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Newsmakers

My two other families

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
My two other families
With my Alimagno and Dayrit families. (Seated) The author with Connie Alimagno and Christine Dayrit; (standing) Nezlee Alimagno, Mye Alimagno-Pascual, Alex Alimagno-Felix, Aliw Al-imagno-Santos and architect Ed Alimagno.
Andrew Felix

When I was a kid, I daydreamed a lot.

My mother would often catch me every time there was a full moon outside our humble house with my hands outstretched to the sky. “Moon, moon,” I would say in the vernacular, “give me some fortune.” The orange moon, so low I could almost touch it, would remain silent as it moved through the clouds.

“The moon will give you your fortune when you wake up in the morning,” my father would quip with a wink. True enough, I would wake up with a 10-centavo coin under my pillow.

I continued to daydream. Until God gave me more than what I wished for — through the kindness of other people.

Part of the summation of my life can be gleaned from the generosity of two families that God used as conduits to the fruition of my dreams: the Alimagno family of Cabuyao and the Dayrit family of Makati. These are two families that, for a long time, did not know each other but would always hear about the other because of how proudly I would tell their stories.

The day my best friend Christine Dayrit met the Alimagnos of Cabuyao, Laguna.
Photos by Andrew Felix

Until two Tuesdays ago, after my best friend Christine Dayrit delivered a lecture to my class at St. Vincent College of Cabuyao, and the Alimagnos invited us to their home for dinner. Though Christine had met my other best friend Mye Alimagno-Pascual several times, it was her first time to meet the family of the latter. It was like an instantaneous combustion when Christine met my Alimagno family. They hit it off so well that last Thursday, Christine hosted a dinner for the family of Mye in an open-air field in Makati.

A pale moon, almost obscure, was hanging in the field while we were having dinner. But what was not obscure was the gratitude I had in my heart. I did not have to remind myself that I am a product of the kindness of these people. In my silence, I looked up at the moon, not to ask for fortune anymore but to thank the heavens for the glory of spending time with the people who mattered deeply in my heart.

***

I was a poor boy in 1984, an incoming high school student, when I met businessman Jun Alimagno, who later on became mayor of the town of Cabuyao. My grade school teachers in Gulod Elementary School brought me to his office for a scholarship. My parents could not afford the P50-monthly tuition in a private high school and the scholarship meant the whole world to the young dreamer in me.

Every month for four years, I would always see Tito Jun and his sister-in-law Connie Alimagno, Mye’s mother, for my tuition in their office. Every now and then, I would also see Tito Ed Alimagno, Mye’s father. They were always cordial. The timid me maintained a comfortable distance.

The distance was cut when Mye, after we became contemporaries in UP Los Baños where we finished college, brought me to their house in 1992. Her family treated me like their own and from then on, I would always be the only Tenorio in a sea of Alimagnos in a gathering. No birthdays, anniversaries, or any hallmark celebration of the Alimagnos that I would not be present. And many times when I would bike to their house and no one was home, their guard would just let me in and the kasambahay would ready my merienda. One time, I fell asleep on the couch and only woke up when everybody arrived in the compound. When I was about to bike back home, Mye’s sister Alona cautioned me to load my bike in a pick-up truck because it was already late at night. In matters concerning my safety, they would not take chances.

I would always tell them how grateful my heart was for taking part in my future. So grateful I was that every school break in high school, I would return to their office, my face besmudged with talc powder, just to say thank you. Even after high school, when I chanced upon Tito Jun on the streets of Cabuyao, I would approach him to express my gratitude. The heart never forgets acts of kindness. I even clasped the hands of Tito Jun on his deathbed.

***

I was a struggling writer when I met Christine in April 1995. I wrote about her father Ting Dayrit’s restaurant, Vincent’s, in a now-defunct magazine that I used to work for. It was Christine who was sent by her father for the interview. She was wearing an avocado green shirt. Only a minute into the interview and we already were giggling like long-lost siblings. The interview proper only took 10 minutes. But we spent hours talking about our lives on that day.

The article was published in May and I got a beeper message from Christine thanking me on behalf of her father whom, she said, “truly, truly loved what you wrote (so much) that he made your article the back page of our menu at Vincent’s.” That was the last conversation I had with her.

Until I resigned from my job because of an unfair labor practice on Aug. 23, 1995. I was so forlorn I walked from Aduana in Intramuros to the Central Station of the LRT — under the rain. It was my first time to work in Manila and, in my mind, I was going home to Gulod a failure. When I was buying my train token, the lady in the sari-sari store was wearing an avocado green shirt — the same shade Christine was wearing on the only time I met her. I hurried to dial her beeper number: 150-323464. “Christine, this is Büm Tenorio. I hope you still remember me. I’m feeling depressed. I need a friend.” I indicated my beeper number. I only wanted to unload my loneliness and fears before going home to Cabuyao. I didn’t have relatives in the city.

A minute later, Christine beeped back asking me to call her at her number at home. I called. With just one ring, she answered the phone. There was joy and excitement in her tone: “Balita?” I told her my sob story. Next thing I knew, she was picking me up in Lawton. A lady with her hair dripping wet, half of her body outstretched in the open window, shouting “Büm! Büm! I’m here” as I stood perplexed in front of the Met Theater.

I rode her car. She brought me to her house in Makati. By the foyer, her father Ting Dayrit was also waiting for me. I was welcomed like family. And since Aug. 23, 1995, Christine and I have been together — living under one roof, in their ancestral house. And her family welcomed me with kindness — so kind that on the deathbed of her father in July 1997, Tito Ting called Christine and me to his room to remind us to be together at all times. “Stay with each other. Take care of each other. Don’t fight.”

I have always honored my promise to Christine’s father. Christine and I have been best of friends for the last 27 years. And I have been family, too, to her kindhearted sisters and brother, and their children, too.

The Alimagnos and the Dayrits are my living fairy tales. They changed my life for good. Through them, God answered many of the prayers I whispered to the many full moons of my life — when I barely had anything. God is good. *

DAYRIT

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