Mrs. Sofia Flores-Castañares
What’s in a name? There is immense power in the way a few letters of the alphabet are put together. Its value has long been immortalized in prose, poetry, and religious ceremony. We identify ourselves by name.
As for Mrs. Sofia Flores-Castañares, the secretary at the Office of the University General Counsel, she is named after the Greek word for wisdom. Fitting, for given her affiliation in the University, one must truly be wise to survive working with lawyers in dealing with legal documents and jurisprudence conjectures.
Sophie, as she is fondly called among colleagues and friends, is a native of Dumaguete. She was born the ninth child in a brood of ten to a family in Barangay Banilad. Her father was a Philippine veteran and her mother was a homemaker who managed a small carinderia to help augment the family income. They lived a modest life, yet she and her siblings were never lacking in love and happy memories growing up.
A self-proclaimed tomboy, she tells us that she loved any game played with a ball. But among them, her favorite was softball, a liking she most probably inherited from her mother. As a student, she was one who would prefer being out on the court or the field over staying in the classroom any day.
Throughout her elementary and high school years, Sophie represented her school in sports meets as one playing for their softball team.
She entered college in 1986 at the then Dumaguete Cathedral College, now Colegio de Santa Catalina de Alejandria or COSCA. Financial considerations prompted her to take a two-year secretarial course as a working student.
Her diligence caught the attention of one Filipino teacher who eventually offered her a part-time job at the Bureau of Customs in 1988. It was there that Sophie sharpened her skills in typing and filing documents, and learned to do disbursing and payroll tasks as well. The job paid her 200 pesos every week, which at the time was already a significant amount.
However, her stint at the Bureau of Customs consumed so much of her time that it wasn’t until 1990 that Sophie completed her course requirements for the secretarial program.
A year after graduation, Sophie left her post at Customs and ventured into the challenging world of law by taking on a job at the Maxino-Martinez Law Firm as secretary. The exacting standards required in legal world were exactly the kind of challenge that Sophie was looking for. It was this that got her so enthralled in the business of assisting lawyers.
At about the same time, Sophie also got herself back into school, this time for a four-year course. She was enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Commerce program at COSCA while employed full-time.
Three years later, she left the law firm to take on a more focused role as personal assistant to Atty. Marie Rose Inocando-Paras in 1995. Sophie relished every single day for no two days were the same. It was a never-ending learning process — and she enjoyed every bit of it. The experience was like law education in its finest without having to pay a single peso of tuition.
In 1997, she completed her degree in Commerce. Two years later, studied law at Foundation University for a year and a half. Her decision to drop out of law school was influenced by the growing responsibilities at work. Several documents and processes necessitated that she travel back and forth to Cebu.
Her frequent travels caught the attention of one crew member on the shipping vessel that she often took to Cebu. Casual conversations during trips made friends of the two. And when Archie Castañares bolstered the needed guts to ask for Sophie’s mobile number, it wasn’t long before their friendship ripened into something much more.
In 2004, Sophie and Archie had a small home made for themselves so they could move in together. They now have two sons: Gabriel Oscar, age 10, and Charles Bon, age 7.
When Atty. Paras was appointment as judge in 2005, she was recommended for employment at Law Offices and was hired as secretary to Atty. Myles Nicholas G. Bejar. Two years into her service there, Silliman University appointed her boss as the University General Counsel.
Convinced of her skills, Atty. Bejar immediately pitched in Sophie for the post of secretary. She was hired in 2007.
Describe yourself in three words.
Patient. Hardworking. Serious.
What is your motto in life?
Learn from your mistakes.
What makes you laugh?
Coming home to my kids.
What makes you cry?
Financial and family problems.
What’s your favorite time of the day and why?
Mornings, because I get more things done by then.
What’s your favorite day of the week and why?
Friday, because it makes me look forward to the weekend.
What do you love doing when not working?
Gardening – I grow vegetables at home.
What is your favorite hangout place in the University?
What makes you blush?
Being under pressure.
If you were an actress, who would you be?
Tell us a fact about yourself.
I’m a good cook — I inherited it from my mother.
What’s your favorite game growing up?
What is your idea of a relaxing day?
Meditating and doing yoga.
What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
I was a tomboy most of my life. I only started being more feminine when I met my husband.
What song best describes the YOU and the life you have now?
I can’t think of one.
What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
I get up and go straight to the kitchen to heat water for my 90-year old father’s morning drink. That’s also around the same time I start cooking breakfast for the family.
What’s your idea of a family?
A family must stay together, laugh and solve problems together, and maintain that closeness no matter what happens.