GEORGE DEL Rosario and Lois Kimwell-Mijares organized a last-minute dinner gathering of high school batch mates in Toronto, and when I asked for it to be postponed due to tangled schedules, Lois didn’t seem to be too sure about reorganizing it. On hindsight, I don’t blame her: it’s not easy for those living outside central Toronto to travel downtown. While public transportation is accessible, it gets confusing if you’re not familiar with the city streets and the subway stops. If you do have a car, there are car-parking issues and confusing one-way street directions. Most of all, it’s always a challenge to organize last-minute gatherings of friends living all over a big city.
Well, the dinner did happen at the Masa Japanese restaurant in downtown Toronto, and it was fun. We were loud, but so what? We seemed to be the only diners in Masa that night anyway. Besides, what’s a high school reunion without the hilariously embarrassing anecdotes?
George didn’t change at all. Still boyish and fair, he seemed to be the youngest in the group. I quickly forgot how tall he was even in high school; he loomed over the rest of us that evening. He remembered how, in trying to apply a lesson in syllabication during Grade Six, we pronounced a Tagalog curse with five different accents. It’s funny just thinking how funny we thought it was back then.
Lois looks just like she did when we last saw each other in 2005. Either Canada’s weather suits her well or she’s splurging on age-defying cosmetics. I think neither: she just seems stress-free! She’s married to a Mijares, so we both decided that we’re cousins. (Mama is a Mijares.)
Bing Flores provided the laughs that night with his stories. “They call me September here”, he said, in reference to his real name Augusto. I still called him “Bing Bing”, his nickname in grade school. When I pointed at his lack of middle-aged tummy, he pointed to his gray hair. I’ll take his gray hair anytime over my big fat belly. This guy’s just hilarious.
Dr. Eva Pacaba-Buenafe came in an hour later; we ordered more plates of sushi on her behalf, which was a lame excuse for us to eat more sushi while waiting for her. The loquacious doctor provided us leads on where the other doctors in the batch presently were. I never remembered her as this effusive in high school. She used to ignore me back then, and when I reminded her about this, she gave me a perfectly valid reason: I was loud in high school!
A few other batch mates couldn’t make it that night. Ting Maramag-Espina had a previous engagement. Nancy Almazan and Randy Ibay were unreachable. Eva offered to drop us home; driving along, they all agreed to get together once again during Christmas.
On a chilly night in Toronto, it warmed the heart to be 16 (or 13) once again.