Sep 02, 2011
Paref Southridge School

 I am a Northern girl. I grew up in Quezon City. My parents, most of my siblings and siblings-in-law also live in the northern part of Metro Manila. That’s why travelling all the way to the south is quite an adventure for me. In fact, even my parents’ province is all the way up in Ilocos Norte. Now it’s hard to get any “norther” than that, unless you’re from Apari. 

          In the last few weeks I had the opportunity to discover an interesting school for boys down south. It’s Paref Southridge School where I was invited to give talks three times to their parents and teachers. The topics I discussed were How to Raise Children With High FQ (Financial Intelligence Quotient), The Emotional Life of Our Boys and Disciplining Boys.

          When I was still single I heard about this relatively new school which was run by parents who were members of Opus Dei. The school was reputed to have a high tuition fee and required parents to put a deposit/bond upon enrollment of their son. This bond, I heard, was supposed to be given back to the parents upon the graduation of their son from the school. However, I also heard that usually the parents are coaxed to just donate that bond to the school. And most of the time, the parents are just too happy to see their sons graduate to say no to such a request.

          In my three visits down south I found out for myself some interesting things about Southridge. For one, the bond is no longer required. That’s good news for parents thinking of enrolling their sons there. As I expected, the parents are really very involved. Paref stands for Parents for Education Foundation, a group inspired by the teachings of St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. Their motto is “Parents First Teachers Second and Students Third.” The chronology doesn’t stand for the importance given to each group but it refers to the formation of the boy – i.e. the parents are the first and primary educators and molders of the boy; that only by having well-formed parents (first) and teachers (second) can the school have students (third) of the right quality and virtue. In fact, the name of their monthly newsletter is Parents First. (They featured my book as the cover story and devoted 4 pages in their July 2011 issue, thank you.) They have Parents’ Quarterly Forum (PQF) per grade level. That means that if you have 3 sons there you have to do it 4 x 3 = 12 in one school year. And mind you, it’s not uncommon for Southridge parents to have 6 or more children. So do the math.

          The last PQF is the father and son camp. This happens every year, in all grade levels. So again do the math, if you’re a father of 3 boys you will have 3 camps each year and by the time your youngest son graduates from grade school, you would have done 21 father and son camps! And again if you have 6 sons, you would have done 42! My youngest son, upon hearing this, said, “Wow that’s great!” A Southridge dad I talked to said, “That’s why I had to invest in a durable tent, I have 3 sons here!”

          Southridge has a 3 hectare campus with a beautiful chapel. When the principal Mr. Luden Salamat gave me a tour, I was reminded of the paintings in Sistine Chapel. He said those paintings were done by artists from Madrid. They also have a state of the art auditorium.

          When we passed by some boys playing at past 5pm, they greeted the principal, “Good afternoon Mr. Salamat.” Then I was pleasantly surprised to hear the principal’s reply, “Hi ___________ (first names of the boys), you’re still here, your moms haven’t fetched you yet?” I liked the sound of the principal talking to the boys calling them with their first names. It reminded me of the intimacy of a preschool.

          I also like the boys’ uniform – green t-shirt with collar with an embroidery of the school logo on the left breast and khaki pants. I think it’s a very practical uniform in a tropical setting – light material with no need for undershirt and yet it looks formal enough for school.

          Another amazing discovery I made was that the school is manned by an all-male personnel. All, as in all teachers are male. Even the other workers inside the campus are male.

          During my second visit I asked Mr. Salamat about the incidence of homosexuality. He said they have a zero incidence. Okay, I will be a little cautious in pursuing this discussion. According to him, when they notice some signs of homosexual behavior in a student, they initiate talks with his parents. They are able to really pay close attention to all their students because they have a mentoring system. A mentor is the student’s guide in attaining his goals particularly those about virtues. Moreover, their class sizes are quite small (25-30 students per class, 3 sections per grade level). He said that in the 32 years of Southridge’s existence he has seen a lot of boys who had exhibited feminine behavior become straight and are now happy heads of their own family. I was reminded of a chapter in the book Bringing Up Boys by Dr. James Dobson.  Dobson firmly believes that homosexuality can be reversed especially if there is early intervention. And he notes that fathers play the key role here. He said, “Mothers make boys. Fathers make men.”

          Mr. Salamat also said that in some cases wherein there was no cooperation from the boy and his parents, they had to ask the student to leave. Do I see a lot of eyebrows raised? I was also surprised to hear this and readily asked, “Didn’t you get sued for that?” He said no. As I listened to his explanation I understood that it was the prerogative of the school to screen its students. A parent who also refuses to attend the required activities in school are also reminded of their commitment to be the main molders of their children. And of course parents are expected to be together, a complete family. Some may say that they seem to be living in a dream world expecting no homosexuals (considering that homosexuality has been removed from the list of psychological disorders back in the 70s) and no broken families in their school population. But you know what, as I talked to him and the other teachers and school administrators I said to myself why not? From the time the parents choose to enroll their son in this school they commit to observe all the values that the school stands for. They do accept non Catholic students and you need not be a member of the Opus Dei to teach in the school but everyone should abide by the rules and virtues that the school believes in.

          In 1987 Southridge opened its Night School Program, a full high school scholarship for indigent but academically-deserving students from Muntinlupa City. These scholars attend classes from three in the afternoon to eight in the evening and receive the same education as their Day School counterparts. This is Southridge’s way of giving back to the Muntinlupa community.

          As for me, getting to know Southridge, the school staff, the parents who were very participative during the talks made my hours of travelling down south all worth it!