ONE THING I can’t deny my current visit home, and that’s the hospitality of friends. Because I committed myself to help out with securing daughter Ganda’s academic credentials, I denied myself the pleasure and company of three invitations Tuesday, from a high school classmate (thanks Jerome!) a fraternity brother (thanks Atty Samboy Concepcion and brods!) and political science buddies (salamat Attys Rowel Barba, Eric Acolola and Commissioner Jaime Fortes), each promising a tasty dinner, laughs-a-minute and memories of half a lifetime.
Instead I was chasing documents, pushing papers and schmoozing professors younger than me because I promised my daughter that if ever I got home to the Philippines before she did, I’d do my best to get her what she needed to shorten her course list (she nearly graduated back home) towards a Marketing degree at the Victoria University at Wellington.
But the day before I just couldn’t help but anticipate meeting a couple of groups of people despite the fact that we had agreed to meet on very short notice, less than 24 hours before a lunch and less than 24 hours before a dinner. Even with social networking and SMS messaging at your fingertips, people still need to set aside time from work and play to assemble.
I met my second cousins, siblings Jhun and April, their Mom Nannette and Jhun’s son Gio at Landmark the other day, continuing a lifelong conversation we’ve always had. A towering presence was their dad/husband and one of the most remarkable uncles I’ve had, Atty Renato Montenegro, who must’ve been there with us smiling silently. I marveled at how ageless Tita Nannette stayed, at the durability of April considering the number of graveyard shift hours she logged in at Convergys, the steady development in Jhun’s career as a section chief at a top ten bank, and the personal bests his son Gio put in as a budding marathoner.
But most of all we talked about endless summers in my mom’s (and their dad’s) hometown in Masbate, where days were long and nights were cool. Coconuts were there for the taking, beaches were white, and hunting on horseback was there for anyone who fancied it. Twenty-five years later, I still remembered it like yesterday, and obviously so did my cousins, who have been there probably ten times as much as I have. Just reminiscing, and talking about their sis Ining back in Wellington took up the better part of two hours, and by then everyone had to break up and return to the real world. Thanks and till next time!
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That night I met high school friends who had blazed trails in their separate career paths, and have been all the better for it. One had cornered LPG sales in a major Metro Manila market, another had successfully switched careers from sales to I.T.; a third was a leader in a company that did business in at least a dozen industries in industrializing Philippines, and still another was starting to get both patients and recognition in his/her medical specialty. All I had were my traveler’s tales and notes from all over, but because they had seen so little of me the past decade, I was the star of the night. [ You will forgive me by the way if I don’t identify them by their accomplishments as they are all rather shy about achievement? ]
We talked and joked about a zillion things childishly and childlikely, because as you might know former playmates and schoolmates are the only people we can behave like foolish teenagers with, because they tolerate us and we all did the same thing together, once upon a time.
There was a recurring theme though : Is marriage, or even a life partner, essential to happiness in our day and age? It was more than a discussion in the abstract, as I and my only other married seatmate (obviously happy in his marriage) were in the minority that night.
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Nobody took sides because we all discussed the pros and cons of being in a relationship, but we all agreed that the pursuit of happiness was, reduced to its lowest terms, dependent on the self. We each were responsible (with all respect due to family and lovers) for our personal joy, and we figuratively live and die with that reality.
Other than that, everything else was shallowness and frivolity. There was a little sober talk about our folks in their twilight years, schoolmates who’d met a sudden demise, and the inescapability of terminal illness, but we otherwise couldn’t deny ourselves the guffaws, giggles and mwahahahas that all reunions, even the impromptu ones, churn out.
Just for the record, thanks for rounding us up quicker than we could say I’m coming! Richard, and thanks for making the night memorable Archie, Philip, Gina, and Stef! Mga alamat kayo!