111 lessons I learned from my BFFs
Friendship is like a garden; it needs nurturing for everyone to grow.
Büm D. Tenorio Jr.
111 lessons I learned from my BFFs
NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star) - July 3, 2020 - 12:00am

The lockdown caused by the coronavirus has posed threat to many people’s mental health. Government records show a significant increase in the number of people who experienced depression during the enhanced community quarantine. One expert advice to combat the lockdown is to reach out to friends. If you’ve got one real friend, according to a mental health expert, you’ll never get sad.

I’ve got a few dearest friends who have held my hand — and have kept my sanity — from Day 1 of the lockdown. If we count it from March 15, we are now on the 111th day of the quarantine. And I have learned, so to speak, 111 lessons from them from the day I met them.

They are the flowers in my garden during the quarantine. They are my hope in many times I feel uncertain. They replace my fear with laughter. And the thought of them makes me feel safe and hope that tomorrow, despite the defiant threat of the unseen enemy, will be better.

Take care of people with broken wings

In the subject of generosity, Christine Dayrit, my best friend of 25 years, tops this department. We have been living under one roof since Aug. 23, 1995 from the time her parents “adopted” me. We have fought many battles together — hers and mine — and each time we emerge better people.

She introduced me to the concept of Sunshine Policy — doing good to people who are abrasive. “Because I believe each person acts according to the experience he or she is having at the moment.” She suspends judgment until she gets the whole picture. And many times, she takes care of people with broken wings.

“People with broken wings are not the easiest people to deal with. But once you’re able to help in fixing them, they become the most loveable people,” she says. It takes a lot of courage to do that. But courage is second nature to Christine.

The law of personal accountability

We became best of friends the minute Manny Marinay and I met on Feb. 15, 1995 at the newsroom of a now defunct magazine. That day was also the first day I worked in Manila. Raised in Tondo, Manny is a toughie with a marshmallow heart. To this day, he works hard and shares his earnings with his family and friends. In the carinderia of Aling Carmen where we used to eat in Kagitingan, he had an unofficial “Manny Marinay Foundation” where all the street children of the area celebrated his arrival every night because he would feed them all. He is generous to a fault because he experienced how it was to have none.

On the phone almost every night during the quarantine, we always reminisce those days when a small bowl of champorado would spark a smile on a child’s face.

From him I learned the law of personal accountability. He always tells me: “Your joy, peace, prosperity, even destitution is your accountability to yourself. That’s the law of personal accountability.” He read that concept somewhere when he was younger and made it his own mantra.

Beat everything with joy and laughter

The lockdown has made us much closer because Rachy Cuna, the country’s floral architect, and I call each other more than twice a day to talk about how else we can protect ourselves, our families and friends from the virus. Every day, we would talk about his classmate or teacher in grade school that he reconnected with or has not heard of for 20 years; and the priest or nun that he called to bring joy.

“We hope a vaccine will be available soon,” says Rachy, style director of Manila Hotel. “But while we wait for it, we keep safe and find joy in what we do.” He finds joy sharing his blessings — even with the people he does not know, during the lockdown.

The artist in Rachy couldn’t be contained during the ECQ so he found joy doing house cleaning. By doing so, he discovered “pleasant surprises” inside and around his house. He did not wait for Christmas to give gifts to his friends. His prized collections of chopsticks and celadon bowls now find a new spot in our kitchen in Gulod.

“We cannot be afraid all the time because of the virus. We have to fight it with being careful. Let’s just find joy in whatever we do — even if we are inside our home.”

Just be there

The family of Mye Alimagno sent me to high school. From that scholarship her uncle Jun Alimagno gave me in 1984, a friendship blossomed until I became part of their family. From that relationship, an independent friendship came into fruition. That is the story of Mye and me.

We don’t see each other every day but we are there for each other 24/7. “Friendship means you just have to be there for your friend,” she says. “Just be there.” I learned that from her.

When I needed to go home to Cabuyao from the city for an emergency, she picked me up in Makati during the ECQ. She even personally fixed my papers and passes so I could legally travel back to Gulod.

We treat each other like siblings. Our ideas clash sometimes — she’s a businesswoman and I lean more on my artistic side — but in their wake we find a more solidified friendship.

Connect and reconnect!

Dayday Cabrera, Mulong Palis and Larcy Cervantes-Jarmin are constant people in my life, especially during the ECQ. They are my UPLB connections because our friendship is courtesy of the same org where we all belong, our beloved Com Arts Soc. My every visit to Los Baños is not complete without seeing Dayday and Larcy. Even if Mulong is now based in Australia, I visit his mother to get a semblance of him whenever I am in LB. My friendship with them will always remind me that to reconnect is to dream anew, to rediscover the same path we all walked on before even if we came from different batches, to believe again, to reacquaint ourselves with the Peter Pan in all of us, to believe in dwarves and ghosts, sinners and saints. And to laugh with wanton abandon — even if via Zoom.

Sink or swim — swim!

I raised my eyebrow on her when one fateful day in 1989 she sat across me in a public utility jeepney inside UPLB. We alighted at the same destination. Then we smiled at each other. That was the start of my friendship with Joyce Mercado-Gomez.

In 1990, she was supposed to be launched as a TV commercial model for a brand of bath soap but she figured in a freak car accident that damaged her beautiful face. I never left her side from the day of her operation. I would sleep in her hospital room every weekend and bring her to the operating room as we held hand imitating contestants in Miss Universe vying for the title as she was being wheeled in for her nth operation. When she woke up, I would be by her side in the recovery room, armed with a swab to take away the tears that dried up in her eyes. Her strength and courage taught me that in the “sink and swim of things — swim!”

Don’t be afraid to get lost

Jay Capiral is my brother from another mother. My knowledge of roads in Metro Manila is courtesy of him. I am a promdi and commuting to Manila terrified me before. Jay took time to show me the roads of Metro Manila. His first lesson: “Don’t be afraid to get lost.” So, I conquered my fear and always remember to find joy and solace in getting lost. To this day, I find comfort in maneuvering my way to an unknown destination. If I get lost, I enjoy the sound and sight. I carry this attitude even if I am abroad.

His second lesson: “Know EDSA by heart.” And in our prime, he showed me all the roads connected to EDSA, and where those roads lead to — from north to south.

I still get lost many times but I always find my way to Jay.

Like I always find my way to all my BFFs. *

(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and IG @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend!)

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