By By Ramonfelipe A. Sarmiento
Nasyunal, Batch ‘77
posted 3-Apr-2007  ·  
2,014 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

(Second of two parts)

Next week, on the day of anticipation of the Resurrection (Black Saturday) and on the day of the La Paz itself, we of Class of 1977 at the nasyunal (CNHS) will gather to commemorate the completion of thirty years after graduation in high school. It could only be fitting because a grand reunion after three decades is a celebration of life, much like Easter, and quite different from reunions of the early years after our CNHS stint. Back then, we would come together at the slightest pretext just to recreate high school bliss sorely missed. This time however, we gather not so much as young adults who would not easily give up the joys of juvenile escapades, but as late mid-lifers who had already seen a lot in this real world of struggle. It is going to be gathering of survivors.

When we see each other come April 7 and 8, we would be 46 or 47 years old. We would have fun noticing each other’s patches of white hair, gathering wrinkles and bulging tummies, and we would compare maintenance medication for hypertension. Old references such as belonging to the star section or not will already be meaningless. This time around, we would have long realized that high school is not the "big fight." In high school, the tests and projects would look like child-play compared to those one has to deal with in the school of life’s real world of struggle where the curriculum includes such subjects as "Seeing Children Through College," "Sustaining Marriage," "Facing Up with Economic Crisis," "Anticipating Menopause," and "Rebuilding Life After a Super Typhoon." Some will take up electives like "Dealing with the Difficulties of Overseas Employment," "Surviving Chemotherapy" or even "Life After Separation."

Of the 360-plus members of batch ’77, more than twenty have already dropped out of the school of earthly life and moved on to the after-life (ay tabangan ning Diyos), making our reunion indeed a gathering of survivors. When we graduated in high school, we proudly wore the ribbon of graduates, but in this grand reunion of our 30th anniversary, we will all be wearing the badge of merit for having faced up with life’s untold sacrifices and hardships, and are ready for more. After three decades, our bond will not anymore be of whimsical adolescent attachments; ours will be the profound solidarity of triumphant survivors of life’s trials and challenges. I’m sure we will have so much fun reminiscing our youthful antics at the nasyunal, but over and above that, we will relish the sense of oneness among co-travelers in life’s journey and a reunion like this is a breathing pause to reenergize for the push to the next milestone. So whatever station in life each had reached at this point will not be the basis for our attitude to one another at the reunion. Rather, we will see each other as co-equals in the continuing journey towards destinations we have each set for ourselves, and what will prevail should be deep respect among mature persons united in the basic nobility of human striving.

But it cannot be helped that an observance of our 30th anniversary of high school graduation should be a celebration of our batch mates’ achievements in their respective fields of endeavor. Emerging out of high school anyway means moving on to further pursue one’s dream. Youth is about the weaving of dreams, and in our case, it cannot be helped being asked: where are we now in terms of the realization of our dreams after three decades? A reunion of fellow dreamers after thirty years would be hollow without acknowledgement of the realization of their dreams. Among batch mates, the spirit in taking account of achievements should be that "Each member’s achievement is the achievement of the entire batch." Ta kau-umok baga. When we hear of the success of a ka-batch, we are all truly happy for him/her, in the same way that we feel deeply for anybody’s let down. But this is a happy occasion so we stick to the bright side. Here I will try paint a general picture of my batch’s achievements. It is not exactly an honor roll; it is more of a tapestry of blessings the batch had reaped through the years. But it will be limited by the extent my knowledge permits I will have to mention names, but for those I will miss, my apologies. Caution: names of our female batch mates will be in their maiden forms.

What sort of dreams did we have then? We still belonged to the "slum book" era and if we could make a survey of these artifacts of our kabaduyan, specifically the entries on the item on "Ambition," we would know what sort of aims in life we of class ’77 professed. And as dreams go, they are also a matter of pa-uso. But even so, it would be discovered that we were not very different then from the present generations. For everybody’s big dream then was to finish college. Specifically, almost everybody wanted to become engineers (the guys) or CPA’s. A few said they wanted to become nurses, but only the girls because none among the boys in those days ever considered nursing a respectable profession for machos. Then as now, nobody ever admitted to wanting to become teachers. Others simply wanted "to go abroad." Take note that in the seventies, deployment of Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia was just picking up. We haven’t heard yet of Italy or Hongkong as OCW destination, and the U.S. was such a long shot. Back then, I didn’t know of any batch mate with parents working abroad. So nobody then came to school in fancy imported rubber shoes, or anyone of us going home to the now-familiar OCW-funded Mediterranean style houses painted like cakes for a debut. Our parents therefore did not yet belong to the OCW set but our own generation was among the first to join the exodus for the greener pastures in the deserts of Saudi Arabia.

Many in our batch did eventually become engineers and so engineering, civil engineering specifically, is one area where the class of ’77is making an impact. In all, there could be more than twenty engineers that our batch produced. It was no wonder why such a profession was so attractive; it was the era of frenzied building under Marcos’ "New Society." At present, a significant number of engineers at the provincial office of DPWH are batch mates. The distinguished list is led by Engr. Gil Balmadrid who is the second person in charge of the said office, but there are also Engrs. Rey Bejo, Wine Molod and Sammy Tabuzo who hold important positions. But aside from the engineers, there are other batch mates doing good work in the DPWH like the batch "Mother" herself, Elvie Sorreda. And there are also Engrs. Frank Monjardin and Virgilio Dayawon at the Provincial Engineering Office. I could imagine, without much stretching of the mind, that by golly, it is my batch mates who are practically responsible for "building" the province. O, laban? And of course there are our other engineers scattered all over, including overseas. I could name only two who work abroad: Edel Diaz and Kikoy Robles Jr. Ah, it gives me the thrills thinking that my high school batch mates are busy building not only the province of our affections but also the rest of the world!

A large number of those who enter college took courses in business, many of them majoring in Accounting, and a considerable number became CPA’s. Of them, I can name a few who joined the banking industry. Fred Bongon and the late Joel Condat (both with the PNB), Manuel Bobiles (Unionbank), and Mio Vargas (RCBC). Of course there is also our class valedictorian Meny Arcilla who took up another course but eventually became the corporate secretary of Banco Filipino. Other CPA’s are Florefe Subion who is with the COA, Peter Romero of DAR, Henry Quinones who is Budget Officer of the Municipality of Virac, the late Ferdinand Sarmiento, and Jocelyn Soneja. Of the latter, everybody wonders: whatever happened to her, she who broke the heart of many love-struck boys in the class of 1977?

Oh yes, we contributed to the nursing profession: Gloria Sarmiento, Nida Ermino, Eleanor Vargas, Grace Taniajura and Liza Cabrera. Glo is with the EBMC and so with Nida who had her own stint abroad. The last three are sweating it out in the U. S. to earn the green, green bucks of Uncle Sam.

If we have produced many bagong bayani for the country, more so that we have offered heroes of the luma type, by way of the teachers in the batch, yes! Ludy Molod and Nieves Panti who are mentors in our high school alma mater, Emily Talan, Linda Matienzo, Dalen Suarez, Anita Jintalan, Evelyn Malinana and Salina Borja. This last one is actually a chemical engineer but realized that teaching is what makes her happy, so now she teaches at the Philippine Science High School. She was our class salutatorian. And yes, there is also me. Although I wear many hats, I see myself as more of a teacher than anything.

Now, for those who are rare-of-a-kind among us in the batch. We produced only one lawyer and one medical doctor. Atty. Noel Angeles for the former, and Dr. Vicky Tacorda for the latter. Goying Aldea’s job on the other hand is so unusual: he works in the underbelly of ships; he takes care of their engines. He is now the chief engineer of the Star Ferry that plies the Virac-Tabaco route (yata sa April 7-8 dai ngon-ang biyahe?). Then me, again (halata na?), because I am the only one silly enough to try become a writer, the other one being Abner Asuncion who had passed away (he wrote the Tigsik column in the defunct Islander newspaper). There are also my other kindred spirits in the batch, the artists, like Jun Niegas (also now in the after-life), a visual artist who did mixed media, and Nonong Icaranom who is a song-writer and performer.

As for the things we never produced. Sabi daw, the things you don’t have define you. Priests or nuns, wala sa amin, and what that does tell about us? Siguro, we were just not the religious type. Any politicians among us? A few had been successful, but only as barangay captains. Fewer still tried something higher, but to no avail so far. Sa akin, okey lang ‘yon. I dread the possibility of our reunions being spoiled by the presence of VIP batch mates with such bloated sense of self-importance, overly patronizing on everyone, shaking hands left and right, and with a smile fixed on the face as if by plastic surgery.

Okay, we don’t have a rocket scientist in our batch, or a potential Nobel Prize laureate, but you know what? We had a genius batch mate who was an inventor. He tinkered a lot with things and came up with unusual gadgets that worked, both for practical purpose and for fun. He was also an artist who can paint and sculpt. Such creative mind and magical hands! His name was Joel Camano, who sadly passed away without getting to fulfill his full potential.

About two years ago, some of my batch mates started monthly meetings, sosyudad-style, to prepare for this coming grand reunion. I was able to attend some of such fellowships. They were such rousing, indeed drunken, gatherings. But they were thoroughly heart-warming. For me, the most cherished moments of those meeting were when my co-batch mates, especially those low-profile ones, shared about how they transcend the challenges of raising their families on a day-to-day basis. They were veritable pocket accounts of the triumph of the human spirit. It is through those down-to-earth, seemingly unremarkable stories that I felt most the bonding with my batch. Because when everything has been said, it is in this aspect that the batch could claim genuine fulfillment after three decades: the collective affirmation of life through the many sacrifices big and small, carried out according to each one’s capacities and place in the scheme of things, in infinite resourcefulness and bold initiatives, all done despite great odds. Three decades of push after high school towards that direction and still going strong, is so much reason to celebrate! See you at the Grand Reunion fellow travelers of the Class of 1977! Walang iwanan!

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