FOR the first time in 50 years, my high-school classmates and I met in our hometown in Bangar, La Union, to celebrate our golden jubilee.
I have not seen some of them since we graduated from the Saint Christopher Academy (SCA) in March 1969. If I met them before the reunion, I would not have recognized them. The men and women who showed up for our get-together on May 17 and 18, 2019, were mere shadows of the young people I went to school with five decades ago. Then, we were bright-eyed teenagers, full of life, eager to make our mark into adulthood. The classmates I met have wizened, were wrinkled like me, some with their girth double—if not triple—their size as teenagers.
For months before the scheduled reunion, a core group of organizers surfed the Internet and reached out to classmates via the social media and personal contact, inviting them to the reunion.
Of the 70 or so members of the graduating class, 35 showed up, wearing the golden-yellow polo shirts distributed to commemorate the occasion. Some came all the way from the US, others from Metro Manila, while most lived in our hometown. There were nurses among us, engineers, accountants, former government employees, bank employees and teachers. I was the only one who became a journalist.
At least nine members of our batch have passed on to the other side, mere wisps of memories among their surviving classmates.
I also was the only one who went to the University of the Philippines in Diliman. Some went to the nearby Osias Colleges in nearby Balaoan town. Some enrolled at the Saint Louis University in Baguio City and its branch in San Fernando, the capital of La Union. Others studied at the different universities and colleges in the university belt in Manila.
Those who could not afford to go to college became farmers, taking over their family farms from their aging parents. Others went into business, some succeeding while others remained in buy-and-sell microenterprises.
Most jubilarians gathered for Holy Mass at the parish church the morning of May 17 then proceeded for breakfast at the Papag Restaurant run by the family of a batchmate. The group then proceeded to the Villa Adelfa Resort in Barangay Bangaoilan where we stayed the rest of the day. We gathered to register and introduced ourselves to one another, reminiscing our school days.
We moved to the rented hall, decorated golden yellow where we held a program. A prayer was offered, followed by the singing of one of our two commencement songs.
One by one, each of us went to the front of the hall and in five minutes or so, narrated our life story. Some were widows and widowers; others were in successful marriages. Some remained unmarried and others raised children on their own, single mothers. Others survived abusive relationships. All proudly narrated their children’s achievements, calling their success the crowning glory of their lives.
Everyone who worked had retired, all reaching 65, the mandatory age of retirement in the Philippines. Of those living in the Philippines, only the class valedictorian remained working, asked by her employer to work as a consultant.
Eight were chosen to receive gifts prepared by the class valedictorian as a memento of their gathering. Weeks before the reunion, she asked three balikbayan classmates to bring back souvenirs to give to their classmates. Three kind-hearted batchmates also pooled their money and gave the same eight chosen classmates a token of P500 each. A classmate who became a nurse in Maui, Hawaii, brought floral polos, t-shirts, monogrammed ballpens engraved with her name, and Coach coin purses, giving each attendee a present to commemorate the occasion.
A set of officers was elected comprised of an overall coordinator; coordinators for Metro Manila, hometown residents and those living abroad; a secretary; a treasurer and an assistant treasurer; and committee members for programs and invitations, food, and ways and means.
The group resolved to hold a yearly reunion to make up for lost time as well as mini reunions for available classmates whenever a batchmate visiting from abroad arrived.
Lunch and dinner were served by Papag Restaurant. The rest of the afternoon was spent exchanging stories, lingering in the hallway, reminiscing the past. Some went home to change into festive attire in preparation for the evening party where Karaoke singing and some dancing were expected.
The celebration resumed the next day with a trip to Bahay na Bato, a tourist site in neighboring Luna town, owned by the brother of a classmate.
Selected classmates were prayed over. While most of us remained lifelong Catholics, some have changed religions, all still accepting the Christian God as Our Creator and Savior.