PRINCIPAL LOBO

The villagers of Saligão revered any of their sons and daughters who had either excelled academically or achieved success in their chosen careers – generally in the white collar field. And they’d be touted as being ‘famous’.

In an era when matriculating from high school was looked upon as a passport to a relatively secure career as a clerk, anyone with a college degree was deemed to be a noteworthy cut above the rest… and even more so if the individual held a prominent position in the then British Colonial Civil service.

Being of an impressionable age as a pre-teenager, I held these individuals in high esteem … until I graduated from high school, got myself a job, and began to quantify their achievements. And what I discovered was that most of them did very well for themselves and their families, but contributed very little to the village community at large. Among the few exceptions was Mr. Anacleto Lobo who was generally referred to as “Principal Lobo”.

Mr. Lobo did not have his roots in Saligão. He was born in the village of Tivim, but his family had originally settled in Poona, India, where they were known to have made significant contributions in the community.

Mr. Lobo was a learned man and an educationist who wanted to impart the benefits of learning and the richness of diverse cultures to as many Goans as possible. So he built a co-ed school in Saligão in 1909 just inside the boundary line that separates Saligão from the village of Calangute, and he named it Mater Dei Institution. It catered to the children of Saligão and the surrounding villages of Calangute, Candolim, and Pilerne. In the ensuing years, its high standards gained it a reputation that began to attract students from all over Goa.

Anacleto Lobo had travelled to China, England and Europe, and he incorporated the best of these foreign cultures as part of the curriculum, albeit with subtlety. And I happened to be one of the fortunate beneficiaries of his life’s pursuit.

Principal Lobo was an impressive man. He was always impeccably dressed – polished shoes, razor-sharp creased trousers, a pressed ‘bush shirt’, a well-trimmed goatee, and not a hair out of place on his head. To add to his stature, he strode the halls of the school at a brisk pace and always had a cane in his right hand. The cane was used sparingly, but those that were on the receiving end were an exclusive group – of which I was one. I earned this distinction at the end of a typical school day when the class was being dismissed.

It all happened during a short prayer the class would recite after the final bell. As a ‘monitor’ (a student appointed as a role model and keeper of the peace in the classroom), it was my duty to lead the prayer. That particular day, Principal Lobo was standing in for our regular teacher when I mumbled the last words of the prayer and started shuffling towards the door before ‘crossing’ myself. Now, that was a sign of disrespect as far as Principal Lobo was concerned, and he reacted swiftly; a sharp whack across the back of my pants that froze me in my tracks just short of the door. “Don’t you ever leave before finishing your prayers!” he bellowed, leaving me so stunned that I uttered neither “Ouch!” nor “I’m sorry, Sir”. But it sure did teach me a lasting lesson in the importance of respecting authority.

This incident, however, was not a true reflection of Mr. Lobo. He was a disciplinarian for sure, but under that stern appearance was a compassionate man who was not widely known for his charitable deeds because he performed them very discreetly. I only came to know about his acts of charity from my dad a few years after I had graduated from Mater Dei.

As an educationist with a mission to equip his students with the foundation for a better future, he waived the fees of many a poor student to enable them to graduate from high school so that they could get a job abroad and, in turn, support their other siblings in school, not to mention their financially strapped parents.

Anacleto Lobo was married to Inez Nazare a trained teacher educated in Bangalore and Secunderabad, and they had three children, Cleta, Edna and Yvette. Mrs. Lobo was very efficient, and she helped Mr. Lobo in the administration of the school. Cleta is the current Principal, and Edna is Vice-Principal. And they have maintained Mater Dei’s proud tradition to this day.

Principal Lobo was rarely talked about as a prominent villager of Saligão, perhaps because he didn’t flaunt his academic credentials and didn’t get involved in petty politics. But he was, indeed, an impressive man who I have always regarded as the greatest benefactor of Saligão.