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A Century of Blessings:

SISTER AIDA VILLAREAL, OSB


By: Sr. Soledad Hilado, OSB
It was February 16, 1909. Judge Ceferino Villareal of Legazpi, Albay, and his wife, Josefina
Lopez, were among the happy couples if not, the happiest as their first child was born, a
precious present from the Lord. Socorro was the name they chose for her. Seven other
Villareals would follow as the years went by.
Big changes would follow in the 50 years
after Socorros entry into this world..
Legazpi would become a city, the
Philippines Islands would gain its
independence from America and become
the Republic of the Philippines, and the
little Socorro after spending her young
years at St. Agnes; Academy, a school run
by the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of
Tutzing in Legazpi would continue her
studies at the Holy Spirit College in
Manila, the capital city of the country.
Socorro at a school program
After four years she would graduate with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Education,
major in biology and minor in history. Two months after her graduation from college in
1932 she would enter the novitiate of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in Manila. Two
years later, she would receive her name as a religious novice Sister Aida.. The Feast of St.
Benedict, March 21 in 1935 was the date when Sister Aida pronounced her first profession as
a vowed Benedictine Sister. After another three years she made that vow forever at her
profession of perpetual vows.
One joy no, two joys, among many others Sister Aida found in her early years in the
convent. Two former classmates and co-graduates from high school at St. Agnes Academy,
also joined the Benedictine Sisters congregation. Somehow they had not shared their
dreams with each other during their earlier school years, and it was an especially lovely
feeling to find themselves together again Sister Agustina Aguilar, Sister Mercedes Sarte
and Sister Aida - now, hopefully, for life. Which they did except that the two have gone
ahead of Sister Aida to the heavenly home.
How were her convent years? Sister Aida, as postulant and novice like all postulants and
novices spent much of her working hours in the house. That meant learning the ropes
where one might not know them, or the way things are done in the convent in the kitchen,
the scullery, the refectory, the sewing room, the choir and the chapel (cleaning) and other
housework. Lessons on convent decorum and rules, Gregorian Chant, German and Latin,
the Divine Office and liturgy as a whole, meditation and prayer in general were part of the
introduction to convent life and convent ways.
As a young professed Sister, very probably because of her educational background and
preparation, Sister Aida was assigned to the educational apostolate. In addition, however,
she joined classes in Elementary and Remedial Methods of Teaching and First Aid, too.
Then, school where she gave herself to educating young girls and boys, in schools that
had both mainly in Religion and in her other lines of expertise. In her 35 years as a teacher,
she taught in 10 schools operated by the Congregation in the Manila Priory. She had little
asides as well: her knowledge of Spanish came in handy during the Japanese time, when
some Japanese professionals wanted to learn the language. This she did in both San
Fernando and Taal. Sister Aida was skilled in handicraft. This ability of hers was very
appreciated when the vocational course was required in the curriculum.
During those 35 years, there were years when she not only was teacher but administrator as
well: a principal or a moderator of the Sodality and/or the Student Catholic Action, as well as
moderator of the alumnae association.
When stamina was starting to wane, Sister Aida was shifted from the classroom to the
canteen and the social action component of the communitys apostolate. Still as supervisor
or manager or moderator. Sister Aida listed apostolate of vigil as one of her assignments
in 1990. She had other work, as preparing packages for the poor, making rosaries, helping
with the laundry, keeping order in so-called common areas of the convent, and the like.
Prayer took more and more of her time.
In the year 2000 the priory set up a retirement home for the Sisters who could not have the
cold weather and the height of St. Scholasticas Convent in Baguio. When St. Benedicts
Home was opened in Marikina City, Sister Aida was among the first occupants. It is a
beautiful place, especially designed for retired Sisters. Sister Aida now lives there. She is
her cheerful self. Her superior says she is most easy to deal with; attends all community
exercises; participates intelligently at discussions of community concerns as well as spiritual
conferences or readings. She is never late for the Divine Office and for Holy Mass. She has
no complaints, and manages to move herself in her wheel chair with the aid of bars along the
walls (yes, she has difficulty walking because her skin is very dry, according to the doctor)
when the care-giver comes late or is not at hand.
Asked how she has kept well and mentally alert as well as cheerful in 100 years, she says
with a smile,
Be happy;
Do not worry;
Drink much water;
And leave everything to God!
Postscript: 100 or 101?
When Sister Aidas sister was invited for her 100
th
birthday celebration, the latter remarked
with surprise: But you were 100 last year! Then Sister Aida conceded that that could be
true; her parents married in 1907, and she was born a year later. Which means, 1908. But
her baptismal certificate says, February 16, 1909. The sisters recalled that there was a
mistake, but in those times, it was extremely difficult to have such matters changed; so that
was left at that! No matter. On February 15, 2009, the Sisters of the Priory House will troop
to St. Benedicts Home, meet with Sisters from other communities to greet Sister Aida and
celebrate her special gift from God: a century of Life and Love!