We became good friends in Grade 7 and all through high school. We were standouts in high school. I was class president in our senior year. My best friend Buki Richardson was the sodality prefect and Lydia Sarmiento was the president of the Student Catholic Action.
To my beloved friend, Lydia
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - September 15, 2019 - 12:00am

We met when we were little children studying at Maryknoll College on Pennsylvania Street, now Leon Guinto Street. How old were we then? We were around eight years old. I remember she was a bit on the shy side and she had brown hair that she wore in a short pageboy. I went to Maryknoll when I was in Grade 3. We became good friends in Grade 7 and all through high school. We were standouts in high school. I was class president in our senior year. My best friend Buki Richardson was the sodality prefect and Lydia Sarmiento was the president of the Student Catholic Action.

Her mother used to sell ready-to-wear pants. Pedal pushers, we called them then, and Buki and I used to go to her house to buy pants and shorts. We became friends with her entire family, her grandmother who used to take care of her, her brothers Danny, Ely, Reny, Ben and Efren. Lydia was the only girl born between Reny and Ben. I had a schoolgirl crush on Reny but could talk to Ely and Ben better. We enjoyed lunching at her house because their food was so delicious, a tradition she maintained over the many years we were together.

I got married, had babies, then separated first. This pattern appears to have taken hold of the four of us — Buki, Nena, Lydia and me. We all became single mothers. We all did well professionally. Lydia and I were part of the start-up team that created the League of Corporate Foundations. She represented Vitarich Foundation, I represented the Coca-Cola Foundation.  We were a group of women who felt the need for this organization so we had outstanding commitment but we also had a wonderful sense of humor. We lunched together, worked together, drank together, had fun together and laughed a lot together. And I guess we watched each other bloom professionally.

Lydia was outstanding at organizing our class. She often hosted class reunions at her home. There we would exchange gossip we had heard and when most people had gone we would confide in each other and giggle over our misadventures.

Lydia, I have these memories. How lovely you looked on your 50th birthday. How touched I was when you visited me in when I was in school in Madrid and when I lived in the US in the ‘80s.  That was when you put ordinary washing detergent into your dishwasher and was overwhelmed when all the bubbles began to spill over. Dishwashers required dishwasher detergents but who in the Philippines knew that? We laughed so much.

I never got to tell you how much I appreciated seeing you after I got married. You came to the class reunion at Cherry Pie’s home. You were so thin already. But you wore your natural gray hair in a fashionable cut and you dressed well and wore the jewels you enjoyed designing yourself. That was the last time I saw you, maybe a year ago.  Since then I had been trying to visit you, but you kept telling me to wait until you got better. I think now you just didn’t want your friends to see what cancer had done to your looks.

I was at your wake twice. But I didn’t have time to spend with you because all our classmates were there, our common friends, your brothers, your children. There were so many people. I’m sure you were also there and you must have been awed by the number of wreaths you received. People really loved you, Lydia. I loved you very much but never had the chance to tell you.

Since then I have been very sad thinking of you. I saw a movie with Robin Williams titled What Dreams May Come on Netflix.  It’s a sad but bizarre movie. It’s about a couple with two children. First their children die in a car accident. And then the man dies, leaving his wife, who is an excellent painter, desolate.  In the movie he finds himself in her painting, in another world that’s as beautiful as his wife’s painting. It’s as if the painting comes to life when he arrives and he lives there for a while.

I could not help but wish you were having the same experience. I wish still that when you crossed from this life into the next, it was transitionally like being in a beautiful painting that comes alive to host you. I remember the lovely painting you had of a bed in a garden. I can see you there lying on the beautiful bed wondering about the new world you find yourself in, getting used to the beauty of it, looking at your children and grandchildren, touching them, and once in a while thinking of your friends who — you now know for sure — really loved you and are looking forward to being with you again sometime in the future.

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LYDIA SARMIENTO
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