Tag Archive | highschool life

Psychz Reunion on Rizal Day ’09

For the first time last December 30, 2009, I attended my high school class reunion. It happens annually, but somehow there was always somewhere else that I needed to be. That year, I heard that they wanted to get the class together again, but I didn’t know the exact plans. So I just agreed to a catching-up evening with Neil, an old classmate whom I haven’t seen in a long while. However, when we met at the park, he announced that he had a surprise. He led me around the corner, and there they were: loud, colorful, and somehow larger than life to my surprised sight – my high school friends, back from all corners of the country and all grown up.

After the noise and the hugs and the I missed you’s, the initial excitement calmed down for a bit and I could see who were there and who weren’t able to come. A lot of people were absent; some couldn’t get away from their jobs, others didn’t have contact numbers that we knew of, still others were spending every moment of the short Christmas break with their families. All of those who came were people I haven’t seen for ages, mostly because I seldom came home for vacations, and when I did, I spent most of it with my family away from the city.  However, being with them was like going back in time. It was as easy as slipping into an old, well-loved pair of jeans to use the old nicknames once more, to retell favorite stories, to renew bonds of friendship. I was aware of how different they were, but because we’d seen each other grow up almost every day for four years, I saw that behind the unfamiliar clothes and hairstyles and expressions, they were still – essentially – the same.

Cervin, one of the sweetest people I know, was among the first who hugged me. He looked better and more confident, but he still had the same laugh, that enthusiasm that was always present whenever he was with friends. Even  now, I don’t think he knows just how much I admire him. We used to talk a lot, and he’d share some of the things that he was going through. In light of all those challenges, everything that he’s accomplished now seems more meaningful. I hope he knows how proud I am of him, and how much I miss my dance partner.

Neil, of course, was still the acknowledged heartthrob. Who could forget the many love letters that were delivered to our classroom every week by girls from every year level and section (“Nandito ba si NEL?”)? Or the sighs and giggles that were the soundtrack of his passage in the hallways? As his seatmate, I found his love life to be a constant source of entertainment, and sometimes headache when I tried to keep track of who he was with that particular week. I even got into trouble when we were caught talking during physics  class. To be fair, though, I think it was MY crush that we were whispering about that time. We were trying to find a code name for him so that we could talk about him freely. Ah, the excitement of high school. He tells me he’s a good boy now, but that bad boy aura that had the girls swooning was still sticking to him like a second skin that night.

Grace, my soulmate, was also there. In those four years, we had forged a friendship that lasted beyond high school, no matter how erratically we kept in touch. Angel (Noreen to others), the third part of our close-knit trio, was absent, and we kept hoping she’d show up. (She didn’t, but I saw her a couple of days later.) Nobody has  ever taken the place of these two in my heart. They were my calm place in the storm, and that night, I saw that it was still true. We all went to a karaoke bar, but no matter how loud everything got, my  soulmate and I were still able to talk quietly for a bit, to catch up on what was important. There wasn’t enough time, but it was wonderful to have that connection again.

The star of the sing-along was still Emily, our Princess Jasmine. She still had that exquisite voice, and she looked almost exactly the same as six years ago. With that voice and that smile, not to mention those brains that earned her one of the highest honors at graduation, she was almost too talented for one person. The best thing about her, though, was how humble she was about all of these. There had been no vanity in her all those years ago, and she remained simple and down-to-earth when we met again.

One of our  group’s idiosyncrasies was how we identified people by their favorite color. Even now, years later, whenever I see green, yellow, or purple, I think of Janey-jane, Tita Sen, and Fia, respectively. And of course, when it comes to pink, my own favorite, I’m reminded of Marivic. It feels strange to type that name, since we’re used to calling each other “Ka-pink,” proudly embracing the girly-ness implied by that choice. To my amusement, we were both wearing the same color that night. Care to guess what it was?

Beside my Ka-pink, sitting at the head of the table, was Cristy. Smart, talented, and completely unforgettable, she was the star of every monologue competition in high school and one of the greatest friends anyone can ever hope to have. I used to want to hit this girl over the head for not seeing herself as the amazing person that she was, inside and out. I hope her vision’s improved since then.

And there was Dianne, of course. Bold, impulsive, and spirited, she was the last person you could call boring. She made our lives interesting with her  laughter and her readiness to speak her mind. What most people didn’t see, though, was that underneath the sassy, tough-girl exterior, Dianne was a total softie. She cared deeply about the group, about keeping us together. I had no idea how much I missed her until I saw her again.

In contrast to Dianne, Jane was our acknowledged Binibining Pilipina. Poised, demure, and soft-spoken, she always seemed effortlessly composed and elegant no matter how loud and unruly the rest of us got. Even her penmanship was graceful and neat. If some of Janey-jane’s level-headedness had just rubbed off on me, I’d probably have gotten into a lot less trouble.

Seneca, on the other hand, possessed a different kind of poise, the kind that held a fair number of high school  boys under her spell. Pretty, stylish, and confident, she was easy to like and difficult to ignore. I would sometimes tease her by calling her the class seductress, but mostly she was just “Tita Sen” to me – my Tatay Johnard’s best friend (and my possible “mom”? haha). Long story behind that. She promised to teach me how to apply make up. If anyone is qualified, she definitely is.

Irish Jay was one of the few guys who were able to make it that night. Insanely talented, he seemed able to do pretty much anything – write poetry, make incredible art, compose songs, and get high grades without much effort. He and I would sometimes have poetry “write-offs” – he’d take a poem of mine and rewrite it with his trademark dark perspective, then I’d take one of his and make it more optimistic. I miss those days. But even now the phoenix lives on, and I’ll always remember the Last Moment.

Sitting beside Rish and pretty happy about it was Charity. As she jokingly said herself, it was the climax of the love story-that-never-was that had caused her no small amount of drama in high school. However, despite her telenovela-esque love life, no one was really surprised when she graduated valedictorian. With her genius level IQ, she definitely deserved it. Years later, this girl is well on her way to the top.

Looking pretty in purple was my four-year seatmate, Zafia. Whenever the seats were assigned alphabetically, it was almost a given that we would sit next to each other.  In between bouts of girl talk about crushes, we would help each other out with the day’s lessons or work on articles for the school paper.  As my seatmate, she probably witnessed just about every mood I’ve ever had. To her credit, I wasn’t able to drive her crazy. Well, she was already a Psychz anyway.

Catherine, our class baby, sat at one end of the table. When most of us were already super conscious about style, she remained simple and down-to-earth. Instead of fussing about shoes or accessories, Catherine was more concerned about business, and I must admit that she was very good at it. She seemed to have a knack for knowing what snacks would be perfect to break the monotony or stress of the day, and whatever she brought would be an instant hit. I thought then, and I still think now, that our baby would probably be one of our batch’s first millionaires. She certainly deserves that kind of success.

For some reason, Divine‘s not in the picture, but she was there that night. One of the Psychz’ s acknowledged beauties, Divine was not only pretty but also talented. She, Kathleen, and Emily were the three divas of the class, and it was a treat for all of us whenever they sang. Who knows, maybe one year, they’ll all sing together again for our reunion? That’s certainly something to look forward to.

Also missing from the picture but present at the reunion is one of our “Vanessa’s”, Vanessa Teope (the others were Vanessa Nale, Vanessa Acar, and Vanessa Manalang). Beautiful and down-to-earth, she didn’t seem affected by the efforts of highschool boys to catch her attention. Only one of our very own, Karl, was blessed enough to win her heart.

Looking at pictures of that night, I was hit again by a rush of nostalgia. We were all so different, yet in a lot of ways alike. As individuals, we were special in our own right. Together, we became even more extraordinary.

And who was I, Abigail, among them? Where did I fit in with these remarkable people who have changed my life? Well, I was the one who usually stayed in a corner, immersed in a book. Now and then I would look up to share in the joke that had everybody laughing, or listen to the resident musikeros jamming with their guitars, or answer somebody’s question about the English homework given that day. I was the one who wrote, I was the one who listened. I was the one who watched them all and  loved what I saw. They were beautiful, each and every one of them. From the brightest star to the shyest wallflower, they were amazing. There was this energy, this spirit, that infused us whenever we were together. Maybe because we were young and the future was still this abstract, elusive concept, limitless in its possibilities. Maybe because to us, cynicism was yet incomprehensible and utterly absurd when there was so much wonder in the world. But I think a part of the reason was that in spite of the comfortable naiveté of those days, there was this vague but instinctive feeling that said, This is rare. It doesn’t always happen that people so different can belong together. No matter who else you encounter when you get out of this town to meet the world, never forget this miracle.

I have never forgotten. And sometimes I wish I could go back, return to that time when the future could be anything I wanted it to be and cynicism was a complete stranger. When I knew without a doubt that I belonged among those I have chosen to love. I miss being that girl; I miss being Abegz. Or sometimes Prinsesa, Benggay, Anak, Gege, Pare, Soulmate, Halo, Apo, Gail, Baby, Garnet, Sis, Partner, Bestfriend, or Ka-pink. Different endearments, different kinds of love. All with one wonderful translation: friend.





Not Quite the Fairytale

What girl hasn’t dreamed of her first kiss? Long before I even had a crush, I’d already pictured that perfect moment in my mind. I would be standing on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean with a guy who was somehow a cross between Aladdin and Leonardo di Caprio. And as the wind blew the skirt of my long, beautiful dress around my legs, he would take me in his arms and kiss me tenderly at the exact moment that the setting sun touched the horizon. It would be perfectly and utterly romantic. For most of my childhood, that fantasy ranked right up there with the hope that I actually had a fairy godmother who would wave her magic wand and turn Steve (name changed to keep the peace),  the classroom bully, into an ugly frog.

But not all childhood dreams come true. Thanks to all my godmothers staying stubbornly, boringly human, Steve grew up from an obnoxious kid to an even more obnoxious teenager without even the slightest amphibious attributes. And as for my first kiss? Well, that, too, did not go exactly as planned.

I was sixteen then, and we’d moved from the small, sheltered neighborhood where I grew up to the capital of the province. However, we lived quite far from the town center, where my mom and my aunt worked as teachers and my siblings and I attended school. To make the daily commute easier, we hired a tricycle to take us to the city proper during the weekdays. The driver was this twenty-something guy with a barbed wire tattoo on his wrist and dyed blond hair. My mother, being one of the friendliest people I know, would chat him up throughout the 45-minute ride. I seldom paid them any attention; I was too busy putting on my socks, cleaning my shoes, combing my still-dripping hair, or doing whatever part of my routine I hadn’t managed to finish before my mom rushed me out of the door. By the time the others had gotten off and I was the only passenger left, it would be pretty quiet in the tricycle. I wasn’t much of a morning person.

Unfortunately, my mom’s friendliness had given the driver the idea that he had license to flirt with the daughter. He kept trying to draw me out in conversation with pick up lines so cliché they should be outlawed. One of his typical attempts at being charming would go like this:

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

I’d shake my head.

“Really? How come? You’re cute. They should be lining up for you.”

A shrug.

“You must be choosy. You’re choosy, right?”

Another shrug.

“Well, what do you look for in a guy? Come on, tell me.”

I’d smile politely and say nothing.

“Let me guess – handsome. Girls always like handsome guys. Right?”

By this time I’d be wishing I just lied about not having a boyfriend.

“Maybe you want someone who’s sweet. Come on, don’t be shy. Tell me.”

I wanted to tell him I wasn’t shy, I just wasn’t interested.

“Me, I’m a simple man. I like girls who are petite and have long hair. They should be pretty, like you.”  Then he’d look at me so long I’d worry about our safety on the busy road. It was the morning rush hour, and we were surrounded by other vehicles, which, I noted enviously, were being driven by relatively normal, non-amorous drivers.

He would repeat this performance, with slight variations, every morning, not at all discouraged by the fact that the conversation was entirely one-sided. For some reason, he seemed to think himself quite debonair. It wasn’t exactly the best way the start my day, but mostly I found him annoying but harmless enough. I endured his daily pestering until the day he decided to take it to another level.

It was Friday morning, and I was still pretty sleepy by the time we dropped off everybody else at their school. I woke up completely, though, when instead of going the usual busy route to my campus, he steered the tricycle out of the traffic then turned into a quiet, tree-lined, secluded road and stopped….

“Why are we here?” That must have been one of the longest sentences I’d ever said to him.

“I have a great idea,” he said. “Why don’t we hang out for a while and then go watch a movie later?”

I looked at him blankly. “I have classes.”

“So? You can be absent just this once. It’s Friday. I won’t tell.”

“But I don’t want to be absent,” I protested. “Please take me to school now.”

“Come on, don’t be a killjoy,” he wheedled.

“I’m not allowed to go to the movies here.” It was true; there were only two cinemas in town, and they both showed x-rated movies all the time.

“Your mom likes me. She won’t get mad, you’ll see.”

I don’t like you, I wanted to tell him. I was beginning to get nervous, though, so I started to get off. “I’ll just find another ride,” I said.

All of a sudden, he grabbed my arm then leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek. Then he waited for the effect.

I was stunned. How dare he? I wanted to slap him, but horrible scenarios were already flashing through my mind. What if he gets violent? What if he does it again? Wh-what if he rapes me? Oh my god, was I gonna end up as one of those girls who were murdered then chopped into pieces? I looked around frantically – there was even a huge balete tree at the side of the empty road. It was the perfect crime scene, and my ghost would be haunting this spot for all eternity. I took off running.

He followed me. “Come on, get back in,” he cajoled, as if I didn’t know how close I was to being a chop-chop victim. “I’m sorry, okay? I won’t do it again.”

Yeah, right.

“I’ll take you to school. Just don’t tell your mom.”

I kept running, but I was getting tired. He, on the other hand, was just driving his stupid tricycle and effortlessly keeping up with me as I headed towards the intersection where that quiet road joined a busier one. Where’s traffic when you need it?

Suddenly, he chuckled. “Isn’t this just like a movie? You know, like Robin Padilla and Sharon Cuneta.”

A movie?! Did he just say that? And was I supposed to be Sharon Cuneta? The guy’s delusional. If this were a movie, it would definitely be a horror film, not a romantic flick.

He kept following me like that until I finally got to the intersection. I flagged down another tricycle which, thankfully, stopped. When I got to school, I immediately rushed to my friends and told them about the ordeal. The girls were all shocked and sympathetic. The boys wanted to hunt him down for revenge. My teacher, on the other hand, only wanted to know if he was cute. Once the initial excitement was over, though, there was one common reaction. It was my teacher who voiced it out.

“So I guess you already had your first kiss,” she said.

What? No! I looked at my friends to see if they found the notion as preposterous as I did.

“Yeah, she’s right,” my seatmate said. All the others had the same thoughtful look of agreement on their faces.

“But that doesn’t count!” I objected. He didn’t even look like Aladdin!

No matter what I said, though, it seemed like history was determined to mark that morning as one of the momentous events of my life. At our high school graduation, several of my classmates’ farewell notes said something along the lines of “You’ll find the right guy someday. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind that you already had your first kiss….

Seven years later, I still get teased about it. My friends and I would be riding a tricycle, and one smart aleck will come out with “Isn’t this just like a movie?” Then everybody will laugh like it’s the funniest thing since the first knock-knock joke. If there’s someone new in the crowd who doesn’t get it, the whole sordid history of my “first kiss” would be dragged out right there and then. Now if only that fairy godmother would do me the favor of appearing anytime soon….