Where were you when it happened? | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Isn’t that what they always ask after a shocking event? Just as we were almost done nursing our holiday hangover and starting to unwind from all the fun, BOOM. Taal blows up.

Yes, I know. Taal had been restive. The news said it was letting off steam; that it may blow, and then again, it might not. OK, I got that.

But that afternoon I was busy. I was supervising the set-up for a dinner for 24, on the lanai. It was looking good. I was busy checking on tables and chairs, tablecloths and napkins, and flowers, and platters for our delicious “Pinoy lutong bahay” menu.

I was out in the lanai and I remember making a mental note to send for my eye drops for what felt like a mild irritation. There was also a funny smell in the air. I brought out my fragrant sticks and candles.

I looked up. Looked like it would be a nice evening, although it seemed a tad hazy.

But just as I put the final touches on the bursts of bright pink bougainvillea in the little bud vases, I got a call from one daughter. “Mom, there’s ash falling. Something’s happening in Taal. Better move the party inside.”

I was a little flustered. Okay, I will confess. I went into near panic. I was ready to call it off. I checked the time. The dinner was in honor of my nieces and nephews visiting here from San Francisco and Vancouver. They were on their way.

It was too late to cancel.

Without wasting more time, we quickly moved two long tables, chairs, the buffet table and an assortment of dishes, glasses and cutlery from the lanai to the dining/living area. Like magic, we were completely set up and “ready to receive” in no time at all.

It was a tight squeeze, but cozy.

The first to arrive were the balikbayans from California who had gone on a road trip to Tagaytay. They came straight from there. They were all excited, not quite sure of what was happening, and came in a bit breathless, brushing off the ashes that were now briskly raining from the dark sky. They could not believe that they had just been to ground zero.

They said that traffic was starting to build up on the highway. But they had not seen much, and even stopped to buy fruit and souvenirs.

Everyone came on time.

Taal, of course, was the topic of our conversation. All phones were tuned in for updates. The “tourists” worried about their flight to Palawan the next day. Sure enough, it was canceled. They left two days later.

Before the guests could leave, their cars had to be hosed down. My daughter distributed masks. The air was heavy and “dirty rain” was coming down from the sky.

After everyone left, I looked at our backyard and saw the pool was pitch black. So were the tiles in the lanai. It was hard to breathe. My eyes felt itchy and grainy.

I thought about the people and the animals near the volcano. How could the children and the elderly make it to safety? It was a scary thought.

I went back to my casita with a heavy heart.

It was a great and fun gathering, nevertheless. Families should get together more often. There is nothing like breaking bread with those you love. I highly recommend it.

Keeping in touch

I have heard it said time and again, that one must stay in touch with or reach out to friends and family as often as possible. With today’s technology this is not difficult to do.

And yet, a couple of years ago, I tried to find a friend who used to be my neighbor in San Francisco in the mid ’60s. We were close. I went on a full-blown search on the internet. It was futile. No app could give me a clue. She obviously was not on Facebook. Maybe she had changed her name? There was no trace.

Mavis was a legal secretary. She was an intelligent woman, beautiful, inside and out. I remember her as a kind, soft-spoken, caring, loving and selfless human being.

Life and its circuitous complications set each of us on different paths and we eventually lost touch. Among other things, I know we both were desperately trying and determined to restore sanity and order back into our suddenly chaotic lives. I am happy to know now that we both succeeded.

Fast forward

The other day I got word that Mavis had gone home to be with the Lord. Just like that. She was gone. And although I hadn’t seen her in almost forever, it hurt to know that I would never see her again. I will always think of her kindly, sadly, and wish that I had seen her at least one more time. Mavis Coy was beautiful. And she made the best apple pie.

And so I insist, if you care for someone, reach out. Some of us are close enough to touch but we don’t. Regrets come when it’s way too late.

Restore Baguio, please!

Thoughts of Mavis awaken memories of Baguio. I recently spoke to my old mountain-grown friend. “We have our own Edsa now,” he lamented. “Everything is run-down, in decay and dying.” Sad.

The good news is that there are plans to restore the City of Pines. The price tag runs close to P10 billion.

Will it ever be the same? I doubt that very much.

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