January 20, 2000 - Sunday
Author Vicky M. Pascual
The meeting of the NESHS Metro Manila group to formalize strategies for first
time U.S. visa applicants – who were planning to join their overseas
classmates in the Los Angeles reunion -- was held in our place in Pasig City.
It was a well-attended meeting. During the meeting, Class President Romy
Padiernos designated Sol Ligon Inocencio and Eli de los Santos as the Metro
Manila and Gapan Coordinators respectively; and my husband, Efren to be the
liaison between the Philippine and the U.S. Groups.
While a few class members and their spouses
(who are U.S. visa holders) encouraged and motivated their visa applicant
peers, the apprehension could not be masked on the faces of those who are
planning to appear at the US Embassy. I was somewhat sad for not being able to
actually be there and extend moral support to the group during their interview
preparations. My second daughter Cherry and I were to depart for the United
States in five days to visit my other children who resides in New Jersey.
After my daughter and I arrived in the U.S.,
electronic mails from my husband kept me updated in the ensuing months on the
progress of the group's venture to acquire the coveted U.S. visa.
June 20, 2000 - Tuesday
After months of preparation, the first group
of visa applicants were given their interviews at the American Embassy. I
prayed and kept my hopes up that they would get positive results. To my
dismay, none of the three applicants for that day were granted a visa. The
second group suffered the same fate. By this time, Efren's e-mails were no
longer encouraging. The other applicants’ morale was very low (to the extent
that one applicant chose not to appear for their scheduled interview).
After the 27 applicants completed their
interviews, only three couples -- Romy and Letty Padiernos, Oscar and Myrna
Vallarta and Manuelito and Tessie Matias – were granted with U.S. visas. A
fourth couple, alumna Norma de Guzman Camaya and husband Herminigildo, were
also granted visas but the delivery of their passports by the American Embassy
couriers was too late for them to make it to the scheduled reunion.
Despite the disappointing low number of
representatives from the Philippines, Reunion Coordinator Norma Afable Grajo
and the other reunion organizers’ spirits were not at all dampened. The U.S.
Group were happy that there are four couples (Efren & myself being the fourth
couple) from the Philippines that would be attending the four day class
reunion in Anaheim, California; and deeply felt that the reunion would be a
July 14, 2000 - Friday
I checked-in at the Newark Airport for my
Continental flight to Los Angeles 15 minutes before the scheduled departure
time of 4:15 PM. My kumpadre, Nilo Dionisio and wife Annie (booked on
the same flight) were already at the departure gate waiting for me. It was
boarding time, the airport was packed and flights were delayed. There was a
storm in the mid west.
Passengers were instructed to notify their
families of the delay. People lined up to the pay phones. I had my turn to
call Efren in Los Angeles (he flew to California from the Philippines two days
before the reunion) and informed him of the change in our arrival time. After
a 90 minute delay, we were finally on our way. With plenty of time to
catch-up, “We will still make it to the Welcome Party”, Annie and I
Meanwhile at the Los Angeles Airport, Efren
was traversing from the Continental Airline arrival terminal to the PAL
arrival gate to meet the group from the Phil. The group arrived on time and as
soon as Efren and Frank Grajo (husband of Norma Afable) met them, Frank
whisked them from the airport to the Welcome Party.
Finally, at 9:35 PM we landed at the LAX
airport. A sigh of relief for Annie and me. We will definitely be at the hotel
by 10:30 PM, at the latest. With Efren on the wheels of our rented car and
Nilo navigating, we saw no reason for another delay. Just when we thought we
were on the right track, Efren missed our exit and we went in the wrong
After ricocheting the roads, we finally made
it to Quality Inn Hotel in Anaheim. Just then, we met Thea Reyes Aguilar,
Norma and husband Frank leaving the hotel premises. They were being escorted
by Rollie Siwa. “What? The party is over!” we gasped. “It is 12:30
AM!” Rollie announced. “The guys are still partying but the ladies had
to call it a night”, Rollie added. So up to the 7th floor Rollie lead us.
To my delight and pleasure, Letty and Myrna were still partying with hubbies
Romy and Oscar. Rudy Mariano, Ace Lotuaco, Rudy Alvarez, Fort dela Pena
(husband of Conchita Palomo) and Ben Siwa completed the group.
Having one drink too many, the usually
quiet Rudy Mariano was so highly-spirited that he invited everyone to their
beautiful home in Virginia. My kumpadre Oscar repeatedly reminded Efren
that they should stay together during the duration of the reunion. Antiquated
stories were told by everybody. Romy showed no sign of jet lag; Rudy Alvarez
reinforced his claim of being the youngest and the most handsome of the lot.
Efren, Nilo, Ace and Ben peppered the group with their jokes and the ever
thoughtful Rollie and Fort saw to it that our gastronomic needs were met. The
quaint simplicity of the evening compensated for the many hours of delay. We
had so much fun, and the small group party lasted until 3:30 AM.
(Editor's Note: Day's photos,
July 15, 2000 - Saturday
The late lunch hosted by the Grajos was an
occasion for the four gentlemen from the Philippines (Romy, Oscar, Manuelito
and Efren) to rekindle friendship with their classmates who are now residing
the U.S. After 42 years they reunited with Emmanuel Pablo, Nydia Mabalay
Tinawin, Luisinia Labios Uytingco, Victoria Malgapo Mogan and Teresita
Pangilinan Alvarez (classmates who were unable to attend the 1998 Philippine
reunion). For the graduates traveling from the EastCoast and the Midwest, it
was yet another joyous moment to re-acquaint with classmates from the West
For myself, it was a time to make new friends. There is nothing more
flattering than to be approached by a person whom one has not met before and
have them introduce themselves. I cannot forget how in the 1998 reunion, Esper
Magbitang Tanghal did that, and the same gesture was repeated at this year’s
reunion by an equally charming person, Tessie Pangilinan Alvarez.
The gracious hostesses, Norma and very
able assistant Thea, were like two magicians concocting sumptuous dishes to
complete this diverse Filipino and American smorgasbord. At another table was
a variety of desserts provided by the other Californians. As it was our
practice in the Metro Manila group to have a common celebration for classmates
born on the same month, Efren and I decided to surprise birthday celebrants,
Myrna Vallarta, Annie Dionisio, Norma A. Grajo and Rudy Mariano with a
birthday cake. After dinner, Thea took on yet another role as she and Frank
set the tone for group singing, dancing and merrymaking. She led everyone to
the dance floor to do the Rumba, Cha-cha and other Latin American dances.
(Editor's Note: Day's photos,
July 16, 2000 - Sunday
Being an agenda-free day, most participants
made arrangements to meet relatives and and friends living in nearby towns.
With the Philippine group wanting to cover and see as much attractions and
amusement parks as possible, some of the U. S. alumni needed to decide where
to go and who to join. After much deliberation, a "Universal Studios Group”
was formed. Romy,Letty, Myrna, Oscar, Tessie, Manuelito, Efren and myself were
escorted by Annie, Nilo, Chit, Fort, Victoria and husband Conrad for a day
tour of the famous tourist destination.
At the Universal Studios, we walked the
grounds where well-known films were shot. We rode the bike with “E.T.”; went
“Back to the Future” with “Doc”; fought our way against the “Terminator”;
escaped from “Jurassic Park”; and got all soaked in the “Waterworld”.
Heading back to the hotel, plans for
the next day’s activities were already being mapped. Too exhausted to stop by
for dinner, we headed back to our hotel rooms. Not too long after we got to
our room, Tessie Alvarez came with fresh California fruits. Then Rollie and
wife, alumna Linda Baguisa Siwa and Esper dropped by delivering a variety of
Mexican Tacos. When Esper and Linda learned about the next day’s planned
activity, they graciously offered to join and host the Disney tour.
(Editor's Note: Day's photos,
July 17, 2000 - Monday
Starting early on the last day of the
reunion, the same "Universal Studios Group” , joined by Esper, Erlinda and
Rollie, headed for Disneyland as early as 8 AM. On this outing, Fort and Chit,
who needed a much deserved rest day, begged for time off.
At Disneyland, we traveled to the “Fantasy
Land” where we watched excerpts from “Beauty and the Beasts”; participated in
the Disney parade; ate cotton candies and ice cream; took a boat ride with
“Huckleberry”; shrieked as “Honey Shrunk the Kids”; and fought with Darth
Vander in “Star Wars”.
In the evening the formal dinner party was
held. It was a first in a U.S. reunion. At the helm to welcome the alumni,
their spouses and guests were Cecilia Yamsuan Rodriquez and Violy Lotuaco
(wife of Ace). The evening was formally opened by singing the Philippine
National Anthem followed by the Star Spangled Banner. It was the most poignant
moment of the reunion. It was a display of how high a person can soar and
still have roots planted firmly on the grounds from where he/she grew up from.
After Ace's welcome address, the Philippine
constituency responded and thanked the organizers on making their trip a very
memorable one. As the next reunion’s venue, which is Virginia, was announced,
designated Reunion Coordinator Rudy Mariano and wife Lina, promised to make
the next affair equally a great success. Dancing, picture-taking and
gift-giving followed the evening’s dinner segment.
Before the culmination of the evening
affair, Ace invited everybody to their suite -- to celebrate Annie Dionisio’s
birthday which happens to be on that same day -- for desserts.
(Editor's Note: Day's photos,
July 18, 2000 - Tuesday
The reunion activities were extended for an
extra half-a-day when the Northeast Group (the Dionisios, Lotuacos, dela Penas
and Marianos) hosted a breakfast for all reunion attendees the following
morning. After this last affair, it was check-out time from Quality Inn. As
goodbyes were said, mixed feelings were in the air. Some were sad that it was
parting time once more; while others were already planning for the next
reunion in Virginia. Still others were busy coordinating the hosting of
classmates Romy, Letty, Oscar and Myrna for their extra days of stay in the
July 30, 2000 - Sunday
Back with our children in New Jersey, at
dinner time one Sunday, Efren was telling interesting tidbits about the
reunion. One of our daughters asked “Were you that close to each other when
you were in school?” Pausing for a moment, Efren said, “No, just like
other high school students, we each had our own barkada (peer group) and as a
matter of fact, even classmates from the same section may or may not have been
that close. But now we are like brothers and sisters”.
There was so much truth to what my husband
said. During the four days reunion in Anaheim, I saw how much the class is
like a big family that grew up “under one roof” (of the Nueva Ecija South
High School). Like brothers and sisters, each is unique with individual
differences. Growing up in the same school, they learned the same values and
discipline. Like other siblings, they moved on and found their own lives. As
with any family, one wonders why at times a joke is taken as a joke and other
times, when the same joke is cracked, it is not taken as such. When there is a
misunderstanding between siblings, they confer to resolve differences.
The NESHS Class '58 is a unique class. I
salute them for still learning how to improve the relationships they have
started in their formative years. Truly it is this ability in each one that
makes the NESHS Class of '58 a “class act”.