IN serv­ing the academe for the past 38 years, Saint Michael’s Col­lege of La­guna (SMCL) pres­i­dent Lour­des Almeda-Sese be­lieves that life is a jour­ney to sig­nif­i­cance.

“I have learned that life is in­deed not a jour­ney to fame, power, and for­tune but a jour­ney to sig­nif­i­cance. To lead a life of sig­nif­i­cance has be­come the ul­ti­mate aim in my quest for peace and hap­pi­ness. And to suc­ceed in this quest I have dis­cov­ered that it is im­per­a­tive for me to build, to cre­ate, to be of ser­vice, ” the es­teemed ed­u­ca­tor told The Sun­day Times Mag­a­zine in this ex­clu­sive in­ter­view.

It was on her sixth year work­ing at a pri­vate firm that Sese’s aunt Luisa Li­maco de Leon of­fered her a job at SMCL. Co­in­ci­den­tally, at that time, another aunt and her god­mother, Miguelunda Ed­u­ca­tional Cor­po­ra­tion Vice Chair­man Teodora Li­maco, had just gifted each of her god­chil­dren a 240-square-me­ter lot in Se­gunda Vil­lage near the same school.

“I wanted a big­ger lot for the house that we were plan­ning to build at that time with the help of my mother, Maria Li­maco. I was sold another lot by the school’s founder [my aunt Pura Lig­aya Li­maco], on the con­di­tion that I com­mit to help the found­ing pres­i­dent [another aunt Mi­la­gros Lig­aya Li­maco] run the col­lege. I thought that would be the start of my semi-re­tire­ment so I can de­vote more time for my daugh­ter, An­drea. But I was wrong, my work [in the col­lege] be­came my life and my life [be­came] my work. Call it destiny, con­sider it prov­i­den­tial,” she re­lated.

Vo­ca­tion and ad­vo­cacy

For Lour­des Almeda-Sese, ed­u­ca­tion is both a vo­ca­tion and ad­vo­cacy.

“Ed­u­ca­tion is the most strate­gic of in­ter­ven­tions against poverty. It is a tool to em­power the learner and en­no­ble the learned to im­prove the qual­ity of their lives, steer­ing the whole com­mu­nity into growth and de­vel­op­ment. It was this be­lief that led to the found­ing of Migeu­lunda Ed­u­ca­tional Cor­po­ra­tion. What bet­ter way to give back to so­ci­ety what­ever ben­e­fits one gets from it in a spirit of love and ser­vice and per­pet­u­ate the phil­an­thropic ideals of [ my ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents] Miguel and Se­gunda Li­maco,” she phi­los­o­phized.

Shar­ing the same vi­sion of qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion made read­ily avail­able to the peo­ple of Biñan as her aunts, AlmedaSese helped steer the then Biñan Col­lege be­come what it is to­day.

“The Li­maco sis­ters—Pura, who pro­vided the nec­es­sary fi­nan­cial sup­port for the school’s op­er­a­tion and Mi­la­gros, as chair­man of the board and school di­rec­tor—played ac­tive roles in SCML’s de­vel­op­ment. But their sis­ter, Luisa, who re­lo­cated with her fam­ily to Iloilo al­ways held her home­town close to heart. It was her who con­vinced me to join the school [as Reg­is­trar],” she con­tin­ued.

“SMCL took a dra­matic trans­for­ma­tion not only in the cam­pus’ phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture— with the ad­di­tion of Mi­la­gros L. Li­maco Learn­ing Cen­ter and the St. Theodore Hall—but also in its ser­vice de­liv­ery in 1997 while I was the Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent and Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, fol­low­ing the re­tire­ment of Mi­la­gros Li­maco. In 1999, the col­lege forged an aca­demic ex­change pro­gram with then Namhae Col­lege of Gyeongsang­nam-do in South Korea.”

Modesty aside, Sese said that since tak­ing over as col­lege pres­i­dent, SMCL has meta­mor­phosed from its hum­ble be­gin­nings in 1976 into a ma­jor pres­ence in 2004, be­com­ing the first dereg­u­lated in­sti­tu­tion of learn­ing in the Prov­ince of La­guna. More­over, it of­fi­cially joined the ranks of the top six per­cent of pri­vate higher ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions na­tion­wide.

This dereg­u­lated sta­tus was then el­e­vated to au­ton­o­mous in 2016. SMCL had been granted ISO 9001: 2008 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by TUV Rhein­land in April 2014 and re­cer­ti­fied in April this year. The col­lege also re­ceived the Gold Award from Philip­pine As­so­ci­a­tion of Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties Com­mis­sion on Ac­cred­i­ta­tion ( Pacu­coa) with 100 per­cent of its pro­grams ac­cred­ited in 2017. Its com­mu­nity ex­ten­sion arm, the Lingkod at Pag­mama­hal ng SMCL, was con­verted into a foun­da­tion.

More im­por­tantly, pro­duc­ing grad­u­ates im­bued with the val­ues of ser­vice, moral up­right­ness, com­mit­ment to ex­cel­lence, love for hu­man­ity and in­ter­cul­tural sen­si­tiv­ity, Sese is proud to say that SMCL pro­vides a strong teach­ing force in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

“Most of our grad­u­ates oc­cupy ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tions in the Di­vi­sion of City Schools. The same is true with our In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, Ho­tel and Restau­rant Man­age­ment and Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion grad­u­ates who are em­ployed in multi­na­tional com­pa­nies both here and abroad,” she elab­o­rated.

With the con­tin­u­ous pos­i­tive feed­back on her vi­sion­ary and trans­for­ma­tive lead­er­ship, she con­veyed that SMCL’s pro­gres­sion as uni­ver­sity in the fu­ture is very likely.


While dis­charg­ing her du­ties both as mother to An­drea and steer­ing SMCL greater heights, Sese bore another child, Michael, on top of com­plet­ing her post grad­u­ate stud­ies. She has a doc­tor­ate in ed­u­ca­tion from the Philip­pine Nor­mal Uni­ver­sity and grad­u­ated from a course on Strate­gic Po­si­tion­ing for Ed­u­ca­tional Lead­ers at the Asian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment.

“From a seem­ingly com­fort­able ‘ noth­ing life,’ I em­barked on a voy­age— a voy­age of in­ner dis­cov­ery – within my­self, within our or­ga­ni­za­tion and be­yond. I have been on this voy­age long enough to fin­ish my post grad­u­ate stud­ies, bore another child Michael, and see my chil­dren fin­ish col­lege, and make me a grand­mother four times over,” she en­thused.

To­ward the end of 2008, she was di­ag­nosed with Stage 2A ag­gres­sive car­ci­noma breast can­cer, which she con­sid­ers her life’s great­est chal­lenge, but her faith pre­vailed.

“Hav­ing the big C, it was not enough to pray for a long life. As I lay in bed try­ing to re­gain my strength af­ter each chemo­ther­apy treat­ment, [I re­al­ized that] be­ing alive is use­less if life has no mean­ing and pur­pose. It was re­ally a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and I’m glad to be look­ing for­ward to cel­e­brate my ninth can­cer-free birth­day on De­cem­ber 17,” she re­vealed.

Old school vis-à-vis mil­len­ni­als

With the pass­ing of the free ed­u­ca­tion bill in state uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges, signed by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte into law as the Uni­ver­sal Ac­cess to Qual­ity Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Act on Au­gust 3, what does a pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion ex­ec­u­tive like her plan to do in the near fu­ture?

“I share the stand of the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion [ UNESCO] that ed­u­ca­tion must be the top pri­or­ity be­cause it is a ba­sic hu­man right and the foun­da­tion on which to build peace and drive sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. The gov­ern­ment must en­sure in­clu­sion and eq­uity in ed­u­ca­tion; it means that ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion for all must be de­liv­ered where public and pri­vate higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions are col­lab­o­ra­tors. The com­pe­ti­tion for en­rolees must not be an is­sue, rather the strong part­ner­ship between pri­vate and public schools in pro­vid­ing qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion should sur­face,” she replied.

As to how SMLC is ad­just­ing in the age of so­cial me­dia and

mil­len­ni­als, Sese said, “As a 21st cen­tury learn­ing in­sti­tu­tion, SMCL caters both to the old school and the mil­len­ni­als. We have not to­tally de­parted from the old and tested meth­ods though we pro­vide our stu­dents ac­cess and eq­uity to dig­i­tal tools in learn­ing. We strike a bal­ance between the two since we cater to di­verse stu­dents from dif­fer­ent places. We also uti­lize strate­gic in­ter­ven­tions and en­hance­ments such as blended learn­ing, dif­fer­en­ti­ated in­struc­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tive as­sess­ment and the like.”

Be­sides its strong aca­demic of­fer­ings, SMCL takes pride in its En­ter­prise De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram point­ing stu­dents to­wards en­trepreneur­ship as an al­ter­na­tive to the lure of big­ger in­comes of­fered by tech­no­log­i­cal cour­ses.

“Re­ly­ing on their skills and busi­ness ac­u­men, we build their self-es­teem and pre­pare them for greater op­por­tu­ni­ties [un­der the en­trepreneur­ship pro­gram].”

For Sese, an ideal cam­pus must foster a nur­tur­ing and sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment where stu­dents can learn and suc­ceed, max­i­miz­ing stu­dents’ po­ten­tial by pro­vid­ing the needed re­in­force­ment and en­rich­ment, which her col­lege ex­em­pli­fies.

“SMCL pro­vides a learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment that will bring forth to the world in­di­vid­u­als who will em­body the Michae­lean ideals of ser­vice, moral up­right­ness, com­mit­ment to ex­cel­lence and love for hu­man­ity,” she said.

Core val­ues

The pres­i­dent as­serted that SMCL’s core val­ues—Ser­vice to God and Coun­try, Moral Up­right­ness, Com­mit­ment to Ex­cel­lence and Love for Hu­man­ity and In­tel­lec­tual Sen­si­tiv­ity—are equally im­por­tant in the in­sti­tu­tion’s suc­cess.

“Our tag line is, ‘ Here in SMCL, we make you the best that you can be.’ We as­pire to trans­form our stu­dents into com­pe­tent and com­pas­sion­ate grad­u­ates who are ready to share them­selves in pro­mot­ing the Filipino iden­tity and in spread­ing love to the world.”

Look­ing be­yond the walls of her turf, she said that there is more to life than here and now.

“What mat­ters most to me is how I shall be re­mem­bered for how I had left this world bet­ter than I found it. I should live a life that mat­ters. Liv­ing in the light of eter­nity has col­ored how I han­dle ev­ery re­la­tion­ship, task and event. There must be bits of Christ­hood that should shine though when I think no­body does or cares, when my ego falls away and the only au­di­ence that mat­ters is God,” she as­serted.

“From my pro­fes­sional side, what I con­sider as the real re­turn on in­vest­ment for SMCL, and for me in par­tic­u­lar, are the count­less em­pow­ered and en­no­bled Michae­lean grad­u­ates si­t­u­ated here and in the dif­fer­ent parts of the world, con­tin­u­ing the Michae­lean legacy in their own small way.”

She takes pride in the fact that the ma­jor­ity of stu­dents who pass through the school’s por­tals with hardly any­thing in the be­gin­ning had been able to make some­thing of them­selves.

“Just like my grand­fa­ther Miguel, a young stow­away from China,” Sese re­lated. “Theirs may be sim­ple sto­ries and hum­ble achieve­ments, but the dif­fer­ence that they have made, and will con­tinue to make in their own sphere of in­flu­ence – speaks of some­thing im­mea­sur­able. As I said on my sun­set, I am con­fi­dent that SMCL will never fall. Its ideals will live in the heart of ev­ery Michae­lean. They will con­tinue to plant the Michae­lean seed,” the sea­soned ed­u­ca­tor con­cluded.

“I have learned that life is in­deed not a jour­ney to fame, power, and for­tune but a jour­ney to sig­nif­i­cance.

With Biñan City Mayor Mar­lyn Alonte-Naguiat and Con­gress­woman Lucy Tor­res-Gomez

With lawyer Joseph Noel Estrada and Pri­vate Ed­u­ca­tion As­sis­tance Com­mit­tee ( PEAC) ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Rhodora An­gela Fer­nan­dez- Fer­rer

With Se­na­tor Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th ( third from right) and fel­low of­fi­cers of Philip­pine As­so­ci­a­tion of Pri­vate Schools, Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties ( Pap­scu)

With the board of di­rec­tors and trustees of the Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil of Pri­vate Ed­u­ca­tional As­so­ci­a­tions of the Philip­pines ( Co­co­pea)

With Com­mis­sion on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion ( CHED) Chair­man Pa­tri­cia Licua­nan

Lead­ing the SMCL Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee

With Co­co­pea Chaiman and priest Joel Tab­ora, SJ and Estrada

Fam­ily first: ‘ I put my hus­band, En­gi­neer Ed­mond Sese, and my two chil­dren, An­drea and Mike be­fore ev­ery­thing else. Our time to­gether, be it a week­end din­ner date or a trip abroad, is more pre­cious to me than gems’

With fel­low ‘ weavers of dreams’

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