My class. Batch ‘79, Section 7. (Front row, from left) Andie Recto, Mia Mañosa, Ditchay Roxas, Tere Liboro Liljeberg, Lian Comia Baniqued, Tina Casas Nakpil and Maite Duarte Pastor; (back row, from left) Aissa Barrera Cojuangco, Marga Viaplana Gregorio, Cindy Miranda Genato, the author, Sandy Lamb Moran, Anna Limcaoco, Bea Calero Clark, Dola Arguelles, Maite Mendieta, Katarina Tolentino and Lisa Mapua
‘The grace of coming home’
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - November 5, 2019 - 12:00am

Why do we hold class reunions and spend hours with classmates preparing for them?

At the Assumption Convent High School, we prepare for our jubilee years (especially, silver, ruby, gold and diamond) more than a year before the actual day, which we call the “Old Girls’ Day.”

The reunion’s highlight is called the “Velada,” where the jubilarians present show-stopping numbers choreographed at least six months before the show.

Then each batch has its own “after party,”  followed by several after parties organized by the different sections (our batch had seven).

With my classmate, the hardworking, never-give-up batch president Andie Recto.

Our after party was held at the North Forbes Park Pavilion with batch mate Marissa Concepcion adding steak and marlin to the sumptuous fare. Since it was a day of thanksgiving, Rina Go of Nic’s brought a huge succulent roast turkey with all the sidings while Maite Mendieta brought her artisanal chocolates.

A class reunion binds the many important chapters in your life. The first chapters are relived. The in-between years are excitedly shared to fill in the missing pages from cover to cover and the lines of the present chapter are written in between hugs and besos, whispers and shrieks, raised eyebrows and gasps, as classmates revel in each other’s company.

They accept each other’s frailties, sometimes still find fault with each other, but at the end of the day, become gratefully happy that there is a homecoming to celebrate, because there is a home to come home to. Our alma mater.

“Thank you, Father God, for the grace of coming home,” Sister Ana Melocoton r.a., the adviser of the Assumption Alumnae Association, said most succinctly in her opening prayer at the Mother Rose Hall last Old Girls’ Day.

The balikbayans. (Front row, from left) Anna Dolor Fernandez, Dolly Pangan Specht, Pia Tamayo Lapidus, Chloe Cruz Uy, Dingdong Mesina Broekhuizen, Tere Liboro Liljeberg, Romina Sabnani Murjani and Maite Duarte Pastor; (back row, from left) Joy Velilia Urdahl, Beatriz Calero Clark, Susanna Pedrosa Kaiser, Tina Grande Romulo, Bebs Weber Smith, Karen Cancio Litre, Marilou Sarthou Lacson, Ina Cu-Unjieng, Virgie Kintanar Pelouard and Innhae Oh Morgan.

“Every time we make the effort to be still and meet You within ourselves, and in others, we are home. Thank you for this yearly Velada, this homecoming, coming home to the heart of plaid, coming home to one another after 65, 55, 50, 40, 25 years and in the in-between.”

The theme of this year’s hosts, the silver jubilarians, was “Heart of Plaid.”

Plaid is the fabric of the Assumption high school uniform’s skirt and necktie. It defined us. It defines us still, in so many ways.

“It is always a grace to come and be together and share life’s stories with its composite of joys and pains...,” continued Sister Ana in her prayer. She, too, was educated at the Assumption even before she took her vows as a nun.

Souvenir M&Ms from Dolly Pangan Specht.

“Living in this world so different from the years we were here and as we put on our plaid again even if just for one day, our hearts come home to the values we have lived, the love we have received, and given the joys we have shared.”

Sister Ana expressed hope that “as we continue this journey in life and we look around us at an ever changing world and values,” Assumption girls can become women like Mary, women “who can rise above the chaos and confusion in life with faith intact, in gratitude and love, daring to serve, the least, the lost and the last...”

***

The hardworking Velada committee: (Front row, from left) Theody Delmoro, Rina Go, Chary Ozaeta Gohh, Tina Casas Nakpil, Lisa Lorenzo, Arlina Arrozal de Jesus and Marsha Mallari; (back row, from left) Carmela Ongsiako, Andie Recto, Maribeth Bichara, Jojo Ocampo, Ola Regala, Michelle Soliven, Niña Huab Cruz and Maritess Bichara del Rosario.

Reunions are also times of reckoning. You realize that life is fragile and precious as you mourn the passing of those in the class who have gone ahead, and comfort those who are ill.

Broken chains are mended, phones pop up to take photos and phone numbers.

For our Ruby jubilee, almost 20 balikbayans flew in from all corners of the globe to write this continuing chapter of our lives with us.

We know the best is yet to come;  and we have a home that binds the chapters of our lives. *

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

THE GRACE OF COMING HOME
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