How does a school celebrate its 100th birthday? In the biggest, happiest possible way, that’s how.
College of the Holy Spirit just had a two-day bash to mark their centennial. The first day was homecoming. It was a special day at my Alma Mater, and every face I saw was wreathed in smiles.
A young man at the gate (yes, they have boys now at our all-girl school!) said he was happy to see me and walked me from the car to the entrance almost singing his “Welcome Home!”
The sight of smiles and the sound of effusive hellos and laughter made me quickly forget the nasty traffic snarl on our way there. Unable to access Mendiola from Laurel (it was once Aviles), we turned around and proceeded on Legarda. It was a nightmare.
Let me digress a bit. I could not believe I was on the street where I lived as a little girl. Wherever I looked I saw dingy, old and rotting, filthy structures begging to be repaired or torn down. No paint job could ever hope to lift their faces. How sad it is to see the ravages of time. It is sadder still to think that nothing is being done about it.
Anyway, back to school.
The grounds were festive with colorful banderitas. I felt I was at a town fair. The aroma of freshly baked German bread filled the air. There was a sumptuous buffet lunch at the gym, followed by High Mass in the newly air-conditioned auditorium. Awards were presented to 100 outstanding alumnae. I left early. I was reserving my energy for the following day.
Sunday was formal gala night at the SMX Convention Center, where four function halls were used to accommodate the nearly 2,000 alumnae.
The lobby started filling up as early as four o’clock. Across the entrance, there was an interesting display of pictures illustrating the school’s 100-year timeline. In one of the earlier panels, I spotted my Mama, wearing the first Holy Ghost College uniform. I lingered there a while, a bit misty eyed.
Everyone was dressed to the nines. Special celebrants wore the colors of their respective jubilees. One group wore “fascinators.” They looked spectacular and, well, fascinating.
There was an atmosphere of anticipation, a vibe that was at once contagious and embracing. We caught the excitement from the sound of animated chatter, laughter and shrieks of delight at the meeting of old friends.
What a joy it was to see my high school buddy. I had seen her only once since graduation. She lives in California. We stared at each other for a few seconds; then we hugged and cried a little, careful not to ruin our mascara. On my right was another balikbayan, a classmate from grade school to graduation. She came in from Atlanta. We shared two bottles of Merlot and were up and grooving to the music in no time at all, arthritis be damned.
Showtime started promptly at 7. I wanted to watch a bit of the show up close. In that cavernous venue the stage looked as big as a postage stamp. I enjoyed the dancers in nuns’ habits, so agile and graceful, doing their routines. I thought about our strict German sisters and wondered how they would react to this portrayal of their history. The presentation was a bit long but impeccably conceptualized; script was eloquent, often funny, many times tender and emotional.
After the show, more than a dozen buffet stations served a very tasty dinner. The menu was pretty safe for all our “medical conditions.” Then it was time to catch up as best we could with each other’s lives.
I was happy and surprised to see an old family friend. Someone had told me she wouldn’t make it to the gala, that she was more “there” than “here.” By the way, that’s how some thoughtless people casually describe those of us who are fast fading and forgetting.
Incidentally, does anyone know where “there” is? I have often wondered what happens “there.” No one has returned from “there,” so no one knows. Sad.
That old feeling
It’s almost Valentine’s Day! We ask, is there any love in your heart?
Memories rush in with the sights and sounds of Valentine’s Day preparations. When I hear the old mushy love songs, I still “get that old feeling.”
How intense our emotions were then, do you remember? Just a glimpse of that certain someone took our breath away. We built castles in the air. Some came crashing down. And when the dream was over, we feared never to survive.
What does all this have to do with Valentine’s Day? Isn’t it the day of hearts?
A wise man once said: “Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end.”
But when it ends, what then?
A broken heart, they say, remembers everything. And so you may spend part of your life disillusioned, disappointed, hurt and feeling hopeless, recalling what used to be. Lighten up. It is not forever. Trust me, heartbreak does not kill you.
In time, you mellow. The thoughts that brought you to tears and hysteria no longer take you to the edge of despair. You are at last calm and at peace with the wisdom of your days. What once evoked a torrent of tears today brings a beautiful smile of remembrance and gratitude.
My word to anyone going through the hellfire of heartbreak is this: It ends. The fire goes out. The smoke clears. You will see the light.
“So don’t cry when the sun is gone, because the tears won’t let you see the stars.” (Violeta Parra)