One sure way to lure us out of the comforts of our castle, which is what home has become at the homestretch of our lives, is a call to lunch for a homecoming classmate.
Indeed, it’s a welcome diversion. Actually, our balikbayan guest becomes simply an occasion for a reunion. And when the venue is one of Annabel’s restaurants, we jump at the prospect. Annabel spoils us so.
After the noisy routine hellos, we settle down and relax, leaving it to the gourmets among us to decide the main menu. With the appetizers alone, the spoiling begins.
We’re not really the sophisticates we think we are, at least not at lunch—no expensive food or wines. The smart spenders and health buffs that we have perforce become, we lay off sugary stuff, which juices as well as wine, as happens, are, not to mention costly.
We drink a lot of healthy and free water. As a compromise, we order a piece of cake with multiple teaspoons. After the meal, some coffee and herbal tea are served. Our cancer survivors advise us to take coffee black, both ingested and injected by enema, for detoxification.
Health is always our first consideration, and, thanks to the connoisseurs to whom we’ve wisely left our fate for the moment, nothing takes away from the enjoyment of food. We’ve become hopelessly sensible, not only health-wise: We don’t over-order or overspend. After all, whatever money we’ve put away for our golden years, we’ve all worked for—more or less.
We talk of old times, of children, our grandchildren, and increasingly of health, exchanging tips on remedies—herbal ones draw the most interest—as well as relevant scientific discoveries. Only minimally do we talk of other people and of politics, although the latter is always good for laughs. And we do laugh a lot.
Pearls of wisdom get thrown for non-swine, as I’m quite sure none of us is. And this Sunday it comes from one widowed in her early 50s, too gorgeous to not be a prospect for a second marriage, and indeed now remarried more than 20 years. A potential, though not intended, target is herself a dangerously attractive classmate, newly widowed.
“It’s just as hard, you know, to get used to being alone as it does to adjust to another man,” says our momentary Dear Abby.
“Might even be harder to adjust to another man!” says another, who, after her marriage broke up, has chosen to remain alone. Those who have done the same seem, indeed, none the lonelier than those of us who have taken the opposite, and itself fairly trodden, road.
“Hard, maybe, but definitely happier!” I hear myself think. Anyway, it’s hard to tell who’s happier than who, especially when we’re together, and even more especially as we have come together precisely to have fun.
Nothing gets our post-menopausal adrenaline kicking in reckless anticipation than the topic of a trip together. It’s a subject that predictably comes up, although nothing has come of it.
“Tuscany!” Tootsie tosses the idea dreamily.
“Yes,” sighs Dada.
Susie suggests Hong Kong, being perfectly timed for Chinese New Year.
“People there are so bastos to Filipinos!” complains Ito.
“How about Macao?” Annabel suggests. She has just been there, and speaks of one hotel where the rooms are so enormous that four could share one, arguing for savings.
“Yeah, but what would we do there?” asks Susan. “We don’t like to gamble.”
“Singapore!” Bettina hasn’t given up.
“Too mahal!” goes the chorus.
At this point, Malu and I confess to expired passports, and Nena throws in the towel, “I can’t fly anymore, after my knee surgery.”
Annabel has heard enough, “You want mura? No flying, no passports?”
If there’s such a place, it’s Annabel, the hotelier and restaurateur, who’d know. We all wait with bated breath, and she rewards us: “Urdaneta Spa!”
Urdaneta Spa is her own home. She offers to prepare lunch—and if it’s by her, you can bet it’s no ordinary lunch—and there’s her pool to dunk ourselves in or for simply lazing around. And for the only expense—at ridiculous rates yet!—there’s foot spa and massage, with one’s choice of scalp, neck, shoulder, back or full body, from her niece’s dial-a-massage operation.
Feeling tourist, I appear at the spa sans makeup and jewelry and in shorts, and find myself shown up by far better dressed tables. After coffee, still no one is stripping down to bathing suits. In fact, I’m the only one showing enough skin. A few feel the need to explain, and comparisons ensue of varicose-vein achievements.
Hardly anyone dares go near the water, especially after being informed that Marian Rivera and KC had only recently been in the very same pool for a pictorial.
We’re all drawn instead to the air-conditioned room where comfy director’s chairs are arranged for us to bask in the picture-postcard sight of the pool with lush greenery around it. Our feet, three pairs at a time, disappear in separate tubs to soak in soothing bubbly water, unsubmerged calves and shanks coated with a green, grainy, peppermint paste to dislodge dead skin. As our feet marinate, strong fingers knead our shoulders and back.
This is truly one sweet Sunday, I muse, one indeed in a great while, indulging ourselves in selfish freedom, leaving behind husbands, children and grandchildren, yet feeling good and guilt-free.
How we so deserve it!
At prayer before the grand meal, we remember to thank God for the blessings and rewards of senior years in the company of old friends!
Not to forget, of course, God’s agent on earth, in Urdaneta Spa.