January 30, 2023

After a two-year absence from our beloved city, my wife and I returned to spend the holidays with friends. Actually, my wife had been away for six years, while I would come back almost every year before the Covid-19 pandemic. But I was locked down in Baguio for nine months since the pandemic was declared because my flight to Geneva was cancelled five times.

We were very thankful that upon arrival at the NAIA Terminal 3, we were rescued from the chaos of the airport by our dear friend Jimmy Uy and son, Kelby (soon to become our compañero), who met and drove us away from the madding crowd and carefully maneuvered his deluxe van through heavy traffic that took us two and a half hours to reach our hotel in Quezon City.

After a night’s rest, Jimmy and Kelby fetched and brought us to Gloria Maris for a dim sum breakfast which woke us up from the nightmarish arrival at the airport (or maybe, it was just a culture shock after having been used to orderly airport systems in Europe and the U.S.).

Then Jimmy brought us to Clark for an overnight stay where we had more Chinese cuisine experience of dinner buffet and an 11-course laureate lunch feast during the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce induction the following day, before resuming our trip to Baguio. We have a very interesting story to tell how Jimmy and I became “kapatid-compadre”, but for now, allow me to settle in for the holiday.

Our dearest “Prima Santa Marita” Manzanillo was waiting for our arrival and warmly welcomed us to her well-renovated house, carrying her signature art designs in all the rooms, on her well-manicured garden lined with very tall bamboos and Norfolk pines; and filled with different species of flowering and fruit trees, ferns, bonsai plants, bamboo planters, and animal figurines.

Prima Marita made us feel the Baguio that we grew up in. Her beautiful house would be our home during our long holiday.

Soon, we got in touch with bosom friends that we had not seen “for ages”. Alex and Zon Aquino invited us to their sprawling compound at Loakan for lunch together with the “dabarkads” – Sandra David, Dr. Ina Hernandez, Sylvia Laudencia, Ompong Laudencia, Toots Moratillo, Lito Trajano, the Aquino children Patrick and Jardine who now have their own families, as well as Dr. Cat Pineda.

This time, we were treated with Filipino dishes personally prepared and cooked by comadre Zon. As in the past times when we would meet at their old home at Camp Allen, we told stories about our adventures and misadventures during our years as Jaycees, as well as the Beatles band of Dr. Nyori, Alex, Rae David, and Bendix Avila.

Our conversations, interspersed with jokes and laughter, carried through the evening. We also enjoyed singing our caroling songs, especially our Jaycees signature song by Burt Bacharach “Living Together, Growing Together”.

Which makes me recall how Alex and I started our friendship in the Jaycees. Alex was and is an organization man, while I was the “I can do it by myself” person then. We “did not like each other’s style,” as our Jaycee friend Taggy Tagudar describes it. I did not feel any friendliness from Alex, who, on the other hand, saw me as an arrogant guy. We would clash at discussions and found us in opposite teams in sports.

But eventually, as Alex and I eventually came to realize that we could cooperate to make projects successfully, we warmed up to each other. It was during those years that the Baguio Jaycees developed a keen sense of camaraderie – a family bond that, to Alex and I and our bosom friends, continues to kindle in our hearts, even when we are miles apart. Alex and I were in the core group composed chiefly of Jaycees that helped organize the third Rotary Club in Baguio – The Rotary Club of Baguio South. 

There are many more friendship stories to tell even as there are other friendship stories developing as I go on in my life’s adventure. Perhaps in the coming weeks, we shall have more stories to share. Why not start with yours? After all, what else are you looking for in life?