This tribute is long overdue. But it is best written now than never.
Twenty five years ago, I was a skinny kid in a classroom at an institution that later became Divine Word University. I was undecided about life and what I wanted to do. I guess it was a troublesome period for me as I was impatient and bored with class work.
It was then that we were introduced to Sr. Evangelista Nite. Sr. Vangie, as we got to know her was past her fifties, a Catholic nun and a member of the Holy Spirit Sisters.
She taught literature, photojournalism and layout and design. A lot of times, she was difficult to work with. She was a meticulous perfectionist who demanded the best from her students. Most times, I was at the receiving end of her criticism and corrections. This was primarily because, I wanted to do things quickly and get it over with.
I took a lot of short cuts. I tried finding the quickest way to do things and to skip processes that dear Sr. Vangie had laid out. It irritated her even more. It wasn’t intentional. I was young and stupid.
During our final layout and design assessment, we were instructed to produce a newsletter. Sr. Vangie insisted that we do things old school. Cut and paste. Print photographs. Stick them on to a sheet. Boring stuff. This was so we understood the process and appreciated how newspapers of old were made.
It was like cutting and splicing film by hand when you already had a macbook with editing software available.
I didn’t like it. The process was going to take 48 hours at least with Sr. Vangie’s supervision.
So we, I can’t remember who with, took possession of the keys to one of two computer labs illegally and laid out the whole newsletter in one night. Quick and easy.
Next day in class, when Sr. Vangie asked everyone to bring out their unfinished projects, we presented a whole newsletter, laid out overnight using a computer. Completed. Done.
She was super angry. I was summoned to the front of the class and told to explain. I mumbled something like a village idiot then gave her the most beautiful smile hoping to win her precious heart.
She wasn’t impressed.
As I stood and nodded like a fool, she took out a red pen and tore my precious project to bits. She shattered my confidence by marking, in front of everyone, all the mistakes I had done. I was humiliated.
But in the process, I learnt in one session, everything I was supposed to learn that semester. I never ever forgot that lesson and the skills I got that day.
Sr. Vangie also taught the art of photojournalism. She had a unique way of teaching that stuck. She taught the fundamentals…or timeless formulas that you can use anywhere and any time regardless of what technological age you live in. I’ve been able to use those skills in broadcast television, in video editing and on social media.
Over two years, she wrote a media guide book directly into my young rebellious mind. It is that mental map of knowledge that has formed the basis of what I teach to younger journalists today.
It was much later, that I truly appreciated the talent of this wonderful lady who could have been that brilliant academic working at any of the most prestigious universities around the world but instead chose to teach a bunch of misfits at a small classroom in Madang.
After watching a live gig we played in school, she said in her Filipino accent, “Scott, if you want to do a job, do it well but also, sing…do both!”
She didn’t look at the impossibilities and the obstacles. Possibilities always.
She retired and I lost contact. In 2018, a sudden thought occurred to visit her at Alexishafen. The universe gives you warning signs that someone important is about to leave this life. I didn’t pay attention.
She passed away a few months ago and I got word of it much much later from my partner in crime.
On behalf of all of us, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you Sr. Vangie for every single precious gift you gave! I have put them all to use.