Our teacher at St. Theresa’s College San Marcelino, Sister Consuelo Varela passed away recently. She was a big part of my life. She was from Cebu, like me. When I transferred from STC Cebu to Manila for High school, I felt out of place and lost. She was our teacher then, and she acknowledged my being Cebuana, mentioned knowing my family to me, which lifted my spirits up.
Sister Consuelo was strict in the beginning but loosened up when she knew the class. She was an excellent Literature teacher. She taught us Shakespeare in a creative way. Having those drama plays in class made us memorize some lines in Shakespeare, and instilled an appreciation for MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear, that I never would have acquired if I were told to just read the plays.
I remember once a friend and I were standing in line to go to the auditorium or someplace. We were bored and we walked a short distance to where a gutter ended and peered down into the ground. Sister, who was making sure we all stood in a straight line, came over,and asked what we were staring at. She looked down at the earth too. Seeing nothing, she told us, “Get back in line” — but matter-of-factly. I remembered that incident because she didn’t just get angry at the two of us for stepping out of the line, but actually honored our curiosity.
Sister went on to become an activist and became even softer to us. By then, the style of teaching had changed. She became our friend.
I owe her a lot and will miss her. May she rest in peace.
The Bantayog ng mga Bayani that honors martyrs and heroes of the the struggle against dictatorships in the Philippines posted this about her:
“Prayers and condolences to the ICM Sisters for the passing of Sr. Consuelo Varela, ICM. We pay tribute to Sr. Consuy for her selfless and untiring effort to live out her faith through journeying with the poor and marginalized in their quest for genuine peace and justice. Courageously, she participated in the movement against the Marcos dictatorship and succeeding corrupt regimes. She herself deepened her religiousity through immersing with the masses, especially with the workers. Truly, hers was a faith lived well and a life spent meaningfully. Marami pong salamat.”
This is not Sister Consuelo’s image, but this is a pen and ink and pencil drawing of a St. Theresa’s College nun when they wore the long habits.