Earlier this September, Ateneo de Manila announced its recipients of 2019 traditional university awardees. Among the seven remarkable individuals is a native from Bataan who built a reputation here in Mindanao through the schools she established and through her philanthropic deeds. In celebration of Teacher’s day and as a special tribute to this astounding woman, WhatALife! is honored to feature her life achievements through the perspective of her successors.
A Kagay-anon at heart, she’s known for her faithful service to God and unwavering compassion in giving out equal opportunity in education. Let’s take a look back at the wonderful and prosperous life of Capitol University founder Madame Laureana San Pedro-Rosales.
A war survivor
Born in Limay, Bataan in 1925, Laureana San Pedro was the sixth of the eight children of Dionisio San Pedro and Gregoria Llamsin. The patriarch owned batels (a wooden-hulled boat used for shipping) which sustained their needs. However, Dionisio died so soon, leaving Gregoria alone to support the rest of the family.
Their lack of financial capacity did not hinder her mother’s generosity. Gregoria continued to extend a helping hand through her own little ways to those in need.
Gregoria Llamsin, was very generous despite their poverty. Like my mom said, nobody leaves their house hungry.
—Fe “Bing” Juarez
When the Japanese invaded Bataan during World War II in 1942, young maiden Laureana became one of the unfortunate victims caught up in the middle of it all. She witnessed the atrocities of the war (Bataan Death March) with her own eyes—from the slow deaths caused by famine to the horrendous bombings, which caused a lot of casualties.
Having to lose her loved ones (including her mother), witnessing hundreds of fellow Filipinos perish, and seeing her hometown ruined, Laureana had every reason to despise and hold a grudge against the assaulting country. But instead, the whole experience sparked a promising dream that would change the course of her life for good.
After surviving the war, then 20-year-old Laureana started working on fulfilling her dreams by going back to school. Now an orphan, she too had to work at the same time to support herself. Initially, she thought of pursuing medicine. But because of financial insufficiency, she chose to be a teacher instead. She took up and finished a two-year elementary teaching course at the Philippine Normal School. After this, she worked in a Columban school in Manila where she soon became a school directress herself, managing the teaching-learning environment of the school.
That thing was in her mind often, her ways being a war survivor […] perhaps that contributed to her zeal for hard work […] she struggled, she persevered, and I think that’s a very good example for the youth. And also her experience as a working student somehow contributed to her worldview.
—Fe “Bing” Juarez
From Luzon to Mindanao
While in college, Laureana crossed-paths with an aspiring engineer from Butuan City, Sesenio Rosales, whom she later married and had two daughters with, Linda and Fe. The couple first moved and settled for a while at Engineer Rosales’ hometown.
After some time, an opportunity opened for Madame Rosales in an Islamic school in Marawi City, relocating the whole family. With her passion for teaching, combined with competence and hard work, she eventually became the Executive Vice President of Kamilol Islam Colleges (now Jamiatul Philippine Al-Islamia). Madame Rosales had a close-knit relationship with the Maranaos that passed on to the succeeding generation.
When Madame Rosales saw an opportunity to build her own school in Iligan City, she took the chance and ventured into it together with her husband.
Changing lives through education
Madame Rosales founded Iligan Capitol College in 1964 together with her husband, who personally helped with the construction. Although the couple then owned a school, it still did not spare them from the incoming financial hurdles. Nevertheless, it did not stop Madame from pushing through.
Soon they were able to establish more schools including Jose Rizal Institute in Lanao del Norte (1965), Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro (formerly known as Cagayan Capitol College in 1971), Bataan Heroes Memorial College in Bataan (1979), Gingoog City Junior College (1981), St. Francis Learning Center in CDO (1987), and Lyceum of Iligan Foundation (1996).
As a former working student herself, Madame warmly welcomed working students into her schools. Fe Rosales-Juarez, her youngest daughter, testifies on her mother’s compassion towards working and low-income students. Juarez recounts how Madame understandingly honored promissory notes, “Many of our alumni remembered that. If not for promissory notes they would not have finished.”
Most of these students are now successful Chief Engineers, Ship Captains, corporate vice presidents and leaders, and other competent professionals.
With her first-hand experience with poverty, Madame was continuously inspired to provide affordable education to everyone, seeing it as an equal right that everyone should have. As Juarez reiterates, Madame doesn’t close her doors, no matter the students’ beliefs, race, affiliation, social status—because for her “Education should be given an equal opportunity to everybody, to enjoy.”
She has her way of compassion which ordinary people do not; She has a way of looking at the other side, and that is her gift.
—Fe “Bing” Juarez
“The school she established afforded the opportunity for education for the masses. Because our students are low income, below middle-class, and then somehow she provided an avenue for them to improve their lives,” Juarez adds. “For you to give them that education they need for life is a very big contribution.”
Moreover, Madame is also notable for her 10-hectare land donation in Alae, Bukidnon years back. Now owned by the Department of Health (DOH), this large facility includes a drug addict rehabilitation center and house for street kids and abandoned old people.
“As a mother, she was very protective,” Juarez recalls on Madame Rosales’ motherhood. Despite being busy as a hands-on school owner and a teacher, she still managed to guide and ensure the good moral upbringing of her children.
“She was after our future, but at the same time, when we were older, she wasn’t really in coaching into our lives—she was a silent observer.” With this, the Rosales sisters grew up independent, at the same time looking up to their mother.
As a couple, she and Engr. Rosales had a very good partnership. Describing her dad, Juarez states how a simple man he was, even to the point that students would mistakenly “construe him as a carpenter” back when they were still developing one of their school buildings.
“They were partners in every sense, especially when they were starting—very good partnership, I would say,” says Juarez.
Apart from being an excellent educator, Madame Rosales was also a talented cook. It’s one of what Juarez misses about her mom, and the grandchildren would all agree with, as well.
Nurturing, a good cook, and devoted to her religion—the top three things her grandchildren would describe Madame Rosales apart from her compassion and generosity.
Francis also imparted a striking memory of his grandmother during her battle with cancer. “It was the first time I saw my grandmother vulnerable,” he recalls. “When we were at the end part of the rosary, she suddenly said ‘Why me, God? Why me? I’ve always been faithful.’ She wept, and I just sat there not knowing what to do.” But before Francis could even react and console her, she surprised him by immediately picking herself up from that moment of doubt.
“In her moment of doubt, of immense pain, she was able to pick herself up in less than 10 minutes,” he attests. “I know that faith cannot be quantified, but right then and there, I saw and felt her trust and faith in God.”
For Ana Juarez-Macatangay, she sees her grandmother as one of her greatest inspirations. “Top of the list would be her dedication to her faith, her love for God,” she shares. “Lola was also really strong, in mind and will, very decisive, and very generous—not just with material things but especially her time and her love.”
Regardless of her schedule, Madame made sure to take time in talking and spoiling her grandchildren with love, advice, and time.
She was very loving and really took the time to talk to us. She looked after everyone.
For her grandchildren, Madame Rosales is a role model that they all look up to.
“Lola was everyone’s favorite. She loved to cook for her grandchildren, loved telling stories, was a heartfelt listener, and always greeted everyone cheerfully,” Lot Deleste recounts. “She’s one of the most humble people I know—very approachable, she dressed modestly, and was never excessive.”
Immortalizing her legacy
10 years ago, at age 84, the devoted philanthropist sadly passed away, breaking the hearts of not just the family but also those people she helped and inspired. Nevertheless, she lived a fruitful life and even into her last years, she still was able to reach out to those in need
“Not really unfinished,” says Juarez when asked on whether she thinks Madame still had unfinished dreams, “but I think had she lived longer, more people will be helped.”
Her legacy is not only limited inside the walls of her educational institutions, her successors, nor to the various donations she has made for charity—her legacy continues in each and every graduate of every school she has founded.
Her legacy lives on.