Friendship Deeper Than Oceans
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - May 19, 2019 - 12:00am

How long has it been since our high school graduation? 59 years! Why does it feel like only last year? We graduated from high school together. Buki, my bestfriend since childhood, was sodality prefect in our senior year. I was class president. And Nena? I don’t remember if she was a class official but she was one more close friend we had in high school.

 The day after graduation, Buki, that’s Cebuano for mountain where she was born, showed up at my house wearing a sleeveless and backless dress, to celebrate the end of the year she spent wearing Mary-like dresses, meaning necklines no more than two inches below the collarbone, sleeves no shorter than two inches above the elbow, and skirts two inches below the knee. We spent some time giggling over her taking over my emceeing role at the end-of-year ceremonies of the Maryknoll High School because my skirt was just below the knee and Sister Mary Aquinata did not allow me on stage.

Buki Corominas Richardson was my bestfriend since we were in grade three. We were both only children. I had an only parent — my mother. Buki had a stepfather, Uncle John Scholfield, who was head of Bireley’s, the fruit-flavored softdrink that was available in Maryknoll. My favorite flavors were grape and pineapple. Our mothers were friends, not as close as Buki and I but close enough to allow us to sleep in each other’s houses.

Buki and I did not look like sisters but when we were grade five, we did a song and dance number called Sisters for a program. The song’s words were: Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters. . . Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister and Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man.  Sister don’t come between me and my man. No wonder Sister Marie Lorraine kept raising her eyebrows as we sang.

In high school Nena Zulueta, became the third only child in the group. Nena had both parents alive. Her parents had the idea of giving us one month at the Baguio Country Club as our graduation present. Nena’s mother would chaperone us. That single month together meant waking up late then playing Liar’s Dice with a group of boys and going out at night. We had fun.

But after that Nena moved to San Francisco with her parents. Buki went to Los Angeles to study. I went to Lausanne to a finishing school. We lost track of each other. We married and unmarried. We did that again. Over the years we would occasionally get in touch but we didn’t get together until we were much older.  Finally the three of us got together in 2004. This time when I went to San Francisco I felt we had to meet and spend some time together.

The quality of the time we spent together was not to be believed. Buki, a real estate legend in Ventura, Los Angeles, booked a room for both of us at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in Union Square, walking distance to Macy’s, where I love to shop. It was also walking distance to the two restaurants we had dinner at, Nena’s contribution, and to the play, Jungle, that we all saw together. It was an Uber ride to the de Young museum where we saw Monet’s latest work.

We enjoyed the trip to the de Young museum. It taught me that Monet was a spontaneous painter. He wasn’t the sort of painter who measured distances or thought about where shadows had to be. He looked, got enraptured, took his brushes and painted what he felt like painting never caring about his market or his audience or whether his lotus flowers looked like lotus flowers. That spontaneity is the secret to his craft as a painter. I must remember that the next time I paint, if I ever do.

We came together and everything just flowed easily. It was like the last time we saw each other was last week. We drank, we chatted, we laughed. We talked seriously about our lives and we also quipped and laughed at our own silliness. There is a depth to our friendship that drowns out the years, the thousands of sorrows we have experienced and shared. We celebrate being finally happy now. Just now.  Maybe there will be tragedies ahead. We accept that. Maybe we will go sooner than expected. We accept that too. We love each other for our similarities and our differences and we will treasure each other beyond death. That’s how deep and real our friendship is.

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