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This friendship costs P50...and more |


This friendship costs P50...and more

NEW BEGINNINGS - The Philippine Star

Every relationship traces a history — how it began, where it started, how it is lived to this day. Often enough, we remember details of a beautiful affiliation. We celebrate it. We guard the relationship with respect, trust, love, humor, among other things that will make it grow.

Friendship is one relationship that, when forged with the thought of keeping it real, strong and lasting, deserves to be celebrated every once in a while, if not every day. Lovers and married couples have a yearly — or sometimes monthly — template for celebrations called anniversaries. Friends, on the other hand, have no specific date to base the commemoration of a celebration. But, yes, friendship ought to be hailed, too.

It was with a grateful heart when I celebrated my friendship with the Alimagno family (all first cousins) of Cabuyao when we trooped to Baguio City in the last weekend of January. The City of Pines was chilly at nine degrees Celsius but our friendship kept us warm, toasty even. Freezing fog blanketed the city but it was our friendship that served as the wool sweaters that protected us from the biting cold.

We went up to Baguio to celebrate the life of a man who, even after his death, serves as a gleaming guidepost among us all: Tito Jun Alimagno. It was a few days shy to Tito Jun’s first death anniversary and we thought of remembering his many legacies by going up to Baguio, one of his favorite spots in the Philippines. He so loved the country’s summer capital that he built a house on top of a hill in 2001.

Tito Jun was instrumental to the friendship I have now with his children, nephews and nieces, even with his siblings. To this day, one of the stories I will not get tired of retelling is how his kindness became one of the sterling highlights of what I have become now. Tito Jun, a businessman who became mayor of the town, sent me to a private high school in those days when a P50-monthly matriculation fee was nowhere to be found in the pockets of my parents who were farmers. He took me in, among his many other scholars in the town of Cabuyao, and unconsciously made a difference in my life. He just believed that I deserved a fair chance in life. And, for my imminent future, it was all that mattered ---— someone to believe in me.

“The P50 your dad gave me every month for four years went a long, long way,” I told Joelo Alimagno, Tito Jun’s youngest son who is based in the US where he takes up BS Biology at the California State University, as we sat beside each other in the car, on the way to the house built by his father near the Strawberry Farm.

I regaled Joelo with more heartwarming stories about his dad that he had not heard of yet before — how Tito Jun was loved by the people in the far-flung barrios, how he would be the first one to be there for families who lost a loved one, how he would stick to the truth even if it was an unpopular decision. I only stopped my soliloquy when I saw Joelo tearing up in his silence. He said there was never a day that he did not miss his father. He told me he will do his best in life because he wants to be like his dad when it comes to reaching out to other people. Somehow, his unbidden tears illustrated to me that Joelo would measure up to what his father meant to the many individuals whose lives Tito Jun was able to touch.

“He is a warm and sincere soul,” Mye Alimagno-Pascual told me of her cousin Joelo as we ate strawberry-flavored taho and adobong mais at the Strawberry Farm. Joelo knows that his Ate Mye is a favorite of his dad.

My relationship with the Alimagnos was further galvanized when Mye and I became good friends while we were both studying in UP Los Baños. My beautiful friendship with her made me closer not only to Tito Jun but also to the whole clan, most especially to Mye’s siblings and their parents, architect Ed and Connie Alimagno, who are respected businessmen in the community. Soon, Mye, whose business is to supply big restaurants in Metro Manila the best fried, peeled and blanched garlic processed in her factory in Cabuyao, became like a sister to me.

So, in Baguio, it was no surprise that I found myself rooming in with Mye and her lovely sisters Nezlee, Alex and Aliw with her precocious six-year-old daughter Andi Santos. We missed and talked about their two sisters in the States, Tylou and Mariel, and wished they were with us as we enjoyed the brrrr weather of Baguio. Our room in Baguio was big but our love for each other was bigger that the room could not contain our happiness and joy to be together even just for a weekend.

Their beautiful Alimagno cousins Mikee (with son Miel, six), Paula (with daughter Atasha, one) and Ma-Ann, who came with the respective love of their lives, Emil Papa, Anson Cheng and JR Royol (the first ever Pinoy Master Chef winner who also cooked for us in Baguio the very appetizing pork barbecue brushed with strawberry syrup while being grilled), added warmth and glee to our celebration of friendship. Also providing extra color and fun to our quick vacation were Tito Kennedy Alimagno and our trusted pilot Kuya Nato Alinas, who were both ready with witty and wacky punch lines that made us roll and roar while we were biking at the Burnham Park or buying pasalubong at the Baguio market and the Good Shepherd Convent.

Also with us were Andrew Felix and EJ Alimagno who said, “This trip is just one of the happiest trips of my life.”  Or in the words of little Andi, “I want to be back in Baguio with all of you again because I love all of you.” Insightful Miel also had his review of our Baguio trip, “This is the happiest day of my life. I am very happy to be with all of you.”

While picking strawberries and ogling at humongous sunflowers in between paddies at the Strawberry Farm, we vowed to celebrate our friendship at least every two months. At the BenCab museum we concretized our plans of how we can be connected with each other — either by doing a weekend out-of-town road trip or simply hooking up with Joelo on Viber, Facetime or Skype while we lounge and make merry at Egaland, the rest house built by Tito Ed Alimagno (who celebrates today his 40 years of wedded bliss with Tita Connie) in Cabuyao, or as we sip the delicious tea at Anson and Paula’s Prosperitea branch in Imus, Cavite. Or perhaps, we will gather again in the soon-to-open restaurant of Ma-Ann and JR and sample the bigorot (goose dish) that made JR win in the Master Chef competition last year.

The best part about the Alimagno cousins is that they are genuinely fond of each other as friends. Now, that’s hard to beat. And my friendship with all of them, I would like to believe, is never a coincidence. Even if we only see each other most of the time on Facebook and Instagram, we know that we will remain friends. As friends, we are each other’s connection to what we enjoy in the present. Together we build roads to claim the invaluable gifts of friendship in the future.

We left Baguio with a renewed spirit for our friendship — a friendship that was built around P50 in the past. Thanks to Tito Jun, the relationship I share now with his family is priceless.

(For your new beginnings, please e-mail me at I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio. Have a blessed Sunday!)


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