By Marivir R. Montebon
I just concluded a perfect summer vacation in Florida, with fabulous college buddies and new ones. As I write, I still marvel at my sun-tanned skin which rarely happened in my eight years of stay in the Big Apple. And my heart smiles in gratitude for the friendships I have in good and worst of times.
It was my first time to be in the sunshine state. Oh boy, it was hot. I fell in love with Florida immediately because of its warm sea and friendly people. My daughter Nikki and I looked at each other in awe, how so many times people smiled and greeted us along the lobby of the condominium on Redington Shores. I pinched myself and said, yup, I am not in New York these days.
There were ten of us converging in this vacation-reunion – Zurita and Oscar, Kitty and Loloy, Rose and Tony, Nikki, and our gracious hosts Debbie and Rob. Respectively, we were contigents from West Virginia, Chicago, Florida, New York, and Missouri coming together for fun, food, swim, and a lot of laughter in mid-July.
Except for Nikki, our paparazzi, we’re all in our golden years, therefore, understandably on high traveling mode mientras arthritic pain and other bodily challenges are still kept at bay. We all walked the beach together in the mornings of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, save for Oscar who ran.
I cracked the first silly inquiry on Friday morning, trying to confirm if I was really in a beach front in America and there were no alligators. “Is this salt water? Can you taste it, anak?,” I asked Kitty and Nikki. Bwahahaha, the mischievous two laughed. “No, this is sea salt caramel, Marivir.”
Our days of fun had just begun.
Kitty made fried rice and bacon for Friday brunch. I was confident to have perfected my scrambled eggs and cheese omelet.
But all throughout the vacation, Oscar was our chief cook. With his culinary magnificence, he could actually pass for executive chef, with Zurita as his dependable side kick. He made the best sutukil in the world. These were sugba, tuwa, kilaw dishes (grilled, soup, and raw fish) that were to die for.
He also let us taste his Hawaiian-inspired salmon dish called ‘Poke’. In our Visayan language, the word means female genitalia. We all enjoyed eating the divine ‘Poke’ which tasted so good and could not help but laugh too.
The birds and the beach were the steady attraction in our vacation. The warm sea was such a delight for someone living in New York whose sea is ice cold despite the summer months. I swam for four straight days in the joyous company of the biyatches and pelicans.
According to Kitty, biyatches are the new bitches on the beach. We all glamorously mimicked biyatches.
Like a flock, we not only swam together, we strolled together too in St. Petersburg on Friday and Disney Springs in Orlando on Saturday. We dropped Nikki at the Universal Studios for her to enjoy the long desired Harry Potter Park as we headed to downtown Disney. It was her advance birthday gift. I wished that magic wand that she bought worked, so all of us will be on vacation everyday.
At the Lava Lounge, all of us women were seated on one table and talked of what we did in college, up to how we should be buried. Even in discussing about the inevitable death, we were giggling.
Zurita said cremation is a good option, so people could not see and criticize her hair and make-up inside the coffin. We’re all in for cremation to cut on cost. Zurita said her ashes will have to be placed in Oscar’s golf bag. That’s eternal togetherness, I suppose.
And Kitty said she will not allow visitors to see her when she will be so sick. Pwera bisita, pwera bisita, she waved her hand as we roared in laughter. Bang! – the restaurant’s volcano spewed lava as if to cheer us with this pragmatic consciousness.
Over brunch on Sunday, we discussed about our retirement village which will likely be in Cebu. It has to have a social hall (at least for Kitty’s zumba classes) and a swimming pool. And my payag must have wifi.
We all agreed to work on this retirement hood just before we packed up and went back to our work places. In between the serious matters of retirement, establishing our lives as immigrants and raising kids, we reminisced the crazy days of youth and deplored politics.
It was a wonderful break beyond my expectation. Nikki loves and respects us more. Ah, to age with friends and to wisen up is a lovely journey. The happy memories of Florida rush to my mind like the gentle waves kissing the sand. I know it’s salt water.