25 Years of a Lifetime: A Principal's Perspective
“The greatest rewards come only from the greatest commitment.” – Arlene Blum
A school is an atelier that never fails to churn out framed masterpieces out of people; as long as it is in the hands of dedicated artists, the colors will never fail to land at every square inch of each blank slate in its rightful place. There’s a significant pair of hands that greatly contributed to the school of Elizabeth Seton School-South (ESS-South), and it belongs to none other than Ms. Pilarcita “Larcy” M. Geluz, the very first principal of the South campus. After graduating from high school with drawing and crafts making in mind, her artistry instead shone through coloring the lives of each individual she encountered—from learners to fellow faculty and staff. Ms. Larcy is there to share the campus’ unforgettable milestones through anecdotes of genuine passion for education and administration.
Starting from that one warm Friday afternoon in the year 1997, Ms. Larcy was there to witness it all. President Emeritus Dr. Josefina V. Suarez invited her to go to the Zoning Department of Imus Municipal Hall in applying for the fencing permit of ESS-South’s building. She recounts that this year was truly significant as it was the first stepping stone to fulfilling Dr. Suarez and Mrs. Alido’s dream of establishing another reputable learning institution farther south to ESS’ main campus in Las Piñas. It truly came into fruition by August with the groundbreaking done at Anabu II-D, Imus Cavite in celebration of the 22nd Foundation year of ESS-Las Piñas. Prestigious people in the community were present at the event, namely Congressman Ayong S. Maliksi, Mayor Homer T. Saquilayan, Monsignor Josefino P. Ramirez, and Department of Education (DepEd) Supervisor for Private Schools Dr. Emelita T. Macha.
A number of 300 pioneer learners filled the school by 1998. Ms. Larcy recalls that parents from Imus and the neighboring towns of Bacoor, Kawit, Silang, Dasmariñas, Noveleta, Tanza, and even as far as Tagaytay, enrolled their children at ESS-South. During the same year, the first encounter with the parents of the learners, as well as the stakeholders, was done at the Orchard Golf & Country Club on May 24. This was dubbed as the “Parents’ Orientation Meeting.” The former principal observed that this initial event already projected the institution’s slogan plastered over the walls Setonians encounter every day: “Palpak, Pwede Na, Pulido. Pulido Lang ang Pwede Rito.” This was displayed by the faculty and staff handling minor problems on books and uniform distribution and questions about usual first day blues. Despite being the first of its kind for the campus, it was a memorable event for her, exemplifying the “collaborative effort of the management, faculty and staff in developing ESS-South an appropriate model of quality output, empowerment, intervention and leadership.”
As a Catholic school, August 22, 1999 is a date to remember since the institutional religious activities such as regular masses, retreats, recollections, First Communion, and Confirmation were kickstarted by the First Eucharistic Celebration held at the Catherine Seton Square, the school’s quadrangle, and led by Monsignor Josefino V. Ramirez of the Archdiocese of Manila. In the same year on November 15, ESS-South was able to gain its first government recognition through DepEd’s granted permit to operate its Pre-Elementary Course. Having been recognized, the academic team enhanced ESS-South’s already formidable reputation for excellence, and this was seen with the campus’ list of government recognitions: Grade I-VI Elementary Course (2000), Complete Secondary Course (2004), and Provisional Permit to Operate SHS (2015). The former principal mentions alongside these accomplishments that starting a branch school was never an easy feat due to the innate fear of the unknown: “Only those who were willing to take risks, worked hard and plodded on despite the odds eventually became successful.” Even renowned pioneers such as Ms. Larcy have been overwhelmed by the tasks the management assigned her with—she shares this sentiment, but immediately follows it with recognizing both the efforts of the new teachers and teachers from the main campus’ shared vision of commitment to high academic standards and the culture of excellence as they challenge the minds and hearts of learners as they participate in the educational programs the school had to offer.
The campus environment is not only home to countless memories, but also to the character of ESS-South with its wide uncluttered campus which Ms. Larcy describes as “disciplined, orderly, and innovative, with a strong aura of conduciveness and tranquility.” This is proven by the adoption of the campus as the venue of the Ms. Earth Presentation on November 16, 2006 as done by Honorable Mayor of Imus Emmanuel L. Maliksi in coordination with Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) and Imus Tourism Office. Both the ESS-South community and the Imuseños enjoyed this activity, concluding it with an environmental symposium and a tree planting activity. Ms. Larcy shares that up to this day, Ilano Boulevard, the road fronting the school, is lined up with narra and mahogany trees that are reminiscent of the significant Ms. Earth Visit several years ago.
In strengthening the spiritual development of ESS-South, a two-storey chapel was erected within the campus and blessed by significant Imuseños in the spiritual world—Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle and Monsignor Josefino Ramirez—on February 15, 2008. Ms. Larcy rightfully calls the management’s gesture as a gift for the school children and the Imus community.
The institution started preparing for PAASCU Accreditation by 2010 in order to prove its caliber in education and stand its ground among other official learning institutions. Ms. Larcy witnessed as the 2012 Preliminary Visit by PAASCU yielded positive results, granting the institution a Level I Accredited Status by 2013. With excellence in mind, the management, faculty and staff, parents, and learners were at full force, working hand in hand to take actions based on the recommendations of the parish, local government, DepEd, local business enterprises, adopted communities, and the Family Council (FC). She mentions that, “we can achieve cooperative goals when day-to-day organizational norms encourage us to share information, listen to each other’s ideas, exchange resources and respond to each other’s requests through positive interdependence.” By 2017, Level II Accreditation was achieved, and each process became more tedious due to the next level becoming more difficult to attain. The former principal recounts the several meetings scheduled, research papers done, and frequent visits to the adopted communities. Due to its clean track record from the previous PAASCU visits, ESS-South applied for Level III Accreditation that did not require a visitation. The school was granted its Level III Recognition in May 2020. This was an overwhelming success as the ESS-South stands as the first Level III Accredited Integrated Basic Education Program in Cavite as a testament to its quality Catholic education.
Within the same year of 2012, Ms. Larcy recalls how the school’s Vision-Mission was energized through the start of the Vision-Mission Week. The school’s mission statement clearly defines the excellence of the institution, while the vision projects the optimistic view of the future in which the world can become better if people work together in pursuit of meaningful change. This pushes Setonians to develop as authentic Christians, responsible Filipino citizens and life-long learners in constant pursuit of excellence. This has since become an annual event celebrated in conjunction with the Feast Day of Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton every January, led by the Catholic Christian Formation department—Sisters with teachers—organizing activities such as altar-making contests and rosary making for students to develop their spirituality and school pride.
Lastly, Ms. Larcy takes pride in the rebirth of the Entrepreneurship Program. Seton has been keen on contributing to the future pool of successful entrepreneurs who have active and direct contribution to the economic growth of the nation. The former principal set up the Entrepreneurship Program in 1992 with the encouragement of Dr. Suarez and current School President Dr. Roberto T. Borromeo. Learner-led stalls were put up for “NegoSeton,” patterned after the successful 90s show, “Negosiyete.” She says, “Learners had a grand time selling their wares, food packs, stuffed toys, and other handmade accessories.” By 2015, Entrepreneurship Technology was adopted in ESS-South with Dr. Rene Altura as the Head of the Program. Several innovations have shaped the program into a learner-led fine dining experience that displays the learners’ skills in preparing food alongside planning complementary themes and music.
With all those key events in mind, Ms. Larcy concluded that ESS-South’s uniqueness stems from the culture of its campus location, Imus, Cavite. Seton-South has embraced its unique culture honed by its very own internal community, along with the Imuseño community’s influence over the years. As a Catholic school, active participation of everyone in the Balay System and the House Program in religious and outreach activities coordinated with the parish and the diocese displayed solidarity and spirituality. Another ESS-South distinction is the implementation of the Kariton Klasrum, now renamed as Munting Tahanan, patterned after Efren Peñaflorida. As a Filipino school, the community also displays its value for culture and tradition in its participation in historical and cultural activities such as Parol-making Contest and Inter-School Choral Singing Competition during Paskuhan sa Imus. The school’s Entrepreneurship Program has also given learners the opportunity to develop their own version of the famous Imus longganisa, with learners winning major awards in the 5th Imus Longganisa Cookfest, as well as the Gastronomic Cookfest in Laguna. As a Center of Excellence in Basic Education, the school’s academic excellence and leadership is regarded by DepEd; one event to note is the Imus Municipal Government partnership in the Imus-Yeoncheon Student Exchange Program. “On top of these attributes, a ‘family culture’ emanates, nurtured by the mutual interest developed with the school’s stakeholders,” is emphasized by the former principal. The FC also shares the responsibility of creating an environment conducive for learning through their projects like the Medical and Dental Mission, Parenting Seminar, Dugong Buhay Blood-Letting Program and Gift-Giving activities. The former principal notes that “the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.” The PAASCU Accrediting Team has also constantly commended the school’s collaborative nature with its community. Lastly, Ms. Larcy acknowledges the Setonian culture of consistent celebration of team accomplishments. “Consultation meetings are celebrated with lugaw and lumpiang prito or basag-ulo as commonly called in Imus, monthly meetings over cups of coffee and paborita, a local crispy biscuit in the area. These are opportunities to socialize, exchange information and solve problems informally,” she accounts for the community’s joy found in the simplicity of its acts.
Throughout these decades, Ms. Larcy jests that she has served as officer-in-charge, substitute teacher, yaya, security guard, nurse, and part-time gardener rolled into one person. From the days of being dependent on a Nokia 5110 cell phone for measly communication, the former principal mentioned that despite her observation of the clannish nature of Imuseños as an administrator of ESS-South, constant dialogue was key in the enlightenment and importance of talking to one another. Her dedication can be seen in her graduate thesis cited as “Best Thesis” entitled “The Elizabeth Seton School Mission Statement: An Assessment.” It prompted her to continuously review, plan, and enhance the academic programs to ensure the incorporation of the mission statement in the programs and activities of Seton -South. And after 43 years of passion, hard work, and faithfulness to the mission of educating the youth, Ms. Larcy retired in 2020 with 20 years of selfless service for the South campus—proving herself to be an administrator and artist of a lifetime in Seton’s production of masterpieces of alumni.