Four times a year my high-school classmates and I get together to celebrate birthdays. I love these reunions. On a good day, there are about 35 of us, plus a few yayas, who gather at a restaurant, all dressed up and armed with our senior citizen cards.
Like it or not, there are a few changes. One walks a little slower. Another one looks a bit confused. But we all have our game faces on, determined to have a great day.
Spending time with old friends is always a treat. Our usual venue of choice is Kamayan/Saisaki on Edsa, which serves a sumptuous buffet with the greatest variety of Filipino, Japanese and continental cuisine.
We are not too particular where we go as long as the price is right. We just want the place to be quiet enough to chat and to listen to stories we have heard over and over, but still laugh about.
I wish we could meet at a posh place like the lobby of the Peninsula with its Old World ambience. At any time of day or night, they play music from our era, evoking more memories of times past. But one halo-halo would set us back several pension checks.
In early December we gather at one of the homes where the Christmas tree is decorated and lit up, and our party becomes really festive.
Lunch at the restaurant comes with a drink. Our time for exotics is over and instead we order colas or fruit juices, “frappéd” or blended to look almost wicked.
For a couple of hours, we eat heartily and talk about our families. We share good and bad news, relishing the approval and encouragement from friends we have sorely missed.
Conversation is varied and lively. But it normally starts with a question about health. Our replies may be a one-word “great!” or a litany of medical conditions. Most of us are on some kind of a diet or regimen, not so much for looks but more for survival. Not too many of us worry about girth anymore. But we are painfully aware of the causes of discomforts like reflux and uncooperative knees and hips.
As if that was not enough, we have a couple of classmates who, as we dig into the buffet, act like town criers calling out the ailments, aches and pains that the delicious dishes may inflict.
Just as I bring a spoonful of ginisang munggo to my mouth, I hear a voice reciting, “uric acid, gout, toes swollen, backache.” And God help anyone who approaches the kare-kare de pata, served piping hot in a native palayok. The voice moans, “cholesterol, blocked arteries, heart attack.”
It has ‘malunggay,’ anyway
If it wasn’t so funny, it could be downright depressing. I sit away from the voices of doom. I love my munggo! Besides, it has malunggay! So it can’t be all that bad.
A short meeting is usually called during lunch. Lately we have discussed grandiose plans for the centennial celebration of College of the Holy Spirit, our alma mater. It will be a yearlong series of events in 2013. A few from our class have been drafted to join committees. The organizers are young and full of ideas. God have mercy! Are we up to the challenge?
When old friends get together for a meal, even without alcoholic drinks, there is a built-in promise of a good time. It is more so if it is a gathering of (mature) women. When we let our hair down, it can get real naughty. And if we let our guard down and take off our masks, it gets downright hilarious.
Many think that sitting with “old biddies” is boring. Did you know that women are a lot less inhibited in their senior years? I don’t mean that in a sexual or sensual way. My goodness, we are past even the cougar stage. But it seems easier for us to tell it like it is. You say what comes to mind, grateful that something comes to mind at all. Seriously, “outspoken” has become our middle name.
It is liberating to chat with old friends. You can be totally honest, or silly, or maudlin. Because time is of the essence, we are eager to catch up and make up for lost time. In high school, it seemed to matter more whose company we kept than who we were. Today, what you see is what you get.
I remember the good old days in Mendiola; cramming, stealing green mangoes near the grotto, getting reprimands from the nuns. But it was all in innocent fun, full of mischief but never harmful.
Do students do this sort of thing anymore? Or is being naughty considered sissy stuff today?
The world has become an evil and dangerous place.
The latest headlines about deaths from hazing in a private university make my skin crawl. My friend asks: Why do young men try so hard to belong to these so-called exclusive groups? Is it worth dying for? Will the victims end up just statistics?
People in a movie house in Aurora, Colorado, were gunned down by a young lunatic who had the cold-blooded audacity, after killing a dozen people and wounding scores of others, to ask, “How did the movie end?”
Is there a sickness out there invading the souls of our young people? What turns them into such monsters?
The news keeps me up nights. One question turns in my sleepless mind. Who are their parents? Where are they? There is surely a mom or a dad out there who once had beautiful dreams for this child. Today their cries of anguish must reach out to heaven. My heart breaks for them.