April 20, 2009


School's out, and somebody I know has loaded her kid's schedule with activities, activities and more activities. There's Kumon, speech and art classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And there's taekwondo and swimming on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. All these, she says, so that her tweener won't get bored during the two-month lull.

I wonder: whatever happened to carefree, school-less summer days? My friends and I never had any of these organized activities and yet we were never bored. We climbed aratiles trees, we picked fights with the kids from the other street, we read komiks on the sly, we played patintero under the full moon.

Having none of the pressure to excel, or to make productive use of our school break, we discovered the joy of reading. Our minds did not atrophy from doing nothing--or from the lice that happily romped on our sun-baked heads. We built imaginary castles and scraped our knees scaling fences.

Times have changed, of course. There's the undue pressure to produce wonder kids. And in a world that runs on Counter-Strike mode, inactivity is synonymous to boredom.

Crazy, but I suppose in due time, there would be organized activities for kite-flying, climbing trees and breezing through the summer break.

April 15, 2009

Post Reunion Notes

On Black Saturday, we celebrated our 25th batch reunion.

I wouldn’t say that it was perfect; that it went according to plan. It wasn’t and it didn’t.

At the last hour—or was that last minute?—we learned that the singing was the finale: we had to change into our dance “costumes” fast and back into our “ball” attire faster. There were frayed nerves and flaring tempers. There were snags and hitches and more than enough factors to trigger hypertension and near heart attacks.

Two years of preparation, and when it came to call time, we were still a bunch of bumbling performers. Very much like the way we were when we were in high school.

In short, it was as if the 25 years never happened. Jay never aged a bit, and Nena towered as ever. Marissa laughed the same infectious laugh. I looked for traces of the old us in our newer, heavier figures and I was not disappointed.

We didn't lack in performers. Singers--and non-singers--hogged the videoke, while the more garrulous among us entertained with intoxicating renditions of their life and love stories. One girl went up the stage to do a monologue on the definition of chemistry and our bane of having to fertilize our practical-arts plots with dung. And when it was time for the ball and the program, we scraped past with our not-quite-as-perfect numbers. Heck, our kids even beat us by a mile.

Miscues notwithstanding, it was a happy, happy affair. We laughed hard as we rehashed old jokes, we cried some as former mentors gave touching--and teary-eyed-- testimonies, and we laughed some more as we revisited forgotten territory.

And yet, the homecoming was not really all about our former, younger selves. None of us have remained exactly the same. We have, in fact, changed in ways that all of us wouldn’t have imagined. The reunion took on some semblance of an Amazing Race pitstop: a breather, a chance to recoup before progressing to the next destination.

When it was time to leave, there were no formal goodbyes. All of us have since learned to live with countless hellos and goodbyes that we no longer observe timelines. What is important is that we know that we will meet again. Next year, perhaps. Or in another 25 years.

April 7, 2009

Quiet Walks

For two weeks now I've been going home at 9 p.m. In Sorsogon, this is already quite late: most of the stores close at 7 p.m., and by 8 the two main streets are literally asleep. Barring the times when I can bully the Papa into picking me up, my new-found friends (and former classmates) walk the quiet stretch to the terminal, where we each go our separate routes.

The evening walks have reacquainted me with the Sorsogon I knew: the Sorsogon I grew up in in the era of last-full shows and house calls. The moviehouses are now gone, but the end-of-the-day stillness remains.

The walks have also reacquainted me with the boys and girls I practically grew up with. This time, though, talk centers not so much on crushes and movies but on children and real lives. We talk of husbands and children, choices and how life turned out to be. We talk about what and who we are now, and how much we enjoy these walks. We talk about everything and nothing.

When this is all over, I know that I will miss going home at 9.

April 2, 2009

In a Jam

Having survived those horrendous Edsa jams, I am naturally patient when I happen to be caught in the middle of a pileup. After all, traffic in these parts translate to nothing more than five minutes on the L-shaped business center. Barring the usual rush-hour traffic--caused mostly by tricycles in an illogical rush--our main streets get clogged only when there are parades and processions. Or during the Holiday and Holy Week breaks, when cars crowd out the tricycles.

Last Tuesday, I was caught in a particularly long queue on the outskirts of town. The Sorsogon State College had its graduation ceremonies, and the graduates and their parents and probably entire clans really made navigation impossible. There was an unusually large number of kibitzers as well, and when I saw the humongous streamers I understood: the SSC invited Jinggoy Estrada as its "commencement speaker."

A celebrity--make that any celebrity--who happens to venture this far south, is sure to draw traffic. Toffee Calma can, even though nobody is really sure who Toffee Calma is. In the 80s, I went to school with a girl who did a cameo role in some Tagalog movie. Naturally, she was a celebrity for the rest of her grade school days.

I am sure that the crowd that trooped to see Jinggoy wasn't there for whatever "inspiration" he might impart to the new jobless. I have sat through graduation speeches before, and in all, I was too busy dreaming about the future to care about semantics. I don't even remember who spoke at my college graduation.

I asked a friend's son who was part of the crowd what Jinggoy said during the ceremonies. He couldn't remember. All he could say was that Jinggoy didn't look like an artista at all.