You are here: home> Published Articles> Sr. Mary Assumption ...

Sr. Mary Assumption RGS, ube maker

Sister Mary Assumption RGS, ube maker

(The following is an article written by Artemio Dumlao and published on September 2, 2009 in the Philippine Star.)

Baguio City, Philippines - For Baguio City which celebrated its centennial yesterday, the color of a hundred years is purple, like the ube jam whose recipe was perfected by a Good Shepherd nun older than this city.

Sister Mary Assumption Ocampo (Avelina Ocampo) of the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS), a pioneer at the Mountain Maid Training Center (MMTC), has fostered a culture of caring and helping send Cordillera girls to school through treats produced by the convent's kitchen.

Sr. Mary Assumption turns 102 on October 26, a centennial awardee of the city known for ube jam, strawberry preserves and candles, among other things.

"The MMTC was more than money-making," Tuguegarao, Cagayan-native RGS Sister Guadalupe Bautista, the older nun's ward, said.

Sr. Mary Assumption's dream was for 5,000 students from poor families in the Cordillera to earn a degree through the work-study program. "The great returns (of the products) were only incidental," she explained.

It was Sr. Mary Assumptions's gung-ho attitude that typified MMTC's determination to make the best products for the children's education.

A native of San Fernando, Pampanga, Sr, Mary Assumption joined the RGS in 1935 in France where the Mother House of the congregation was established.

Before entering the novitiate in Angers, France, she was a Math professor at the University of Santo Tomas for four years. "It was her calling," Sr. Guadalupe readily answered on her behalf, refusing any more interviews as the 102-year-old religious could barely speak.

The first Filipina admitted to the RGS, established in 1912, she adopted the name Sr. Mary Assumption. Then came a stream of more Filipinas to the congregation.

Sr. Mary Assumption, was called for a mission work in Caracas, Venezuela for 10 years to work with women prisoners. She eventually became a prison administrator.

Home, however, was her calling. Sr. Mary Assumption came back to the country in 1975 and was sent to Baguio City.

"To be at home for Sr. Mary Assumption," said Sr. Guadalupe, "is to be in love, to be creative, committed, enthusiastic, single-minded in laboring for the Lord in any capacity."

Ube jam beginnings

From a small rolling store, the RGS-run MMTC became one of Baguio's signature places.

The ube jam was introduced by Sr. Fidelis Atienza, said Sr. Guadalupe. But it was Sr. Mary Assumption that perfected it.

It is Sr. Mary Assumptions's value of perseverance "all in the name of helping poor girls go to school"  that pushed everyone to make the best ube jam and products in town. "The overriding principle was never to make money, but to send the worker-students  (in the work-study program) to school."

In the 1980s when sugar became scarce, it was Sr. Mary Assumption who invented recipes with less sugar. Sweet and sour pickles, sayote pickles, chutney (similar to papaya atsara), santol champoy and local fruit candies - guyabano, guava and strawberries -- soon filled the Good Shepherd convent shelves.

The 1990 killer quake that devastated the city, including the RGS compound along Gibraltar berangay here, did not faze Sr. Mary Assumption. "Amidst these, she keeps on innovating, creating, learning, and pushing everyone to excel, the sister said.

At the RGS convent, the former house of American governor Cameron Forbes built in 1908 at Topside, Sr. Mary Assumption remains an icon of selflessness, hardwork, dignity of labor, discipline and trustworthiness.

In 1991, Ateneo de Manila University honored her with the "Bukas Palad Award" in memory of Fr, Manuel Peypoch SJ: "Because the Love she professed never said, Enough."

At present, there are 300 worker-students at the MMTC emulating the life of Sr. Mary Assumption-- " a living culture of caring."