Fr. Rafael Cortina, SJ — A Molder of Character

by Mr. Cesar Wee (Alumnus and Kinder parent)

While touring the grounds of Xavier School last 4 July 2015 for its Workshop in Ignatian Spirituality (WISP): Salt and Light recollection for parents, I saw this poster that brought back so many memories. It was a poster of the late Fr. Rafael Cortina, SJ. I will never forget how he took me under his wing. I was a shy, skinny, awkward, troubled kid, who didn’t like studying, whose high school grade average (77) was 10th lowest in my batch.

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I have hundreds of memories about Fr. Cortina, however, let me share with you the ones that stood out. He would always find me in a crowd, call me, slap the back of my head and say, “@$?!&+…How’s your day?“; Then, there was the time he got the results of my IQ test and said, “@$?!&+…it’s like you’re crawling when you can sprint…@$?!&+“; I also remember those moments when he would pass by our classroom and he’d pull me out because I was being inattentive and say, “@$?!&+!!!”…*pause*…then, “Congrats, I heard you had a nice game last weekend!“, then end our conversation with a slap to the back of my head; and finally, when we had an agreement that he’d be the first person to shake my hand if I ever graduated. He did. No profanity. A few tears. A lot of pride and a big hug.

Nowadays, when a student doesn’t do well in school, his parents opt to move him to a school that would fit him better. I don’t disagree with that, but in my case, I’m glad it wasn’t an option back then. I learned how to persevere, I developed grit, and I realized that actions speak louder than words.

Sometimes, it only takes just ONE person to believe in you for you to make a change in your life. To this day, when I am faced with challenges, I always remember Fr. Cortina’s slap to the back of my head, and it gives me the shake I need to realize that I can do it.

I write this with deep gratitude to you, Fr. Cortina. Thank you for being an educator who truly inspired your students to live by the motto ‘Luceat Lux’. It’s very fitting that Xavier recognizes Fr. Rafael Cortina as a mentor and heralds him as the epitome of a man who developed CHARACTER. Just imagine how much more shady mine would have been if not for his persistence in guiding me throughout my High School years at Xavier.

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