Nuestra CasITa: The Journey Back Home
By: Gretchen Duenas-Tanbonliong, Batch 1998 Alumna
Nuestra CasITa: The Journey Back Home
It has been a few days after the homecoming event, and if you’re just like us—the host class of Batch 1998—you’re likely experiencing mixed feelings and emotions: An endorphin high after partying hard; nostalgia from setting foot again in Poveda, and reuniting with old classmates and teachers who never seem to age; maybe even that poignant feeling of “sepanx” (separation anxiety) knowing that it’s over and everyone has to return to her respective homes and lives. As the lively chatter and laughter begins to quiet down, we reflect with gratitude and a sense of accomplishment that we were able to mount an event that initially showed so many odds. Here’s the story of Nuestra CasITa—a journey back home made possible by the love that we have for our hermanas and that great gift of faith: Con Dios, sin limites.
Planning in the Midst of Grief and Uncertainty
Homecoming was a blip on our radar screens as early as 2018. We began brainstorming about potential fundraisers in our Facebook chat group—feeling confident that we were ahead of the curve because we had five years to execute these ideas. The pandemic then happened. Instead of thinking about homecoming fundraisers, our batch turned our attention to helping the frontliners with 3,000 meal donations spread across 27 medical facilities around Metro Manila.
While the world was still in the throes of COVID-19, some of us began to revisit the homecoming ideas in January 2021. After all, our 25th anniversary was less than two years away at that point. However, plans were put on hold because we experienced our first loss as a batch: the death of our beloved Kitkat Wenceslao on January 25, 2021. Shortly after her funeral, a small group of volunteers rounded up by Tisha Alvarez-Fleming, a member of KitKat’s close group of friends, met through Zoom to talk about the homecoming. We made a pact that fateful day on May 22, 2021 that we would stick together till the end: a promise we kept because all members of that very first meeting stayed involved until the day of the homecoming last January 7, 2023.
We decided to kick off our homecoming preparations with a Helping Hermanas Mass on July 3, 2021. It was immediately followed by a Zoom Town Hall attended by over 60 classmates, which is about a third of our 176 hermanas spread across the globe. It was a decent turnout considering the relatively short notice via social media outreach (also fondly called Facebook stalking) to confirm everyone’s whereabouts and availability.
Just as we were getting in gear, another tragedy struck. Atty. Katrina C. Franco, one of our most cheerful and sweetest classmates, passed away on August 22, 2021. The grief we felt in the wake of Katrina’s and KitKat’s passing only strengthened our resolve to pull ourselves together, and work towards a homecoming that will honor, not only their memories, but also celebrate one another’s presence while we’re all alive and well.
Fundraising Frenzy for Our Beneficiaries
We knew from the onset that our goal was to support a worthy cause alongside raising funds for the homecoming event. Our first choice was the Asociación de Alumnas de Poveda (AAP) College Scholarship Fund. This was in recognition of the precious gift of education that we received, and which we wanted to give back to deserving students of our school.
Our primary challenge at this point was that we had no money to jumpstart any fundraising project. As the AAP seed money was not yet available to us during the early stages of planning, we solicited for personal donations from our batchmates (much like the class funds of old). Nothing short of a miracle, our fundraisers gradually began to evolve into a robust art- lifestyle- and fashion-themed project pipeline:
1. It’s Art: An online art gallery curated by Marnie P. Manicad that featured collaborations with maestros of the Philippine art scene and Batch 1998’s own artists: Christina Acosta, Jaja Dario, and Joanna Pilar-Erimez.
2. Hermana Coffee Blend: A premium coffee blend developed by Batch 1998’s in-house barista and owner of Stride Coffee, Kristine Enriquez.
3. Placemats and Coasters: A collaboration with Millie Monday, the Spanish-tile-inspired designs were conceptualized by Batch 1998’s graphic design artist, Catherine “Cat” Sacdalan. (Project Leads: Amina Aranaz-Alunan, Mariel Calaquian-Ching, and Paula dela Llana-Nunag)
4. The Hermanas Gingham Collection: A collaboration with Florence Fling, these fashionably comfortable dresses were inspired by our POVEDA uniform. (Project Leads: Amina Aranaz-Alunan, Mariel Calaquian-Ching, and Paula dela Llana-Nunag)
5. Hairmanas: An elegant collection of headbands with intricate beadwork that cater to hermanas and hermanitas. (Project Lead: Madhuri Sujanani-Mohnani)
6. Clover Leaf Pendant: Designed by another Batch 1998 artist, Eli Camacho, this 14-karat gold pendant symbolizes “98” with the leaves representing the virtues of faith, hope, and love. (Project Lead: Jamie Navarro)
7. PlantITas: A collaboration with Nest Plant Studio, these whimsically designed, special edition pots were made especially for hermanas with green thumbs. (Project Leads: Michelle del Rosario and Sabrina Formoso-Ocampo)
8. Dinnerware: A collaboration with Casa Juan, these sets of plates were also designed by Cat Sacdalan and followed the theme of the placemats and coasters. (Project Leads: Amina Aranaz-Alunan, Mariel Calaquian-Ching, and Paula dela Llana-Nunag)
9. Hermanas Scrunchie Bag: A collaboration with internationally recognized brand Aranaz, this handwoven limited edition bag features interchangeable straps—one of which is lined with our signature. (Project Lead: Amina Aranaz-Alunan)
10. Daily Prayer Book: A collaboration with St. Paul Seminary in Silang, Cavite, this year-long devotional featuring prayer reflections for each day includes personal intentions for which Masses will be offered. Its cover, a stylized image of the iconic Niña Maria statue, was designed by Johanna Pilar-Erimez. (Project Lead: Jenny Orias-Arcellana)
Our math maven and treasurer, Patching Martinez, helped us stay on track with fundraising finances. In addition to the above projects and collaborations, Atty. Melissa Tagarda spearheaded our sponsorship outreach. Thanks to her efforts, we were also able to receive generous donations from the following corporate sponsors:
- San Miguel Corporation
- Villaraza & Angcangco
What started as a trickle of funds became a wave of generosity to the point that we were able to raise a good amount of money for the AAP College Scholarship Fund. Not only that, we had other beneficiaries as well, such as:
- Poveda Foundation Seminarian Scholarship Fund
- Saint Pedro Poveda College Classroom Improvement
A fourth and brand-new initiative, announced during the homecoming event, was the Poveda ’98 Personnel Medical Aid (PMAP98). Our batch allotted a generous amount for the benefit of retired teachers and staff who need help defraying the costs of medical care-related to chronic disease conditions. As Gretchen Dueñas-Tanbonliong, chairperson of PMAP98, said in her video commentary, “Why did we choose them as our beneficiaries? The answer is simple: Our teachers and support staff took good care of us while we were students in POVEDA. Now, it is our turn to look after them, specifically in ways that could help them enjoy longer and healthier lives.”
Making IT Happen: Prepping for the Big Night
Up until mid 2022, we were still undecided about the theme of the homecoming. We were also uncertain if we’d be able to host it as an in-person event, given the fluidity of public health conditions. Then, on June 7, 2022, exactly six months before the event date, “Nuestra CasITa” was conceptualized. Why did this theme surpass all other slick options that had been bounced around among the planning committee members? We wanted to evoke a sense of warmth and comfort after weathering the challenging years. We wanted to go home to St. Pedro Poveda College, where we could celebrate a sisterhood that spans generations, and mark the advent of our school’s 65th anniversary in 2025.
Thankfully the pandemic restrictions did ease up and by the last three months of 2022, we were going full steam ahead and planning for a hybrid event, where hermanas could participate both in-person and virtually. Some of the major activities during this time period included:
- Meeting with the Poveda administration to present our plans and take video footages on campus to create the 65th anniversary promotional video;
- Inviting our former teachers (as far back as kindergarten) and fellow jubilarians to participate in our event;
- Digging through our stash of old photos to provide material for the audio-visual presentation (AVP) elements—and taking a trip down memory lane in the process;
- Recording music and rehearsing a cheerleading dance routine that our nimble teenage bodies once performed without sore muscles and joint aches; and
- Interviewing our celebrity and school crushes from the nineties as an extra special surprise for those among us in the audience whose coming-of-age years happened during this decade.
There were, of course, many more minutiae that we worked on. But one thing was for certain: With each passing day, the level of anticipation and excitement grew. POVEDA…we are coming home at last.
This is IT: The January 7th Celebration
Before we knew it, everyone was gathered at the school auditorium in what was a sold-out event. All three hundred dinner seats were occupied and Zoom slots taken. While waiting for the program to start, guests were able to have their videos taken at the Glam Booth, pose for roving photographers; purchase merchandise from AAP and Batch ’98 booths, and catch up with other Hermanas over treats provided by hermana-owned, small-business food concessionaires. They were also able to enter raffle draw and submit bids for the silent auction, which included the clover leaf pendant designed by Eli Camacho (’98), paintings by Jaja Dario (’98), merchandise from Aranaz, a lithograph by Manuel Baldemor, a meditation package by Patricia Paredes (’98), an overnight stay at Bataan’s Playa La Caleta Glamping Site, and a three-day, two-night stay at the Balesin Island Club. The winners were announced by Criselle Alejandro (’98), who organized not only the onsite sales, but also the Holy Mass.
The evening started at 6 PM with a Thanksgiving Mass officiated by Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr. that also celebrated the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The liturgical music was provided by the Gala Quintet and the Manila String Machine. A sumptuous dinner buffet courtesy of K By Cunanan (owned by Batch 1999 alumna, Kaye Cunanan) was served immediately after the Mass, paired with free-flowing libations provided by San Miguel Corporation.
The highlight of the homecoming was, of course, the program. It began with an AVP prayer led by Amanda Hernandez (’98) and accompanied by a rendition of “Shelter Me O God,” by Nixie Galvez-Garcia (’98 – singer); Bridel Catapang-Collantes (’98 – pianist); and Gretchen Dueñas-Tanbonliong (’98 – flutist). Next, Batch 1998’s AVP was flashed on the main screen and as the lights turned back on again, the Hardcourt Dancers of ‘98 performed the opening dance number.
Mang Baguio, a Povedan institution known to all alumnae for his photographic memory, graced the stage with our host, Karylle Tatlonghari-Yuzon (’98). Mang Bags delighted everyone by recalling the names of audience members seated close to the stage, and even some of the virtual attendees whose faces were projected on the screen. After he exited the stage, Karylle introduced her co-host, television personality Ryan Bang. Together they invited all Povedan teachers and staff to come up on the stage to be acknowledged for their hard work, passion, and dedication to the school, its values, and its students. “Truly, this is what home means: the familiarity and the comfort, but also the challenge and our responsibility to ourselves, to our sisters, to our community, to our country, and to our God,” said Batch 1998 Student Council of Poveda President, Marnie Manicad, in her welcome remarks. College President Ms. Rosalinda Y. Basas, whose speech immediately followed Marnie’s, set the tone for St. Pedro Poveda College’s 65th anniversary, in 2026.
A lineup of special numbers by Jubilarian batches ’98, ’88, ’83, ’78 and ’73 was interspersed with the musical performances of the following guest artists:
- Radha Cuadrado: a singer-songwriter who was known for being an original member of the rap group Boom, which later turned into a trio named Kulay;
- Luke Mejares: singer-songwriter, front man of South Border, and a ‘90s icon;
- Paolo Santos: singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist;
- Cooky Chua, who sang “Paglisan” along with a video tribute to hermanas who have gone ahead of us;
- Karylle and the Passport Holders with special guest performance by Sponge Cola front man (and Karylle’s husband), Yael Yuzon;
- Jett Pangan: actor, singer, guitarist, and front man of The Dawn and the Jett Pangan Group; and
- Freestyle presented by Top Suzara.
At one point of the program, our batch officially turned over our hard-earned funds to our beneficiaries, which were received by Ms. Basas (on behalf of St. Pedro Poveda College and the Poveda Foundation Seminarian Scholarship) and by AAP President, Mrs. Kristine “Kit” Gordon (on behalf of the AAP College Scholarship Fund). To Batch 1999, we passed on the traditional AAP seed money of P25,000 and bequeathed two legacy paintings: the first, by visual artist Mia Capistrano (commissioned by Batch 1995), and the second by renowned artist, Noel Mahilum, which was part of his “Bato-Bato” series (commissioned by Batch 1998). It was also at this juncture that PMAP98 was introduced, with Ms. Maruxa Pita and Rev. Fr. Danilo Cruz, as the very first teacher-beneficiaries.
DJ Z-Brick capped the night with a set that got many groovin’ on stage, including an impromptu Hermanoeuvres “dance class” led by Errold Tutor Amolong. The party went on past midnight and everyone was just getting started.
That was EPIC. What’s Next?
Apart from the homecoming being a fun and memorable bonding event, we managed to raise an additional amount from both silent auction and onsite merchandise booth sales.
Here are some complimentary remarks we’ve received after the event:
“The fact that I endeavoured my best to stay up (awake) through the course of the event only means that I thoroughly enjoyed myself albeit it being virtual participation for me. It’s entertaining, nostalgic, and simply the best. My smile is ear to ear seeing you all become women of grace and timeless beauty…Kudos to you, batch ‘98! Congratulations to an epic homecoming. You all are legends! Mwah 😘”
Ms. Gemma Sarinas
Former Religion Teacher and Online Attendee, Australia
“Organisado, makabuluhan, buhay na buhay at kitang kitang pinaghandaan. Sa tema pa lamang, imbitasyon, mga souvenirs, pagpasok sa venue, misa at mga videos na nilikha at sa bawat pagtatanghal ay makikita mong pinag-isipan dahil magkakaugnay ito sa tema ng Homecoming. Naipakita rin ang wastong pagkakasunud-sunod ng programa hindi basta nagtanghal. Ang homilya sa misa ay punung-puno ng aral, Di mapasusubaling ang husay ng mga emcees, magaling umawit ang choir, walang ipinagbago ang mga hardcourt dancers, at nakaka- touch ang mensahe ni Gng. Marnie Manicad. Higit sa lahat buhay na buhay at punong- puno ng sigla sa loob ng gym. Ramdam mo ang kagalakan ng bawat Povedan na magkita-kita kaya namin kaming mga guro ay labis din ang kasiyahan. Pagbati sa isang matagumpay na Homecoming!”
Gng. Teodora “Teody” Zorilla-dela Cruz
Former Filipino Teacher and In-person Attendee
“Thank you Poveda & Hermanas for inviting me & ate @anakarylle for an unforgettable Alumnae Homecoming.”
“Congratulations sa Batch 1998 for hosting the homecoming…It’s really good to visit your campus, your alma mater—ang ganda! What I’ve learned even if I’m not really a Povedan is that you’re very warm and you’re all kind and the sisterhood really lives on…”
Mark Averilla (“Macoy Dubs”)
Social Media Influencer and In-person Attendee
As tempting as it is to rest on our laurels and relax after the homecoming, we still have our work cut out for us. We will be rolling up our sleeves again to formally set up the PMAP98. We are accepting donations and growing our network of physicians who can provide free or reduced-price consultations for the program beneficiaries of the program. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations may be made through the https://bit.ly/3icKIcT (Please include “PMAP98” in your deposit note.)
Indeed, it has been an epic journey from start to finish. Many lessons were learned along the way, but perhaps the most significant one was this: Like all families, we have our ups and downs. However, we should embrace our diversity and use our God-given talents to work towards the common good. We will strive to continue living in the Christian ideals of our founder, St. Pedro Poveda. Until the next homecoming event…¡Vaya con Dios!
Nuestra CasITa was made possible thanks to the hard work and effort of our batchmates who joined our planning committee and special projects:
Projects / Merchandise
Dela Llana-Nunag, Paula
It’s Art! Contributors:
Acosta, Ma. Christina
Marketing / Communications / Social Media
Braga-Manuel, Jean Pearl
Del Rosario, Michelle
Video Content Contributors:
Franco, Katrina (+)
Events / Program
Cipriano-dela Cerna, Koyen
De Torres, Nina
Pulumbarit-Manicad, Ma. Nicola
Logistics / Coordination:
De Vera-Lim, Jackie
In addition to our corporate sponsors, Batch 1998 wishes to recognize the contributions of the following: Team MMPI, Primex Printers, Aranaz, Stride Coffee, The Florence Fling, Casa Juan, and Firstlight.
Last but not least, we also wish to express our gratitude to the faculty and administrative staff of St. Pedro Poveda College, whose support was instrumental to the success of the homecoming event:
- Ms. Rosalinda Basas (College President)
- Ms. Bu Villanueva (Director, Administrative Support Services)
- Ms. Ivi Puti-an (Safety, Security and Pollution Control Officer)
- Ms. Ayla de Vera (MIS and Techno Media Officer)
- Mrs. Kristine De Guzman-Gordon (AAP President)