All together: Rolly Ecarma, Chito Gonzales, Butch Tamesis, Jess Birosel, Ed Santos, Dave Pasco, Jimmy Gadioma, Mike Alcon, Willy Cuevas, Gene Quesada, Mon Navarro, Boy Hermoso, Gus Cosio, Johnny Sy and Sid Garcia
Still bonding after 50 years
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE - Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) - March 17, 2019 - 12:00am

It will only happen once in our lifetime.” That was the mindset we all had when Ateneo de Manila Class 69 gathered last Saturday, March 9, to celebrate our 50th year since graduating high school.

Many classmates came home from abroad, some of them two weeks early. Before the actual night of the grand celebration, there were individual class section meet-ups and get-togethers for lunches, dinners, golf, outings, etc. Classmates who had settled and built lives in Davao invited their Manila and overseas classmates to spend a few days there to party and bond and have a great time. There were also the one-day excursions to Pampanga arranged by Tito Panlilio and at Sandy Javier’s farm in Rosario, Batangas.

High school class ’69 had seven sections. My section was 4E when I was a senior, although I spent the first three years of high school with another batch. Thus, I had the distinct pleasure to be part of two classes. My old 4E group and class 4F, which was my section when I graduated.

It’s an understatement to say we were all quite excited to see each other since the past three years had driven home the point to us that we were all aging faster than we thought. Quite a few in our class have succumbed to strokes, heart attacks and other sicknesses that required expensive hospitalization. It was beyond wonderful to know that many had generously contributed to gather funds to help those in need. Our classmate Joey Zuniga also passed away last year. We are all aware now that time is indeed moving faster at this stage of our lives.

All this bonding intensified when we formed a Viber group almost two years ago. A lot of classmates came on board and friendships were revitalized. Everyone got to hear and reconnect with everyone else. Since then, there have been a daily-dose jokes exchanged, prayers and spiritual insights shared. Another Viber group we formed is reserved for political discussions.

March 9 was a busy day. Some classmates gathered as early as 3 p.m. to visit the old high school. At 5 p.m. we gathered at the Singson Hall at the Grade School to attend Mass officiated by two classmates Fr. Bingo Nespral of Opus Dei, Fr. Ben Alforque of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and Fr. Norberto  “Kit” Bautista S.J. Fr. Bingo gave a light, nostalgic, humorous sermon. He ended it by saying that love for each other brought us together.

After the Mass, Ed Garcia, our former teacher, friend, guide, organizer and spiritual adviser in high school gave a short talk about how special our class was. He ended it by asking us to choose three classmates to thank for being part of our lives. All of us started thanking and hugging practically every person in the room.

Many of us brought our wives, and some came with their new partners in life. After brief introductions, most of the girls gathered together and left us boys alone to talk and laugh as we reminisced about the good old days. Old nicknames and jokes resurfaced. Stories of shenanigans, and crazy stuff and “initiations of passage” were shared amid loud raucous laughter. There were also serious conversations about how our lives had turned out through the years.

Boboy Garovillo and the author Jim Paredes. Photo by Elly D. Carig

Boboy and I were the special guests tasked to entertain. We were not surprised that many of our classmates had never seen us perform live. We teased them that they never watched us because none of them wanted to pay to watch old classmates sing.  We prepared a repertoire that showcased what 50 years of APO was all about. I think we amazed them. All night, classmates congratulated us for the 45-minute gig we did.

 Two bands played the night away. The Flintstones and The Mixed Emotions had us dancing all night. Eddieboy Rodriguez, a classmate who became a doctor, played the guitar, drums and percussion and sang with The Mixed Emotions while Malu Fernando played drums for The Flintstones, a band he had formed many years ago. It was amazing to hear them play. I thought of how therapeutic it must be for them to still being engaged in their passion for music at age 67. I know, because I am still pursuing my passions.

We all sang the old songs with passion and gusto. We shouted the lyrics out loud as we danced and drank and laughed. Wave upon wave of nostalgia flooded over us — memories of old girlfriends, proms, parties, carefree days of youth, high school life, teachers, special school events, class nights, the awkward teen years, pranks we did on each other — it all inundated us even as we were regaling. It was a magical experience. We felt like we were briefly back in our mostly happy place on the Loyola grounds where we felt the exuberance, strength and invincibility of youth. Even as we were going through some growing pains then, we understood very little of life and the world.  Innocence was, indeed, bliss.

We ended the night with warm goodbyes, hugs, carrying our loot bags as we jokingly promised not to wait another 50 years before we saw each other again. The organizers — Greg Cancio, Ed Santos, Tito Panlilio, Monchito Roco, Dodie Limcaoco, Jess Birosel and many more — did a great job. We thanked them profusely. Maybe we should also thank everyone who came for making the night a truly amazing one. As our batch president Greg said, it was a group effort.

I would like to end this by going back to a valedictory speech given by Dr. Tony Dans to a high school class at ADMU a few years back. He told the graduates that many of their high school friends would be playing important roles in their future lives. From their batch, they will find doctors who will take care of them, lawyers who will defend them, professionals they will consult for many things. There will also be classmates who will be living in other parts of the world who will house and feed them when they visit. They will also find friends who will walk with them through the dark tunnel of personal struggles. These friends will go through the darkness while cheering you on all the way.

This is so true. We are all connected in more ways than we imagined we would.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Whatever our failures in life will matter little to those who love us. Were we not surprised that night, how easily we picked up where we had left off, even after decades of not seeing one another? We were young pups when we were in school. Now we are old dogs, but not old enough to stop playing, running and discovering new playgrounds.  And we will always be a comfort to each other. 

ATENEO DE MANILA CLASS 69
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