An invitation to lunch with two beauties of my time—Menchu de las Alas-Concepcion, the inviter, and Remè Ferrer-Ramos, together with our high-school English teacher, Rosario (Charito) Cruz-Estella, a beauty in her own time, now a widow and Miss Cruz to all her students, forever—made classmates Dr. Chit Noriega-Reodica and I feel a bit intimidated.
To be worthy, never mind comparable with the company, we thought we needed to make a special effort, and thus began texting our sentiments to each other. We thought we should at least endeavor that neither of us was mistaken for the teacher in the group.
“Parlor kaya tayo?” suggested Dr. Chit, which is something definitely out of the normal for both of us. I texted back wondering if one day at the beauty parlor would be enough.
Sadly, at the last minute, Dr. Chit couldn’t make it; her long-ailing sister Lourdes died that very morning. She missed a really good lunch.
The ever efficient comptroller of their family company, though no longer working full-time, Menchu had ordered everything beforehand, and we went straight to the pleasant business of reminiscence.
We go back to the early ’50s, as schoolmates at St. Theresa’s in Quezon City, when it had just opened. Menchu and Remè, in fact, belonged to the second batch of high-school graduates (1954), while Dr. Chit and I belonged to the third. Of their class, Menchu and Remè are the only ones who have continued to see each other; they are seriously considering our invitation to join our own class for get-togethers.
We were also from the same neighborhood, where urbanization at the time ended on Banawe St., behind the school, beyond which, along Biak na Bato, carabaos grazed in the fields and mudfish abounded in the creeks.
We knew better than to wander far. We mostly walked to school in pairs or groups, befriending other girls from the other grades to expand our safety circle. All of us, including teacher Charito, have since moved, but apparently left our hearts.
The lunch was definitely a good idea. Charito spoke warmly about one of my favorite uncles, Marcos Vidal, who passed away only last year, at 96. She said her late husband, Poch, played tennis as he pleased at Tito Marcos’ home; others needed an invitation.
Charito was our most glamorous teacher. She came in high-heeled signature shoes and skirts falling just below the knees, showing off long shapely legs. I remember how she made us giggle watching her hips sway as she worked the blackboard. She made every young girl’s dream come true when she married the handsome Poch Estella.
I’m flattered she reads me, and grateful for her keeping her teacher’s habits; she continues to watch my grammar.
All of them knew my mom. Remè recalled the first time they met; she sat beside her at a party and found Mom’s older but bubbly company enjoyable. Mom and Menchu’s oldest sister, Lily, were such good friends that her passing, in her early 70s, broke Mom’s heart. Mom lived to 85.
I knew Remè’s father from the bank in my dad’s congressional district, the respectable Monte de Piedad, as well as her other just-as-pretty sisters. Remè and Menchu have been best friends since high school and through college, at Maryknoll, and everyone thought them easily the prettiest of our generation.
Of course, for the juicy part, we got into some of our past relationships and updated each other with whatever might have happened to them. We touched on politics, but only briefly; we had our one clear moral choice for 2016.
Soon we were exchanging beauty tips, and of course the subject inevitably went to hair, my hair, a subject that has become rather public owing to this column; to Remè skin seemed more important, but to Menchu and me it’s definitely hair.
Its maintenance had cost a fortune in my case, but when I developed an allergy to the more expensive of the products I had been using for some years, I had to stop, and was led to discover I could get the same results with something cheaper and safer, thanks to my dermatologist.
For safe hair coloring, Menchu suggested her own brand, with which I myself had had a bad experience; it can start washing and dripping in the rain or mist. She demonstrated how to minimize the risk, and I may just try it again.
At a next table was a bigger group of girls, whom we also knew and briefly intermingled with. They were celebrating the good health prognosis for one of them, who had undergone a mastectomy: Girl-friendship in supportive action! All in all, it was a delightful afternoon of bridging the years.
Having become a sort of adopted alumnus in some of my circles, my husband Vergel has seen these relationships up close, and himself a too-early dropout to have kept anything comparable with what I have, he sometimes envies me, and I understand. He does have his own regular all-boy and rather highbrow lunch which I sometimes attend.
It’s nothing like ours at all; we girls prefer to share intimacies, and just can’t imagine friendship and lunches without it.