HIGHLIGHTS

  • Alarmed by the incidence of crime in her country, Luce spent a year studying and coming to know Yangon’s deserted children in 1926.
  • Sometimes dressed up as a boy, she talked with them at food stalls where they did odd jobs or begged for scraps; visited the opium dens and brothels that they frequented, and saw where they slept; met their leaders, who lived by thieving and vice.
  • Luce founded the Home for Waifs and Strays, where those boys were provided formal schooling, physical education and training, even introduced boys from the meanest walks of life to music and literature. She has been their “mother.”
  • The Board of Trustees of the RMAF recognizes “her compassionate concern for others whom society had cast aside.”

 CITATION

TEE TEE LUCE has given abandoned and wayward boys off the streets of Rangoon not merely a roof and food but what they missed and needed most—a home and a share of her heart.

Alarmed by the incidence of crime in her country, she spent a year studying and coming to know the deserted children who were its breeding ground. Other civic-spirited citizens joined with her in forming a Children’s Aid and Protection Society and helped plan and finance a home. On September 1, 1928, they offered a group of street boys a place to live and study and with 19 volunteers the Home for Waifs and Strays was launched.

From that time, except through the war years, Daw TEE TEE, has carried on with singleness of purpose the mission of the Home she founded. There have been runaways and other failures, but for most the Home has been a haven and an opportunity to lead a decent life. Now caring for as many as 130 boys, she has provided formal schooling, physical education and training in useful crafts and introduced these boys from the meanest walks of life to classics of music and literature. Above all, she has been their “mother.”

An active partner in her enterprise has been her husband, Professor Gordon H. Luce, himself held in affection and high regard by the people of his adopted country for his scholarship on Burma’s history and for many contributions over 47 years as teacher and unfailing friend. Though others have given generous assistance, often the two of them have had to strain their resources to keep the Home for their boys in operation. It is a fitting coincidence that she should receive this Award on the eve of its thirtieth anniversary.

JOAQUIN VILALLONGA dedicated himself to a life of service when he entered the Society of Jesus in 1885 at the age of 17. He has been closely associated with the development of our Philippine nation since he was first assigned to teach at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila 67 years ago. Later, he became Rector of that fine institution, where many of our leaders have been trained, and served in other senior posts of his Order in our Islands. His example of discipline, erudition and simplicity and his abiding faith in man’s humanity to man have been an inspiration to generations of Filipinos.

Twelve years ago, after he had held other high administrative positions of his Order in Spain, India and the Far East, he asked to come back to our country to serve the lepers at Culion. Today, at 92, he still ministers to their spiritual needs. A Chaplain extraordinary, Father VILALLONGA has shared the wisdom of his experience and the warmth of his understanding with those men, women and children who live in the banishment of a dread disease society has not yet learned to accept in its midst.

Father JOAQUIN VILALLONGA and Daw TEE TEE LUCE, caring as did Ramon Magsaysay for all people as individuals and believing in their dignity and importance, have sought to improve the lot of the unfortunate and have approached the task with selfless devotion.

In electing them to share the 1959 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes their compassionate concern for others whom society had cast aside.

Humanitarians, both, they exemplify the ideal of service embodied in the doctrine of many faiths and expressed by the Founder of the Christian faith in this way: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”

 RESPONSE

I am greatly honored to receive the Award, together with Reverend Father JOAQUIN VILALLONGA, S.J., for Public Service. Please kindly accept my heartfelt gratitude.

I feel very unhappy to be unable to accept your kind invitation to come to Manila. I myself am not quite fit, my husband is away and two members of my staff are down with bad attacks of flu and are weak and miserable. Now many boys are having high temperatures, one after another. Besides, I have several difficult boys in the Home and I must be here. Please kindly forgive me.

U LAW YONE knows the Home very well. I have requested him to represent me at the ceremonies.

 BIOGRAPHY

TEE TEE LUCE was born on July 19, 1895 at Insein, Hanthawaddy District, Burma. Through her brother, himself a learned scholar of Pali, she met her future husband, Professor Gordon H. Luce. Husband and wife have made an exemplary team and have shared together a long and fruitful life. The Luces have two children of their own, who are residing in England, and over the years have been foster parents to scores of boys off the streets of Rangoon.

Professor Luce has participated wholeheartedly in the Home his wife founded and, since his arrival in Rangoon in 1912 to teach English literature at University College, he has served his adopted country in many other ways. He is widely respected for his research on Burma’s languages and ancient history.

It was in 1926 that Daw TEE TEE determined to help Burma’s juvenile delinquents. Her “inspiration and example” was Alexander Paterson, later knighted, then His Majesty’s Commissioner for Prisons and famed for his humane and sympathetic treatment of prisoners in Britain. He had been invited to advise the Burmese Government regarding an increase of crime. A contributing factor emphasized by Paterson was the neglect of a large number of young children who fell into the hands of criminal gangs and from there were destined to overcrowd the jails. That same year, when Daw TEE TEE took her two children to England for schooling, Paterson arranged for her to visit juvenile courts, Borstal Institutions, prisons, corrective homes and schools.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)