(Girl) Friends

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
(Girl) Friends
Thirty-Nine’s Jeon Mi-do, Son Ye-jin and Kim Ji-hyun.
Photo from facebook.com/netflixph

Thirty-Nine, a K-drama series on Netflix about the friendship among three 39-year-old career women, is certainly one of the most engrossing I’ve watched — and to think I’m only on the fourth episode.

It not only boasts superb acting from Son Ye-jin (our very own Se-ri from Crash Landing on You), Jeon Mi-do (our favorite doctora in Hospital Playlist) and Kim Ji-hyun, it also delves into a bond that is akin to marriage but sans a contract: for better or for worse, in sickness and in health…

A multi-generation girl squad: Gi-Anne Agoncillo, Dr. Denise Castro, Valerie Sotto, Celia Sotto, Didit Castro, the author, Trish Sotto, Sam Lichauco and Mica TIng

All friendships are important, but the friendship between women has that nurturing factor that is unique because of their very nature as Florence Nightingales at heart. Men, as protectors, stabilize and support each other through thick and thin; but women will take care of their women friends till they are helpless in their hospital bed. I know of a friend who took it upon herself to even change her friend’s diapers when the latter was already struggling for her life — something we hope for only from a relative and expect from a paid caregiver. I also know of a dermatologist (scrubbed in, of course) who insisted on being in the operating room when her friend was having a life-threatening Caesarian, just so her friend would know that, yes, she got a friend. Both of them survived the ordeal, fortunately.

So I wasn’t surprised that in Thirty-Nine, one of the three said that when you’re younger you wish for other things but when you’re 39, you wish for, and need, your friends.

This holds true for men and women and the LGBT.

“When you hang out with people you like or you enjoy spending time with, there is a sense of reward and gratification. It releases hormones and neurochemicals in your brain that improves your mood, decreases stress levels,” says University of the Philippines-trained psychiatrist Dr. Geraldine “Geri” Mayor, who now practices in Philadelphia.

Sometimes, we are hard on ourselves, or think the worst of ourselves, and listening to friends erases that perception.

“Other people can serve as reality checks to any inappropriate thinking you may have that is bringing down your mood and increasing your anxiety. You also learn from others. Hearing about their experiences in life is a form of vicarious learning and enjoyment for you. It broadens your perspective of life,” continues Doc Geri.

Don’t you feel that after a lunch or a night out with the girls, (ang mga “Maritess” mo), you immediately feel like a heavy load is already taken off your chest?

But not just any “Maritess.” Doc Geri adds, “The benefits of hanging out with family and friends, of course, is predicated/depends on one’s choosing to hang out with those who are positive and supportive, rather than with those who will just bring you down.”

According to an article in the Harvard Gazette, the happiness that is sparked in a group has a domino effect.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego, have found that “happiness” is not merely the result of “individually tailored self-help techniques.”

“Happiness is also a collective phenomenon that spreads through social networks like an emotional contagion.”

In a study that looked at the happiness of nearly 5,000 individuals over a period of 20 years, researchers found, “One person’s happiness triggers a chain reaction that benefits not only their friends, but their friends’ friends, and their friends’ friends’ friends. The effect lasts for up to one year.”


Because it is my birth month, I spent the last few weeks hanging out with family and girl friends from both my school days and work days. Conversations ranged from topics that would have made the nuns from our alma mater blush, and topics that would truly make them proud of us. Politics were also inevitably on the table, and most of us were hoping for a rosy future after elections.

Since safety protocols have eased up in March this year just like they were tightened in March two years ago, our gatherings were definitely celebratory. It was our first face-to-face encounter in 24 months and the gathering often started with shrieking, followed by a competition for airtime at the table, including from the “quiet ones.”

Most of our first BFFs were girls, simply because they were our classmates, and if you held hands with a boy if you happened to be in a co-ed school, you would be teased. In grade school, I would spend hours on the phone (read: landline) with my BFF, something I don’t think a male BFF would do (unless he was courting you, but then he would be in a different category). 

“Your girl squad is more powerful than you know,” says writer Josephine Fuller in an article titled “True girlfriends are like diamonds: Bright, beautiful, valuable and always in style.” Your girl squad (which can include your sisters and nieces) can be your party coordinators, your pep squad, your Netflix consultant, your BTS date and your militia (when you’re under attack).

“I love my husband, but it is nothing like a conversation with a woman that understands you. I grow so much from those conversations,” Beyoncé is quoted as saying. Besides, you can only have one beloved husband (at a time, that is) but you can have multiple girl friends to run to all the time.

And to paraphrase a line I once came across, “There’s nothing quite like the pain in your stomach from laughing too hard with your girl friends.” Tama ba, mga Maritess? *

 Thirty-Nine’s Jeon Mi-do, Son Ye-jin and Kim Ji-hyun.

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