Author Estrella Reyes
December 23, 1998 was the date when I moved from the East Coast to the West
Coast, in San Jose, California. A week before this date, I spent some time
with Norma Afable Grajo’s family in Anaheim, California. During my stay in
Anaheim, Norma made arrangement that I should meet all the L.A. alumni (such
as Nydia Mabalay Tinawin, Luisinia Labios Uytingco, Cecilia Yamsuan Rodriguez
and Emmanuel Pablo) with their spouses.
We had a heavy dinner since everyone brought something (potluck). After a long
conversation, we sat down and talked about the year 2000 reunion. The group
asked me to share with them what when Chit and myself hosted the New
Jersey\New York reunion in 1997. The group proposed and made plans for the
July 2000 reunion.
Time flew and the reunion has arrived.
Once again, I was invited by Frank and Norma
Grajo to stay with them during the 4-day reunion. I arrived on July 12th with
my daughter Eileen (and her two sons). I also invited my younger brother Romy
(from New York) to join us on this most awaited event.
The reunion participants arrived on Friday
the 14th from all over the States. From Chicago: Rolando & Erlinda Siwa;
Esperanza Magbitang Tanghal (Jess could not make it); Benedicto & Dina Siwa
(with son, daughter-in-law & grandchildren). From New jersey: Mernilo & Annie
Dionisio, Fort & Conchita dela Pena; and Efren & Vicki Pascual. From Maryland:
Horatio & Violy Lotuaco. From Chesapeake, Virginia: Rodolfo & Lina Mariano.
From San carlos, California: Rodolfo & Teresita Alvarez. From San Jose,
California: Victoria Malgapo and hubby Conrad. I was so happy to find out that
Victoria is also a San Jose resident just like me.
The arrival of the Philippine residents such
as Gen. Romeo A. Padiernos & Letty; Oscar & Myrna Vallarta; and Manuelito &
Teresita Matias added excitement to the event.
Frank and Norma put up a simple but
warm “Welcome” party
for all the participants at the Quality Comfort Inn where every out-of-towners
registered to lodge. We were already having fun just talking to one another,
sipping sparkling wine and nibbling on yummy finger foods that delighted the
participants. The hostess then announced a merienda cena invitation at their
house the following day, Saturday.
Teya holding court in the kitchen.
Come Saturday, it seemed that everybody’s time clocks were ahead of ours
because people started arriving at lunchtime. I was caught by surprise since
Norma and Frank were not yet home at the time. My worries faded when I saw the
guests enjoying our “famous” dinuguan and garlic shrimps.
Some time later that afternoon, it was
time for the business meeting of all alumni held in the rec room upstairs. The
most important agenda in the meeting was the next U.S. reunion. After a long
discussion, the majority voted that the Class’ 44th Reunion will be held at
Chesapeake, Virginia in the year 2002. Hosts will be Rudy and Lina Mariano. It
was also decided by the group that the “Grand
Comeback Reunion” to the Philippines will be in
The U.S. residents suggested a cooler month
to hold the 2003 reunion to avoid the hot summer in Gapan which we experienced
in May 1998. The participation of the Philippine residents, during the
business meeting, gave us a clear view that we should go on doing our reunion.
I could still remember that Benedicto Siwa quoted clearly that “We are not
getting any younger, nobody knows how long we could meet again. So why don’t
we do it while we still have the chance to see each other”.
After a long period of exchanging, proposing
and suggesting ideas, we finally agreed with Benedicto. At that point an
announcement was made by the chef that dinner is set with gourmet foods
catered by Meding, a relative of Norma, who is also from Gapan.
We had lots of fun conversing, singing and
dancing. The dance expert Rudy Mariano headed some line dancing and “train
dancing”. We also mastered the famous “chicken dance”.
The next day, July 15th, was a Sunday.
Everyone wanted to go sightseeing. But first we went to attend Sunday church.
After church, everyone went on their own to different directions like
Disneyland, Universal Studios and other places of their choice.
Monday, July 16th, was agreed to be a “free
day” for each person to do what they wanted to do in the morning, but should
be back for the 6:00 PM highlight of the reunion. For my family’s “free day”,
my brother Romy insisted to travel quite far to have a new lunch experience at
the San Pedro Seafood Place. The restaurant prepares your choice of live
crabs, shrimps, lobsters, fish, etc. and dine in an open deck by the sea.
There were souvenir stores where I decided to pick-up the send off gifts,
courtesy of the U.S. residents, for the Philippine residents.
We, the L.A. group came much earlier to the
hotel’s venue hall for the 6:00 PM dinner-dance affair. Cecilia Yamsuan
Rodriguez was in charge of the flower arrangements, Luisinia Labios Uytingco
with the balloons, and Nydia Mabalay Tinawin also has an assignment.
By 6 o’clock, everyone came on time.
Everybody looked great in their best outfit. The toastmaster, Norma, allowed
everyone to enjoy the sumptuous dinner with lively music playing, before she
started the short program.
The program started with the playing of the
U.S. and Philippine national anthems. This was followed by a shot invocation.
Everyone was given a few minutes to share in. There were also games
participated by everyone. There were also some “Thank You” speeches
from the U.S. residents led by Ace Lotuaco and responded by Philippine
residents led by Gen. Romeo A. Padiernos. The speech of Linda Baguisa Siwa was
very touching, inspiring and unforgettable.
The music was non-stop. Almost everyone was
on the dance floor. The time did come that we have to stop. But the fun did
not end there.
to the music! ...Line
dancing for all
From the function hall, we all moved to Ace and Violy’s suite to continue the
happening. At the suite, we again set the tables with cakes, pies, lots of
other things and wine to celebrate Annie Dionisio’s birthday. Tessie
Pangilinan entertained the group with beautiful songs from the Broadway play
“Phantom of the Opera” and the movie “Titanic”. She also sang a
song dedicated to her beloved husband, Rudy Alvarez.
I could not remember what time we ended the
evening but I clearly recall that we are going to meet again in the morning at
breakfast time in one of the banquet halls of the hotel. The group breakfast
is a treat to everybody by the Northeast group and my brother Romy.
Siwa & Company
“Goodbye” is always a sad part of our reunion but in any story there is
always an end. Like the saying “parting is a sweet sorrow”, but we will
always reminisce the wonderful memories we have ahd during our 4-day reunion.
Farewell, so long friends and classmates.
Until our next reunion in 2002 in Chesapeake, Virginia. See you there …!
picture for the memory album