Sunday Lifestyle

Don’t men and women mingle anymore in their 70s?

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez Ventura - The Philippine Star
Donât men and women mingle anymore in their 70s?
In photo are Marilyn Trinidad Mapa, Amy Coloma Ylagan, Ting-ting de los Reyes Cojuangco, Barbara Gonzalez Ventura, Marita Gomez Samson, Josie Angeles Estrera, Gertrude Pangilinan Chan, and Mary V Gutierrez Gibson

Our age was one of funny nicknames. Maybe it was because we were born during the war, which our parents didn’t know was ending soon. There was Ting-ting, Chingbee, Buki (who was born in the mountains of Cebu that in Visayan were called buki), Cherry Pie and mine, Tweetums. My father gave that to me then he was killed so the nickname stuck. Tweetums has been converted by my workmates to Twee, which on Google means (as for definition, I can do no better than the most popular entry at urbandictionary.com): “Something that is sweet, almost to the point of being sickeningly so. As a derogatory descriptive, it means something that is affectedly dainty or quaint, or is way too sentimental.” I don’t think I’m that, but why argue?

Anyway, we were all became friends in high school at Maryknoll College High School Class of 1961. That’s 61 years ago. Some of us were classmates since grade school. Others just joined in high school but we had history together. The class had two sections. We had two epileptic classmates, one in each section. One had serious fits. The other had talking fits, when she would, you might say, speak in tongues. You could not understand what she was saying. The latter passed away early. The former is well now and living abroad.

But I remember that we had spontaneously developed a system. When a fit began, Cherry Pie would run like a gazelle down to the clinic to get tongue depressants and the nurse. The rest of their section would leave the room until the fit passed. The other one, who was in my section, we just let her talk on until she stopped. I think dealing with it like that gave us comfort with epilepsy. It became just one of those things. Nothing to worry about.

Sixty-one years is a long time. Some of us became activists and died young. Most of us married. Then some of us separated. Some of us did that many times. One of us married a Muslim. One of us entered the convent. Now quite a few of us are sick either with dementia or Alzheimer’s or are wheelchair-bound.

Some of us went to college at Maryknoll a long time before the school became Miriam. Some of us went to UP, breaking the nun’s rules. Others went to Assumption. You have to understand that then, Maryknoll and Assumption were the female equivalents of Ateneo and La Salle. They were rival schools. A few of us went abroad to study.

But old classmates never really die. They carry each other through their friendship, their memories, their accomplishments, their life stories. They remember each other well.

That’s why we had this most recent reunion. We have had reunions over the years but this one seemed to stand out. First, we were only eight. We were supposed to be 11 but Cherry Pie, who was going to host at her home, got sick. Two other people who said they were coming didn’t show up. Maybe they forgot. Part of reaching our age. Someone sent me a wonderful caricature of an old woman with the text: “Old people often go into another room and then forget why they are there. Most folks blame it on a poor memory but it’s really just nature’s way of making old people exercise.”

But Josie, who lives in LA, was leaving the next day, so I suggested we hold the reunion in Milky Way, a restaurant that was part of our youth. But Mary V, one of our quiet classmates who grew up to be a fabulous pianist and who had married an American, volunteered to host a lunch at Chef Jesse in Rockwell. So there we went.

We were honored by Ting-ting’s presence. She had not attended any of the high school reunions in my memory. Our lunch was peppered with stories about fights with our parents who by now are long gone or with our children who by now are all grown up. We tell each other about how we keep our sanity in our 70s. I make rosaries, I said, as I gave them one each, encouraging them to order from me. Marita ordered eight. Another said she escapes into watching a Korean boy band. Two of us are columnists. Amy writes for BusinessWorld. She used to be a finance officer with Philippine Airlines. Girlie, or Gertrude, is a dermatologist. Ting-ting has written eight books on history. She focused on Mindanao. Marita and Josie are highly successful housewives. You could tell from the way they behaved and spoke. “None of us look our age,” I told Ting-ting. She agreed.

What do I say? A good time was had by all. At the next table was an all-male group, probably also having some kind of reunion. This gave me an insight. When you hit the late 70s, you don’t care much anymore for the other sex.

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