Reunion: Former exchange student returns for a visit after 33 years

October 2017 Posted in Community

By Nancy Jennings

Timing was everything for Marizel Porcalla. After 33 years, the former Rotary Club foreign exchange student from the Philippines came back to Silverton in July to reunite with her host families.

Marizel spent one school year (1984-1985) at the high school, which was then called Silverton Union High School, while living with three host families.

Marizel first lived with Steve and Nancy Larson, then with Bill (now deceased) and Cherry Hoffman and finally with Bob and Tootie Marcum.

“They needed three host families. The Rotarians approached us,” Bob said. The Marcum’s three children were already grown and out of the house. They had hosted two other Rotary Club exchange students, one from Zimbabwe and one from Sapporo, Japan.

Over the years, Marizel and Tootie, 88, exchanged cards and letters. In the most recent one received in April, Marizel learned Bob had just turned 90 – and the couple had celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. She decided at that moment it was time for a reunion with “Granny” and “Pop.”

Coming from the small city of Naga in the Phillipines, Marizel was 15 when she arrived and “very naïve.”

“I was a little scared because I was never out of the country,” she said. “In the Philippines we had maids. Here, Granny taught me how to do household chores. I learned to be self-sufficient and independent.”

Cherry Hoffman – her second host “mom” – remembers the fun antics her two children, Staci Tanksley and Adam Hoffman, shared with Marizel. Staci and Marizel were the same age and enjoyed teasing Adam, who was three years younger. Cherry recalled many family outings to the beach and simply relaxing at home.

“I think she really found herself while she was here. Staci re-dressed her and taught her how to put on makeup. They were very much sisters,” she said with a smile. Getting into mischief after their 10 p.m. curfew bedtime was also a bond the two teenage girls shared.

“I found out they were getting up in the middle of the night and going out to the freezer and getting the ice cream and sitting on the bedroom floor with two spoons eating out of the carton,” Cherry laughed.

When the time came for Marizel to go back home to the Philippines, she was emotional.

“I felt very sad. I got so used to being here. I was crying on the plane. The Hoffmans took me to the airport. I didn’t know when I would see them again,” she said.

Marizel continued her education upon returning home.

“I went to the University of the Phillipines in Manila. I studied Speech Pathology and got my Bachelor of Science degree,” she said.

In 2001, she went to graduate school and earned a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Wayne State University in Michigan.

Now 48, Marizel is married to JP Porcalla and lives in Farmington Hills, Mich. She works at two jobs: as a Speech-Language Pathologist with children with various disabilities at the Detroit Public School, and in Geriatrics at a nursing home, helping residents with strokes, dementia and swallowing problems.

The couple have one daughter, Kristina, 14, who joined her mother on this trip. The energetic teenager was bubbling over her tour of Silverton.

“I want to move here. I love being here,” she said, giggling.

“Granny and Pop have always kept in touch with me every year, sending cards with letters inside. I remember them sending me a package… I still have the box. I stayed with the perfect family,” Marizel smiled.

At the time the Marcums hosted Marizel they lived on Quall Road near Silver Falls State Park.

“I haven’t been here for 33 years, but it still feels like home,” Marizel said.

“We built that A-frame and we lived there for 46 years. This morning we went out there and this young boy living there now asked us if ‘we would like to look around?’ She got to take pictures,” Tootie said.

On July 17, before heading back home, Marizel and Kristina headed to California. As fate would have it, they met up with Marizel’s brother, also on a trip. Neither one knew they would be in the same area at the same time – until Marizel’s reunion trip was planned.

“I believe this trip was meant to happen,” she said.

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