Golden years
- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - December 14, 2016 - 12:00am

Last Saturday, I had two golden jubilee celebrations to attend and that confirmed what I had been trying hard to deny over the past six years. I am indeed, a senior citizen.

My high school class at UP Prep and the UP High class of 1966 were honored at the alumni homecoming of UP Integrated School (UPIS) as Golden Jubilarians. My elementary school classmates at Paco Catholic School who went on to finish their high school there were also celebrating their Golden Jubilee.

I am not fond of attending alumni homecomings, but I overcame my fear of traffic jams to drive to UP Diliman to join my classmates celebrate. Actually, we already celebrated our Golden Jubilee last February, but this time it is UPIS itself that was hosting it. I had to be there.

I was also curious to see what kind of a building a prominent property developer built to compensate UPIS for taking over its campus on Katipunan that is now a mall. I was disappointed with what I saw. I feel UPIS was shortchanged and it is unfortunate UP’s top officials didn’t drive a harder bargain with the developer. Even the teachers are complaining of shoddy construction.

Anyway, it was good to see our counterparts at UP High. Their class of 1966, like our class, produced a number of notables in various fields to include medicine, the sciences, media, business and government service.

While many of the Golden Jubilarians have retired, some, like UP High’s Doy Vea, is still actively running Smart Telco. UP Prep’s Teddy Bernardino is still deeply involved in his business that is now facing tough challenges from DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.

Then there is UP Prep 66’s EQ Pablo, a former senior undersecretary at the DPWH, who keeps busy walking long pilgrimage routes from the Santiago de Compostela to one in Japan I haven’t heard of until he started posting his walk on Facebook. EQ is that rare public servant who managed to work in one of the more notorious government departments without a whiff of scandal.

Our most famous classmate is Jerry Barican, the UP Student Council chairman and first student member of the UP Board of Regents. An extremely talented lawyer who was also very articulate, I still think he would have been president of the Philippines by now if Martial Law didn’t derail his career. He died a few years ago.

What is significant about Class 66, of UP Prep and UP High, is that we are the children of the ’70s, a turbulent era that defined us. We came of age at a time when a horrible war was going badly in Vietnam and young people everywhere cried out for peace… urging world leaders to give peace a chance. Today, peace is as elusive as ever.

In the Philippines, we were the youth that faced Martial Law... We challenged Marcos during the First Quarter Storm. Many of our classmates in UP Prep Class 66 died fighting for a vision of tomorrow much better than what we actually see now, 50 years after.

Bayani Lontok and Leticia Pascual are two of our classmates who paid the ultimate price and became heroes of a struggle for a just society. Another classmate, Judy Florendo, suffered serious injuries after being tortured by the martial law administration of Ferdinand Marcos.

And then there was Jose Congson, the quiet science major who also served the cause with total commitment. The amazing thing is that they were the soft spoken ones among us… who would have thought! One other class member, Robert del Pilar, a Peemayer, fought corruption in the military and paid the price with his career.

The celebration last Saturday at UPIS was also about the quality of the institution. UPIS is the fusion of UP High, UP Prep and UP Elementary. Since UP High was celebrating its 100th year this year, that’s how much time in our nation’s history this institution has covered. It has produced a president, FVR.

Speaking of my experience at UP Prep, I can say that the secret of success is the topnotch teachers we had. UP High and UP Prep had the pick of the best the UP College of Education had to offer by way of teachers. In the end, that is how to turn out great alumni.

At UP Prep, we got a good balance of book learning and experiential learning in the curriculum. We were exposed to the world out there through a unique feature of a UP Prep education -- the educational tours. It enabled us to learn about our country first hand and to know more about our people by meeting them.

The first educational tour I had was to Baguio via Zambales and Pangasinan. We took those open sided buses, the standard provincial bus plying the Northern Luzon route. We slept in the public schoolhouses or were assigned to host families in the towns we visited.

That was quite an experience. It was our first exposure to kids our age in provincial high schools and to rural families. It was a good way for us to learn about geography and our people beyond the text books.

Then there was this educational tour to Bicol via PNR. For many of us, that was our first long train ride… The Bicol tour was the most picturesque and most adventurous of the educational tours I joined.

And to top up a well rounded education, we had an art appreciation class under Mrs Emma Pangilinan, the mother of Senator Kiko. She opened our eyes to the beauty of various art forms that was our first exposure to the wonders of what the human mind is capable of.

Art appreciation inspired one of our classmates who made it big in the field of architecture. Jess Lucas has worked with the top property developers not just here, but also in the ASEAN region. He helped design Rockwell, designed and developed Pico de Loro for SMDC, and is now helping the Ayala-Lucio Tan development of a 30 hectare new community along C-5. No retirement anytime soon for Jess.

Then there is Raul Leopando, another classmate who kept himself in the background during our high school years. He distinguished himself in the financial community by reaching top management positions in major RCBC subsidiaries.

Another classmate, Raymond Dan has all but retired from his flourishing business producing the conveyor belt system that turns those luggage carousels in airports, among others. He has now become a determined bird photographer. Ray’s portfolio of bird photos is a delight to see. In between bird safaris, Ray is busy saving souls for Christ as one of the most active elders in the fast growing Christ Commission Fellowship or CCF.

Thinking about last Saturday’s celebration, 50 years felt like a wink of an eye. It is as if someone pressed the fast forward button and here we are receiving our Golden Jubilee medallion. Up until last Saturday, I thought Golden Jubilees are for old people. Apparently, that’s now what we are.

After the shock of realization wore off, we came away last Saturday with the thought that we are now wiser, more relaxed. For some of us, we are still raring to rattle the world in a last desperate attempt to leave it better than when we found it.

So what do golden geezers do for an encore? I think we should now do what makes us happy. Many of us happily take care of our grandchildren. And many of us are doing what we have always wanted to do…

I am inspired by the thought that Grandma Moses became a famous artist but didn’t paint her first painting until she was in her 80s. I figure I still have 15 years to become a Manansala.

Golden Jubilee reunions shouldn’t mean our lives as we know it is over. We can still leave our mark. The way I see it, however our lives have turned out to be, it is all in God’s plans. God be praised!!

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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