Maybe it takes time for someone to fully appreciate reunions and what these events say not only about people who have been a great part of our lives. These get-togethers are better reflections of ourselves --- of who we have become, why we have turned out this way and what we had to go through to get to the here and now.
Tomorrow the Class of 1972 of La Salle Greenhills High School will hold its forty-fifth anniversary.
The mere thought that our secondary school graduation took place almost half a century ago is already ... dumbfounding.
What makes it all the more surprising is that I can still precisely remember the details of that morning as we had our Baccalaureate Mass ... and then later in the afternoon marched to the then newly constructed St. Benilde Gym where we had our graduation ceremonies. I still remember the choir singing that song from the movie Goodbye Mr. Chips entitled Fill The World With Love as we walked down to our seats in our barongs waiting for our diplomas to be handed out to us.
That was forty-five years ago.
And even if we occasionally hold small reunions or pocket get-togethers, this year is considered significant.
For most of us, we have acquired our senior citizen cards, a great percentage have settled abroad, a great number retired --- and some who have left ahead, much too young to be counted as the dearly departed --- but painfully reminding us that the moment of silence we dedicate in honor of the dead is getting longer and longer each time we do our official huddle.
That was why much ado was given to this celebration because, as one of our most prominent and loved batch mates cited, "This is perhaps the reunion where we can gather the most of our schoolmates in one venue. Nobody knows what the next five years will bring to us."
The euphemism is kind. It is called confronting mortality. My father had a way of talking about the inevitable ... and the tides of generations meant to accept the fact that everything has a deadline: he would say, "Hinog na ang piling ng saging." (The bananas clustered together are now ripe.) We speak of our schoolmates who passed all too quickly with such pain, sentiment and enriched by memories how they were and what they could have yet been.
Now that we are all between the ages of 61 and 62, we are still strong enough to handle ourselves, guzzle down the glasses of Johnny Walker or defiantly munch of pork rind as if proving to everybody that there is no real issue about blood pressure. We can still go around and hug each other, give strong shoulder slaps and recall those schoolboy days when our lives were defined by Tropical Hut Supermarket at the corner of EDSA and Ortigas and Unimart at the other end of the road.
Three of our teachers attended --- and it is somewhat amusing to realize that we have reached that point in our lives when our age differences are not all that great. We have all grown ... older.
There are some schoolmates who I have not seen since that day we were officially sent off the Ortigas campus to pursue our college adventures. And there was excitement in the preparation for the pre-homecoming dinner from the choice of venue (where the senior citizens can act like high school boys all over again without making major fools of themselves) to the resurrection of our yearbook, putting together how we looked like then (when all of us had so much hair) and how we look like now (where the law of gravity has not only taken out the follicles of some but also showed how the decrease in collagen content can create strange distortions of what was once taut facial skin).
So the first moment you walk into the venue, there are a lot of shouts and excited voices of recognition.
Fact: there are some of your schoolmates who you could not recognize at all now. Another fact: there are some other schoolmates who never talked to you during those growing up years --- but who are now just all too glad to see you again --- alive. Suddenly there are no more distinctions between class sections or who got bullied or who did the bullying. Most of us have not only become fathers but are now counting grandchildren.
Thus having found each other again after forty-five years is a God-given blessing.
To have survived that timeline of four and a half decades says much about not only who we have become as individuals --- but what we are as a graduating batch. We take great pride in the achievements of our school mates in the field of sports. It is part of bragging rights to relive the NCAA Overall Junior championship we use to landmark our part in the history of the high school. We look around and remind ourselves just how many bank presidents we have had in the group, how many doctors ... how many successful businessmen, how many movers, shakers and influencers.
So many have flown halfway across the planet to join us for the next few days. People have actually made time and insisted to be there. There is importance in this ... that only people who have been blessed to reach this age would understand.
Then you get reminded that these are the long-haired boys who secretly smoked Marlboros at the secret corners of the campus. Or scaled the storm wire fences of the campus to skip classes and play pinball at Unimart. Or went crazy dancing to the music of our time, garbed in our flare pants, Romeo shirts and platform shoes. God, the memories.
The organizers of the pre-homecoming dinner decided to bring in an eighteen piece band named Glass Onion that played terrific covers of the music of our time.
When they opened their first set playing Chuck Mangione's Feel So Good, we got goosebumps.
By the time they sang Chicago's Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is? and Saturday in the Park, the old boys were on the floor ... dancing and singing. Yes, even I was surprised I remembered the lyrics of Does Anybody Really Know ... But I guess like all great things in one's life, the years cannot make you forget. It is there. Just like these old boys dancing and singing.
We have all taken such different journeys in life: some soared, others cruised while others stayed near the ground. But regardless of where we have gone, we have all gathered on the same dance floor singing and moving to the beat of the music of 1972.
Animo, Old Boys. We are home.