LOS ANGELES, California – As soon as boarding for Philippine Airlines flight PR113 bound for Manila was publicly announced, I instantly grabbed my hand-carried bag, hurriedly left the International Lounge, and galloped my way to Gate 155.
With huge but calculated strides, I boarded the Airbus and settled comfortably in my seat 2L in the Business Class section.
A jovial looking, middle-aged Caucasian lady was seated beside me. She said hello to me and I greeted her back with a courteous smile. A few moments after, she asked me if this is the first time I am traveling back to the Philippines. I gently shook my head in polite disagreement and told her that I went back home just last December. I attended my brother’s wedding and spent Christmas with my family and some of my close friends.
My seatmate looked at me with seeming disbelief that can rival that of many a doubting Thomases. She thought I was kidding her. I said I don’t kid around when it comes to my trips to Manila. I take them seriously as, to me, they are a matter of responsibility being the eldest child of a family based in the Philippines. Besides, round-trip air tickets from Los Angeles to Manila is not exactly cheap.
The lady said I just look too excited and giddy for someone who just traveled to Manila recently. She added that my eyes were lit up and I was grinning ear-to-ear like a kid in a candy shop when I was approaching my seat. So she innocently assumed that this is my first trip back home in many years to justify, in her mind, the palpable excitement written all over me.
I politely begged to disagree on the “first trip in many years” assumption of hers, as I travel about three to four times a year on average, but I quickly validated her accurate observation on my unrestrained giddiness and excitement.
I am traveling home for my high school alumni homecoming, I volunteered. No wonder, she said.
It has been 25 years since I graduated from high school at La Salle Green Hills. Our batch, the Class of ’91, will host this year’s homecoming event on Saturday, February 6th, entitled, “Labelled Green: A Walk Through Time.”
In the months leading to the big day, an array of successful fundraising activities broke ground, like the special movie screening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” last December 17th, the Jubilarian Cup in Tagaytay Highlands Golf Club last January 13th, and the Labelled Green Fun Run last January 24th.
This Saturday’s main event marks the culmination of more than a year of meticulous preparation. Thanks to the Core Group members, who selflessly volunteered countless of hours and invaluable efforts to spearhead the gargantuan task, comprised of fellow Lasallians and batchmates Aljun Garcia, Joey Recio III, Paul Jacinto, Ronald Castillo, Epy Quizon, Arnold Buena, and Sydney Samodio, among others.
I look forward to seeing the group and thanking each one of them in person for a job well done. Along with my classmates in section 4A, batchmates in the Class of ’91, and fellow Lasallians, I am officially “labelled green” and ready to embark on “a walk through time.”
1987 to 1991 were the years that saw us in high school. Our era was definitely one for the books. We stood as innocent witnesses to numerous dramatic and life-changing events – both natural and man-made – that inundated our beloved nation and were forever seared into our minds.
Back in those storied years, as we were metamorphosing into young adults, our milieu seemed to reflect exactly the inner workings of our juvenile minds and psyche.
While the nation was basking on the heels of freedom from dictatorship in February 1986, we were also breaking free from our sheltered childhood to a more carefree adolescence. We were experiencing things we had never experienced before. And, boy, were we bragging about them in ways only teenagers could.
In the months and years that followed, we were clueless spectators to the seemingly endless coups d’ etat. While the fledgling Aquino government was fighting militants, we were preoccupied battling skin irritants. The aftermath of the uprisings left the nation as scarred as the pricked pimples on our oily faces.
The Central Luzon earthquake in July 1990 and the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 literally shook our country to the core. And while the fires in the belly of the earth were raging, so were the fires in our bellies blazing. We were bold, brazen and tempestuous (and I am not even talking about our hormones). And we were ready to take on the world with a cloak of invincibility called youth.
We bid our childhood goodbye and transformed into young adults during confusing and chaotic, yet interesting times. But we managed to move forward and take everything in stride. And, in spite of it all, we were still able to achieve some sense of normalcy in our green-blooded juvenile journey.
While we volunteered and fulfilled our socio-civic duties at NAMFREL Quick Counts during national elections in our humongous St. Benilde gym, we also got to strut our stuff at our high school dances, and hobnobbed with the fairer sex at the Girls Athletic League (GALS) events held there.
While we found time to nourish our souls and cleanse our spirits by participating in Search-In and Covenant retreats, we also put our best foot forward in the soirees we attended, and cheered with gusto in the shows and concerts we watched.
And while we took our philanthropic pursuits seriously through outreach activities in impoverished communities to further raise our social awareness, we also managed to covertly trade adult literature –stolen from our older brothers or clandestinely bought in Greenhills – to elevate our sexual consciousness.
High school will always remain one of the most unforgettable phases in our collective lives. Having the privilege of experiencing it in La Salle Green Hills, along with my brothers in Christ, made it even more indelible.
In hindsight, I firmly believe that the very foundation of my adult life was cemented and fortified during my years in high school. The commencement exercise I marched in – clad in my white barong, black pants, and green sash – at the St. Benilde gym 25 years and 25 pounds ago, has not only jumpstarted my adult life. It has also constantly steered me back towards the right direction as I continue to navigate my journey through life.
In my four decades of existence, I have trudged in unfamiliar shores and have wandered in uncharted territories in the Philippines and in the United States. The end, however, is still nowhere in sight. As the great American poet, Edward Frost, once wrote – which I learned in junior year – “And miles to go before I sleep.” But as long as I keep the values of a true Christian gentleman and let Jesus live in my heart forever, I know that I would be able to triumph over all adversity.
My mind was still taking a quiet stroll down memory lane when the lady passenger beside me broke the silence. She asked me what “pork tocino” is while pointing to the breakfast choices. I told her that it is thinly-sliced, marinated pork fried to caramelized perfection, best dipped in spiced vinegar. Seemingly unimpressed with my description, she said that her taste, no matter how far she goes, always finds its way back home to where it belongs. So it’s the good old American “beef pastrami hash and cheese omelette” breakfast for her.
I let out a big smile as an affirmation. Not of her choice of food for breakfast. But of the human inclination to go back – no matter how far one has gone – to where one belongs.
That’s why here I am seated beside her. Green with nostalgia at 39,000 feet above the Pacific. Coming home for our homecoming.
Labelled Green: A Walk Through Time, the 2016 LSGH Alumni Homecoming, will be held on Saturday, February 6, 2016, at the LSGH Open Field. Festivities start at 4 p.m. with an anticipated mass dedicated to deceased LSGH alumni and faculty, followed by a star-studded show featuring Rico Blanco, Luke Mejares, True Faith, and many more guest performers and hosts. It is co-presented by Labelled Green ’91, the LSGH Alumni Association, Mr. AJ Violago, Chevy Baliuag, Tarlac & Isabela, ETC, in partnership with San Miguel Beer, Globe, Johnnie Walker, Hexacam, AdStrat World, Business Mirror, and Inquirer.net.
Mr. Edwin Vinarao is an alumnus of La Salle Green Hills High School, from Class 4A of Batch ’91. He is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, who earned his doctorate degree in 2013 from Boston University in Massachusetts. He currently resides and practices in California, U.S.A. Email him at [email protected] and find him on Instagram @edwin_vinarao.