This was written more than three years ago for my batchmates at San Beda College High School Class 1966, also of Grade School Class 1962. I thought of sharing this on the Net, although others may find it difficult to relate to most of the time.
As the carroza bearing the Sto. Nino entered the gates of San Beda, I saw an alumnus belonging to a younger batch who was watching the procession, leaning against a parked car near Mendiola Bridge. He nodded and I approached him as I stretched my weary legs. He knew that it was the 40thanniversary celebration of class HS 1966 and surmised that a sizable number attended, as has been in the past, especially during our silver jubilee in 1991 which had signaled the renaissance of Redeamus et Reddamus. But he said they were able to muster a bigger number, including those from abroad, during their jubilee. I don’t recall the exact figure, but he might have said that it was over a hundred and fifty. Tired and eager to wash up for the Bykes affair, I bade goodbye.
For me the reunion was coming to a close as I had to return to Japan to attend a meeting. Is a reunion all about attendance? The database showed that there were 111 attendees at the welcome dinner at the Manila Yacht Club, of which there were 90 of us and 21 were spouses/sons. But it was more than the body count, if it indeed mattered.
There were some I last saw in November 1991, in March 1966, and in March 1962. Some tops were gone and shiny, some bellies were bulging, and some legs were wobbly, but the persona and the aura that radiated in each attendee spanned time quickly from then to now at this place by the sea. The classic time warp was manifested as if it was only yesterday when we last saw each other.
The handshakes were not enough, nor were handclasps. Half-hugs and chest bumps (a la NBA) seemed to be the greeting in vogue. In that moment of recognition and connection the years flew to now; there was nothing new. Everyone had grown in age separately but altogether, no exceptions. Everyone had his own ode to life, with the stanzas equally measured and the rhymes pleasant to the ears. But the writer of life had put his pen down for these few days so that all these various odes can come together for the pause so that each life can move on again to its mission, reinvigorated.
Each presence was a victory, a celebration, and a tribute to the clarion call for Bedans of 1962 and 1966 to gather and recall those heady and rebellious days of anxiety, mischief, and discovery. Each had come home to renew ties and realize that all the years of fermentation and metamorphosis were essential for them to recognize that they are simply kindred of mind and spirit, wherever they were the past four decades. And yes, the bodies could not sustain the same level of frenetic activity of yesteryears as they closely bonded through the days.
The Lettermen concert could not have been better, just like wine aged and nurtured through the years. As the familiar melodies filled the coliseum, the crowd in harmony lit the dome with past dreams and crushes. Slow drags with ex-future and/or present wives were reminisced, holding her delicate hands, feeling her warm breath and racing pulse, bodies brushing daintily, and humming songs into each other ears. The pride of Lions were in concert not only with the Lettermen but also with the past, their period of awakening to added dimensions of awareness other than the changes in physiology.
They also came to terms with their spirituality during the Ordo Missae cum Populo, their Latin Mass at the Abbey Chapel of Our Lady of Montserrat. Yes, Abbot Ed said it was a time to renew relationships and strengthen camaraderie, but at the same time it must be an opportunity for personal and communal renewal in our covenant. Gathered round the altar, where the monks usually pray and praise the Lord in Gregorian chant, they remembered the 25 who had gone ahead to the after life. But it was a time for remembrance, and not a requiem Mass.
As Juliet said in Shakespeare’s play, “And, when he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine, that all the world will be in love with night, and pay no worship to the garish sun.”
As the prayers in Latin were recited by all, the journey to faith and obedience during the days at school dawned on them. Although now equipped with a missalette providing also the direct translation of the prayers into English, then many of them learned and memorized these, oblivious of what their true meaning were, except that the priests so required these beautiful passages of communion with the Lord and his community. The beautiful chapel as always further added to the solemnity of the Eucharistic celebration.
The repast at the school cafeteria was more of the same past, – how everyone goes hurriedly to the canteen after the First Friday Mass right before recess. But dignified men that they are now, they filed slowly to the place where they would partake of cafeteria fare. Dear Father Benigno Benabarre at his nineties was his usual perky self, soliciting help for the alumni newsletter while at the same time reading his mental locator chart of his monk-contemporaries. Mr. Leandrito Asuncion and Mr. Jose Mordeno related how they found a home in San Beda like us and how they have gone on to share and give back their talents to the next generations. The school band came and the cheerleaders led the pep rally. Chants of San Beda Go Go Go, The Red and the White, Polly Wolly Wanna, Zalabazzim bazzim baza, the Indian Yell, and Stand on the Grandstand reverberated through the cafeteria with snap and vigor. The event climaxed with singing the Alma Mater hymn, the version prior to the Roco-Maramba version. A walk-about of the campus with its new buildings and facilities could not mask the favorite spots of confrontation, like the incinerator where fists flew and eyes turned blue, and of celebration, like the grandstand where graduations gave them the license to go out to the world armed with prayer and work. Ora et Labora.
Many displayed their grace and terpsichorean skills at the Bykes affair. Music of the oldies and goodies genre was served along with fusion cuisine. It did not matter that topnotch lawyers and entrepreneurs were dishing out the music as accomplished businessmen and retirees were dancing to rock and roll, rhythm and blues, soul of the 60s. It was not simply 2006; it was the past in the present.
It was time to wrap-up for me as I had to fly back north to Japan. I had gone through the chest bumps and half hugs, the memories lifted by song, the spirituality offered by prayer, the remembrance of my Alma Mater, and the rites of passage manifested through dance. Each one has a cup of nostalgia to fill, mine was already full. It was a complete experience.
On the flight out of Manilato Narita, I flew with Butch Mendoza who was returning to Florida. He learned of the reunion one day when he decided to Google search about class HS 1966. He was led to the website, got the information and the plans, and timed his return to the Philippines to jibe with the reunion activities. I asked him what might have led him to casually search for the class. Probably he said, he was in tune to the same wavelength as most of us, even after 40 years. Probably the energy and the vibrations reached those who searched for it.
The reunion team planned no less for each one of us to fill our cups, no matter how many or how few, and delivered, no more, no less. Thank you very much, for my cup had runneth over.