Rediscovering a childhood friend on FB–70 years later | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

It is almost the end of the year, and I find myself up to my eyebrows making lists of all kinds.


Who is coming to Thanksgiving dinner? I need a grocery list.


My traditional yearend high school reunion comes up a week after. This one is a bittersweet chore. How many will make it this time? Several have gone and a few are ailing. Our list gets shorter. That’s life. We give thanks and carry on, while we are still able.


And then of course there’s my ever-growing list for Christmas gifts.


Some may think it’s too early to plan, but time has a habit of rushing when you want it to slow down.


Besides, I am excited. My first grandchild and her family will come from Seattle to spend the holidays with us. And the 18th will spend his first ever Christmas in Manila. There will be an extra sparkle in our tree.


Must we wait for the end of the year to get together with the people we love? No, but sometimes it can’t be helped.


So I urge you not to get so busy making a living that you forget to enjoy life. Embrace what surrounds you. Drink it all up. Life is short.


A wise man said: “Don’t wait. Make memories today. Celebrate your life!” L’chaim!


Emotional story


There was an emotional story on Facebook not too long ago about a woman who, orphaned at an early age, was adopted by a loving couple. She never forgot her younger brother who stayed behind at the orphanage, but never heard about him again.


Thirty years later, thanks to social media, she found him not too far from where she had grown up and raised her own family. He had not been as fortunate and was down on his luck. Their reunion went viral and was nothing short of magical.


There are many similar stories. Mine is not as dramatic but it certainly warmed my heart.


I was browsing and scrolling one quiet afternoon and saw the name, Maria Paz Moreta. I remembered someone in my first grade class—Pacita Moreta. I thought it must be the same person.


I searched FB and there she was! I remembered her face.


Pacita is now a nun. Somehow that amused me. She and I were always the naughty ones, the little girls made to face the wall or stand in the corner, several times a day. In a worse-offense scenario, we were sent to the bodega, a cold and smelly room under the stairs.


Innocent capers


I took a chance. I messaged her. Are you Pacita and did you ever go to Holy Ghost College?


Long story short: We made a date. I picked her up at Assumption in San Lorenzo. It was like all the years had not happened. We embraced like long-lost friends.


Over delicious lunch at Pasteleria La Nuova, we compared experiences and remembered our innocent capers that got us in trouble with the German nuns.


We talked about the directress Sister Edelwina, so beautiful and so strict; about the aroma of delicious newly baked German bread; the elegant staircase that led to the serene chapel, and the confessionals by the door.


And she remembered the bodega, and how one day she came out riding the little bike that was stored in there, and laughed recalling that I emerged from that same musty darkness in an angel costume.


We talked about the war, the Battle of Manila, how in Sampaloc we were liberated first. And she spoke about how they escaped the horrors of the massacre by hiding in Pasaje Eduque, a narrow street off Herran.


Playing catch-up


After the war, the Moretas left for Spain. We lost touch.


Our meeting gave us a couple of hours to play catch-up.


Pacita, the 12th of 15 brothers and sisters, became a nun in Spain when she was 17. Today, at 85, she is retired and helps take care of postulants at the convent. She is happy. When she smiles, she beams.


She asked about me and listened quietly. I was amazed at how easy it was to open up and tell her about my life and all its complications, hardly the subject for a religious nun. But I felt comfortable. It was like confiding in a close friend.


How could that be when we hardly know each other? The last time we were together was over 70 years ago, perhaps “doing time” in that dank and airless prison.


I can’t explain it. But it felt like we were “old friends who just met.” I guess we had a taste of what they call retrouvaille—the joy of finding someone again after a long separation, a rediscovery. I am grateful.


This made me think


I talked to my sister the other day and after our usual recitation of aches and pains, and promising to start drinking turmeric tea, we discussed how the kids of today are in no way like those way back when—how much they have changed.


That night I read an article that made me think. It quoted Frank Martin, head basketball coach in South Carolina.


“You know what makes me sick to my stomach? When I hear grown people say that kids have changed. Kids haven’t changed. Kids don’t know anything about anything.


“We’ve changed as adults. We demand less of kids. We expect less of kids. We make their life easier instead of preparing them for what life is truly about. We’re the ones that have changed.”


You know what? The man is right!