In 2017, Mrs Nieves Raspado retires after thirty eight (38) years of service at Mountain Maid Training Center, the Good Shepherd Sisters ministry in Baguio City, Philippines. Nieves' first role was as bookkeeper, then she was assigned as store cashier and for the last 22 years up to the present, as disbursing officer.
Maricel Cango, a student worker at the Human Resource Office, interviewed Nieves on her thoughts and feelings, the low points and high points, the significant experiences of her career and life, and what her plans are for the future.
Maricel How did you come to know about Mountain Maid Training Center?
Nieves I was employed at the Paragas Accounting Office, the internal auditor of Mountain Maid Training Center (MMTC). In 1979, when the job as bookkeeper at MMTC was offered to me, Mr. Fred Paragas, my employer, recommended me to the Good Shepherd Sisters. I accepted the job without hesitation. I was 22 years old then. Later, two opportunities for changing careers came. A mining company and a bank offered me attractive work opportunities which were tempting to accept, but I chose to stay at MMTC, and I have no regrets.
Maricel In 1979, when you first worked here, what was MMTC like compared to what it is today?
Nieves That time was before the age of computers and Point of Sales (POS) so work was done manually. There were less than ten staff and around one hundred student workers .
Mountain Maid Training Center was considered then as a 'cottage industry' producing jams and jellies to support the ministry of the Good Shepherd Sisters. Now in 2016, there are almost fifty full time staff and more than three hundred student workers. Since 2009, the Department of Labor and Employment has categorized MMTC as a large scale social enterprise engaged in food production Now it has machines and computers, but at the same time it is labor intensive.
Maricel A year after you began work at MMTC, you got married and started a family. How did you balance your career as a working mother?
Nieves I got married in 1980 and was blessed with three children, two boys and one girl. My husband was also working. Ours is an extended family. With help from my parents, I was able to manage my work in MMTC and my responsibilities as a wife and mother. When the children started going to school, a kind relative offered to baby sit my youngest child while another relative accompanied the two older boys to school and fetched them. When I got home from work, I did my best to make sure that their lessons and homework were done.
When the children were in grade school, my husband sought employment abroad, in Saudi Arabia. He was away for five years and was allowed only two home leaves in those years. It was a very difficult time for me. We agreed to give priority to family, so he did not renew his contract abroad. By God's grace and with a lot of sacrifices, my eldest son finished civil engineering. My second son finished Marine Transportation and my only daughter completed her studies in Hotel and Restaurant Services. All three have their families and are gainfully employed.
Maricel As a lay mission partner of the Good Shepherd Sisters, how did you get to know St. Mary Euphrasia? How did you grow in your relationship with her?
Nieves I read the book 'Little White Shepherdess' and was inspired by her sayings, 'A person is more precious than a world', and 'Do well all that you do'. Her feast day on April 24 and her birthday on July 31 are special celebrations marked by prayer service with presentations on her life and mission. Activities are organized for student workers, such as contests, quizzes, essays, poem writing, song compositions on St. Mary Euphrasia.
I try to live her compassion in dealing with the student workers and my co-workers. The regular Christian Formation sessions, retreats and recollections, visiting Good Shepherd missionaries who come and share stories of their life in Africa and other mission countries have broadened and deepened my knowledge of St. Mary Euphrasia's life, mission and spirituality.
Maricel Can you share some of your low points and high points in your life and work at MMTC?
Nieves On July 16, 1990 a killer earthquake with an intensity of 7.9 wreaked tremendous devastation and deaths. lt destroyed the whole city, roads, many buildings and houses including our house. For fear of the aftershocks, we slept outside our house during the night, in the cold. Baguio was cut off from outside communication for four days. MMTC was totally damaged, and during the period of reconstruction, we were not able to work full time, and instead, took shifts working.
Nieves I consider as high points, my perfect attendance and punctuality - I never incurred any absence or tardiness -the family atmosphere of MMTC where we develop deep friendships with colleagues, giving and receiving support from each other. Witnessing student workers graduate every year makes me shed tears of joy. Building my house through the no interest housing loan from MMTC is a high point in my life.
Another high. point for me was the year 2005 when my husband and I celebrated our silver wedding anniversary with our three children. It was also that year that MMTC gave me a free trip to Hongkong and China, my first trip overseas.
Maricel As you prepare to leave MMTC next year, 2017, what to you is your most unforgettable experience?
Nieves The most unforgettable experience I had was an annual retreat conducted by Good Shepherd Sister Mary Regina Pil. In this retreat, I received the grace to overcome my fears coming from a childhood experience. I found liberation and a new inner freedom.
Maricel What are your plans after 2017?
Nieves I want to live a full life, enjoy my grandchildren, keep myself busy with a small business and explore possibilities of a mango orchard that my husband and I started. I plan to visit my two children who are working.in Dubai. I want to volunteer my services in the parish and become active again in the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs).
Maricel Looking back to the thirty seven years with the Good Shepherd family and community, how do you feel?
Nieves I feel grateful for all God's blessings, for the many opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. At the same time, there is also the feeling of sadness because I will miss life here. I gave the best years of my life and received more than what I gave. It is a grace and privilege to have served the mission of the Good Shepherd.
August 22, 2016
Mt. Maid Training & Development Foundation, Inc.
Bagulo City, Philippines
Maricel (left) and Nieves (right)
Sisters and staff at Mountain Maid Training Center are very proud of the graduates, who have completed college degrees or technical vocational training
In Baguio City, Philippines a new environmental initiative transforms tons of vegetable and fruit waste material every week into organic fertilizer
A long established Good Shepherd social enterprise in Baguio City aims to empower young people to break the cycle of poverty through education - and it produces a famous and highly sought jam
Comprehensive overview from the GSAPP team - how Good Shepherd Partnership for Mission is developing in this region