Last November 15th was our silver homecoming reunion for the Class of 1983.

After months of preparation – it was time for us to gather at the ISO in Ateneo University to meet old friends and teachers we have not seen for 25 years.

It was very heartwarming to see our old teachers who were equally surprised to see who and how we have become.

It was sobering that many of the teachers we were anticipating to see were not there anymore as many of them are already resting in their graves.

It was awesome to hear different stories. To recall memories and feel so young again as we danced to the music of our generation.

It was really good being reconnected after all these years – and as mid-lifers, it was great to see familiar and older faces that have shared some of those wonderful memories through those impressionable years in highschool.

I was asked to give a brief talk on our highschool memories. I got the most applause when i said “it has been 25 years since we graduated from school, and some of us still carry the wounds and the trauma from those years.  It is time move on and to let go…”

Cheers erupted from my batchmates and even our teachers who were present.

In order for us to have a significant walk with our new friends (old and yet new), we need to let go of things that have been said, done, left un-said, left un-done in highschool and embrace each other as people who are right in the middle of this journey called life.

My wife enjoyed the event as well. We had an awesome time.

It was very poignant to hear the Glee Club singing AKO AY PILIPINO which won for them the prestigious honors at the national level.  It was equally sobering to hear them sing a wonderful and emotionally touching Christmas song in Pilipino.

There were 747 who graduated in 1983.

There were about 103 who made it at that event.

There were 2 who died as we were preparing for the event.

There were several who left for their overseas work as we were preparing for the reunion.

Many from Class 1983 are working and have settled overseas.

We sang our Alma Mater song:

“Quirino High School we hail thee

We lead you on to fame and destiny

Quirino High school we serve

We’re all for thy name and victory…

Dear alma mater beloved

our thoughts, our words , our deeds for thee we give

although we’re far or near from thy gates

united loyal and brave we are…..

We were all seriously sobered as we sang it.  25 years ago, we would make fun of that hymn. We would insert words that were inappropriate. But not at that night. We cherished the words. We sang it with pride. We sang it realizing that this was just a once-in a lifetime event.

We ended the program by singing a christian song that spoke of our desire to be connected with God and with each other.

It was inspiring.

It was beautiful.

Definitely a personal highlight for me this year.

To the class of 1983 ” May the good Lord bless you and keep you until we all meet again…”

We have done well….

Congratulations Class of 1983!

Year 1992.  We were headed for Winter Break.  The students had already made plans where they will spend winter break.  I was going with Ron to his home in Buffalo, New York.  Plans had been made and we were just counting the days.  Just a few more exams to hurdle and we will be free at last.  Arrangements have been made to ride with some of our classmates, driving assignments were completed and even parental arrangements for pick-ups in Harrisburg.

All things were set. Except for this friend who said something that up to this day, still haunts me.

It was about 5PM and we were eating dinner and I asked about his plans for Winter break.  He stopped eating and said “I don’t know.”

“What? You are not going anywhere?” – my mind was already racing with ideas how to take him or with whom he could share a ride with up the greater north…

Before I could suggest anything he softly said “My dad had remarried…” and he left it there.

“And?” – I was expecting the rest of the sentence to come.

“He didn’t tell us where he lives now…”

Before I could process all these things he was telling me, he followed it with these words that forever left a sad mark in my heart…

“He did not tell us where he lives…. so now, I don’t even know where home is….”

That statement stayed with me.  I can still see him right now as we were seated at the corner of that dining hall in the Fieldhouse in Big Sandy, Texas back in 1992.

I could not erase in my memory what he said nor how it made me feel.  I was thousands of miles away from the Philippines, but I clearly knew where home was.

I have seen this statement played out many times as I have worked with the young people through the years.  They do not say this statement but I see this being acted out countless of times.  Many feel so lost and many are just simply trying to find their way.  I never realized how his statement made an impact in my life.  It made me want to help others find their way.  To help others find where their real home is.

This friend did not graduate from the college where we studied together.  The last time I heard from him was 8 years ago when we had a YM conference and he introduced me to his pretty little daughter.

I still think of this friend from time to time and wonder how his life turned out.  I would like to hear from him and share how my life is turning out to be. He was a good friend.  He was quiet and he did not feel rotten every time I beat him in chess.  We sat next to each other in most of our freshman classes because the alphabetical arrangement made it that way.

Hey JDK, I hope to see you again.  I still carry in my heart what you painfully shared in 1992.  When we meet again, I will tell you where our real home is.  Our Father is waiting for us.

God bless you my friend.

God sent 4 brothers to encourage me lately.

The other one sent sms encouraging me about what I shared with him.

The other one did not know that I needed encouragement and sent me a gift which came in due season. Ended his email with prayers for me.

The 3rd one just chatted with me and encouraged me greatly while he is also going through some of his own challenges.

The 4th one said he is praying for me constantly.

4 different brothers from 3 different countries.

Thank you for your encouragement. God could have used people within my area, but God chose you. Thank you for allowing yourself to be used by God to encourage me in my journey even when I am halfway across the globe.

Thank you for being more than good friends to me. Thank you for being my brothers.

The meeting ended at 11PM. I guess I was trying my best to “make up” for the many months that I was not able to visit. My last church visit was Dec 2006, and now it is April 2008. 2006 and 2008. It is easy to just say 2 years…. and so in our meetings, I would always refer to “it has been two years since my last visit…”

I got back in my lonely hotel room and turned on the TV. I was grateful that there was CNN and other regular cable channels like NatGeo and Discovery. Even though I was too tired, my mind was too alert to just sleep. After taking a hot shower, I looked at my cell phone to set the alarm. I was looking forward to sleeping more than 8 hours and just maximize my stay until my flight home at 5:45PM.

But my phone registered several sms from this young couple I married off several years ago. They wanted to make sure that I was up and about by 8AM so they could take me on a city tour. I almost said “I am really tired… but thanks…” but there was something about what they said…”we want to take you around because you have been coming here yet you still have not seen the familiar tourist attractions…”

That was really true. I go on travels – and conducts meetings from Fridays – Sundays. Usually I am back taking my flight home on Monday mornings. But this trip was somewhat different, the booking was so tight that the flight I got was at 5:45PM.

I was out of the hotel by 8:30AM and off we went. They knew that I needed coffee first so we went to the place where I could get good coffee in an instant. Dunkin Donuts. With that done, off we went to pick up 4 teachers who were also serving as Sport Officials for softball at the Palarong Pambansa (National Games)…

The first step was the crocodile farm. I even managed to get some pictures taken with a baby crocodile with its snout securely tied. 3 shots and it was getting to be uncomfortable for the me and the animal.

They took me to Mitra’s house overlooking Honda Bay. it was beautiful. I missed my wife as I looked at the overpowering horizons. The sea on one side and the mountains slightly covered by rain clouds on the other.

Then we were taken to a bee farm…. it was a very interesting place. I actually got more information. A drone (male bee) once it did its purpose (mate with the queen) dies because its genitals are cut off… hmmmm….

There were more places and this young couple just explained, pointed, told anecdotes all the way. Lunch was at a place called “Gulay Bar” a vegetarian resto where I ordered something that smelled Teriyaki tofu with mushrooms. I should post the pics tomorrow – but I just wanted to get these thoughts done.

It started to rain… the couple noticed how sleepy I was and asked “would you like coffee? we could hang out as we wait or kill time before we take you off to the airport…”

And that’s what we did. I ordered Kape Negro (black coffee) and just talked about life. Talked about our challenges in the church. Health concerns. They just listened. Oh, btw, the other night? we ate in this street stall and then bought fish which we fried and we ate again, this time at the house of the in-laws while I sipped his home-made honey wine. It actually tasted good. I rode the motorbike with him to my hotel at past 11 PM.

Anyways, this young couple then took me to the airport. And as I hugged them, it dawned on me that they as a couple, never miss taking me to the airport everytime I leave. It has always been them. They have always been the couple that I always hug because they were the ones who would take a leave from their work just to see me off. The husband picked me up at the airport.

The small church in the area used to be their home church. But they stopped attending there. In Dec 2006, I tried to patch the relationship -but I guess relationships cannot really be forced on anyone.

Sitting at the airport while waiting for my flight made me think more about what had transpired over the weekend. This couple really took care of me. They would send sms and asked me “how are you doing?” even if they knew I was conducting a meeting. They would ask “do you have any dinner plans?” because they wanted to make sure that my needs are taken care of.

Their brother, even wanted to invite me to attend a youth service where he choreographed a dance for the youth worship. I was so sorry I could not come because I also scheduled a meeting that night.

This young couple would introduce me as their older brother… and then would be quick to add “Our pastor… immediately followed with “He was the one who officiated at our wedding…”

They were really sensitive to my needs. The wife even noticed that I have not been drinking water and promptly asked “do you want us to buy bottled water? You have not been drinking the whole day..”

What was going on here? I asked myself. And two things came to mind.

ROLE BASED vs. RELATIONSHIP Based.

For this young couple, they did not look at me as someone with just a ROLE or a position in the denomination. Rather they looked at me, as someone whom they have gotten to know through the years. We would recall stories together. Inquire about the people they have not met for awhile… I was not an Area Superintendent to them…. rather, I was an older brother, a mentor, a friend… and it felt beautiful.

Many times, if we are not careful, the people in our lives are categorized according to their roles and their positions. Or like this blog, if people are not duly noted, they would be uncategorized, just one among the many. But when we are able to slowly invest our lives in the lives of others, we begin to share “tags, and categories”, memories, thoughts and even dreams….

How about you? Are you having a role-based relationships with the people around you? Or are your relationships based on “friendships?”

How about our relationship with God? Is is based on what He can do for us? Or is it based on who He is? Simply a loving Father? These were my thoughts as I boarded my AirPhil flight to Manila at 6PM…

Upon arriving the Manila airport, I got another sms “drive safely and tell us when you are already in the loving embrace of your wife!”

Role based relationships may make our lives more organized. But relationship-based living would definitely make our lives more meaningful.

View of Honda Bay at the back

Thank you Gully and Rachel. You guys make visiting Palawan worth it everytime. God bless you both.