Maria Dolores "Maruxa" Pita Lissarrague was born on March 18, 1930 in Madrid, Spain. She arrived in the Philippines in 1959 to help establish Institucion Teresiana, now known as Saint Pedro Poveda College in Quezon City.
Since then, she has become one of the most sought after Spanish teachers in the country. Now at 82 years old she continues to help the education of young Filipinos through Makabata School Foundation, Inc.
Recently, Instituto Cervantes, gave a tribute to the tireless and outstanding teacher, honoring her work in Spanish language education in the Philippines and her dedication and commitment to help educate underprivileged children with her foundation.
"I thought she was very important not only in the Philippines but all over the world. She was very important in teaching Spanish language in the Philippines. She taught in this institute throughout the beginning. I think it was a good idea to celebrate her. She did a lot of things for us and the institute," says Instituto Cervantes director Eduardo Calvo.
Maruxa served as Poveda's principal from 1965 to 1973. She then taught Spanish at both the University of Santo Tomas (1973-1979) and the Spanish Cultural Center (1975-1979). From 1979 to 1993, she worked as the director of the Spanish Cultural Center where she organized all the teaching areas, and managed the Spanish teachers. In 1993, Instituto Cervantes was established and she stayed as the academic head of the center. It was the first Cervantes established in Asia.
For Maruxa, it was her duty to spread the Spanish language in the country and continue to teach generations of Filipino her native language, something Filipinos chose to forget after the Spanish rule.
"If it does not reach to be as rich as before, at least we could have some familiarity with the language," Maruxa says.
Maruxa has contributed a lot to Spanish education and to education in general in the country. Many of her former students attest to how big her contributions have been.
"We Povedans who spent our growing years in the 70s, when the school was still known as Institucion Teresiana are extremely fortunate that we were molded in the discipline but enriching years of Senorita Pita, as director and principal in school. As children in elementary we would look to her in awe, she exuded this strict but elegant air, ever so poised as she would look left or right, checking everyone's behavior," Poveda alumna Ines Reyes shares.
"To us Povedans, Directora Maruxa represented the best of Spain. We were all so proud to be educated in a school where the teachers are intelligent, highly cultured, deeply religious, very proper and conservative, and very supportive of a healthy and happy family life," she adds.
Maruxa says that she is overwhelmed by the love she is receiving from former co-workers an students. "I am very happy that they are giving this gratitude. I was very happy the whole time I was working for them, for 20 years. I am very happy to share those things to them," Maruxa says.
Today, Maruxa is still active giving less fortunate children a chance to learn in school. In 1995, she retired from Instituto Cervantes and established the Makabata School Foundation (MSFI ) the following year. MSFI is a non-stock, non-profit organization that aims to provide Christian and holistic formal and non-formal education to street children and out-of-school-youths. It has 11 classrooms and plans are afoot for more improvements, considering the new K to 12 curriculum.
For 16 years, the foundation continues to provide education to young and poor children of Metro Manila who cannot afford education. This year, the foundation caters to 166 students from kindergarten to high school.
"She is important in our history and our development. I thought it was just right to tell her that people love her and admire her," Calvo says. "Thank you Maruxa, for all you do, what you have done, and what you will do, for your proximity to those most in need; it is not for me to extol your selflessness. Also, for your contribution to the teaching of Spanish language in the Philippines."