This 2015, it would be exactly 60 years since we, the Maryknoll High School Class of 1955, graduated.
Sixty years! There were 72 of us then, eager 13 to 15-year- olds (there was no middle school) whose next and only goal was to go to college. Graduation ceremony in the chapel was a solemn event; we felt the excitement of being on the cusp of something more important.
We were no longer the giggling girls who eagerly boarded the school buses from Pennsylvania Avenue, Manila, which took us to the newly built Maryknoll College in Quezon City. We now felt like grown-ups, among the first graduates from the new campus.
Sixty years! There are only 55 of us now, many of us in our mid-70s—grandmothers, widows, several of us living in other countries. Our class was a microcosm of the other classes; we had classmates from the Visayas, Mindanao and various areas of Luzon; some came from well-heeled families, others from modest circumstances. Our uniform served as an effective equalizer.
Ten years ago, at our 50th reunion in San Francisco, 20 of us attended. The following year, three of those classmates had passed on. This year I am keenly, painfully aware of how the threads of life and death have become even more closely knit.
I’d like to claim that we are a unique class in that we’ve stayed connected all these years, but we’re not. It is remarkable, heartwarming and perhaps a largely Filipino trait that we have stayed connected.
What may be unique is how our class president in our senior year, Gigi Abaya-Carlos, has over these decades been our glue. She cared deeply enough to keep us together and connected, to care about what happens in each other’s lives—a living example of the Maryknoll Spirit that our alma mater endeavored to imbue in us.
I recall two incidents that perhaps were the first conscious steps of what helped shape me. I still remember the time I sewed my duster backwards in home economics class, and two classmates immediately came to my rescue, ripping and re-sewing with no comments or judgment on my ineptness. It was for me an indelible lesson in quick, unconditional giving which I have not forgotten. In retrospect, it may have been the Maryknoll Spirit in action.
Ten of us formed a “gang” (not a negative word then) and called ourselves the TRALDIGETS, each initial for each of our then current boyfriends. (Most of us have forgotten who they were!) When one of the Traldigets and I had a major disagreement, we did not talk to each other for days even when at the same lunch table. Then, one morning, I found a peace gift from her in my locker; that was a lifelong lesson in forgiveness and letting go of anger.
Many of us attended different colleges, and we lost track of each other as we pursued advanced degrees, careers, got married and raised families. Tragically and sadly, three died before they turned 40.
Throughout the years, Gigi was quietly in the background, encouraging us to stay in touch with each other. She organized mini reunions whenever any of us balikbayans came home. We met each other’s spouses and families; those of us living in the US made an effort to visit each other.
Some of us were fortunate enough to travel together with our spouses. With Gigi’s continuing encouragement and our shared Maryknoll legacy, getting reacquainted in our new lives was a joy!
Perhaps the last time
Many of us keenly feel that, realistically, this may perhaps be the last time we will be together in this manner. We will each bring memories of those four years, which, consciously or not, have helped shaped part of our lives.
There will be laughter and nostalgia; pride in our children and grandchildren; sadness for those who are too ill to come and for those who have gone.
Reunion means reuniting, a coming together with purpose. For our class of 1955, it’s a time to appreciate our four years together from the perspective of 60 years—to cherish this gift of time as we renew our connection, knowing that we will always be one in our Maryknoll Spirit.