Sunday, August 21, 2011

THE WAY WE WERE: Or How Facebook Brought About This Fever for Nostalgia and the Songs from the 70s and 80s

The site dedicated to the alumni of UP Diliman must have started this. In a week's time, a page was dedicated to a closed group in Facebook exclusively for the graduates of La Salle Greenhills Class of 1972.  Then before we hit that desired 200 members mark, another exclusive page went up in the same social network --- this time exclusively for all the graduates of La Salle Greenhills ever since it became the primary source of all the consumers of Tropical Hut Hamburgers on Ortigas Avenue.

Let me try to go through all this and decipher what is happening --- or why (out of the blue) my schoolmates/batchmates of almost forty years ago started sprouting out of the remotest corners of the cyberuniverse.  There is great joy in that.  Really. 

It feels great to see old friends --- even those who you still remember made hell out of your high school years. You remember your best friends, the kinder ones ... but more so the junior hoodlums and hooligans who made you wish that you suddenly had telekinetic powers to get even with them just like what the legendary Carrie White did at her prom.

Worse is when you see their names ... their faces today ... and you still do not and cannot remember.  You start scraping the deep ends of your memory jar trying to figure out if the name and face really belonged to that whole set of remembrances of years past.  And you end up with nada.  You feel worst for them.  The ones you love and hate the most are the ones you hold fondest and worst memories.  Everyone else who falls in the great middle are relegated to, "Sino siya?" or something close to that. (You just wish that they had good lives, that's all.  Because chances are ... if they had become so ultra-successful, ultra-rich or ultra-important, then you would have remembered said homo sapien from the past earlier than his Facebook page resurrection, right?)

But whichever way you look at it ...there is such thrill in rediscovery.  There is even fun in reminiscing as that is what such Facebook pages are dedicated into doing --- invading the memory boxes of the past and literally turning them upside down to revive old photos and anecdotes to bring back what everyone calls the best of the years.  But more important is what you find out about yourself by rediscovering your old classmates. The following self-realizations immediately surface.

a) Everyone has aged.  

That is an inevitable part of the journey called life.  You cannot imagine that the cutest guys in your batch --- the Lotharios and Adonises who sent shivers to the Maryknollers (yes, they were still called that --- not Miriam-ers), Scholasticans, Paulinians, Theresians, Assumptionistas and the yellow army of Poveda --- have suddenly turned middle age with paunches/beer bellies, receding hairlines or complete skinheads without the aid of razors --- and worse, resembling grandfathers because they are grandfathers.

(You make cross references to the Facebook picture taken in 2011 and the high school yearbook where he still sports shoulder-length hair fashionable in the very early pre-Martial Law 1972.  That's when you scream and say, "Panginoon kong Lord ... what happened?" Well, I certainly know the answer to that question and it is nothing mind-boggling or confidential --- forty years have passed since the high school graduation photo.  Everything in Don Juan's body just ... gave way.

I remember going through the Facebook pages of people I do remember from high school and I gasp.  I said, oh, yes ... forty years have taken their toll.  Some aged gracefully ... while others, well, just aged. And who would have thought that they would look like that at 50+ when they stood out so differently in those long crazy nights at Where Else?)

b) Everyone is still acting like a high school boy on the Facebook page.

What is so amusing is how much of high school is remembered --- especially the female teachers who have certainly become part of the post-puberty fantasies of young men who have now graduated into the stature of inherent senior citizens.  It is amusing to sift through what specific memories each holds sacred --- and how these have been kept with such fondness through all these years.

You cannot forget the teachers you abused in your puberty fantasies ... as well as the ones you categorically hated for the rest of your life.
Now I wonder if the children of my batchmates truly realize what stuff their fathers are made of.  It makes me laugh at the thought that after forty years my classmates still fantasize about gorgeous English teachers who must now be in their seventies ... or tyrant high school instructors who made their lives miserable through various forms of disciplinary torture.

c) Everybody has a favorite anecdote about high school.

That cannot be helped.  Even to this day, I find myself laughing aloud when I remember all the insanity that took place during my high school years.  Remember that these were the drug crazed early 70s when we all sported long hair (because we all still had hair) while wearing our flare pants, Bang Bang jeans, Nicnic shirts smelling of Brut or Jovan Musk Oil or Paco Rabanne.

These were the years when the common ritual of La Salle Green Hill archers was to walk from the campus to nearby Unimart and steal puffs of smoke while traipsing down Ortigas Avenue or hiding behind the St Benilde gym.

These were the years when somebody (identity held out of respect for all the years of agreed-upon silence) placed powerful firecrackers from Bocaue, Bulacan on the toilet right outside the walkway to the gym.  Or the time somebody gave a classmate a pad of Diatabs telling him that this was a hallucinogen called Black Sabbath, guaranteeing a memorable trip. (Addendum: Said student did not have any hallucination but was absent for two days because of a severe case of massive constipation.  Same schoolmate was also the much-talked about legendary victim of a major high school Neanderthal showdown which ended with Diatab Prince's face pushed down a toilet full of piss.)

d) Everybody is posting his favorite song that brings back the most recollections and memory flashbacks of the period.

Oh, that was the age of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young ("Our House" is a very, very fine house ...), Iron Butterfly, Carole King ("It's Too Late"), James Taylor.  Everybody is posting YouTube videos and captures of Stairway to Heaven ... and here I am crooning the Graduation Song that was played during our Baccalaureate Mass, "Fill the World With Love" from the film Goodbye, Mr. Chips.  Sigh.

OK. It cannot be helped. We all get nostalgic. We all revert to the good old days because they will be better than the really awful ones that seem to constitute the here and now.  But what is funny is that there will be an entire generation who will look back at 2011 and consider these years as their good old days.  I guess that process never ends inasmuch as I remember my parents talk about pre-war years and call them their good old days.

But I blame Facebook for all this.  I blame social networks for not only making the world so much smaller ... but also folding the long and winding roads of time into cute ribbons and knots, bringing back so much of yesterday in sporadic instances of today.  

I am not a fan of class reunions.  I feel awkward when I go to such a get-together and find out I am not dressed up like my batchmates but garbed in the fashion worn by their ... uh, children.  Only few people my age can still dare to wear skinny jeans. I don't think any of my classmates do ... or if anyone of them can sing a Katy Perry song by heart. But I still enjoy seeing them ... and knowing that the years have been kind to most of us.

But I am thankful for Facebook inasmuch as I am dismayed by such nostalgia attacks.  The here and now may be more complicated and testing ... but memories are always better.  Yesterdays are always the good old days.  And they can only be made better if there is a today.

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