January 31, 2011

Back with my homies

AS with most long-time friendships, one never truly recalls how the relationships were formed and how they were first cemented.

Gorjus, Dee, Berry and I bonded as close friends all throughout high school at St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City, although we belonged to different homeroom classrooms (only Dee and I were actually classmates all throughout the four years). But I’ve known Gorjus since pre-school at Little Angel’s Nursery School, where once she so bravely told my Mama why we had to have afternoon classes, because Mama didn’t believe me. (This was after a massive typhoon hit the country and all schools were closed for a month).

Gorjus returned to Manila recently for a week from her home in the US, where she keeps house with her doctor-husband and two very sweet kids (a boy and a girl). So over dinner and then coffee one rainy Thursday, we got together with Dee, gabbed, and reminisced some.

We had a hilarious time, though there were some serious turns, especially when we exchanged stories of a few girls who had passed on in tragic ways. But it was all great to be with my homies again even if it was for just a night. Too bad Berry wasn’t around, but thank God for Facebook, we are all updated about each other’s lives even if we don’t talk every day.

Dee—married to a banker—works in a government agency, and takes care of her two grown kids, one of them already a lovely 18-year-old. It was Dee who married first, followed I think by Berry, who now also lives in the US, then Gorjus. I am the only one in the group who is still unmarried and who lives rather untraditionally, I suppose.

Berry was called “Sor Maria” or “Sister Berry,” because she was the sweetest and most demure in the group. For a while we were sure she would end up as a nun at St. Theresa’s. She was and still is the epitome of quiet beauty and brains; I remembered her as always being at the top of the class. She was nice and respectful, although Gorjus claims that I actually got so miffed at her once that I refused to speak to Berry for quite a time, despite the apparent thousand apologies she gave me.

(Unfortunately, Gorjus doesn’t recall what caused the rift, and also fails to recall how we patched things up. I still don’t remember this incident, as with some other events Gorjus seems to hold in her head, but one must forgive my senior moments. We’re talking about events that happened 30 years ago—I can’t even recall what I ate for lunch yesterday.)

Dee was my closest buddy—the veritable gal pal who would endlessly listen to me prattle on and on and on about my sad sack life, and complain about the idiots in our midst. I don’t know where she got the patience. Yet she was the brave one who could confront me about important issues, and I had quite a few in high school. What we joke about today is how Dee was such a baby—the quintessential hatid-sundo girl—with her mommy just a few steps behind her most of the time. She protests now that she did a year on the school bus though. Uhm, okay.

I led a slightly less ethereal existence in my elementary years, riding the jeepney of Mang Munding, who plied the Quiapo-Dimasalang route between 8 am and 3 pm, but turned his vehicle into a “school bus” in the morning and in the afternoons when he would fetch us kids to and from school, and safely return us to our mothers’ loving arms.

Truly Gorjus was our Sony Pro memory stick that night, reminding us of the various laughable incidents or somber events that affected our gang of four or our batch back in the day (over 200GB of information dating as far back as 1970!). She was also our news bulletin of sorts, reporting on the successes of our girls, especially those living abroad. Apparently, our batch—I will never tell you what year we graduated lest I incriminate myself—has the most number of people who moved overseas, especially after college.

It’s unfortunate for our country to lose these brilliant beautiful minds, but what an honor for St. Theresa’s to have that many respectable women contributing their talents to make foreign economies work better! But then I have yet to hear of any Theresian performing much less than what’s expected of her by our nuns.

I was especially awed to find out that one of our girls works at Nasa as a nuclear physicist, one makes a good living as a jewelry retailer, another is a successful dermatologist, while another is actually the mother of a very current showbiz star! Our very own Berry is now studying to get a teacher’s certificate which will play right into President Barack Obama’s recent call for more teachers.

Here at home, we have an amazing number of bankers from our batch, a pediatrician, a well-known writer and newspaper columnist (my friend Georgia, who moved to another high school but still considers herself a Theresian), an architect, a surgeon, lawyers, etc., all leading honorable and admirable lives. And some are, yes, “domestic engineers” who keep house for their husbands and their now-grown adolescent children. Despite the times we lived in when all avenues for women were swung open, at St. Theresa’s we were taught that all career paths were prestigious—whether one was a housewife or worked in an office.

Of course, there was a short discussion about unsavory rumors circulating among some batchmates concerning yours truly, and a few other girls, mostly untrue. (One was even dubbed a Japayuki just because she lived in Japan, how cruel!) I really couldn’t care less. These people were never my friends then, why should I expect them to be friendly towards me today? And really, there are always two versions to a story, but when passed on as a rumor, will likely get distorted and the people involved, misunderstood.

But just like any school, there are the smart ones and there are the bullies. There are also the truly kind and sincere girls whom I appreciate for their friendship to this day—even if we see each other just on Facebook these days—and there are the backbiters. There are the quiet hardworking ones, and there are the veritable nuisances. Not one high school is without all these kinds of people. But life goes on and despite some negativity, our true fighting nature is unleashed, and we triumph against the canard and the cheap tattlers.

Still, as I sat back sipping my tea and listening to Gorjus and Dee discussing our girls and the past events in our lives, I couldn’t help but smile. I was beyond proud of our batch. Everyone seems to be in a good place right now. Perhaps our being Theresians helped form us into better citizens of this country or other parts of the world, although that could be a cause for debate, especially from our Assumptionista and Maryknoller friends, hahaha. But we’re all living the best years of our lives right this moment. We rock. And that’s all that matters.

(Originally published on Jan. 28, 2011. My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the BusinessMirror. Photo from http://www.deeannegist.com.)

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