Thursday, January 25, 2007

Reunion with the Barkada
10th and the 17th of December, 2006

Written in: Poblacion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Impromptu
Previous Post: My Uncle, The Kapitan
Related Post: Of F.O.P.s, F.O.B.s and Filipino Clubs

For the 10th of December a highschool friend, Edgardo M, invited the highschool Barkada (tightly knit group of friends) to have dinner at his parents' place in Barangay Bulac, still in the town of Sta. Maria. It was his brother's, sister's, and grandmother's birthday - they all have their birthdays on the same date. Besides myself and cousin Marco, only Emmanuel L, and later Marvic S, and Nelson C were the ones able to show up that rainy Sunday night.

I'll be honest, I would not have recognized Edgardo (Gary) if I had run into him in public. In the decade that I had been gone, we had all responded differently to maturing. Emmanuel, Marvic and Nelson pretty much looked the same. Gary on the other hand looked drastically different. I did not see him transition from being slim to having a heavier build.

From my perspective it was like this: Gary from ten years ago. Then, "poof!", Gary of today. Somewhat reminiscent of me taking in my hometown, don't you think?

In any case, I suppose the same is true when people see me again for the first time in a near decade. 

"Tumangkad ka, pre ah!" (You grew really tall!), was the first thing he said.

He continued: "Dati rati nagkakalapit lang tayo, ngayon, ang laki mo na!" (It used to be that we weren't that far off in height, now you're much much larger!)

Ten years does a lot to change a person's appearances.

...but it's probably not enough to actually change a person.

We may have been talking about the things that I have missed in the past ten years, but we talked as if I had been gone for only a few months at best.

I was welcomed and made to feel as if nothing at all had happened. Sure, the things they knew about me, and consequently the things I knew about them may have been ten years out of date. But they still treated me as the Randy they used to know, and it wasn't that far off the mark.

Later in the night, after the other guests had left, we viewed a photo collection of their last year in highschool. The year that I was sorry I missed. Well, after seeing the times they had together, I was all the more sorry. A thought then occurred: were we really getting along this well, or was I somewhat regressing to as if I were 15 again - wishing I had delayed my departure to Canada for at least a year?


Exactly a week later, the Sunday evening of the 17th of December, my cousin Marco arranged another meeting with my (our) highschool friends.

The original plan was just to have a lalaking inuman at usapan (night of drinking and discussion, usually a 'for the boys' outing), with me taking care of the beer and roasted chicken pulutan (finger food). Marco tried to get in touch with at least close to 15 people, but only 9 replied and only 8 could make the time to show up.

Despite that however, it was still quite a gathering. It felt, quite honestly, just like a proper welcoming party.

The venue was at Marvic S property in the neighbouring Barangay of Sta. Clara. When Marco, Danilo M, and myself arrived, there was a Karaoke Machine, a lot of food to make a full meal, and Marvic's parents saying hello.

One by one the others arrived: Emmanuel L, Jessie M with his wife and daughter, and Roy G with his girlfriend. Nelson C joined a bit later.

Roy, like Gary, had also changed a lot. The athletic Roy I used to know is now a Roy going through a series of stress related health problems.

Gary M wanted to come, but was in another province. I would have been more disappointed that he was absent had I not seen him the previous week.

We got full, got drunk, and talked, chatted, and sang merrilly through the night. I sang a drunken rendition of Led Zep's "Stairway to Heaven" and Queen's "We Are the Champions".

I once heard that you will never have friends just like your highschool friends.

This experience would prove that statement correct.

I may have left at a time when there was still more maturation, more self discovery, and more personal development left to do. But even so, these people made me feel welcome. It was as though as if I were there with them through the crucial transition from adolescence to adulthood. They made me feel as if I hadn't left.

And I felt as if I hadn't left.

But the questions again arose to nag me days after the event.

Was I regressing? Was I merely projecting a 'what if I hadn't left' scenario? Was I merely subconciously masking a part of my identity altered by the 10 years spent in Canada? Is this why it was so easy to feel a sense of belonging?

I have a lot of personal issues, I know.

Sequel: Of F.O.P.s, F.O.B.s and Filipino Clubs

Next Post: Falling Behind


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