Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Losing Nina

I wanted to write about her since the week she died, but I didn't get to. There was that hole-like something inside me since that moment that I read this message on the night of November 8, 2011 from our classmate Vicky Pagsibigan in our group site:

Re: [fabfourone70] Carolina B. Cruz


The next day, I opened her account at Facebook and posted this on her wall- wishing that somehow, she would know that I mourn her death-

How do we say goodbye to a dear, dear friend who did not want to bother us with all her worries and pains and instead kept them all to herself? It's pretty difficult. I will miss you, Nina. I will forever treasure our days together at Marcelo; our days at T-170B, UP Diliman; the semester we spent together in your aunt's apartment in Cataluna St., in Sampaloc, wading into the floodwaters of Espana as we go to Diliman for our classes; your assistance to my son at BSU; the little secrets we shared; your gentle ways. You've been an angel here on earth. No doubt the Lord has a special place for you in heaven.
Like ·  · See Friendship · November 9 at 6:49am ·

I last spoke to her on the phone sometime in July this year- when Yollie Torres, another classmate, came for a short visit. That call was for her to attend a dinner with Yollie, hosted by our class valedictorian, Vic Mariano, who has just been appointed DOST Regional Director for Reg. 3 then. She begged off saying she is still recuperating from an illness. It showed in her voice so I did not insist. Her last outing with our classmates was in 2005, when Angie San Pedro went home for a quick visit and a little later, when Frank Santiago came home to bury his mother in Hagonoy.

When we went to UP together, along with a number of our classmates, Nina took up Business Administration. She was persuading me to shift to BA, but it was her who ended up shifting to BSE, major in Math. There were times during our college years when my Tatay and I would come over to their house in Sto. Rosario, Malolos. I distinctly remember one time when we were served nilagang gabi with niyog and asukal by her parents. It was so good I took note of it and made it a regular merienda fare at home, until now.

She has been sick for while, owing to the fact that her heart is not functioning so well. She even asked me once to go with her to see my son's heart doctor. But it never happened. For some reason, she changed her mind about seeking another opinion. According to her eldest sister, there was a need to replace a valve in her heart, a procedure she did not undergo. It must have been so painful and heartbreaking for her mother, sister, brother, nephews and nieces to lose her within a month of her younger sister Choly's death. She and Choly had the exact, same heart condition. She was buried alongside the graves of her father Andres and her sister Choly. The family lost two daughters with the same medical condition in less than a month's time. Life is really strange.

Goodbye for now, dear Nina. Your time has come while we, the ones you left behind, have no way of knowing when ours will come. But your death is a reminder to us that we have to live each day to the fullest, after all, it's the only life we've got.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Finding Rachel

She wasn’t really lost. I just lost track of her.

Rachel Recomono was my boardmate at 103 Valenzuela St., Area 2, UP Diliman, Quezon City. It was one of those row houses inside the UP campus, then occupied by Mrs. Nenita Ocampo, a math professor, and her family. There were six boarders occupying three double deck beds in one of the two rooms in that house. I recall that I was there ahead of Rachel. Although we both entered the university in 1970, we did not have a chance to be classmates even in a single general education subject. I was taking up BSE, she was pursuing AB Mass. Comm.

Rachel and I had different circles of friends, owing to our respective courses, but it became easy for us to befriend each other. In fact, as our stay in that boarding house progressed, we became a threesome with a much younger student, Joy Versoza.  The three of us shared an experience which has now become a memory, one which a wise man said is like wild violets, better oft left untouched.

After graduation in 1975, I stayed one more year in that house, which I loved so much, since I was accepted at the high school department of Maryknoll College. Joy was still with me then. Rachel went on carving her own future, but we had no cue as to what she was into at the time. When I decided to get married in 1976, I wanted very much to have both her and Joy in the entourage. Since I did not know where she was then, I ended up having only Joy as my bridesmaid. She should have been the other one.

Sometime after my marriage, I was surprised when she came to my hometown and asked around about my whereabouts. We hugged each other so tightly when she was guided by a neighbor into my in laws’ house where my husband and I were staying. We spent the afternoon just chatting on the second floor of the house.  Then she was gone again.

In the early 80’s, she again surprised me by coming over, this time to a house where I, my husband and three children were staying. I was overjoyed upon seeing her again and learning that she was then with UNESCO in Paris, France. She, in fact, brought me a bottle of red wine then. Early on, she has sent me some pictures of her taken with the Eiffel Tower as the background.  My daughter Timmy was still a little girl then, and up till now, she remembers that in that visit, her Tita Rachel gave her a lavender bag, which I know is just somewhere in our closets, since neither Tim nor I don’t just throw away things given to us.

Many years passed and we lost track of each other. When I learned how to work on the internet, I tried looking for her in as many ways as I knew how. On Facebook, I tried dropping some messages to people surnamed Recomono but I did not get positive results. In fact, I wrote a certain Rach Recomono, whose name I thought may have come from my friend’s name, but I did not get a reply. I was disappointed, but I very well understood her since I was a total stranger. One time I searched linked.com and found there a Rachel Recomono from France  without an email address. Since the name was part of a group, I tried emailing one with an address. The lady replied that the Rachel Recomono she knows was a 22 year old student and might not be the one I was looking for based on my given description.

Life went on.

Until Thursday, November 25, 2011. I was about to shut off the computer when I remembered checking my email for messages coming from my husband’s clients in Saudi Arabia and in Canada. I no longer email my friends since all of us are in Facebook, anyway. As I opened my inbox, my attention was caught by one from a Rachel Apertiti with the subject Rachel Recomono. It turned out it was my friend Rachel’s daughter and she was giving me the address where I can communicate with her mom. Somewhere in my inbox was another email, this time from Rachel Jakubowicz, the Rachel I knew, telling me she discovered my blog through her daughter. After an exchange of short emails, we are linked once again. Now we are reconnected. And it was such a blessing my heart overflows with so much happiness.

I was looking for Rachel, but she found me, instead!

Now I remember again the Rachel I knew. She -with that very voluptuous body (she loves figure hugging shirts which she carried with aplomb), with hair so fine and so long. She who reads and reads very thick paper bound novels  in between her  school activities. She who goes to the beach alone to unwind. She who loved "Harry" or Cliff Richard with all her heart. She who said I was a good letter writer which made me think I can write, even if the topics are limited to my own experiences. It was Rachel who brought me all the way to her aunt’s house in Olongapo City one week end without my father’s knowledge.  If it wasn’t her, my very smart and audacious friend, who talked me into going there, I would not have gone. Rachel was so gutsy and fearless I knew I was safe in her company. As I write this, I recall bits and pieces of the many times we would go to her place in Pasig, near the kapitolyo, especially that one time when her mother cooked chicken adobado for us- a Bicolano fare. Both I and Rachel have Bicolano roots- maybe it was one of the reasons why despite the years of being apart, our hearts remained connected.

I know I won’t lose Rachel again. I just have to remember-

"We all lose friends...we lose them in death, to distance and over time.
But even though they may be lost, hope is not. The key is to keep them in
your heart, and when the time is right, you can pick up the friendship right
where you left off. Even the lost find their way home when you leave
the light on." - Amy Marie Walz