Old Friend

Hello friend.

First of all, I know it is your birthday tomorrow. Don’t be impressed that I remember that after all these years. It is just because you shared the same birthdate with my father, that’s why I cannot forget.

I know we have not seen each other in person for several years. But it is not a reason that we have not stayed in touch as friends. After all, we’ve known each other since our “uhugin” days of childhood. We even had that matching yellow shirt that we would often wear at the same time when we were kids, as if we were twins.

We played together. We ate together. We even got lost once together in a farm. We were so small then and cannot see beyond the tall plantation. But you told me that we should kneel down and pray right there in the rice field. After that, we eventually found our way back.

Remember how we played those tau-tauhan or toy soldiers? We would stand them up in the dirt while we were on our hands and knees on the ground, and we’ll hit them with marbles as if it was a war. I think I could hit more than you. And I’ll rub it in, mas asintado ako sa iyo.

Our lives were intertwined, as our families were good friends. We would go to parks and other places together. Remember how we would fit our two families in our “Ford Cortina” – all 4 adults and 6 young kids in one car? Who cares about seatbelts? Those were the good ole days.

Then your family decided to migrate to Papua New Guinea. I was sad that you were leaving us, but happy for you and your family that you would be going to a new country and pursuing a “better” life.

Yet you still came back a couple of times to the Philippines for a visit. You told me about your experience riding that big airplane and crossing the ocean. I was so envious! You told me how excited you were in going down the stairs of the plane that you slipped and almost fell down the tarmac.

Then after a few more years I heard that your family would be migrating to the US from Papua New Guinea. Again I was happy for you and your family for another new adventure. Though I honestly was saddened, as the chances that you would come back to live in the Philippines and we’ll be together again was nil.

But tadhana smiled again and our path crossed once more. Several years later I was given the chance to go to the US too. I remember how you and your family welcomed me with open arms. I even stayed in your place for a short time. You showed me around California in your new Toyota Camry. Your family toured me to Disneyland. And you even took me shopping for some muffler and gloves, as you learned I was going to New York City in the dead of winter to have an interview.

Then I too was able to chase my American dream.

One day you called and told me that you are quitting your job. Your stable, high-paying job. And that you were going to South America with your family as missionaries. I was surprised. But more so, I was so impressed with your admirable faith. I know it’s not easy to give up the comforts and luxuries of life, and leave everything behind, in the name of God’s higher calling. I don’t know if I can do the same.

I understand it took you some time getting used to the change. You told me how remote your location was in South America. That you live almost like in a jungle, and your home was like living in a big tree house. And how it would take you a couple of days to travel to the nearest city. Yet you never forget to call me once in a while when you have the chance. I know you can only make that overseas call whenever you’re in the city.

I heard you say that even though how meager your resources were and how simple your life was, you told me, that you love working in God’s mission. What a remarkable dedication. I have nothing but respect for you.

Then more than a couple of years ago, I learned that you and your family came back to the US. Though I understand, you were still live-in volunteers in a small Christian academy. At least you don’t have to fight anymore, those pesky mosquitoes and poisonous snakes that sneak inside your home.

Once in a while we’ll talk about our families over the phone. And how we would open up about our “little” problems raising our family, just like any parents have. I called you few weeks ago, and I told you that I would be praying for you and your family. I also got your “thank you” card about two weeks ago.

Then I got a phone call from your sister yesterday. What an awful news! A heartbreaking news. That you had a tragic car accident. And in an instant, you were gone.

I don’t know what to think. My finite mind cannot rationalize it. I don’t know why God called you home too soon. But I just have to trust Him. As you always did.

I cannot imagine how your family and children are taking this. I am praying for them. I would continue to support them in whatever way I can, just like I promised you the last time we talked.

I guess I will never hear your voice again. We will never have that heart to heart talk again. At least not here on earth. But hoping someday, somewhere, beyond this earth…….

Goodbye my old friend.

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(*in loving memory of Boying)

(**photo taken with an iPhone)

 

 

Chedeng at Chinelas

Noong makalawang araw ay bumisita sa aming bahay ang isang kaibigan, kasama ang kanyang asawa at panganay na anak. Siya ay isa ring Pilipinong duktor dito sa Iowa. Meron lang silang dinaanan dito sa amin.

Aking napansin na bago ang sasakyan niyang dala. Sabi niya, ipinamana na raw niya ang lumang Honda sa kanyang anak. Akin siyang kinantsawan na sobrang asenso na niya. Ika ko nga, “hindi ka na ma-reach!”

Kasi, naka-Chedeng na siya.

Malugod din niyang ipinakita ang mga features ng kanyang bagong kotse. Pinindot lang niya ang kanyang cellphone at umandar na ang kanyang kotse, kahit wala siya sa loob nito. Napabilib ako. Siguro pwede pa niyang i-program na utusan lang ang kanyang smartphone: “Siri, start my car.”

Mayroon din daw itong standard safety features, gaya ng automatic braking kung sakaling aanga-anga siya at hindi nakapag-preno kaagad, at nagbibigay din ng warning kung may sasakyan sa kanyang blind spot at kung siya ay antok-antok at lumilihis sa lane. Hindi lang din daw camera sa likod ang makikita niya kung siya ay umuurong, kung hindi 360º view. Higit sa lahat, kaya nitong magself-park, kahit pa parallel parking. Sabi ko nga, kulang na lang mag-drive ‘yung kanyang Mercedes na mag-isa.

Pero sang-ayon sa mga eksperto, by year 2020 or 2021, mayroon ng mass production ng self-driving cars, at available na ito sa lahat. Kahit sino ay pwede nang maging Knight Rider!

Habang ipinagyayabang ng aking kaibigan ang kanyang Mercedes, ay para kaming mga musmos na natutuwa sa bagong jolen, o trumpo, o kaya’y matchbox. Iyon nga lang, totoo ‘yung matchbox.

Noong ako’y batang paslit pa, ang kilala ko lang na luxury car ay Chedeng o Mercedes Benz. Kilala ko rin si Aling Mercedes, pero hindi siya kotse. Hindi ko pa alam noon ang BMW, Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, Ferrari, Cadillac o Lexus. Kilalang-kilala ko naman ang Sarao. Tingin ko sa mga naka-Chedeng noon ay sobrang yaman at sobrang matagumpay sa buhay.

Sa katunayan, wala nga akong kilalang naka-Mercedes noong ako’y nasa elementarya at high school pa, maliban sa isa. Siya ay crush ng bayan sa aming eskwelahan, dahil maganda na siya tapos naka-Chedeng pa. Ang tatay niya ay duktor, at sila ay nakatira sa Dasma (Dasmariñas Village).

Noong nasa kolehiyo na, ako ay namulat sa katotohanan na kahit sa mahirap na bansa’t lipunan pala, ay marami pa rin burgis. Marami akong naging kamag-aral na naka-Chedeng. May mga kaklase pa nga ako na may sarili silang kotse at naka-tsuper pa. Buong mag-hapon naghihintay lang ang kanilang tsuper sa may parking lot ng unibersidad. Hindi lang nga Mercedes Benz, may nakita pa akong estudyante na ang dina-drive ay Porsche. Okay lang, ako naman ay “Cadillac” – kadilakad.

Balik tayo sa kaibigan kong Pilipinong duktor dito sa Iowa. Habang kami ay nagku-kwentuhan ay aming napag-usapan na parang kailan lang ay mga musmos pa ang aming mga anak. Ngunit ngayon, pareho na kaming may anak na nasa kolehiyo. Ang bilis ng panahon.

Nagawi ang aming usapan noong kami ay nasa-kolehiyo pa. Siya ay nag-aral din sa Maynila. Nabangit ko na napakarami nang nagtataasang condominum sa Maynila pati sa university belt. Sabi naman niya ay marami na rin daw masasarap na kainan sa paligid-ligid ng university belt. Sa susunod niyang uwi sa Pilipinas, gusto raw niyang pumasyal at kumain sa mga turo-turo sa tabi ng unibersidad. Simple pa rin talaga ang trip ng kaibigan kong ito, down-to-earth pa rin.

Napag-usapan din namin kung paano kaming nakikipag-habulan sa mga jeepney, at kung paano kami halos makipagbalyahan at siksikan, makasakay lamang. Pinaririnig lang din naman namin sa aming mga anak kung gaano sila kaswerte ngayon, at hindi nila naranasan ang  hirap na aming dinaanan.

Jeepney_Benz

Chedeng na Jeepney

Hanggang sa napag-usapan noong kami ay nasa elementarya pa. Kwento ng aking kaibigan, dahil siya ay lumaki sa probinsiya, ay naglalakad lang daw siya araw-araw patungong paaralan nila. Ang pampublikong paaralan ay nasa kabilang barrio, kaya’t medyo malayo ang kanyang linalakad. Para mag-short cut, siya ay tumutulay sa pilapil ng mga palayan habang bitbit-bitbit niya ang kanyang chinelas para hindi maputikan. Minsan pa raw, binibitbit din niya ang kanyang chinelas para hindi ito maupod agad, upang makatipid.

Ako ay napangiti at napaisip. Ang batang nagbibitbit lang ng chinelas noon para hindi ito maupod, ngayon ay naka-Chedeng na.

Tignan mo nga naman talaga ang tadhana. Marunong pa rin itong ngumiti sa mga nagsisikap na umasenso sa buhay. Kahit na hindi Mercedes, ang kanilang pangalan.

(*photo from the web)

 

 

Ang Aking Bakyang Tsinelas

Noong makalawang araw ay napansin ng aking misis ang aking pambahay na tsinelas. Pudpod at gulagulanit na raw ito. Oo nga naman, mahigit sampung taon ko na ring gamit gamit ito. Naghihingalo at nagmamakaawa na ang aking tsinelas. Humihingi na ito ng kapalit.

Marami akong naging tsinelas mula nang ako’y bata pa. Aaminin ko nagsuot ako ng bakya noong  nasa Pilipinas pa ako. Pero bago ko sabihin kung bakit ako nagsuot ng bakya, ay talakayin muna natin ang tungkol sa tsinelas.

Tayong mga Pilipino ay may magiliw na relasyon sa ating mga tsinelas. Marami tayong klase ng tsinelas na iba’t ibang uri at yari. May goma, abaka, alpombra, balat (leather), kahoy (gaya ng bakya), plastic at iba’t iba pa.

Kung ikaw ay dadalaw sa isang bahay sa Pilipinas, ang unang bubungad sa iyo ay ang mga iba’t ibang kulay ng tsinelas na nagkalat sa may pintuan ng bahay. Kung ikaw ay bisita, kapag hinubad mo ang iyong sapatos pagpasok sa bahay, ay maaring alukin ka rin ng tsinelas na pambahay para iyong isuot.

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photo from jllanderal.wordpress.com

Dahil na rin siguro sa ating maiinit na klima, kaya tsinelas lang ang ating parating gamit. Kung mamamalengke, o mamamasyal, pupunta ng mall o bangko, tsinelas lang ang suot ay sapat na. Marami ngang mga manggagawa ang nakatsinelas lang sa kanilang trabaho. Siyempre pagpupunta sa beach, ay tamang-tama ang tsinelas. Kung hindi naman beach, at sa baha ka lang lulusong, ay okay pa rin ang tsinelas.

Hindi ko sigurado kung sinong unang nag-imbento ng tsinelas. Maraming prueba na kahit noong maagang sibilisasyon ay may gamit ng saplot sa paa ang tao. Ito ay yari sa dahon, o hibla ng halaman, o kaya ay balat ng hayop. Ang ancient Egyptians ay nagsusuot na ng tsinelas na tulad ng modern-day flip-flops mula pa 1500 B.C. Ang mga sundalong Romano naman ay may sandalyas na may tali hanggang binti, na ang tawag ay caliga.

Sa kasaysayan rin ng China ay matagal nang gamit ang tsinelas. Sila rin yung nagpauso na ginagapos ang paa ng mga batang babae para manatiling maliit ang kanilang mga paa. Maganda raw sa panahon na iyon ang maliit ang paa. Yung kapitbahay namin sa Maynila na Instik, ang kanilang lola ay maliliit ang paa, dahil siguro sa pagsusuot ng bakal na tsinelas.

Ang salitang tsinelas ay galing sa salitang Kastila na “chinela” na nangangahulugang slipper or sandal. Panahon pa ng Kastila ay usong-uso na ang tsinelas sa Pilipinas.

Kahit si  Jose Rizal ay may kwento tungkol sa tsinelas. Isang araw nang bata pa raw si Rizal, siya at ang kanyang kuya ay sumakay sa bangka. Habang sila’y nasa bangka, nahulog ang isang tsinelas ni Rizal sa ilog, at ito’y inanod papalayo. Nang malaman niya na hindi na niya ito makukuhang muli, ay itinapon na rin niya ang natitirang pares sa ilog. Paliwanag niya sa kanyang kuya, dahil hindi na niya magagamit kung isang pares lang, subalit baka sakaling may makapulot ng dalawang pares ng kanyang tsinelas, at ito’y mapakinabangan muli. Bayani talagang mag-isip si Rizal.

Dahil sa papularidad ng tsinelas sa ating bansa, may mga bayan na may piyesta ng tsinelas. Sa Liliw Laguna, tuwing Abril ay may “Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival,” at sa Gapan Nueva Ecija naman, tuwing Agosto ay mayroon din silang Tsinelas Festival. Sa mga piyestang ito kanilang ipinagbubunyi ang mga lokal na yaring tsinelas, at dito rin makikitang pumaparada ang mga higanteng tsinelas.

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Tsinelas Festival, Liliw Laguna (photo from yahstar.com)

Noong ako’y bata pa, kahit nasa loob lang ng bahay ay naka-tsinelas kami, na kadalasan ito ay yari sa alpombra. Taga-Marikina ang ninang ng aking ate, kaya kung Pasko o kapag dumadalaw siya sa amin, lagi itong may regalong tsinelas na yaring Marikina para sa aming magkakapatid.

Noong nasa elementarya kami ay may naging project kami na gumawa ng pambahay na tsinelas. Ito ay yari sa lubid ng abaka na idinikit namin sa cardboard na hugis ng aming paa. Ilang araw ko lang ito nagamit dahil ito’y bumigay kaagad. Hindi kasi pulido ang aking pagkakagawa. Kaya siguro hindi ako naging sapatero.

Paglalabas naman ng bahay, ay rubber na tsinelas ang aking ginagamit. Kahit nagbabasketball ako sa kalsada, ay nakatsinelas lang ako. Napakarami kong tsinelas na napudpod, napigtal, o nasira sa pagbabasketball. Nasubukan mo bang lagyan ng perdible (safety pin) o alambre yung napigtas mong tsinelas? Gawain ko iyon noon.

Isa sa gusto kong tsinelas noon ay Spartan, dahil sa tingin ko ay medyo matibay ito. Sabi nga ng kanilang commercial, “Nasaan ang tibay mo?” Ang ibang mga brand noon ay  Bantex, Beach Walk at Islander. Mayroon ding Rambo na brand, na nauso noong naging sikat ang pelikulang Rambo. Hindi ko lang alam bakit ito ang pangalan, dahil naka-combat boots naman si Rambo at hindi nakatsinelas.

Gamit ko rin ang aking tsinelas sa paglalaro ng tumbang preso. Ito yung laro kung saan pinupukol mo ang lata ng iyong tsinelas. Ilang mga bata kaya ang nawala ang tsinelas sa paglalaro ng tumbang preso? Naglalaro din ako ng sipa (tingga at balot ng kendi) kahit nakatsinelas. Pipihitin ko lang sa may sakong ang aking tsinelas, ay sapak na sapak nang maglaro ng sipa.

Maniwala ka man o hindi, ang aking tsinelas ay akin ding naging sandata. Hindi sumasabog ang aking tsinelas at wala rin itong patalim na gaya ng sapatos ng kalaban ni James Bond. Hindi ko sa kaaway ginagamit ang tsinelas. Ang tisnelas ay sandata ko laban sa mga tinginingining na mga ipis! Aking aapakan o hahambalusin ang mga gumagapang na ipis, o kaya naman ay babalibagin kung sila ay air-borne.

Ang nanay ko naman, gamit din ang tsinelas (see previous post) para pamalo sa amin, kapag kami ay makukulit. Buti na lang nga at tsinelas na pambahay lang ang gamit niya, at hindi yung palu-palo sa paglalaba.

Ang dami talagang silbi ng tsinelas para sa ating mga Pilipino. Pero kung minsan, ang antas ng ating buhay ay hinuhusgahan sa ating suot na tsinelas. Maaring nakatsinelas nga pero Havaianas o kaya’y Birkenstock ang tsinelas. Sosyal! Kaya naman ‘di magkaugaga natin silang pagsilbihan at bigyan pansin. O baka dahil mumurahin lang o kaya nama’y gusgusin at sira-sira ang suot na tsinelas, kaya’t binabalewala lang natin sila, o tingin natin sa kanila ay bakya. Hindi ‘yung sinusuot, kundi bakya na ibig sabihin ay low-class o cheap.

spartan

Sana naman ang pagtingin natin sa tao ay pantay-pantay. Sosyal man ang tsinelas o bakya. May tsinelas man o wala. Sa paningin ng langit, tayong lahat ay pare-parehong nakayapak at walang dapat ipagyabang.

Mabalik tayo sa aking bakya. Oo, gumagamit ako ng bakya noon. Hindi ko ito suot papuntang palengke o kapag lumalabas. Hindi ko rin ito ginamit pangbasketball. Pero kung maapakan ka ng bakya kung nagbababaskeball? Siguradong patay. Patay ang kuko!

Ang gamit kong bakya noon ay sa loob lang ng aming bahay. Sirit na?

Tulad ng mga banyo sa Pilipinas, ang aming banyo’y laging basa ang sahig. Dahil ayaw naming magputik ang sahig, at dahil ayaw ring mabasa ang paa, kaya’t may bakya kami sa banyo, na para sa loob ng banyo lang. Aminado ako, ginagamit ko ang bakyang ito kapag ako’y gumagamit ng banyo.

Akala ninyo si Neneng lang ang nagbabakya?

(*comic strip is from Pugad Baboy)

Short Time sa Sogo

(Ang sumusunod na artikulo ay rated PG-13.)

May mga establisimyento sa Pilipinas na hindi maganda at medyo makulimlim ang kanilang reputasyon. Makatarungan man o hindi, ay atin silang tinatagurian na hindi dapat puntahan ng mga taong may dangal. Kasama dito ang mga sauna, massage parlor, at motel. Ating iniisip na may mga nangyayaring “kababalaghan” sa mga establisimyentong ito.

Pero kung tutuusin ay mararangal naman ang mga ito. Dito sa Amerika, ay walang malisyang iniisip kung ikaw ay pupunta sa sauna o sa massage parlor. Sa Pilipinas lang kaya may mga extracurricular at happy ending na mga pangyayaring nagaganap sa mga lugar na ito?

Ang motel naman ay galing sa katagang “motorist hotel.” Ibig sabihin ito ay para sa mga manlalakbay. Muli, sa ibang bansa tulad ng Amerika, walang konotasyong masama kung ikaw ay matutulog sa motel. Ngunit sa ating bansa, ito ay kilala para sa “short time” lang. Tinatawag din natin itong “biglang-liko” sabay “biglang-yuko.” Dahil ba para sa mga naglalaro ng apoy lang ang lugar na ito, at tagpuan lang ba ito ng mga bawal na pag-ibig?

Lahat ba ng tao na pumupunta sa sauna, o massage parlor, o sa motel, ay may kabulastugang ginagawa?

Ako’y magkukumpisal: ako ay nag-short time sa Sogo. Oo, ‘yung kinikilalang “lover’s hotel” na hindi mo dapat puntahan, kaya No Go.

Pero bago ninyo ako husgahan, ay inyo munang pakinggan ang aking kuwento.

Mahigit dalawang taon na ang nakalipas nang ako’y biglaang umuwi ng Pilipinas, dahil malubha ang kalagayan ng aking ina. Siya ay naratay sa ospital ng UERM sa may Aurora Boulevard. Doon namin napag-alaman na kumalat na ang kanser sa kanyang boong katawan. Iyon na ring uwi kong iyon ang huli naming pagkikita ng aking ina.

Pangatlong araw matapos kong lumapag sa Pilipinas, at matapos kong lumagi sa UERM para bantayan ang aking nanay, ay sumaglit ako sa SM City Santa Mesa na katabi lang ng ospital, para mananghalian. Solo flight lang akong lumabas. Matapos kong kumain, ay bigla akong inatake ng napakatinding antok. Wala naman sigurong pampatulog ‘yung Jollibee na kinain ko. Marahil na rin sa aking pagod sa paglalakbay, pagod at puyat sa pag-aasikaso sa aking nanay, at grabeng jet-lag, ay hindi ko nakayanang labanan ang sobrang antok.

Aking inisip na kung babalik ako sa UERM, ay wala akong tutulugan doon. Kung ako’y maglalakbay patungo sa tirahan ng aking kapatid sa Quezon City kahit pa malapit lamang ito, ay baka hindi ako umabot at ako’y makatulog sa daan. At kahit pa sabi ng aking tita na malugod akong inaanyayahan na tumambay sa kanila sa may Pasig, ay lalong hindi ako aabot doon, at baka sa LRT pa lang ay mawalan na ako ng malay, dahil nahihilo na ako sa sobrang antok. Kung puwede nga lang humilata sa mga binibentang mattresses doon sa mall ay ginawa ko na.

Dito ko nakita ang Hotel Sogo na kadikit lang ng SM City Santa Mesa. Alam ko ring maraming mga motel (biglang-liko?) na malapit sa Santa Mesa, pero hindi ko na kailangan pang lumayo, dahil kaharap ko na mismo ang Sogo.

Hindi ko inalintana kung ano man ang persepsyon ng mga Pinoy sa lugar na ito at kung ano pa man ang sasabihin ng iba. Unang-una, wala naman akong tinatago. Isa pa, wala rin namang nakakakilala sa akin doon. Kaya’t binaybay ko na ang daan patungong Sogo.

Sa aking pagpasok at paglapit sa front desk, ay tinanong ako ng receptionist kung anong klaseng kwarto ang gusto ko, at kung gaano katagal ako lalagi doon. Dahil ang nais ko lang ay matulog ng ilang oras, kaya’t short time lang ang aking pinili, at basta ba may kama sa kuwarto ay sapat na sa akin. Hindi ko kailangan ng jacuzzi, o complimentary champagne, o ng disco ball, o ano pa mang romantic amenities.

Hindi ako tinanong ng receptionist kung may kasama ba ako. Siguro alam na nilang maraming nagche-check-in sa hotel ang hindi magkasabay kunwari sa pagdating, para hindi mahalata kung mayroon man silang tinatago. Siguro mayroon din silang “no questions asked” na policy para sa privacy ng kanilang mga customers.

Ako’y pumanhik sa silid na ibinigay sa akin. Maliit lamang ito, at kasya lang ang isang kama. Mala-bartolina ito dahil wala itong bintana. Mayroon naman itong gumaganang aircon at mayroon din itong TV, pero hindi ko na tinangkang buksan ang TV dahil wala naman akong balak manood. May maliit na banyo rin itong kasama na may shower. Malinis din naman ang silid, at tulad ng slogan nila, “so clean, so good.” (Wala po akong komisyon galing sa Sogo.)

Sa aking pagbulagta sa kama, ay tinakasan na ako ng aking ulirat. Nahulog na ako sa napakahimbing na pagtulog, at wala na akong namalayan pa sa aking kapaligiran. Para akong na-knock-out ni Pacquiao. Kung may mga kakaibang kaluskos, indayog, ungol, hikbi, sigaw o ano pa mang mga kababalaghan sa mga katabing kuwarto ay wala na akong alam.

Matapos ang tatlo o apat na oras ng malalim na pagtulog ay ako’y muling nagkamalay. Namalikmata ako sa aking pag-gising. Mga ilang sandali rin ang lumipas bago ako natauhan kung saang lugar ako naroroon.

Naninimbang akong lumakad na parang lasing patungo sa banyo. Matapos ang malamig na shower ay tuluyan na akong nagising.

Aking kinulekta ang aking gamit, at nanaog na sa lobby ng hotel. Aking sinauli ang susi ng kuwarto sa receptionist. Maaring nagtatanong ang tingin nito kung sino at nasaan ang aking kasama, o kalaguyo, o kulasisi. Wala akong imik na lumabas ng hotel, at hinayaan ko na lang ang mga matang nakamasid na humabi ng mga kwentong mula sa kanilang malikot na pag-iisip.

So long, farewell, and so I go, Sogo.

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SM City Sta. Mesa and Hotel Sogo (next building)

(*photo from the web)

 

Exhausting Research

Not too long ago, my son needed to do some assignment about plants in his Biology class. He asked me for some input, knowing that I majored in Biology when I was in college. But my stock knowledge and what I remember was not enough, so I told him to look it up.

If that was me doing research in high school, 30 years ago, it would entail going to the library to search for the answers. Since our school’s library may not be complete, so that means I need to make a trip to the National Library in Kalaw near Luneta. It would take me some walking and two jeepney rides from our house in Sampaloc. But with Manila’s traffic, who knows how long would that trip be?

Once I am inside the National Library, I could ask the librarian at the help desk to assist me on the subject matter that I am researching, and she could search the card catalog and give me the list of books I needed to look for. If I feel that I could do it on my own, then I would head to the area where the cabinets of the card catalogs are, and search for the numbers of the books that may contain the subject matter. Usually I would like to list at least 3 books or more.

library-card-catalogs

card catalog

Once I scribble in a small paper all the catalog numbers of the books I would like to get, which usually reads like this: SW 596 .C34 2016, then I would go to the area of the library where these books are located. I would be going up and down rows upon rows of books while looking for the specific numbered books. That may mean one book is located at one end of the library, while the other is on the opposite end, and one in a different floor.

After spending several minutes going aisle after aisle of books, only to find out that the book I am looking for is not available as somebody might be reading it, or have been checked out by another student looking for the same subject. Or worse, the book is available, but some naughty student tore up the pages that I needed to read. What a bummer!

However, if I am lucky and if all the stars align, all the books that I am looking for may all be available. Then I can take all the books, and find a table and read on the subject that I needed to research on. Or if I needed to go home and do the reading later, and if the books are allowed to be borrowed, I can go to the front desk and check out the books for a day or so.

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typical library

Then maybe as I am heading out to the font desk to borrow the books, I would realize that I forgot my library card at home. Darn!

But wait, maybe I still can photocopy the pages I needed. So I would head out to the photocopying machine. Lucky enough I have some loose change in my pocket to pay for the xerox copies, though that means no more money for a soft drink and hopia. The photocopier is running out of ink, so the copies are so faint, but still I can read them, so that’s good enough.

All in all, to look for the particular subject in Biology that I needed to research on, it would take me at least half a day to accomplish this. That was my experience back in those days. Of course I could have just copied the assignment of my good classmate, but that’s not being a diligent student.

Back to my son, he went on to do his home work. He sat in front of our home computer and hopped into the internet. After querying  Dr. Google and after a few mouse clicks……voila! He got what he needed. It took him 15 minutes tops.

And they say doing research is hard.

(*photos taken from the web)

Kurot, Pingot, at Tsinelas

Kung ikaw ay nakaranas na makurot, mapingot, at ma-tsinelas noong bata ka, ay sigurado akong alam mo na kung ano ang tatalakayin ng sulating ito. Hindi ko ikinakaila, ngunit hindi ko rin naman ipinagyayabang na naranasan ko ang kurot, pingot, at tsinelas. Siguro nga ay makulit talaga ako noong bata.

Iba’t iba ang pamamaraan ng pagpapalaki at pagdidisiplina ng mga bata. Mayroong mga naniniwala sa palo. Sabi nga ng isang salawikain, “spare the rod, and spoil the child.” Sangayon din sa banal an kasulatan: Siyang naguurong ng kaniyang pamalo ay napopoot sa kaniyang anak: nguni’t siyang umiibig ay nagpaparusang maminsan-minsan (Prov. 13:24).

Mayroon din namang hindi sangayon na paluin ang mga bata. Sa katunayan ay may malaking debate ngayon kung dapat ba o hindi dapat paluin ang bata. Maraming mga pag-aaral at pagsasaliksik sa ngayon ang nagsasabing hindi raw epektibo ang pamamalo sa bata, at marahil ito lamang ay nakakasama sa kanilang pag-unlad.

Kamakailan lamang ay may panukalang batas sa Pilipinas na isinampa at pumasa sa Kamara, ang House Bill 4907, o ang tinaguriang ‘Positive Discipine Act’. Ito ay nagbabawal sa mga marahas na pamamaraan ng pagdidisiplina sa mga bata, kasama na rito ang pamamalo sa tahanan man o eskwelahan. Sa aking pagkakaalam ay hindi pa ito pumapasa ng Senado.

Dito sa Amerika, ay may karapatan pa rin naman ang mga magulang na paluin ang kanilang mga anak. Ngunit may mga limitasyon na iba’t iba sa bawat Estado. Maraming mga magulang dito ang nagdadalawang isip na paluin ang kanilang mga anak dahil maari silang isumbong sa pulisya at sampahan ng pang-aabuso.

Totoo naman talaga na ang pagpalo bilang pagdidisiplina at pagpalo bilang pag-aabuso sa mga bata ay makitid na linya lamang ang pagitan. Marami akong mga naririnig sa balita na may mga batang sadya namang naabuso at sinaktan sa ngalan ng “disiplina.” Ngunit akin pa ring pinapaniwalaan na walang magulang na nasa tamang pag-iisip ang gustong saktan o bugbugin ang kanilang sariling anak.

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Balik tayo sa aking mga naranasan noong ako’y bata pa.

Ang kurot at pingot ay kalimitan mga “spur of the moment” na parusa na aking napala. Pero paminsan -minsan ay winawarningan naman ako ng aking nanay – “Pag-hindi ka umayos ay kurot ang aabutin mo.” Malimit ang kurot ay sa tagiliran o sa singit. Ang pingot, sa aking pagkakaalam ay sa tenga lang. Pinipingot din ba ang ilong? Kung ganoon, sana naging matangos na ako ngayon.

Ang palo naman ay kadalasan planado na sentensiya. Pinapahupa muna ng aking nanay at tatay ang kanilang galit, bago kami padapain at paluin. Karaniwan sang-ayon sa bigat ng kasalanan kung gaano karami ang hampas. Sa puwet o sa hita madalas ang palo. Maari rin naman sa kamay.

Tsinelas ang madalas na pamalo ng mga magulang. Ang gamit ng nanay ko ay pambahay na tsinelas, kaya medyo malambot lang ang hagupit. Kahit pa ba mumurahing tsinelas, o deklaseng  yari sa Marikina, o imported pa na tsinelas, ay wala sigurong tunay na pagkakaiba. Buti na lang at hindi nagsusuot ng bakya ang aking nanay! Masakit kayang mapalo ng bakya?

Kung tatay naman ang mamamalo, ay maaaring sinturon ang gagamitin. Malimit ay leather belt, gaya ng balat ng kalabaw o baka, kaya medyo mataginting ang sakit. Natikman ko rin na masinturon ng aking tatay. Hindi ko na matandaan ang aking kasalanan, pero alam ko lagi kong pinapaiyak ang aking nakababatang kapatid noon, kaya siguro ako nasinturon. Mapalad ka kung hindi nagsusuot ng sinturon ang tatay mo. Pero kung walang sinturon, ay baka naman dos por dos ang ipanghambalos. Lalong mas masakit yata iyon.

Hindi lamang sa bahay, ngunit kahit sa paaralan, ay may mga guro na namamalo bilang pagdidisiplina sa kanilang estudyante. Hindi naman ako napalo noong ako’y nasa paaralan  na, dahil medyo matino na ako noon. Pero napagalitan at naparusahan lang ako ng kaunti nang makipag-away ako noong Grade 2. Nakipagsapakan ako dahil lang sa jolens!

May naging titser din kami na madalas mamalo. Kahoy na ruler ang gamit nitong pamalo. Isang araw, isang makulit kong kaklase ang naglagay ng cardboard sa loob ng kanyang shorts, dahil alam niyang papaluin siya. Lumagutok ang cardboard ng paluin na siya! Lalong nagalit ang aming guro, at sa hita na lang siya hinagupit at naparami pa yata ang palong inabot niya.

Noong Grade 4 naman kami, ang titser namin ay isang matandang dalaga na talaga namang “old school.” Mayroon pa nga siyang maliit na sandbox sa sulok ng aming classroom, na butil ng munggo ang laman. Dito pinapaluhod niya ang mga estudyanteng pasaway. Sa aking pagkakatanda, ay isa lang naman na kaeswela ko ang pinaluhod sa munggo. Kung si Sharon Cuneta ay may pelikula na “Bukas, Luluhod ang mga Tala,” ang aking kaeswela ay starring sa “Bukas, Luluhod ang mga Munggo.”

May mga narinig din akong mga guro na nambabatok. Pero wala naman akong guro na gumagawa nito. Kasi sabi nila nakakabobo raw kapag binabatukan ka, dahil maaring maalog ang utak. Iyon ang sabi-sabi noong bata pa ako. Alam na kaya nila noon ang tungkol sa concussion protocol?

Bilang isang magulang ay namalo rin naman kaming mag-asawa sa aming mga anak. Ngunit napakadalang lang nito at parang tapik lamang, dahil nadadaan naman ang pagdidisiplina sa ibang pamamaraan. Katunayan, mas namamalo ang aking misis kaysa sa akin. Gamit namin ay maliit na tangkay ng halaman (twig). Malambot ito, at tama lang na umigting sa balat kapag pinalo.

Noong maliit pa ang aming mga anak, minsan ay nawala at hindi namin makita kung saan napunta ang aming “pamalo.” Nakita namin ito ilang araw ang lumipas na nakasuksok sa si likod ng pantry. Isang beses din ay nakita namin ang “pamalo” na bali-bali at nasa basurahan. Umamin din naman ‘yung aming bunso na siya ang may kagagawan noon. Katwiran niya, para hindi raw siya mapalo. Matalinong bata!

Para sa akin hindi mahalaga kung ano man ang gamit mong pamalo: maging kamay, tsinelas, sinturon, o tangkay ng puno. Ang mahalaga ay ang kasamang pagmamahal na kaakibat ng iyong pagdidisiplina sa kanila. Sa mga magulang na tulad ko, namamalo man kayo o hindi, ang mas importante pa rin ay ang mapagmahal na relasyon ninyo sa inyong mga anak.

Oo nga’t natsinelas ako ng aking nanay, at nasinturon ng aking tatay. Ngunit hindi ko na matandaan ang sakit ng mga iyon. Dahil ang akin lamang natatandaan ay ang kanilang pagmamalasakit at pagmamahal sa akin at sa aming magkakapatid.

Kung hindi nila ako dinisiplina noon, anong landas kaya ang aking tinahak? At saan kaya ako pupulutin ngayon?

Pinapasalatan ko pa rin ang mga kurot, pingot, at tsinelas.

 

 

New Year, Old Receipts, and Memories

It was New Year’s Day. I woke up early even though I stayed up late the previous night and spent it with the company of friends, and did not sleep until past midnight to welcome the arrival of 2017.

What’s up with me? Even how late I stayed up the night before, I still wake up early the next morning. I think it is how I’m wired or just how I was trained – to wake up before the sun goes up. Though that morning, it was past 6 already, yet it was still dark. It was a Sunday too. No work, and no place I needed to go.

But since I couldn’t sleep anymore, I got out of bed, and searched for something to do. Besides, it is a new year, so better start it right. Plus in the Chinese calendar, this year is the year of the rooster. So we really should be getting up early like the rooster, right? Maybe I should have started crowing cock-a-doodle-doo or tik-ti-la-ok (that’s what Filipino rooster sounds like) to wake up the whole neighborhood.

I thought of cleaning up and vacuuming the house, but my wife and kids were still asleep, so I looked for something to do that was more quiet and muted. I found myself in the office room, where the computer and the file box of bill statements were, and decided to do the bills.

What better way to start a new year, than paying debts and doing bills?

Even though I do my bills on-line, I still keep paper bills and receipts on file. As my storage box was already bursting with old bill statements and receipts, I knew I had to get rid of some of the old ones to make room for the new.

As I was looking through the files and files of old bills, I came across the receipt and paperwork of our very first family car here in America. It was a second-hand Honda with about 50,000 miles mileage. We bought that car after I finished my training and after landing a real job. That was 17 years ago and we were still living in Florida at that time.

Having only one car at that time, and with no good public transportation system where we live, my wife and my daughter, a toddler at that time, would go with me when I go to work in the morning. They would wait in the car at the parking lot while I do my hospital rounds. From the hospital we will drive to my clinic and drop me off there. Then my wife would take the car to go wherever they needed to go, and just pick me up later in the afternoon. That way they will not be housebound the whole day, plus my wife could also do some errands like grocery shopping.

When we moved to Iowa in the middle of a harsh winter, we were ill prepared to drive in the snow, sleet and ice. And one snowy morning I ended up driving, I mean slipping, into a ditch that the car needed to be extricated. That was when I decided to trade-in our old Honda, and got myself a car with an all-wheel drive that can frolic in the snow.

While sorting old receipts, I also dug out a hospital bill from Scottsdale Arizona, issued about a decade ago. I attended a medical conference in that city, and brought my whole family along.

While in Arizona, my son who was 3 at that time, started to breathe heavily. He then also started to wheeze, that I could hear even without a stethoscope. Being a trained lung specialist, I knew that there was something wrong. That was the first time we learned that he has asthma, and that he was having a bad asthma attack.

We brought him to the nearby hospital. Not long after, he was given a nebulizer treatment (asthma medicine given via mist) in the Emergency Room. While the nebulizer was being administered with a “cute” pediatric oxygen mask that was shaped like a dinosaur snout, my son was crying. I asked him if he was in pain or if the treatment was bothering him, but that was not it.

When I continued to query what was wrong, he finally said, “It’s purple!”  He was referring to the “cute” oxygen mask that he thought was for girls. That was also the first time we learned that he does not like purple, nor does he like Barney.

I also found from my file box, stacks of old receipts from the gas company, including our very first one when they initially filled the propane gas tank of our house here in Iowa. We have gas tanks (LPG cylinders) too, when I was still living in the Philippines, but the gas tank we have here in Iowa is bigger. Much, much bigger.

Since we live beyond the outskirts of town, there are no gas pipe connection from the city to our home. So we have a large (up to 1000 gallons) underground gas tank, which needed to be filled regularly. Propane gas heats our home during winter, and powers the boiler for hot water. Even our fireplace is propane powered. Where we live, people could endure summers without air-conditioning, but would not survive winters without heaters.

When I was growing up in Manila, I wondered how could Santa Claus dropped by in a house without a chimney? I could have not thought that one day, I would be living in a house with a fireplace and a chimney, even though I don’t believe in Santa anymore. I could have not thought that winters could be this bitterly cold as well.

Even though gas was important for us, I am sure though that it was not just propane gas that kept us warm. In our home, the embers of love is much more important than the furnace and the fireplace. We have spent 12 happy winters in this house, and counting.

I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I have not noticed that the sun was already way up in the horizon. Who would imagine that a file box of bills would be such a treasure trove of nostalgia and memories?

Despite the sentimentality associated with them, I still have to make room in the file box for the new ones. Just like facing a new year – out with the old and on with the new. So I took out the old and outdated receipts, and toss them through the paper shredder.

As for the memories, I am keeping them.

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Chasing Sunrise

Today is winter solstice. That means here in the northern hemisphere, this day has the shortest daylight hours, and tonight will be the longest night. Where I live right now here in Iowa, it will be almost 15 hours of darkness tonight. Though in Barrow, the northernmost town in Alaska, they don’t see the sun for 67 days in the winter. I’m sure the next sunrise will be much-anticipated after such a very long night.

I like to see the sunrise. Many people do. Somehow for me, there’s something magical to this daily event. There’s something more than just a spectacle.

Few summers ago when we went to Grand Canyon in Arizona, we were told not to miss the chance to see the sunrise there, as it has a peculiar appeal. That entails we have to wake up before four in the morning (sunrise during summer time is just a little past 5), drive to the advised “best” viewing area, which was almost an hour away from where we were staying, just to capture the grandeur of the sunrise.

Was it worth it? Definitely!

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watching the sunrise

When I was young, my father encouraged me to take running for my exercise and as a form of sports. If you know Manila, with its heat and smog, the only tolerable time to run is early in the morning. That is just before the sunrise.

So my dad and I would weave our way in the dark streets of Sampaloc, running in the morning, while the rest of the neighborhood were still snoring. It was not a long run, perhaps 2 kilometers or so. Though the roosters were already crowing, and some dogs may already be up and would bark as we pass through.

My father told me that during this time of the day, the only people we would encounter in the streets were good and hard-working people, who were trying to get a head start of the day. Sure enough, we would see newspaper boys delivering their stocks, vendors preparing their goods, and other folks scuttling their way to work even before the sun rises.

Back when I was in highschool, my family ventured into the business of bangus (milkfish) farming. We leased a small area in Laguna de Bay, where we have erected a fish pen to raise the bangus. Though that business of ours only lasted less than 2 years as we barely broke even, just enough to pay what we borrowed.

During one occasion, I accompanied my father to buy the bangus fingerlings from a fish nursery somewhere in Pasig or Pateros, I don’t really remember. I was 13 or 14 years old at that time. These fingerlings were what we would place and grow in our fish pen.

We left our home in Sampaloc, Manila around 3 o’clock in the morning to commute, so we could be at the fish nursery way before the sunrise. After purchasing the bangus fingerlings, which were smaller than my pinkie, we then travelled with our hundreds of fingerlings aboard a large banca (pump boat), via the Pasig River into Laguna de Bay.

As we approached to enter Laguna de Bay in our rented banca, the sun was just peeping in the horizon. It was one of the most glorious sunrises I could remember. And it’s not that we were even vacationing or sitting idly on the beach. In fact, my father and I were working.

I know there are more hard-working people, like the taho vendor who have to get his supply around 4 or 5 in the morning so he could sell them that day. Or the baker who needs to get up in the wee hours of the morning to prepare and bake the bread, including our favorite pan de sal. Or the flower vendors of Quiapo who have to get their merchandise from Dangwa, way before the crack of dawn. Or the palengke vendors of Divisoria and Baclaran, and other markets for that matter, having to haul their merchandise very early in the morning. Or the jeepney drivers already plying the streets of Metro Manila before daylight. These people are continually chasing sunrise.

And it’s not just in the Philippines, but all over the world, there are men, women, and even young kids, who are already up and working before the first ray of sunlight appears in the sky. To them greeting the sunrise is more than just a spectacle. It is their means to survive.

To all sunrise chasers out there, I salute you. May all your labors bring you what you’re pursuing in this life. And may you all have a very good day!

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view of the sunrise from our place

 

(*written after reading an entry of a fellow Filipino blogger)

The End Of A Miracle

(I am reposting an article from December 26, 2010, “My Christmas Calling.” I wrote it after being on-duty on Christmas day.)

Christmas morning. Freshly fallen snow was on the ground. It was a White Christmas after all.

Bah, humbug!

I forced myself to get up from bed. My throat was sore. It felt like somebody stuck a fork in my throat and scraped it raw. My body aches like I just ran a marathon. I caught a Christmas bug, you know. No, not the “joyful feeling” of the holidays. A real bug.

I don’t want to go to work, emotionally and physically. But I have to. I am on-duty for Christmas. Our patients in the hospital, especially in the ICU, needs my care. (But who will care for me?) On days like this, I just have to suck it in, take a couple (or make it a handful!) of Tylenol and will myself to go.

I left home with the kids still sleeping and the gifts under the tree unopened. Maybe I would be able to come home early and we can open the gifts together.

In the hospital I greeted people with perfunctory “Merry Christmas,” though I was not feeling the “merry” part. In fact was in a Scrooge-mood.

It was a busy day: 32 total hospitalized patients I rounded upon, 2 hospitals I went to, 19 ICU patients, 12 ventilator-dependent, 2 carbon monoxide poisoning that needed hyperbaric oxygen treatment, 1 chest tube insertion, 1 endotracheal intubation, 1 arterial catheter placement, 2 central venous catheter placement……. and a partridge in a pear tree.

As I dealt with the very critically ill patients and talked with their families, I knew that I was not the bearer of good tidings and joy, but rather of grim news most of the times. As the families broke down into tears and came to term to the gravity of the condition of their loved ones, I thought that these people were experiencing far worse Christmas than me. At least I am going home tonight. My patients will not. Some of them will not come home, ever. And for these families, Christmas will never be the same.

Slowly my “Grinchy” attitude peeled off and was replaced with a sympathetic spirit. I then realized my purpose for this holiday: that is to give my compassionate care for these unfortunate people, in this supposed to be joyful occasion.

The last patient I admitted to the ICU on Christmas came late afternoon. He was 32 years old. When he was 7, he received a life-giving gift, when he became a recipient of a heart transplant. His “miracle” heart had kept him alive for all these 25 years. However, for the past few years, his existence was less than joyful. Complications after complications have developed, and one by one his organs started failing. Including his borrowed heart.

Today he was brought to the Emergency Department barely alive. After transferring him to our ICU – placing him on a mechanical ventilator, putting tubes and catheters in his body, and flooding his system with medicines – his condition did not really improve much.

I spoke with her mother in the ICU’s waiting room. She quietly, but boldly stated, in between sobs, that she was ready to let go of her son who have suffered enough. She indicated to me that she just wanted his “boy” to go gently into the night.

Somehow, the ‘miracle’ heart will be resting this Christmas night.

Did the miracle ended?

I don’t think so. For the miracle of love persists. Love that is shown here by letting go. Letting go in some occasion, is more selfless than holding on.

There is another 7-year old boy who is waiting for his gift. That boy is my son waiting at home. He may be anxious to open his gifts. Or maybe he’s anxious just to see me come home.

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Homecoming Speech

(I delivered this speech during our 25th high school reunion. Though it seems like it was just last night, but that was already 7 years ago this month. That nostalgic event is one of the reasons I was inspired to start this blog. I am posting this here for the sake of the memories.)

 

Dear classmates, beloved teachers, special guests, family and friends.

It was 25 years ago when we left the portals of this academy, but somehow it seems, our hearts have never left. And today, that love for this school, brought us all back here.

It does not matter whether you crossed the Pacific to be here, or you crossed seven mountains or seven rivers, or you crossed seven traffic lights or even just crossed the street to get here. It does not matter where you came from to get here today, because the only thing that mattered tonight is where you came from 25 years ago.

Some of you have added titles to your names, some of you have even changed your names, and then some of you may even lost your name. All that is not important, for the only name and title that matters tonight is we are all alumni of PCA*.

I know there are many new stories to tell. Stories that stem from the different paths we chose to follow, or stories from taking the paths laid before us not by choice but by the consequences of life. But the best stories to tell are the same old stories we shared together more than 25 years ago.

Twenty five long years.

To some of us the ravages of time is evident. We lost some, we gained some. Some have lost hair (ouch!), and some have gained silver hair. We may have lost our model-like stature, and in exchange we gained wrinkles, and extra pounds. Though I can still see in all of you, your inner beauty beaming through. Yes, we may have lost our innocence, our youthful vigor and glamour, but we have gained wisdom, experience and respect in the college of hard knocks, we called life.

The flood of memories may be overwhelming. When you look around this hall, you may even remember the exact spot where you sat, while Ma’am S* was teaching Florante at Laura, while you look out of the window and your mind was wandering to Harrison Plaza. These walls were witnesses when we were sweating and struggling in our Algebra exam, or when we made an errant glance at our seatmate’s answer during the test, but Ma’am F* did not catch us, or maybe she did, but she just have a forgiving heart.

You may have retraced your steps as you climb the stairs and walked down the corridors, for those stairs and corridors remembers the bounce and the echoes of your feet, even though your pace may be slower now. When you wandered in the basketball court, did you have the urge to pick up the litter, as you remember Sir B* made you pick up the litter, as punishment for being late?

When you entered the gate, do you remember familiar figures standing there? Kuya Ely our guard asking you to pin your ID, and Mang Isko, who sells the best sorbetes in the world. I hope they did not ask for your ID when you entered the gate today.

My dear classmates, as I look into you faces, the memories are rushing in. The mischievous escapades we did together, like when we cut classes during sir P*’s class. The secrets we kept together, like your first crush, but you don’t want others to know. The joys and laughter we celebrated, like when we beat Sir T*’s team in volleyball. The heartaches and tears we shared, like when you got rejected by your first love. I can still picture in my mind the way we look – ala Bagets. I can still hear our favorite songs that we sing. I can still remember the jokes that you and I have told, that even up to this day makes me smile.

It was just like yesterday.

I know that not all memories are sweet. In fact, there are few that are downright painful. And perhaps time have partially healed those wounds. Maybe tonight, we can bring closure to those bitter chapter of our lives.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody that helped in organizing, or have contributed time and effort, and or donated financially, to make this event possible. I may not be able to thank you one by one but you know who you are. Please accept my sincerest gratitude.

And now, I would like to personally thank each one of you, for just being here.

I would also like to acknowledge some of our classmates who are not able to join us tonight for some reason or another, but they did send their warmest regards. Let us remember them too.

As we spend time with each other tonight, may we share the wonderful memories we have and make new ones that we will share for the next 25 years or even the next 125 years.

Mabuhay tayong lahat!

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