2003/04/08

Just Another Class Outing

March 26, 1984, Monday afternoon.. The sun dawdled for a while, close to the edge of antenna-studded roofs. The last streak of light that managed to filter through the iron-grilled curtain-less window bathed one corner of Rose Restaurant at the mezzanine with yellow cathedral-like glow, forming linear shadows on the white linen.
There were five of us, the best of friends and batch mates, sitting around a square table. (Jeffrey had excused himself since he had to supervise a high school commissioners’ outing.) There was nothing special about the occasion really. It was just one of those “outings’, except that it was our last outing together, after having lived under the same roof and rules for eight long years.
The day before was our graduation. We remembered how we started eight years ago in High School. There were around 42 of us in the batch. But as the years rolled on, the number decreased. There were 24 of us by the end of High School and was further whittled down to 4 by the end of College. Soc, MarJals, Oloy, and I came from the original batch in High School. There were two, McAbs and Ingents, who joined and completed our batch in College.
Eight years seemed too swift and too short from hindsight. We practically spent most of the eight years of our lives together--through the crests and troughs, the pains and joys, of growing up together like brothers. We had followed the same routine, used the same precis, ate the same blend of “flour-ed” scrambled egg and dried fish, played the same game, ran the same 3:00 AM jog, and agonized under the same Latin and Greek classes. We fought and made friends again. Yes, we went through the tumultuous years of adolescence and the monotonous de more of seminary life together. We lived a sequestered but contended life together and never confronted the specter of life outside the four walls until that late afternoon when the realization loomed forbiddingly.
The realization caught us all unprepared, although on the outside it was a celebration devoid of emotions. There was nothing sentimental about it--or so it seemed on the outside. That was the real character of our batch, detached and undemonstrative. Or perhaps that was what we tried to project to other people, but which we were not too good at. Thus, it was as it had always been in the past, an afternoon of beer, memories, and vain attempts at concealing anxiety and emotion.
Soc and McAbs were applying for theology at the Mission Society of the Philippines in Tagaytay. Oloy wanted to pursue theology in UST. MarJals and Ingents were uncertain but nonetheless submitted requirements for enrolment to St Augustine Seminary in Tagaytay and to San Carlos Seminar in Mabolo, respectively. I had taken the exam and was planning to join the Society of Jesus in Manila.
The anticipation of parting ways and being on our own from that day onwards started to weigh down on our consciousness as the spirits clogged up our eyes. In between the toasts, laughter and surge of reminiscences, we recalled the names of long lost companions--those who had once trodden alongside our path and then left. We cracked oft-repeated jokes just to break the deafening silence that followed every recollection. And we interspersed long silences with boisterous laughter at every opportunity.
Now the day was drawing to close. It was time for MarJals to go. He had to catch the last trip to San Miguel town.
“O sige. Mauna na ko kay basi’g mabiyaan na ko sa last trip.”
Unya na,” Christopher protested, holding a bottle of San Miguel close to his mouth. “Nag-order pa ko’g duha ka grande.”
Soc and Ingents also tried to stop MarJals from leaving. Ingents continued with the task he was so good at--tig-tagay. But MarJals was firm. He grabbed his bag and started down the stairs, and without looking back, shouted, “Sulat baya mo, ha!”
Soc was bound for Sevilla, but getting on the bus was the last thing in his mind as he quietly brooded over his bottle of beer, which he held with both hands. McAbs was seriously absorbed in playing with the tiny bubbles that formed on the side of his mug and which slid down as his finger paved a watery path to the bottom.
“Anus-a ka muadto sa Manila, Nox?” Soc broke the uneasy silence that followed.
Sometime in May, kun madawat.”
“Ahh, unya na nang biya-biyahe. Imna sa na,” McABs smirked. “Di ba, Gents?”
So I raised my glass for the nth time that afternoon. “Bottoms up ha!”
“In vino veritas!” they chorused, gulping down a mugful of beer.
That afternoon was a spontaneous gathering after packing all our things in the seminary that morning. We had nothing else to do. It was still early. So we decided to leave our things in the seminary and have one last lunch together. And we stayed practically the whole afternoon talking and drinking.
O, tagay pa,” Ingents smiled, pouring my glass until it overflowed. “Daghan pa baya ni, ha. Ayaw mo ka ikog.”
“Palahubog gyud ka, Gents, ba!” McAbs butted in in his adulterated Cebuano-like intonation, “Mora ka’g si Oloy.”
We laughed and thought of Oloy who couldn’t join us. Then, memories poured in once more. Soc recalled that morning, several months ago, right after breakfast when Canete played the guitar and we sang “Softly” for JunTabs at the Seminary gate. He had decided to leave the seminary for good. That morning was the major turning point in JunTab's life. We remembered how JunTabs picked up his bag and started walking towards the junction, alone. He broke down and hugged the gatepost. Then, he continued walking . . . alone . . . until he disappeared over the slight mound near Bill Romo's residence.
Soon it was time for us to go.
“Ako na ang mag-bayad, bay,” Ingents offered, catching us be surprise since it was the first time ever that he offered to pay the bill.
“Sige lang, Gents, tungaan na lang nato,”  I countered.
As we stood outside the restaurant, we were all speechless. Then for the last time, one of us--I cannot recall who it was--broke the silence with a wisecrack which made us laugh and teary-eyed.
Soc, McAbs, MarJals and I left Rose Restaurant to get our things from the seminary. From there we proceeded to our house in J.A Clarin St where I dropped my things off. And then we proceeded to the bus terminal near Frons Restaurant. There, McABs left us, and then Soc, who took the bus bound for Sevilla.
So finally, only Ingents and I were left standing at the bus terminal. I remember feeling so lonely. Hoping to break the sadness, we decided to spend time at the Arcade meeting friends and acquaintances, wasting time, unwilling just yet to face the reality of being on our own. We wandered around. We lost each other in the crowd, but somehow managed to meet each other again unintentionally.
I met the girlfriend of a friend--I really don’t know how I got to know her--got into a conversation with her and walked her to her apartment near the provincial hospital. When I got back to the arcade Ingents was there. It must have been after five when we knew we had to be on our way. Ingents didn’t have money left, he told me, but he wanted to buy some peanuts. So, I gave him enough to buy a bag. Then without looking back and bidding good-bye, we went on our separate ways.
I walked leisurely, taking the long way home, passing in front of the provincial library, the capitol building and the PNB, then turning left on J.A. Clarin St.
By 5:45PM I was home, but there was still light and I didn't want the day to end just yet. So I wrote a one-page entry into my diary in bold red ink, summarizing the events that transpired that day. I felt uneasy and unsettled, being I was alone in the house. So I decided to take a walk, re-tracing the places that hold the memories of that day--remembering the faces of people I may not meet again until several years later, and the day's events which were now just memories.
Just like all the other class outings. (nox arcamo)