belated happy birthday Stefanie Victorino!

Stef is in the middle between Maribeth Ang-Wong (checkered blouse) and Arlene Ayuste (denim blazer), among high school batchmates. ;)

Stef is in the middle (in white) between Maribeth Ang-Wong (checkered blouse) and Arlene Ayuste (denim blazer), among high school batchmates. ūüėČ still pretty after all these years!

I’d like to say I’m good at remembering birthdays, but that would be stretching the truth. ¬†In fact, it would be a real whopper, since besides my own, my immediate family and a few others, anything with a month and a number besides it are good only as holidays, discount-voucher deadlines and due dates for library books I haven’t finished.

It happened again last month when I completely forgot the birthday of a dear friend, Stefanie Victorino. ¬†I’ve known her since late primary school, and she has been a funny, thoughtful, and constant companion in the journey of life. ¬†I have not always benefited from her physical presence the last few years, but because of the magic of the internet and SMS messaging, she has provided a ready ear and her unfailing counsel almost instantly, as if we ¬†had never been apart.

Whenever I come home and visit the homeland, she is always among the first to organize a get-together with contemporaries during which we laugh, rebond, and share thoughts with friends who have always been such and will be friends for life. ¬†As a friend, you can’t do much better than that.

Stef has always aimed for and earned the best, whether at school, at work, or anything she has attempted in life.  So much so that she has met with success in academics, her job, and in social life.

The only area where I can claim to be a bit better than her is in selecting bosom buddies.  I can safely claim that this is the solitary activity I have bested her.  Because in Stef, I can have the best possible friend there is.

Belated happy birthday, my dear dear friend. ¬†I’m sorry to have missed dropping you a line on your special day, and I hope you had a great time with loved ones and (of course) your friends.

Love you always!

belated happy birthday Eunice Cobankiat – Pascual !

our birthday celebrant Eunice with fellow high school classmate Pilar Ang Si !

belated happy birthday (14th November) to a fabulous high school friend, Ms Eunice Cobankiat – Pascual !

I THINK I’ve said it more than once, but on your special day, it bears being said again.

With looks like yours, a beautiful family, a talent that people appreciate, universal high regard among the people who count, and friends that have stood the test of time, what more is there to ask?

Not much I’ll venture to guess. ¬†So that, if our last meeting during our recent reunion can be basis, ¬†just let me wish for you the following : that you remain as youthful looking as you ¬†are, that your talents continue to bring you fulfillment, that your family remains close and tight, and lastly, with a bit of selfishness, that your friends stay as true as always.

Belated happy birthday beloved friend, so sorry for the late greeting, regards to everyone back home, and many happy returns!

anniversary thoughts of a former pinoy smoker

[ Note : This is for my maternal grandfather Jose, Tito Val (Bautista), Tito Fonso (Yang), Tito PD, Uncle Jess Imperial, and everyone else in my family who is/was smoking.  Thanks for reading everyone! ]

THE 17TH of the month, it will have been exactly five years since I quit smoking. ¬†I’m not usually a stickler for dates but this particular one sticks out in my mind as it was one of the few things I did that was unequivocally smart (after 24 years of silliness), and something that probably saved my life, and preserved the quality of such life for the remainder.

I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that I still light up every now and then, elaboration below. ¬†But on the whole it has been smoke-free and tobacco-free for this Pinoy for probably 99.9% of the last 60 months, coincidentally also spent as an accidental migrant.

So I don’t sound like a puritanical, hypocritical turncoat who’s seen the light, and preaching to the choir, let me start first by stating the frankly obvious : given the millions and millions of smokers who’ve been smoking throughout their adult lives until their last, gasping breath, there must be some benefits, addle-brained as it sounds (the medical evidence to the contrary is overwhelming).

This is not arguing for argument’s sake, or standing as devil’s advocate in a debating tournament. ¬†Long after quitting, I still think there are benefits to smoking.

Needless to say, but I’m as usual saying it, is this is all my penny-for-your-thoughts opinion, which isn’t worth much, but I have an hour before I need to get ready for my afternoon shift :

The first, most obvious benefit to smokers is the pleasure and physiological effects that tobacco provides. ¬†Speeds you up, slows you down, it all depends on the smoker. ¬†Administered as a direct hit to the brain and bloodstream, several thousand chemicals are introduced to the body, and among many things smoking claims to clear up your thinking, makes you more alert, helps you relax, and helps you get rid of the “feeling of fullness” after a heavy meal.

Relatedly, smoking helps you engage in conversation, helps you focus in whatever work you do, and helps you get into the routine, if you have gotten used to smoking in your daily life.

The second benefit of smoking is that it’s a sociability tool, mainly for smoothing over any awkwardness in introducing yourself and acquainting yourself with strangers. ¬†Essentially, if you smoke, and I smoke, we can do something together, even if we’re strangers who happen to be killing ourselves (no overt sarcasm intended). ¬†Because smokers meet and converge in smoking areas, share cigarettes, light each other’s cancer sticks, friendships are easily struck and nurtured, no big surprise. ¬†The real surprise is why can’t we do this in church, the gym, or even on the train commuting to and from work? ¬†Because smoking is a social activity, and misery loves company. ¬†Nothing more, nothing less.

I thought there would be a third benefit of smoking, but I was wrong. ¬†That’s it.

Now, on the other side of the scale :

Lung cancer and related diseases from smoking is the second most prevalent preventable cause of death in the world, or is among the top three at least. ¬†The graphic in the video above says 4 million die from smoking related causes every year, but it’s at least two years old. ¬†( I just looked, it’s five million now.) ¬†For someone as smart, practical and common-sensical as you, it beggars belief that you’re still smoking. ūüėČ

There are so many negative social consequences that one must live with if he/she persists in smoking, among them being shunned and ostracized (and sent to smoking areas), being thought of as being inconsiderate, especially if they are parents, “dragon breath”, work interruption caused by cigarette breaks, and so on. ¬†This is a list that keeps giving, and so I better stop here.

And there are many many others, reasons to stop I mean, but since I’m a scaredy cat, I need to ask you Precious Reader : what if you don’t die from ¬†cancer, complications or emphysema soon after diagnosis? ¬†Below is not a very watchable video (yet again), but it’s quite convincing :

Sorry to use such a graphic video, but it’s better than a video of an actual person sick with COPD and emphysema. ¬†The voice-over with the video is effective, too.

***        ***         ***         ***         ***

That’s it. ¬†That’s my take on smoking. ¬†I can’t say I’m completely free of tobacco addiction (’cause I still think about smoking, especially when I see you smoking), but pardon me for bragging when I say that I’m getting there.

And I would love your company. ūüôā

belated happy birthday Andy Lim !

it’s a compliment to Andy that like good wine, the years have only made him better. sorry for the late greeting friend!

belated happy birthday (14th August) to a fondly remembered classmate, Mr Andy Lim !

There are so many good memories of Andy that it wouldn’t do him justice to pick just one or two.

He had a highly developed sense of humor as early as Grade Six when we are all barely into puberty.¬† He knew how to make all of us laugh, and how to push the teacher’s buttons.¬† He also knew how to turn the class sentiment for or against whatever issue of the day that was raging.¬† Whatever, there was no doubt that he was highly intelligent and gifted in many facets of human excellence.

In sports he was also off the charts.¬† He could excel in most sports with one eye closed and one hand tied behind his back, when most of us were just learning the basic skills.¬† He had enough leadership smarts to organize teams just on the strength of his character and charisma, and for many 15 year-olds that’s saying a lot.

He was respected enough to be selected as one of the leaders in citizen military training, and was one of the senior members of the officers corps.  There was enough overlap for him to be selected the first president of the alumni batch association.

Since then he has made his own fortune and made his own destiny (in Toronto Canada), for others to follow and admire.  The past seems so distant now, but we will always remember Andy for being a charmismatic leader, without forgetting to be just one of the guys.

So sorry for the late greeting, blessings always to your family, hope we can meet someday soon in one of our reunions, and many happy returns!

belated happy birthday Michael Tan !

Michael (center) with family.

belated happy birthday (4th September) to my high school classmate Mr Michael Tan !

MacTan was as lowkey, soft-spoken and clean-cut as it got, but he was one of the more memorable members of my class more than three decades ago.

He was never too high, never too low, never too rowdy, but never too boring, never too happy and never too sad.  He knew exactly what to say for every moment, and did just enough to get by.  Which was exactly how he (and most of us) wanted it.  Laid back, cool, and just one of the guys.

One thing I won’t forget about MacTan though, and that’s the fact that we had very similar tastes in what we considered pretty, cute and beautiful.¬† That I won’t easily forget.

Then and now, he was someone that I could easily relate with, and it was great to see you at the 30th anniversary reunion.  Belated greetings classmate, and many happy returns!

YLB Noel

belated happy birthday Kirby !

Kirby with batchmates during our latest reunion last July 14th. He is the distinguished looking gentleman in the suit in back row.

belated happy birthday (4th August) to batchmate Mr Kirby Hartigan-Go !

IF IT’s true that quiet confidence speaks loudest, then Kirby was definitely one of our most confident contemporaries in high school.

In his words, gestures, academics, and leadership skills, the strength of his conviction carried the weight of someone far beyond his build, the wisdom of elders far beyond his years.

But even these meant little next to the conviction of his faith, a badge he wore proudly then and to this day.

It has undoubtedly paid dividends to him in this world, but he gives more weight to the rewards in the next.

About that belief, we have every confidence, you can be sure.

Belated happy birthday Kirby, sorry for the late greeting, thanks for serving as one of our most dedicated Batch Officers, and many happy returns!

YLB Noel

belated happy birthday Noemi Bola√Īos !

Noemi with hubby ūüôā

ADD TO our great frustration of never being classmates with Noemi our frustration of not seeing her at our 35th anniversary high school reunion. It would have been great to see you batchmate, and be regaled by all your stories about carving out the career of a lifetime in Arizona.

I met all your kabatch and close friends though, as you will see in a thousand and one Facebook uploads shortly. There wasn’t enough time for every batchmate to update everyone else on his/her life, but you probably guessed that already.

I can assure you though that at one point or another during the reunion, a lot of us thought of you and wished you were there.

Belated happy birthday Noemi (6th July), so sorry for the missed greeting, and many happy returns!

YLB Noel

there and back again after 30 years

At this point the titles don’t mean a whole lot, but just for posterity we are flanked by past batch officer Stef Victorino, current batch president Ricky Ko Pio, and past batch officer Mel Asiddao. Except for this loyal blogger, everyone in the pic has done so much to advance the interests of batch 82, and deserve hall-of-fame recognition, kudos guys!

THE SHORT lesson was, if you attend a culminating activity 30 years in the making, small inconveniences should either be taken care of early or endured peaceably.  If one can last through nuclear meltdowns, seismic upheavals, iron curtain-shattering and geopolitical tsunamis, technology-gamechanging, black President-electing, Beatle-dismantling, Bee Gees-terminating and Michael Jackson-moonwalking 10,950 days 1,560 weeks 360 months or 30 years, you had better have a good penetrate-and-escape plan for your 30th anniversary high school reunion, James-Bond level at least.

But¬†I guess that would be¬†too much to expect from a wishy-washy part-time philosopher, part-time blogger and full-time slave like me, so I once again had to miss the lion’s share of that wonderful event prepared by our batch handlers Ricky Ko Pio, Carol Ng – Sy, Kirby Hartigan – Go, Evelyn Cheng, Maribeth Ang – Wong, Melanie Lim, Ricky Cheng, Tessie Sy – Chingkaw, Rosemarie So – Cheng (did I miss anyone?) because esposa hermosa and I had to catch a ride home, of all things.

On the way home I realized, was anything more important than enjoying to the fullest an event like your 30th homecoming?¬† Wasn’t it worth the hassle of bumming a ride home from someone else, anyone else who had the minimum of a kariton or bicycle that my wife and I could ride on?¬† Sigh, but I’m counting my blessings anyway.

Blessings like I made it at all to the Philippines when just organizing a trip, finances, wherewithal and all would have and did take major coin and energy; like we were able to accomplish substantive chores that only a trip back home made possible; that both my family and that of esposa were in awesomely good health and with whom we could bond, and that we partook of so much good food, conversation and hospitality in the short time we were back home.

But nothing could match the familiar faces that we saw at the 42nd floor of the Discovery Suites Saturday night.  It would be unfair to mention any single one, but each face that we beheld brought back wonderfully detailed memories that only face-to-face encounters could bring in stark relief, and if you have attended even one reunion, you know what I mean.

Special mention was given to overseas Рbased members of batch 1982 (what we informally call our group, by the way ), and I was one of those lucky enough to be kudosed, although others came from much further.

I will do my best to post pictures here later, just to show you how little has changed among my high school friends and how well our friendships have weathered the test of time !

Thanks for reading, and to all my high school friends, take a bow please !

YLB Noel

reunion alert !

thanks Wikipedia for use of this pic !

LET’S SEE.¬† Have teeth done?¬† Check.¬† Visit in-laws?¬† Check.¬† Update eyeglasses? Check.¬† Wow, I’ve been a responsible balikbayan this visit home.¬† But there seems to be something I’ve forgotten, whatever could that be?

OMG, I almost forgot, we’ve got to get ready for the 30th anniversary reunion of our high¬†school batch in good ol’ St Jude Catholic (SJCS), later today in Pasig City !

Seriously, it will be great to see friends we haven’t seen for a very long time.¬† Since graduation in fact, so that makes it an even 30 years and change.

Many have gone into the family business and built wealth anyone can be proud of, others have carved out careers that are cornerstones of their communities.  Some have searched for fortune and adventure overseas, and have returned home heroes with tales to tell.  A few, well a select few have outdone themselves to be the very best in what they do, in the particular field they have chosen.

I was lucky enough to have furlough and a little savings set aside for such an event, particularly since I missed our 25th anniv celebrations.

I may be biased, but despite the size of our high school class, a lot of us have kept close and in touch through the years.  The amazing tools of internet, Facebook and connectivity have made the task of staying friends so much easier.

The real magic though will be the face-to-face affirmation of the friendships we have nurtured all these years.  Some may have hibernated, but today is the time to dust the cobwebs off.

That’s what reunions are for, after all.

Thanks to our batch officers led by President Roderick Ko Pio, and I sincerely hope we all have a wonderful time!

YLB Noel

wanderlust notes from all over on a rainy Tuesday night, Tao Yuan Ermita

clockwise from back row extreme left: Ricky Cheng, Roderick Ko Pio, Dennis Sy, Lucy Linda Lee, Hedy Ong-Soliman, John Sy, Kathryn Que, Doc Peggy Ting, Mel Asiddao, Maribeth Ang-Wong and Carol Ng Sy. Thanks Dennis for the pic !

IT STARTED OUT a bit awkwardly, and everyone was just figuratively shuffling their feet and thinking of something clever to say.  Or maybe it was just because we were more than an hour, embarrassingly late for the small gathering?

In any case, as soon as we sat down, we warmed up to both the food and the great company, and things flowed naturally from there.

One of the batchmates around talked about how hard it was to manage fine dining establishments, shuttling between Singapore and the Philippines, and spending quality time with the family.

Another kabatch talked about how hard it was to quit a vice that was a disadvantage to both health and career, something all of us, regardless of age, could relate to.

Still another friend marveled that despite all the far-flung outposts, wild adventures and life dramas we had reached and experience, we were all back home ready to trade stories and inspire each other.

Such was the stuff of our dinner with classmates from overseas, as distant as the Americas and Canada, as far down south as New Zealand, and as close as four hours away in Singapore.  Pagkalayo-layo man ng narating, sa simbahan pa rin ang tuloy..

Thanks SJCS 82 officers led by Ricky Ko Pio for the generous treat, and Ms Maribeth Ang-Wong for hosting !

Now, onward to the grand reunion!

Thanks for reading !