ARLENE Matias climbed diligently through the UST library ranks for 28 years, starting as a cataloguer and settling eventually as head librarian of the UST Miguel de Benavides Library’s social sciences section.

The journey, however, felt like “dancing to a bittersweet melody of sacrifice and compromises,” Matias said, as she struggled to attend to her children’s needs when they were growing up. 

“It’s a constant battle against time, and the guilt of not being able to give my children the attention they deserve weighs heavily on my heart,” she told the Varsitarian in an email interview.

Matias struggled to give birth to her three children as she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, in which a woman experiences high blood pressure either on the 20th week of pregnancy or after birth. As a result, her children were born prematurely.

The head librarian was already 34 when she conceived her firstborn, Arianna, now 16.

Before Matias entered her 40s, two more blessings arrived: Aaron, now 14, and Arvin, 11.

In a society that typically expects mothers to stay at home and focus on household work, Matias refused to follow the norm.

“I believe the idea that all mothers should stay home is outdated,” she said. “Every woman’s situation is different. Some find joy in being a housewife, but many, like me, thrive in careers outside the home.”

So, Matias pursued her chosen career. She first took the role of school librarian at the Philippine Cultural College in Tondo, Manila, alongside Michelle San Gabriel, now head librarian of the UST Ecclesiastical Faculties Library.

At UST, she was named assistant head librarian of the Health Sciences Library and then head librarian of Miguel de Benavides Library’s circulation and reference and information sections, as well as the education high school and grade school libraries. 

The battle-tested Matias now heads the social sciences section, which holds the biggest collection of printed books in the library at 63,000 volumes and the largest seating capacity at 296 people. 

The test

Matias did not have the usual 8-to-5 routine, so balancing career and motherhood was painstaking, especially at times when her children needed undivided attention. 

“Even on weekends, when I am physically present at home, my mind is often occupied with tasks related to our family business or pending work projects, leaving me unable to engage fully with my kids,” she said.

Parang nagulat na lang ako with the blink of an eye, they have grown up. That is why I can’t help but feel guilty for the missed milestones and the fleeting moments that slipped away unnoticed.”

But Matias learned how to embrace the challenge and endure the sacrifices if they meant better opportunities for her children.

“I’ve learned to cultivate resilience through love,” she stressed, adding, “While it’s true that I may occasionally miss out on important milestones, the memories we create in those moments serve as powerful reminders of the deep bond I share with my children.”

Matias received the Gawad Benavides Award at the Dangal ng UST Awards, presented on May 9, for rendering 25 years of service to the University.

The Thomasian librarian hopes that the institution that has fostered – and tested – her would do the same to her children who are all looking to finish their studies in UST: “My motivation lies in wanting my children to have the opportunity to be part of the same esteemed institution that holds a special place in my heart.”


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