It’s December 30 as I write this, and you would think that I have, as most of you have, gone to over a dozen get-togethers and parties this Holiday Season. You’re right.
And last night, I went to one of the most memorable. It was the first time I attended a reunion with my grade school classmates back at the old Divine Word College of Laoag located at the Cathedral compound.
After graduating from there in 1991, most of my classmates went to DWCL High School. I moved to another. This is the reason I did not get to meet them in a long time. They would constantly hold high school reunions that obviously I am not part of. But we thought this year, as a result of our scant conversations on Facebook, to meet up. The simple but meaningful gathering was graciously hosted by Laurel Paul Mariano who was recently promoted as a Full Lieutenant of the Philippine Navy. His spacious compound somewhere in Laoag’s Barangay Salet, which offered a view of the city’s skyline, was a perfect venue for the event which incidentally marked two decades from our grade school graduation.
There were ten warm bodies, which was not bad, as many of our classmates are either based in Metro Manila or overseas. The attendance sheet: Me, Paul, Bernard Manrique, Ashley dela Cruz, Michael Salud, Excellency Guiang, Laurel Paul Mariano, Juanito Compa, Jose Mari Mata, Angelito Masion, and Leslie Santella. Richie Cavinta, who stayed for one minute, excused himself to do an important task for the fiesta of San Nicolas Town where he works at the munisipio. But we went home at 1:00 a.m., and still no Richie. And no D.A. Bitancor either. D.A. promised to follow when we tried to fetch him at his convenience store. Still, I was really happy to see all of them. In fact, I may already have been bumping with some somewhere, but there are faces I needed a while to recognize.
I was excited to go, and it was not, of course, mainly because of SanMig Light which, by now, dear Karikna, you know that I love so much. In fact I could have, as Benard did, just drank water the whole night and still enjoy as much as I did. It was nice to revisit our childhood, remember our teachers (Is Ms. Menor still alive? Did you know that our old crush Ms. Fe Dancel is, to this day, still hot as hell? Where is Mrs. Pasalo?), the corporal punishment still prevalent at that time, our very physical games (Do children today still play bawang base?), the Christmas parties. (Because we had no girl classmates, we had to do the Nativity Scene with a boy Mama Mary. The Ilocos Sentinel publisher Excel Guiang, who now has two kids, was perennially our baby Jesus wrapped in white diapers.)
Ryan Cunanan must have a crocodile’s memory. He remembered two things which I already forgot. First, that I taught Karate to my classmates, and even administered exams for promotion to higher belts. (I really never knew Karate aside from watching my brothers who were doing Taekwondo). And second, that I played priest then and recited the mass for my classmates, complete with communion. (No, I did not collect offerings, the money for the bread and wine I bought from my own money.)
Ours was among the last all-boys batches at Divine, and Paul noted that it was quite a different experience from their high school coed reunions. Indeed, we openly talked about a wide range of topics, including masturbation, fist fights, and even youthful adventures with outlawed substances. I shared that I somehow regret not having tried Marijuana at all, and that I happen to be a strong advocate for the legalization of the weed. I conceded though that it seems too late and irresponsible to try now. When you are young, you somehow have a license to commit mistakes as you explore the world. The only rule is that you be careful so you can live to tell your stories, and the lessons you learned from them, to your children. Two of our batchmates did not have that luck; they went to the Great Beyond ahead of us. We remembered them fondly, though they were not exempted from our outrageous, many times irreverent, recollections of time gone by.
Today, all of us, including me I hope, are productive members of society and strongholds in our respective families. Psychologists contend that a human being’s personality is shaped mainly during childhood. Our school, teachers, and parents must have done something really, really good. And for this we are grateful no end. We thus raised our bottle’s of San MigLight, Excel’s glass of red wine, and Bernard’s pitcher of water to a wonderful childhood we hope we can soon again revisit.