Our fondest memories and friendships were made in school, particularly in high school, just about the time we took the leap from childhood to womanhood, the times when the silly, or worse, things we did were quickly forgiven as follies of youth.
Indeed, we were blessed to have been young at the right time and in the right place. Some of us were among the pioneer students of St. Theresa’s Quezon City, when or after it opened in 1947, only a couple of years after the war, the perfect time to learn of love of God and country.
St. Theresa’s began as a shack, with walls of sawali; its last tenants had been American soldiers. It sat amid rustic charm, with carabaos grazing in fields and fields of green. The nuns seized that setting for our first lessons in humility and simplicity, genteel courtesies and refinements, virtues that carried over from how we dressed and comported ourselves to how we set our life’s priorities.
They imposed discipline, demanding nothing short of excellence in everything we set out to do and hopping to it. Tardiness was a huge crime, time being of the essence as an overarching theme.
It was in high school that we first learned to make friends, the fastest and truest ones, so that to this day we, not only as a class, but as an entire high school community of the era, have remained, if not close, at least in touch. As a class of two sections divided alphabetically, we couldn’t have made it this far without someone shepherding us and making sure no one escapes the loop and gets lost.
Fortunately for us, through the years, there was always Fanny, phoning, texting, e-mailing, reminding, updating, doing the job that chooses precisely the person—the most competent, most patient and most caring—and not the other way around.
And I can tell you now, with great pride, that our friendships have not at all cooled; in fact they have deepened, despite the circumstances—the physical distances, for one—that have separated some of us.
Proof is 10 classmates came home from the States, as though they had never left, back basically the way we remembered them, for our Diamond Jubilee last year. Before the programmed celebration in school, the core class of 30 strong locals treated balikbayan classmates and friends to a pre-Diamond jubilee party outside.
One by one, each member of the class was introduced by me, the emcee, as each made a grand entrance into the hall. Each Jubilarian in the moment’s limelight who could, did a beauty queen’s walk/dance to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” once around the hall before taking her place at her table.
When I welcomed our special balikbayan guests, I made the mistake of asking each one, as I called their names, to stand up and be recognized. A few could hardly stand, much less be recognized. Not entirely their fault: blame could be distributed between fading memories and faded visions, not to mention other physical ravages of time.
So, instead, I asked each one to move whatever body part they still could. When I called their names, up went limbs or walking canes. Sure enough, with the laughter, memories flowed back, like blood to our brains and, as the night wore on, more vivid recollections were shared.
At dinner, in keeping with the constant reminders by the president of our alumnae association, Dr. Chit Reodica, on the virtue of altruism, I called on the balikbayan to have first crack at the balat ng lechon.
For entertainment, we invited an artist close to our hearts and age, Pilita Corrales, who has become a friend of the class; and later on, we all indulged in the popular occupation of people our age: dancing!
On cue, young and not so young men garbed in coat and tie came out of the woodwork to dance with our guests, first. I don’t know what it is about dancing, but something happens as soon as the music starts; old bodies become young again, and rock!
Dancing turned out to be just the right warm-up for our dance presentation the following day. As usual, we had planned big, but not everybody came to practice, much to the frustration of our prima ballerina, our choreographer for life and for free—Vella Damian.
Poor Vella kept simplifying the dance steps as we went along to suit our failing memories and bodies. We might not amaze, but we would definitely amuse our friendly audience.
Tender loving care
In homecoming events, the oldies always steal the show— and were we a hit! That is not to take away credit from Fanny, whose constant tender loving care carried us, much older people now, smoothly through the strain of practice and getting our act together.
It was also Fanny who started our Class ’55 tradition of having a representation at every homecoming to show our support for the current Jubilarian celebrators; it also gave us another excuse to get together.
A Diamond Jubilee is where the buck stops; nothing comes after. But 60 years is a long time to be friends, and that kind of friendship outlasts school jubilees. In our mid-’70s now, a few have pacemakers, one or two are going through dialysis; golden wedding anniversaries have come, and some classmates have become widowed, if not passed on themselves.
Still and all, we have much to be grateful for. We’ve lived long yet have kept our minds curious; we’ve remained informed and involved in current events, not backing away from the challenges of modern times; our hearts continue to beat for one another and bleed for the less fortunate.
Indeed, how can we forget, with constant reminders from the president of the alumnae association, our very own Dr. Chit, who has kept us constantly aware of the virtue and joy of “being a person for others”—itself the mother of all lessons learned in our beloved St. Theresa’s.