fresh no ads
Old friends in the New Year |


Old friends in the New Year

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star
Old friends in the New Year
Author with friend, Fely Zafra Reyes

More than 30 years ago I worked at Coca-Cola Bottlers where I had a tall, pale and handsome assistant named Lorie Reyes. We got along very well, my entire Corporate Communications Group and I. We would work together, lunch together, have a lot of fun together, so you can imagine the panic that ran through the group late one morning when Lorie, working on his computer, passed out. Since I was his immediate boss I made arrangements to bring him to the hospital, appointed the person who would accompany him, asked HRD to give me the phone number of his mother. I had to advise her that her son was in the hospital.

That’s how I met Fely Reyes, Lorie’s extremely charming mother.  I didn’t know what to tell her since I was still in a state of half-panic when she answered my call. “Hi,” I said. “This is Barbara Gonzalez, your son Lorie’s mother at the office. I want you to know Lorie passed out this morning. He is now at the hospital. I thought I’d let you know.” Since then Fely and I called ourselves co-moms.

Thousands of things have happened since then. Lorie married Terri, they had a baby, a son, who grew up very shy but who is now 19 years old and ready to go to Australia for college. When Lorie and Terri married, I was one of their godmothers, which resulted in my giving them one of my butterfly paintings that still hangs in their home. Both of them have retired and are now into making very good coffee. They supply coffee for Café Jessie in Rockwell, among other prestigious restaurants. While we are not perennially in touch, we are still close and I love them dearly.

Paulie is Lorie’s older brother. By the way, Fely and Bert (that’s the name of her husband) have 11 children. In their garden is a cement sculpture by Billy Abueva, another dear friend. It shows Bert and Fely sitting surrounded by their 10 children at the time, different ages and sizes. The remarkable thing is after the sculpture was done, they had another baby. It is an impressively incomplete sculpture and a totally solid marriage.  Paulie sponsored Fely as one of my writing students. That made Fely and me closer friends.

I was invited to the golden anniversary part of Fely and Bert where I surprisingly sat with my uncle Rico Arranz and his lovely wife Solita. I didn’t know that Tito Rico and Bert were very close friends. Rico’s mother and my grandmother were sisters. So we really had many connections. We had many common friends and relatives.

Then one day Bert had a serious stroke. Fely stood by his side for more than 10 years when he passed away. She was then in more or less the same situation I am in now. Maybe that’s why she probed Lorie into inviting me for brunch. It wasn’t really brunch. It was a real lunch with Dynamite, what everyone calls the lumpia made with green chili and a wonderful sauce that I love but whose heat makes my nose run; plus longganisa from Cebu brought by Terri, and a delicious fish dish with lots of herbs.

I felt so comfortable with their family. We sat at their long dining table —Lorie, Terry and their son Nick, Paulie, a sister who lives in Minnesota, two other brothers whose names I don’t remember and many empty spaces at one end. “How do you remember the names of your 11 children?” I asked Fely. She responded with an expression that said — it just happens.

She still plays the piano. She played a beautiful kundiman, Lagi Kitang Naaalala, by Levi Celerio, a really romantic song. It ends with something like “your picture is engraved in my heart...” of course in Tagalog. “I’m convinced that song makes her think of my father,” Lorie said in the car on the way home.

“I fully agree with you,” I said. To me, Bert and Fely without a doubt represented true love. They had a simple life, complicated only by the number of their children and they stayed together until God did them part. Definitely admirable!

“So many of my friends are now gone. I must hold on to the living (that’s me) before I go, too,” Fely texted after our lunch.

“That’s great! I had a wonderful time!” I replied. “Let’s do it again.”

Now, at the end of the year, I feel enriched by my old friendships that seemed to make a rush for me over these holidays. I, who didn’t send enough Merry Christmas greetings by text, tried to make up by sending “May you have a Terrific New Year!!!” And tonight I will stay up until past midnight to catch the fireworks. They will escort 2024 into my life. I trust that it will be so much better for me than 2023 was!

* * *

Please text your comments to 0998-9912287.

vuukle comment


Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with