Prof. Jocelyn Somoza Dela Cruz
“One of the greatest strengths of Silliman is the love and affection held for it by its alumni. We are proud of this fact and, in truth, so many other alumni groups want to emulate us. Many have asked what our secret is. To us, it is no secret; it is that which we call ‘Silliman Spirit.’” – Jong
To celebrate Silliman's 113 years of holistic Christian education, we pay special attention to a woman who has made an indelible mark in the lives of many alumni. Prof. Jocelyn “JONG” Somoza-dela Cruz, the University's immediate past Director of Alumni and External Affairs, shares her story marked with enduring faith in God and an unfailing love for her Alma Mater.
A native of La Libertad, Jong enjoyed a happy childhood with her two older sisters. Her mother, widowed when she was still a baby, raised all three of them on her own as a public school teacher in Dumaguete City. Jong spent all her formative years in Silliman, beginning her education as a toddler sitting in Sunday school at the Silliman University Church. This laid down the necessary foundation for her further education.
Jong, like most young girls, often dreamt of traveling the world. Because of this, she aimed at becoming a flight attendant, a job that would pay her to do this. After graduating from high school, her hopes for this career died down though when she realized that she could not pass one of the basic requirements: height. She was only five feet, two inches. On top of that, she couldn't afford the dental works required for the profession. But not to abandon that dream of traveling the world, she decided to pursue a career in international diplomacy. In 1962, she enrolled for a degree in Bachelor of Arts Major in History/Political Science, the closest course she could get in Silliman to joining the foreign service.
As a student, Jong spent most of her free time at Hibbard Hall, which was then the school library. Her only involvement outside academics was with the Christian Youth Fellowship (CYF) of the SU Church. She graduated from Silliman in 1966 and was immediately offered a job as a researcher at the Social Sciences Department under Dr. Agaton Pal. In less than a year’s time, she was promoted to the position of secretary at the same office.
The following year, Jong started teaching part-time at the History and Political Science Department. Among her students were current Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Betsy Joy Tan and Dean of the College of Mass Communication Dr. Ma. Cecilia Genove.
She was later offered a scholarship to the University of the Philippines where she obtained her Master in Arts Major in Asian Studies in 1974. She was also became a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
While in Manila as a graduate student, Jong witnessed the country’s First Quarter Storm, a period of leftist unrest composed of a series of heavy demonstrations, protests, and marches against the Marcos government. This was one of the factors leading to the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.
That same year, she was introduced to the son of her dorm mate – Juan Alvarez dela Cruz Jr., an engineer. Fate and faith would bind them together in 1977.
After they got married, Jong and Juan first decided to raise their family in Manila. It was also in Manila where his husband worked as an engineer at Meralco. They were blessed with four children: Jay Emmanuel, a licensed physical therapist working in the United States; Jaime Jose, a librarian in STI, Dumaguete city; Jonathan Roy, her special son; and Johanna, a communications specialist working in Manila.
Jong was accepted for work at then Trinity College, now known as Trinity University of Asia, where she taught Asian studies. Her unique approach in teaching history had her voted as most outstanding teacher for many years. She dominated this poll for so long that the school eventually had to make her a Hall of Famer to give way for other teachers.
While working there, Jong handled Trinity’s Japan Studies as Associate Director. This set her off to a series of travels all over the country and even abroad. She was chosen as a fellow of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia (UBCHEA), the first Filipino to be given the honor, and was sent to Agnes Scott College in Georgia in the US where she taught for a school year.
The story of her successful life early in her professional years seemed unmoved until she was told of the doctor’s diagnosis of her third son. It was initially a heart-breaking experience for Jong to hear the doctor say that he was a special child.
Like most parents with a special child, Jong had difficulty accepting this reality and for some time dwelled on the question “why me?” It was a struggle for her to overcome her emotions until an aunt gave her a torn page from an old Daily Bread reflection book. The page contained a prayer for parents with special kids and had a story illustrating angels carrying a special child, searching for a home that would love the child unconditionally. This opened her eyes to see this trial in light of God’s plan for good. From that time on, she viewed her situation a special calling for her to inspire other parents with special children to be that loving and caring “home” that the angel seeks out.
In 1998, upon the death of her mother, Jong left Trinity College and came home to Dumaguete. It was on her return that she learned of an opening in Silliman University for the position of Director of Alumni and External Affairs. She applied and was accepted for the post in 1999.
This position gave her an opportunity to travel more. Jong notes that she has traveled to areas in Asia, Australia, United States, Canada and Europe. Her dream as a child finally came true in God’s perfect time and way.
After 14 years of service, she retired from Silliman in 2012. She was invited back for another year to help organize the Tipon celebration in 2013, the first to be held outside the North America.
Describe yourself in three words.
Friendly. Outgoing. Conservative.
What is your motto in life?
In spite of everything, the good and the bad, always be thankful, never lose faith, and trust the Lord.
What makes you laugh?
I have a very nice sense of humor. I laugh at the smallest things.
What makes you cry?
I get emotional when I see people and even animals in pain.
What’s your favorite time of the day and why?
Evenings, because that is when we are all together.
What’s your favorite day of the week and why?
Sunday, because it’s our family’s time for church and we also go out to have a special lunch together.
What do you love doing when not working?
Gardening and breeding Duchshand dogs.
What is your favorite hangout place in the University?
As a student, I loved to stay at Hibbard Hall, which was the library that time.
What makes you blush?
If you were an actress, who would you be?
Tell us a fact about yourself.
I am known to be a smiling person.
What’s your favorite game growing up?
What is your idea of a relaxing day?
Time with family and doing gardening
What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
I love sharing short stories from my past encounters.
What song best describes the YOU and the life you have now?
“What a wonderful world” by Louis Armstrong
What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
I thank the Lord for another day then I prepare breakfast.