More than a decade ago, when I was working in a glossy magazine that promotes the spirit of high society, the editor Chit Lijauco asked me to accompany her to a dinner at the old InterContinental Manila. She was interviewing Spanish ambassador Ignacio Sagaz and his Filipino wife, Aurora “Bubut” Lapus-Sagaz.
The ambassador, I recall, was articulate, while Aurora herself was equally engaging as they shared their wonderful experiences in the Philippines as well as his postings in various parts of the world.
I met Aurora again when she and her batchmates at Maryknoll were promoting their golden jubilee homecoming. The meeting two years ago was arranged by their classmate, Charisse Chuidian, who was in charge of media relations for the once-in-a-lifetime, week-long event.
This year, again with Charisse “brokering” our meeting, Aurora is promoting the 2021-2022 lecture series on Philippine history, a project of the Museum Volunteers of the Philippines (MVP), of which Aurora has been president for the longest time. The online event kicks off today, 27 October and runs until April 2022.
Charisse, who is also active in the Museum Volunteers, persuaded Aurora to agree to being our guest on Spotlight, the Thursday afternoon online talk show which Daily Tribune Lifestyle editor Dinah Sabal Ventura and I co-host.
We asked Aurora not only about the lecture series but also about her life as a diplomat’s wife, her Maryknoll days and her other passions, including the seven languages that she speaks. She likewise recounted her encounters with international celebrities and Spanish royalty.
Daily Tribune (DT): How has it been for you since the pandemic?
Aurora Sagaz (AS): I hardly left my apartment in a year and a half. You sort of get used to anything. I just had to adapt. I learned new things like baking sour bread, something I thought I would never do and since my maid had to go back to the province. I learned how to take charge of the kitchen. I went back to cooking which I’ve always loved, and baking and everything. MVP has kept me busy, too.
DT: Did your work in the museum continue even when the pandemic started?
AS: Yes, because when the pandemic started, we were just about to finish the year and we thought we just had a few more lectures to finish in the history course. So, the only way was to do Zoom lectures. We had to learn how to take it digitally for the whole year.
DT: We’re curious about how you became active in the MVP. Is it something you have always been interested in? The whole museum thing and all that?
AS: I started with Museum Volunteers in 1991. I have heard about the course that was offered… and I said, wow, this is something that will be useful for me, to refresh my knowledge on Philippine history and meet new friends. So, we had this course at the Ayala Museum and the purpose was to train people. They had a full course to explain the period of history and you would be assessed, you would practice the dioramas and you had to link the event to the next… And that’s how I got hooked on loving the museum, because after that, I joined the study groups and once your research on a topic, you find out how enjoyable it is, you learn so much, you are in a small group and you are studying, researching together and you present it as one colleague to another and you will just keep researching and researching… Then you find out you know very, very little.
DT: Is the organization part of a museum, or it’s independent of any museum?
AS: We are independent of the museum, but we used to have links with all the museums. But since the pandemic, we haven’t had any activities with the museums because most of them are closed.
We work closely with the National Museum. We used to have tourists and we ask their staff to give us lectures, to be our speakers in the history course.
DT: How big is the group? How many members do you have?
AS: This year we have just a little over 100. We used to have about 200 before the pandemic. We are very diverse. We represent over 30 nationalities
— Americans, Canadians, British, Spanish, Japanese, Indians, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, and many Filipinos.
DT: And they’re based all over, not just in the country?
AS: Now that we’ve done it digitally, we have members who live in India, Canada, the US.
DT: How does one become a member of MVP?
AS: Email [email protected]. To register as a member it’s only P1,500 for the year… To enroll in the history courses is P2,500. Quite cheap for what we offer.
DT: Does it go back all the way to your Maryknoll days?
AS: One thing I remember from what Maryknoll taught me was “education is seeing everything as part of a whole.” Whatever you learn is part of and connected to something else. You connect the dots to make it whole.
(To be continued on 30 October)