HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 26, 2017 – 12:00am
When we first laid eyes on each other around six decades ago in prep at the Ateneo, none of us had any idea how much we would be involved in one another’s lives.
We were innocents with no thought about the future; just kids seated together in the same classroom who would run around the campus during breaks. They were the wonder years. We were so pure.
There were some who joined the class after grade school, others in high school and college. We had fun times. We enjoyed and suffered through the same teachers. We grew up and matured somewhat under the school’s guidance and moral teachings.
And here we are, some 60 years later, still sharing our old stories and jokes, camaraderie and friendship when we meet. We even have a Viber group where classmates who live abroad can join us in discussions and share a joke or two.
More than ever, I am in contact with my schoolmates from the Ateneo de Manila. It is so much fun when we’re together. Each one of us, it seems, has made a life for himself with families, careers, personal trials and proud moments to share. Some have established themselves in a big way. Some have been widowed and remarried. Most of us are grandfathers now. But whatever our status in life, it seems to matter little when we are together. We still call each other by the nicknames we had when we were in school. We’re still bound by the same memories of our teachers, jokes and various incidents when we were young that shaped us into who we are today.
A long time ago, I wrote a song for my class called Saan na nga Bang Barkada, which has become a kind of anthem for many graduating classes when they get together in reunions. In that song, I was not idealizing when I wrote,
Ang saya ng aming samahan
Kahit lumipas na ang iilang taon,
Makabarkada pa rin ngayon.
Magkabarkada pa rin ngayon.
How can one forget the happiest moments of one’s youth and childhood?
Dr. Tony Dans, an Atenean and a distinguished heart doctor, was right when he said, during a commencement speech at the ADMU, that your high school classmates are people you will be with for the rest of your life. You will stay in their homes when you travel. You will go to them when you need doctors, lawyers, priests, brokers, accountants, etc. You will spend a lot of time with them playing sports, going on retreats, vacations, and a host of other things. In a way, one might say, classmates are forever.
My brother Jesse, who is turning 80 in September, recounts that a waiter in Club Filipino approached him and asked why he and his classmates had stopped going to the club for meetings. My brother said that they still get together often except that the venue has changed. When the waiter asked where they now meet, my brother, who never stops joking, answered, “We often get together in funeral parlors.” As morbidly funny as it sounds, he was actually serious.
As we get older, we tend to revisit chunks of our lives and re-live them in order to get our personal lives more integrated. We weave happy and sad memories into some mental and emotional tapestry to understand what our lives mean.
Some classmates, even if some 60 years have passed, I still remember as children. I never got to know them as adults since they passed on early. I can only imagine what they would have been like if they had lived longer.
People come and go in our lives. We stand by others as witnesses to their lives when they die. We bid them farewell. We reminisce and remember them forever with a fondness for the short but happy times shared. I guess, in some way, we want to spend time with those who we have shared the same timeline, those who will remember us when we go.
Aside from family, friends and lovers, there are our classmates. There is little time left and we want to savor it with people who will be our witnesses as we pass into the next life.
Life is short and fleeting. As children, we never thought about getting old. Aging happened to our parents, but it was not going to happen to us, or so we thought. But here we are! Sixty-fivers. Thank God, we are still very much alive!
Looking forward to the next get-together with you guys.
We do not have to spend our last years just reminiscing. The past is only a place to visit. Let us enjoy each day as a blessing to welcome the new things that still show up in our lives.
It’s great to be alive and sharing ever-new moments with old classmates.