TRUE TO HER word, my childhood friend, Del Escudier (she married a Brit, Norman, who is a resident of Australia), flew back in and messengered me last Thursday that they are already in Bacood (Sta. Mesa), which did not hit as a surprise because her sister, Ine, beat her in springing it ahead. Therefore, I had to cut short my presence in the meeting of the Task Force Anniversary (more of this later) because I’ve already given her my word I’ll leave the Cooperative office at my usual 5 pm takeoff.
Our first reunion was in 2013. She was with Norm, whom I clinked wine glasses with then, and is now advanced an apologetic he cannot be with Del. It didn’t turn out to be a miss because (another surprise!) Ine was with her husband, Larry (two hits), whom I got to raise SanMig Light with after she offered one bottle to me, as soon as I got to their place, like there were no miles that separated us many eons ago. For her part, in-between good-to-see-you hugs, Del took no time in handing me a baseball cap, emblazoned with Australia and her emblematic kangaroo. Then the stories soared, doubled because, in spite of the absence of Norm’s crisp Cockney charm, he was replaced by two, who did not have to be as English as he.
Not content with the cap, Del pulled one rosary from a bunch (she distributes habitually in their church back in Perth), green like the color of my Coop shirt (my dearest friend, thank God, vows never to be converted by other faiths proliferating back Down Under). Speaking of Coop, I squeezed in early an announcement that mine was not entirely a social call because I brought two subscription (forms) to our 20th anniversary souvenir program next month. They smiled their acquiescence and, having gotten that out of the way, we resumed catching up.
On my way home from an exhilirating encounter, I received a text message from Kuya Jun that the grand plans we prepared for the week-long anniversary bazaar went pffft because most of those at the third, final discussion thought it was not going to pull through, baka langawin lang, and other negative vibes, all undermining the enthusiastic efforts we expended to ensure the project’s success. It disappointed only a little, thanks to the euphoria of reunion.
Buoyed by Del’s and Ine’s double-delight encouragement, I sent the flyers to as many friends of old that I could think of, one of whom was former ILS Executive Director Amy Torres (and recently retired ILO Skills Development and Employability Expert whom I thought was on sabbatical), whose quick response was an earnest how can she help. Long story short, she asked us to meet for coffee the next day. We met at Starbucks on Calle Bistro and, because another ILS alumna, Bobit, is in town from Canada and was treating her former colleagues to lunch, why don’t I tag along. Like, is that a “Yay?”
We traversed traffic-congested España, which our catch-up conversation almost didn’t mind. Her driver, Nandy, didn’t know Intramuros well we had time to get lost in Binondo, where my water-therapy incontinence dragged me out of her car and I caught up with her later. I got to Chicken Bacolod ahead of her (they made three rounds of Juan Luna hoping to collect me somewhere there) but our old haunt renewed its pull on me I leisurely walked towards General Luna. We were supposed to meet the reunioners at 11:30 a.m. who will be coming from their office across the street. Amy soon found me, we walked towards Max’s (which they decided to prefer) but the place was packed and warm with the lunch crowd we insisted on the original, more spacious, cooler Bacolod. They started to trickle in at a little past 12. Amy and I happily agreed that punctuality will never be a Pinoy attribute. Bobit and her Canadian husband Billy were soon shooting the breeze with us, giving in to selfies and their counterpart and, after a hearty, conversational lunch, distributing duty-free chocolates. Like Atty. Tess Lora would accept after I posted the poster-pretty pics, friends are blessings, as confirmed by our happy, thankful faces.
That morning before our coming together, my youngest Aesop texted me of a great news: but for his Pag-ibig ID, he had completed his employment requirements and was instructed by HR to report for work already. My wife, his Kuya and I were beside ourselves with joy. He will be a Kitchen Helper at Kitchen Restaurant and looked forward to the many skills he will acquire in his initial trade. I couldn’t be happier for his humility. It took our family tears, travails and troubles for him to arrive at a most difficult decision of his life and it was all I could do not to shout “Ave Maria” on our rooftop.
Truer yet is the adage that luck strikes thrice (I’m not superstitious is reason enough I turned the proverb around). I also do not subscribe to Murphy’s Law and Whammies so the three graces that blessed me that day were rather too tremendous to contain. Suffice it to say that, similar to challenges that I carry like customary crosses (He always bears them with me is why), they soon clung like second skin, and I became one with them. Amen.