BY DEBBIE ALMOCERA
Last weekend friends from Chicago and West Virginia came to visit, and as usual, we had a great time cooking (mostly them), eating (mostly I), and laughing. Those of you who are familiar with Filipino get-togethers know that this cyclical pattern of eating and laughing is not uncommon. The opportunity to be with people you know very well, preparing food you grew up with but offensive to your neighbor’s olfactory senses, and laughing hysterically over inside jokes told over and over again, is priceless.
Most of the blabbering going on in these gatherings focused on the “good old times”, and the “OMG she/he did what?” moments. Talking about friends who are not present in the shindig is imperative if not downright exciting. Mind you, we do warn them that not showing up means granting us unmitigated permission to talk about them. Their absence would serve as additional spice to our delicious entrée’s. And so forgive us, but you didn’t show up.
I make no excuses for gossiping about my dear old friends, as I know that they would do the same thing with me. Having known my friends for so long, I actually feel flattered to have them reminisce about me and my boring existence. We talk about those who didn’t come, not to poke fun at them, nor to make us look good, (as usually the case for gossip), but mainly because we miss them and nothing would make the party more meaningful to us than their presence.
We talk about the past reminiscent of the commitments we shared, and the dedication to a cause we strongly believed in. We immerse ourselves in those times again, reliving the experiences, laughing at our follies, and talking about the “strategic stalemate” that never happened. At that time, we never imagined we would have a life so drastically different from what we thought we were heading towards. Some of us even thought our lives were already “planned” and laid out for us. Still, a few of us, managed to pursue other dreams, thought of as reflective of our decedent bourgeoisie background. A few remained unnerved by the uncertainty of the political times and continued to demonstrate advocacy to a cause they would continue to fight for.
I like to think that we are not forgotten, nor are we forgetting those who stood by us, side by side in the main thoroughfares of Cebu and Manila, and other major cities in the country. We marched and made noise, and declared with resolute conviction and uncompromising stance, our dedication to the ideals we believed in. We showed courage in confrontation, debated and argued our case with confidence and un-relentless passion. We defied people of authority and challenged the status quo. We declared that academic institutions are a hindrance to our real education. We lost some friends. We were there, and no one could argue that we made an impact.
But what have we really learned in those years of “struggle”. Now that we sit in our air-conditioned offices, order food to be delivered when we’re “too busy” to leave the office, take vacation days “to get away”, and most of all,make sure we send our kids to the best schools, when we didn’t believe in “education”?
As my friend from West Virginia would say, we learned to appreciate the value of sharing, the importance of sacrifice, and the art of simple living. We may have comfortable homes with all the amenities we only dreamed of once upon a time, but the greatest fun we had was sleeping on the floor with barely a blanket to warm us, sharing pillows and laughter, and yes, fruit salad .
So we like to get together, to eat and laugh, knowing that we once shared a cause that changed our lives. And we remember those who are not with us, but wished they were. We know that if you could only show up, you would. Meantime, we will talk about you, as if you were there.
Debbie Almocera is a licensed therapist working in the behavioral medicine department of one of the largest hospitals in St. Louis, Missouri. For her, there has not been a more fulfilling and rewarding career than the one she has now. She can be reached at email@example.com