Dear Dean Lorraine,
I still remember that day—March 3, 2008.
It was my first day at a new job and I was sitting on the couch, anticipating the things that would happen on this new work of mine. Then I saw you approaching me and I couldn’t help but notice your beauty and elegance shining through that grey corporate ensemble that you were wearing.
Your serene aura calmed my jittery nerves and the moment you started talking to me, all my remaining nervousness and anxious thoughts gradually faded away. I could not explain how or why it disappeared but maybe it is because of your soothing voice or your elegant expression or maybe your motherly stance. There was no clear answer in my head at that time but I was able to know your name. You were Dean Lorraine Villanueva.
As days passed by, I began to know you better. I was able to learn about your life, your works and your experiences. These three words best explain it all: Careerwoman, Educator and Mother.
As a careerwoman, you have various accolades, achievements and accomplishments in your career. Throughout the years, you have been involved in sharing your expertise and knowledge in the Hotel and Service Industry by becoming an educator in UP Diliman, providing lectures, seminars, training programs and consulting engagements around the Philippines. You also have allocated some of your time in occupying various positions in different organizations in the Philippines such as a board member post in the Philippine Women’s Association, a UP College of Home Economics Secretary post and the most prestigious of it all, becoming the President of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Educations of the Philippines (COHREP). COHREP is an organization that is committed in developing and improving the Hotel and Restaurant education in our country and you were at its helm for two years. Your latest career milestone was you became the Founding Dean of Enderun College, an educational institution that offers international hospitality management and business administration courses.
Despite all these glories, you were still able to continue your educational pursuits. You finished a MBA degree and a PhD in Communication in the University of the Philippines in 1982 and 2008 respectively. This reflects how you give importance to education—that no matter, how many awards or success a person receives during his professional life, the continuous quest for educational formation should not stop after we received a bachelor’s degree.
This leads me in your second quality, the Educator. During the times that I was with you, I have seen how passionate you are in educating the future hoteliers and restaurateurs. Your thirty-one years in the Academe is a proof of your dedication as an educator. From 1978 to 2006, you taught in both graduate and undergraduate classes of the University of the Philippines. You then went to Enderun Colleges and became its dean. You were there during the early stage of Enderun and with your guidance as its academic head, you were able to accomplish lots of great things within three years! With your leadership, Enderun was able to get its Commission of Higher Education (CHED) accreditation in just two years after it was established. You were also instrumental in developing its curriculum and recruiting some of its educators, ensuring that the students will receive the utmost learning they need.
You were the driving force behind the academic success of the school. Together with a small team, you faced countless pressure, stresses and challenges in order for Enderun to become a formidable management school and you triumphed over those hindrances. Who would have thought that beneath the calm demeanor there was this strong-willed woman who stirred the ship into its goal.
Despite becoming being a dean, you never forgot your love for teaching. You still taught in Enderun. You were respected by your students for sharing your knowledge about the hotel management industry and they cherished the way you teach because your approach was different. You were warm yet unyielding, considerate yet prudent. You were their teacher yet you became more of a mother to them.
And this leads me to your best quality, being “the” mother. If there was one thing that binds both of the employees and students on what we really admire about you is your motherly approach. There are lots of personality traits out there to select from but this encompasses all the qualities we have seen from you. You were a friend, mentor, confidante, counselor, inspiration, protector, supporter and motivator rolled into one. That is why we cannot help but identify you as Enderun’s mother figure because we see those qualities with our own moms.
You were the mother of Enderun from the students to its employees. Though technically, you only have three beautiful children, we were sort of the self-proclaimed adopted ones and we count for more than a thousand! But you did not mind it and instead welcomed us with open arms, and boy, did we savor those privilege. In fact, we fondly call you Mommy Dean.
That is why you became endearing to us. You were different among the usual supervisors and heads. You are humble, accommodating and nurturing. You were the breath of fresh air in a work riddled with day-to-day challenges, stress and pressure. Seeing your smile or just simply hearing your oh-so soothing voice is enough for us to get on going for the rest of the day. You also have those moments where in we see how unassuming and humorous you are. There was a time you helped pushed a stalled van and just laughed about it. You were relatable and we loved you for it.
But what made us treasure you the most is your tireless effort of believing in each and everyone of us. You put faith on our abilities, believed in our talents and encouraged us to never stop pursuing our dreams. May it be a student or an employee, you were always there to guide us and support us in your own little way. You made us believed in ourselves even more and be motivated to pursue our aspirations no matter how difficult it is. And we will forever be grateful for that.
I thought those feelings will continue for years but it all changed during that fateful month of May. You told us you would take a leave of absence and would be back by June or September. Like kids being left alone on a rainy night, we anxiously waited for your return, but as fate would have it, God had other plans.
Fast forward to the month of September and we found ourselves like zombies. Staring vaguely in the air, walking with heaviness in our hearts, we felt incomplete. We tried to figure it out until we painfully realized that the woman who brings the fresh air, the lady who has the inspiring smile and mother who radiates with the guiding light was already gone.
And it hit us. We would not be seeing our second mother. We would not be hearing that gentle laugh and calming voice. We would not be able to feel your reassuring embrace. There would be no words of wisdom for us to ponder on. We felt orphaned.
The feeling of loss is heartbreaking but we comforted each other by celebrating your legacy, the numerous simple ways on how you have touched and inspired countless lives. Those helped us to gradually accept your passing.
I wrote this letter as homage to you and for what you have done. This is my way to show the world that you might not be the popular politician, the celebrated social worker nor the patriotic achiever but you changed my life and everyone else around you, and that is enough for me to say that you deserved to be recognized.
I still remember that day—September 20, 2009. It’s the day you said goodbye to your family, friends, colleagues, students and to everyone you love and love you back. It’s the day we felt the utmost sadness yet, we are comforted by the thought that you are now in a place reserved for the very best of us.
Yes, I remember that day. The pain, the tears, the fears and the emptiness I felt with your passing. But somehow, I was still able to put a smile on my face because I surely know that it is also the day heaven gained a new angel.
One of your adopted sons,
(Postscript: This article is an entry that I submitted in a journalism contest way back last May. Though I wasnt able to win, I’m still proud that I made this and in commemoration of Dean’s passing, it is fitting for me to share this to everyone who loves and cherishes her. Cheers Dean Lorraine! You will be forever loved by us! )