Very recently, I became a golden girl. Turning 50 has its perks. You care more about substance rather than form. Men still take a good look at you and respectfully, smile. I like this. It used to be winks, or long glazed stares that make you either uncomfortable or could make you stare back. You think it matters? Perhaps two decades ago, when we sought some attention at an age when we were neither too young nor old enough, it could have meant something.
But it does not matter anymore, not at all, not now when I am half a century old! Isn’t this grand? I used to think, wow, when I’d get to this age, will I be wearing long skirts and tie my hair in a tight bun? What will it be like? Will there be many unwelcome changes? Surprise! It feels good. I only need to lose a few pounds; otherwise, it feels so good. It makes you thankful, that you have reached this ripeness of age. It is very similar to knowing what you want and getting it. You understand what contentment is and know its cousin satisfaction.
The knowledge that you have gone through so much and have learned as much makes you slow-nod your head in quiet understanding. I remember thinking how ancient this age would probably be like. Now I throw my head back in laughter because my thoughts were as lacking in finesse as the age I was in when I thought them.
Would I wish to go back to my youthful days? To what? To be clumsy and awkward again? To be reckless and uncaring again? Should I turn back the hands of time and relive certain memorable moments? The thought took form when, one magical weekend, a group of childhood friends gathered together, after 33 years of being apart. A fluke! That the friend who put up a facebook page is named Jesus. Jesus Betia, Jr.
And yes, what a gift for a golden girl! Is it possible to relive our youth, minus the awkwardness, the confusion, the curiosity, the ignorance or was that arrogance, too?! Yes it is!
After only a few months of filling the page, we were able to plan something quick. All eager, all missing one another, we set a date. This was not easy because some lived in the U.S., others in Canada, Japan, and scattered in the Philippine Islands. But, when people decide to do something and commit, the wheels of the universe also start turning and things happen.
We once lived in a street called Nobel. We always mention Edison in Makati to let people know where this is. If it were not enough, you have to say Buendia and add Bautista. Those who know the main avenues would easily know where it is. Some would volunteer knowing all the other streets in Barangay San Isidro named after inventors: Marconi, Bell, Morse, Galvani, Faraday, etc.
The family friends we made include the Santoses, the Dys, the Betias, the Borromeos, the Evangelistas, the Mallaris, and the Patrimonios. The families became close not just by the proximity of homes, but by the friendships formed among the children and the parents. More intimately, there’s Angie, Tere, Mercy and Dothy, Danny and Rey, Lynn, Jesus, John-John and Con-con, Jun, Rey Dy, Matt, Ate Fely, Winnie and Siony, Boy P., Ponggie, Al, Mabeth, Beng and Elvie, Juan, Ellen, Judith, Daday, Mico, Gino, Nino and Ana. Of course my own beloved siblings, Cynthia, Bobby and Badong. And there were some more, much younger, but Nobel-Edison youth still.
For many years, in our case ten, we not only lived next to one another, we played the best of games on the street where we lived. There were times when rainstorms flooded the streets and you would think we’d be staying indoors, but we waded in the murky waters instead. No flood would stop the Nobel-Edison children from playing.
Play was a serious matter. It meant gathering the best players for each patintero team, cops and robbers (we used to say Touching Rubber) team, even soccer/football, Chinese garters, jackstones, skipping rope, hide and seek and whatever other games we could play.
There were no personal computers yet, no laptops, no cellphones, and so we had time to sweat on the street, to run in wild abandon, to scream, squeal our delight at winning whatever game we decided to be engrossed in for the day. As if we had all the time in the world! But yes, we gave our games the time. Despite our assigned household chores, or being required to sleep after lunch, the games had to be played.
We were children, ages 7 below, till we grew up to 17 below. Those who were older than us, had other things going for them, aside from being the despotic rulers of our magical world. They were the commanders, the older brothers and sisters who were blessed to have us to run to the stores for this or that.
Alas, nothing lasts forever. We parted ways and lost touch. Although there were times we would recall, sometimes teary-eyed and achy-heart, wondering where we could find our childhood friends again, whether we would see one another ever again.
But believing in our hearts that this day would come, it does! Facebook Assisted Reunions! Though so far apart and three decades later, we find our GOLD.
Gold is the friendship that has not been ravaged by the many years of being apart from one another. The true mark of friendship is simply picking up from where we left off and it was clear, in our warm embraces, our hugs and kisses, it was reuniting the children in us once more.
The apartment building where we grew up, is now the Bombo Radyo Building. The noise it now makes may equal ours backthen. We trekked “our street” one more time and posed for photos. We felt its power, this great street, which witnessed us win and lose, laugh and cry, fight and make-up, and then laugh some more. It was there where we learned more than what our schools taught us.
We learned not to be lazy from the grand old men Mr. Ben Dy and Mr. Pol Santos who were up before any of us, before sunrise in fact. We learned to be tough women, from Mrs. Mary Santos and my own mother, who were strict disciplinarians. Mrs. Santos being a Navy Man’s wife who easily handled six children and my own Nanay, Pat Palomo, an ex-army nurse, widowed and raising four difficult kids.
We learned cheerfulness from Atty. Estela Betia and Tito Jess who often smiled at us kids and asked how we were. We learned kindness from Mrs. Dominga Dy and Mrs. Mallari who seemed to never raise their voices more than two notches above a whisper. Capt. And Mrs. Evangelista taught us what it was like to have many visitors every day! He was the barangay captain at the time and his wife Amalia ably assisted him. Mr. and Mrs. Borromeo taught us how it was like to care for little children by carefully watching over them.
But most of all, we learned that no amount of time can erase the wonderful feeling of being friends, no distance will stop true friends from reuniting and that love which we know we share with our family members is the same kind of love we share with these very friends whom we have known in our innocence and pureness of hearts. What a great gift for all of us who made it to the first reunion. What a privilege it was to see one another again.
How many people get this rare privilege? What are the chances of hugging your best childhood friends after 33 years of being apart? How do you cram all the missing information in the two days that you’re allowed to be with them? So many more stories to tell, so many lessons to share, yet so little time. But the promise of sustaining and nurturing the gift is there, in our hands now, and hearts, too.
Now that we have been reunited, it marks the beginning of hopefully longer chapters in our lives, to stay connected, to continue our communication, to keep caring for one another. This for me, is finding pure gold.
About Stella Palomo Monteno:
Stella is a Cebu City based writer, advertising practitioner and television producer. She recently turned golden and decided to trace back her roots to where she spent her childhood years.. in the streets of Makati. Stella works as a marketing consultant of a beach resort in Cebu. But most of the time, she is a secret poetess and a novelist taking forever to finish her first published epic novel! Stella’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.