Ms. Malonie S. Gutierrez
If Silliman University were a galaxy, the School of Public Affairs and Governance (SPAG) secretary would be a super-massive black hole that lurks in its periphery. In mundane pseudo-scientific terms, she is a cosmic vacuum cleaner extraordinaire. She draws those she comes in contact with – things and people alike – with her irresistible gravity, keeping them entangled to the quantum particle of her all-encompassing spell. She is the magnetic pull that gathers in one place all the necessary elements to get things done, the hectic buzz that gets things moving, the pulsing force field that filters out the clutter and debris.
Malonie is her name, and keeping the office running is her game. She calls the SPAG office home, the people there her family. They, in turn, call her Monie, and those closest to her dub her Pates, a term of endearment that reverberates at various levels in so many ways it deserves a universe of its own – just like Monie herself, who is so many things to many people. But to those who really matter, she is a one-of-a-kind office manager and one Hades of a friend.
Though not exactly a true-blue Sillimanian, Monie can still be considered a Silliman baby for spending much of her growing up years at the Registrar’s Office, where her late mother used to work. She is a member of SU High Batch ’96 and graduated BBA Management in 2000. Right after graduation, she worked for the Subangdaku Rural Bank-Dumaguete branch, where she was awarded Employee of the Year. She moved to Silliman in April 2006, as Office Assistant at the Dean's Office of the College of Engineering and Design. A year hence, Dr. Reynaldo Rivera, former dean of SPAG and current head honcho of the Graduate School, invited her to join him in SPAG to help him prepare for its opening two months later.
If glowing words can set people on fire, Monie will go ablaze in the blink of an eye. For such is the impression that she makes that her SPAG bosses can’t help but overflow with parallel superlatives in describing how she really is in helping run their office. Her current SPAG chief, Atty. Tabitha Tinagan, describes her as someone who is dependable because she never fails to deliver what is asked of her and has the initiative to do things on her own sans specific instructions by second-guessing the tendencies of her boss. The same sentiments are echoed by her former boss, Dr. Rivera, who even relied on Monie’s background on Finance to help sort out the financial transactions of SPAG. Aside from finding her super-efficient, they also consider her trustworthy enough to be given access to the sensitive aspects of SPAG’s operation. Both also regard her not just an officemate but also as a confidante and a proxy daughter.
And, from the land of the Haka and the home of the Maori and the All-Blacks, Dr. Emelen Nakao, former SPAG faculty and Monie’s first sister Pates, sent through FB this description of Monie: “As a colleague, Monie is very efficient in doing her tasks. Her capacity to multitask is extraordinary. Her being helpful reminds me of the same attribute of her mama. To me, Monie is not just a colleague. She is my true friend and my younger sister pates. She is a beautiful person with a super loving heart. Tough yet kind, hardworking but knows how to have fun, calm but unaware of her magnetic personality. She is truly amazing! – I am one proud Ate Pates.”
Monie is not just all work and no play. She played volleyball in Elementary, went into soccer in High School, and dabbled with archery in College. It was also in college that she played sweeper position for Taburnok, a champion team in the CuPatid tournaments in the late ‘90s sponsored by the APO fraternity, for which she was awarded as best defender. These days, however, in between tons of paperwork at SPAG, she only manages to play the almost-extinct Fluffy Bird game on her tablet, though she sometimes find time to get away to exotic places with her old Pates friends. But her true mettle was tested on two occasions – when her marriage slammed against the rocks and when her mom went to the other side – and in both she defied the storm with fluttering colors. At this point in her life, she considers as her mission to continue serving SPAG and to provide for her daughter Jhana Augustine as best she could.
In the end, we may catch a glimpse of how Monie operates, but just like the quantum universe itself, she will never reveal the full extent of her secrets. And to those who know her well that is just as well. The biggest Pates of them all is a living magic that will forever remain a mystery.
For this article, we diverged a bit and dragged some of Monie’s colleagues into the hullaballoo of the question and answer bit of the interview. As indicated below, some of the replies were elicited from Lyn (Santillan), secretary of the Silliman University Government Affairs (SUGA) office, (Anatoly) Karpov (Buss), junior faculty of SPAG, and Ma’am E(ditha Enumerabellon), senior attached faculty of SPAG who is also a faculty of the History-Pol.Sci. department.
Describe Monie in three words.
Lyn: Awesome Karpov: Passionate Ma’am E: Magnetic
What is your mantra in life?
I roll with the Golden Rule: Do not do unto others what you don’t want others do unto you.
What makes you laugh?
Whatever tickles my funny bone.
What makes you cry?
What’s your favorite time of the day?
Nighttime. I can do more things – and better – when it’s already dark. Bitaw, I’m more at ease at night because I have more control of my time.
What is your favorite day of the week?
Friday, because it used to be the Fly-day of my student days – meaning I could let it all hang at the end of the day because I don’t have to worry about getting up early the next day.
What do you love doing when not working?
Sleeping, hehe – at least these days.
What is your favorite hangout in the University?
I used to while away my time (read: go on a date) at the amphitheater when I was still a student.
What makes you blush?
Drinking, haha, and riding airplanes. Seriously, I blush when someone sends me stuff, especially flowers, via special delivery at the office.
If you were an actor/actress, who would you be?
Tell us something quaint about Monie..
Lyn: She can’t sleep without socks.
What was your favorite game growing up?
What is your idea of a relaxing day?
Lazing by the poolside of a rooftop infinity pool with a cocktail on one hand and an IPad Air on the other – but I’m fantasizing, of course.
What one thing would people be interested to know about Monie?
Lyn: She has grace under pressure. No matter how tough the going gets, she toughs it out and just gets going as though everything is fine.
What song best describes Monie and the life she has now?
Lyn: “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys.
What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
Check my phone for messages and Facebook notifications.
What’s your idea of a family?
Family is not just people related to me by blood but also friends who stick with me through thick and thin.