Monday, November 17, 2008

Farewell, Msgr. Tchou

For older graduates of Saint Jude Catholic School, the memory of Fr. Charles Tchou is forever linked with the memories of school.

When we were in SJCS, Fr. Tchou was feared by most of the students. He was the school's chief disciplinarian and is known for giving out the dreaded conduct C* or in extreme cases, conduct D. Thankfully, I was mostly a rule follower and never considered cheating, or breaking school property, or being disrespectful to teachers, or bringing in smut, which is the case with the most publicized cases of conduct C's being given out to erring students. He was also known to give instant crew cuts, his version, to boys who sport hair longer than was prescribed. I would venture to say that a lot of students, budding teenagers and tweens alike, who are in the first throes of rebelling against set rules, really hated the way that they were "limited" by the rules.

While some never outgrew their distaste for what they feel was a trampling of their right to self expression, more of us grew up realizing that there was a lot of value in what the school taught us. The school, and especially Fr. Tchou, taught us that there were reasons for rules, and you were supposed to abide by these rules. The rules exempt no one. Everyone was covered by rules and everyone should follow them. If you didn't, there would be consequences that you should be man (or woman) enough to accept.

If I think about it, the rules in school aren't really much different from the rules at home. It all boils down to love and respect for the other members of the family (or of the school) and respect for oneself.

If one stops to think about it, that should apply to everybody as well. I am shocked that the people in the highest places, the people who should know about the laws of the land, are ignorant, or blissfully ignore the law in order to benefit themselves and their families. When they get caught, they just spend their time looking for palusots. Which should not have been the case.

Fr. Tchou was not always the stern disciplinarian. He can actually joke with us. I remember one time he saw me and my brothers waiting for our ride home. I was quite a thin girl and my younger brothers were much chubbier. He chuckled and said that my brothers must have always snatched away my share of the food, leaving nothing to me. I remember chuckling a bit at that.

I graduated High School in 1987. I don't think I ever saw Fr. Tchou again after that. He was given another assignment about 3 years after I graduated from High School and was never reassigned again to SJCS. He was promoted to Monsignor a few years back. Our batch visited him in November 2004. Unfortunately, I was not able to go because I was on my honeymoon then.

About a week ago, he got hospitalized at Cardinal Santos. Before I could decide whether or not to go visit him, he suddenly passed away. He was 84. I can no longer go to the wake because I am pregnant and Chinese custom do not allow pregnant women from attending wakes.

I was informed that one of his last wishes was that his wake be held at SJCS, where he had contributed the best years of his life. I felt it was only fitting to do so. I was told that a lot of alumni went to pay their final respects. Ironically, most of the school's students and present faculty no longer know him, as he has been away from SJCS for 19 years. Although he has been away for so long, it was obvious that there was where his heart belongs.

For the man who was very instrumental in making most of us know the true meaning of "discipline", "rules" and who has the gumption to actually carry out the needed punishments, farewell. I will always remember you as an important figure of my growing up years.
N.B. Conduct C: There is a grading system for conduct in SJCS. It supposedly gauges your behavior during the quarter and ranges from A to D. Conduct A is very rare -- I've never known anybody who's gotten more than A-. Conduct D is also quite rare. Conduct C puts you under probation, and keeps you from getting the choice positions in school like president, editor-in-chief or whatnot. 2 Conduct C's in the same year gets you expelled. 1 Conduct D is enough to expel you. At least these are what I remembered.


Jen said...

I visited Msgr Tchou the day before he was laid to rest. Like you, I have fond memories of him. His 2-hour sermons (was it Wednesdays), him standing on the bridge watching for students who were running in the corridors, and his giving out chinese bookmarks in his office. The school uniforms were also given out in his office.

Anonymous said...

there will always be people who will have a great impact in your life, and we only really get to realise that sometimes when they have already passed away. *sigh*

anyway, I have a tag for you:

theworkingmom said...

Jenny -- I'd almost forgotten about the sermons! Yeah, I think it was Wednesday. It was so long ago kasi. Sigh...And yes, we get our school uniforms from his office. :)

Leah -- You are right. Sigh! Thanks for the tag. I'll do it as soon as I make another "singit" in my time. Been very lazy and sleepy laterly :P