacan right next to lpo Dam. This was part of their activity for their advanced English and Science classes in Grade 10. They were tasked to identify the problems of the community and propose science-based solutions. The trip involved using a banca to cross the dam to reach the settlement of the Dumagats, who serve as forest rangers for the critical watershed that supplies water to our country's capital of 14 million people. Niña was shocked to find out that the same people safe-guarding our water supply had no running water themselves. Because of their isolation, they do not have access to proper nutrition, education and healthcare. She herself experienced the perilous 30-minute dam crossing using a small banca plus a long walk through muddy, rocky terrain and a small river to reach the community. Food would always be in short supply and they would subsist on canned goods and instant noodles. As they were not allowed to farm, they had very little fiber and protein in their diets. She wrote a paper to address these needs employing aquaponics - a circular form of agriculture growing vegetables alongside fish with the fish tank water as water supply for the plants and organic fertilizer. The plants act as a filter providing fresh water for the fish. She also proposed telemedicine or telehealth to address the health needs of the community employing barangay health workers, mobile phones and mobile data and our National Teleheath Program based in UP Manila. She was fortunate enough to learn from several UP doctors who head our country's telehealth unit and our Doctor to the Barrios Program who accepted her invitation to interview them. They were very generous with their time and input and helped her greatly as she wrote this paper for her Grade 10 Advanced Science and English Classes. Niña told me this experience was life-changing for her. She realized she could actually help and make a difference.
Before she enrolled in Senior High School, her dad and I sat her down and talked to her about her plans for college. We actually told her that she could go abroad for college or simply decide to move abroad. We assured her that she didn't need to stay in the country just to look after us. We even told her that Manila but be uninhabitable in 30-40 years because of climate change. Niña said, "Mama, it's alright. I know you are worried about me and I can understand why you feel I might have a better future elsewhere. I also know our planet isn't in a good state, our country has many problems. I might seek higher education abroad, I see myself doing that. But I will come back, I will be here for the Philippines, because I want to be part of the solution."
Right before our eyes, our daughter grew up and realized she was part of something bigger than herself. She also realized she could actually make a difference. I think that there is no greater moment for any parent, than this. And we feel that it is in large part due to the transformative education she received at MC. Indeed, it takes a village to raise a child and I have decided to write this letter to express our deepest gratitude to this exceptional village who helped us raise our child.
We thank all her teachers for their commitment to and excellence in their vocation and genuine concern for our daughter, to the school staff who made our daughter's world bigger, for all the meaningful interactions that allowed her to grow and blossom into a better version of herself, to the administrators of the school for their determined vision in providing an innovative and responsive education to young women notwithstanding the challenges facing their generation and our planet, for fostering a kind and inclusive environment that allowed her and her peers to confidently grow, learn and dream.
Please allow me to share with you some of the work she accomplished during her last year at Miriam College High School.
We are humbled and honored by the awards that the school has decided to bestow upon her on her graduation. Niña understands that the best way to show her appreciation and gratitude for all these is to pay it forward and leave our world a better one than the one she found. Again, our utmost gratitude to Miriam College for caring for our daughter these last 11 years.
Most sincerely yours,
Catherine Yap-Asedillo, M.D.
Emmanuel Asedillo, M.D.
MCHS Parents of Niña Asedillo, Class of 2022 Valedictorian
Dr. Yap-Asedillo is the current Chair of the Philippine Board of Plastic Surgery