Brady Eviota .
BERN, Switzerland – In a month-long visit to the homeland last month I had the luck to be in four reunions. And like all reunions, there was never a dull moment.
“Every parting gives a foretaste of death, every reunion a hint of the resurrection.” That’s a deep quote from Arthur Schopenhauer that I took from the internet.
But the German philosopher was right. Reunions are resurrections – of memories and light old stuff. And I have to admit it, I am embarrassed at times because my classmates still remember minutiae of our elementary and high school days. Me? If I get asked in what section I was in grade 3 or who sat next to me or who taught Social Studies, I pretend not to hear it, or put on my most quizzical look. As if I could remember if I really just thought on it.
Does that make me a candidate for Alzheimers in the next 10 years? Maybe not, just a suspect for being the Most Inattentive Guy award. I do remember the scientific fact that the brain cannot store what it has not recorded. Or what did not register to the senses. So there, I guess my brain was probably only recording the “other” facts important to me.
Reunions have the force of shock. That’s the reaction I have on learning that a classmate has passed on without my knowing it, or that a friend is afflicted with disease, or that couples I know have separated and moved on their separate ways. And may I reveal this fact: that reunions are venues for the most malicious piece of news about the guy who is not there, the juiciest pieces of gossip delivered in the most nonchalant manner, like slipping in the butter next to the piece of toast at breakfast table. So, be there at your reunion!
Reunions are also grand, in the most boisterous meaning of the word. The alumni of my school (the San Nicolas College, now the Saint Paul’s University Surigao) had started some three decades ago this practice of a specific high school batch hosting the grand alumni night, with the evil intention of wining and dining everyone until they keeled over from impatso or alcohol poisoning, or both.
Imagine this spectacle – after a decidedly full dinner, thousands of alumni are invited to converge on the school gym and dance to live band music, while servers continue to ply them with food and drinks gratis to their heart’s (and stomach’s) content. This year’s host, high school Batch ’93, had up to three years to prepare for this feast and had a target budget of P3.7 million. With much efforts and generous donations from classmates abroad – coupled with the luck to get a half-million peso donation from a senator – the batch made ready with its “Superhero”-themed reunion. To make sure that nobody would go home hungry or sober, the hosts had prepared 2,200 food packs and 400 cases of beer, along with bottles of whisky and tequila for insurance. The party went on for hours. At 4 a.m the next day, the stragglers still standing were served mercifully with lugaw and an hour later, the orgy of gluttony was officially considered over. Mere food waste and excesses? Nobody attending a reunion thinks so! This is fun and this is one of the reasons why I travel 16 hours (and longer for those alumni from the US and Canada) to go home and attend the grand reunion!
Who was it who said that one great song can bring back a hundred delightful memories? I prefer to walk back on the culinary posts in the cities I grew up in or lived in. To make a crude reference, I am like a dog sniffing on the posts that I peed on. In Davao where I lived for some 12 years, a leisurely walk along the San Pedro-Pelayo-Luna-Ilustre block brought back so many memories, mostly mouth-watering. How could I forget the siopao-with-Pepsi snack in Kusina Dabaw; the tokwa`t baboy and lugaw of Dencia’s; the high-cholesterol glutinous goodies of Bulcachong; the fried chicken of Golden Brown (Davao’s First Roasted Chicken); and the oblong-shaped pizzas of Zed?
The best touchstones for me are culinary, and a reunion always brings back the best memories of food and drinking.
And lastly, reunions are for family, and for taking stock of the years that have passed on while I am away from home. I am always amazed that the clan has grown much bigger, and regretful that I have not even met some of my nephews and nieces. I look at my parents and the older members of the family, and realize their frailties with the non-stop march of time. I snatch back pieces of lost time with siblings during shared meals and planned trips. And always with partings, as the philosopher’s quote I used before, a foretaste of our mortality.
But there is always hope for the next trip home. And along with the anticipation for the next round of gluttony in the next fiesta, the next birthday, the next reunion I will attend, let me share this modern quote on why we like reunions: “I can’t wait to go to my high school reunion to see everyone that I follow on Facebook!”
(Brady Eviota wrote and edited for the now defunct Media Mindanao News Service in Davao. He is from Surigao City and now lives in Bern, the Swiss capital located near the Bernese Alps.-Mindanews)