September 2004 Edition Vol. 4 Issue 8
An Internet Newsletter publication for all CIM Alumni and friends.
Clem S. Estrera, Jr., M.D.
Ma. Belen Rosales, M.D.
Ray Castillejo, M.D.
The CIM 1972 Celebration of Life
Cle S. Estrera, Jr.
Heaven can wait
As the tension builds up in that person, he becomes vulnerable to the vagaries of chaos and confusion, being overwhelmed by life’s schedules and priorities, and he would be coming home with a stiff neck and a throbbing or a dull aching headache. Frustration becomes a daily routine and mood swing, a natural event. A minor irritation readily gets under his skin. It’s like his spirit is burning out that unless it undergoes some form of fun and relaxation therapy, it would soon whither like a delicate leaf of a houseplant exposed to the scorching heat of the summer sun.
Struggling to make some sense of his life, he begins to wonder, “What are my friends and classmates doing now?” But his classmates and friends are probably wondering the same thing too. So his urge to recreate and recapture those days that provided fond memories begins to surge and once the urge has surged, it maintains its momentum that when an opportunity develops, he’s excited to take it like a duckling being attracted to a pond. As though he is about to capture and hold the world in his hands, he begins to feel the flush and blush of relief and release, and he says to himself: “Heck … Heaven can wait!” Then while driving he could not resist singing with this song coming from his car stereo: “All I want to do is have some fun… I’ve got the feeling I’m not the only one!...”
There were those days in the past in many of us during which the present is all that matters and every one derives pleasure from it as though yesterday simply fades or slowly vanishes like the sunset glow of an evening horizon. Desires are simple and choices are clear. Needs are few and expectations are less. Worries and fears are seldom and limited, and yet when the dawn of the new day comes they disappear like shadows of the night as though one realizes that the shapes of his worries and the forms of his fears are only the ghosts of his own mind. He knows that if he could go back and change things the way they should have been, he would. But since he can’t, he at least tries to make the most of what he’s got and whatever time he’s got left. Thus what becomes more important to him is the here and now, and something he can look forward to with excitement like being with classmates and friends that can enrich his heart with pleasant emotions and his mind with fond memories.
Those precious fond memories of yesterday are great sources of mental and emotional strengths that can serve as spiritual balms to soothe one’s mood and soften one’s attitude in times of tension and turmoil. They help achieve balance and maintain life’s rhythm of ebb and flow, providing a person with the calmness and coolness to confront head-on whatever life puts before him. They enhanced his sense of order in the warp and the woof of life so that even when the world around him goes insane, in his solitude, he finds his own sanity, smiling and even laughing at the fond memories of yesterday. Then he begins to sing as if life is like a song: “How do you keep the music playing? How do you make it last?….How do you keep the song from fading… too fast?...”
The fun begins
There is nothing more heart-warming than seeing many of your own classmates who haven’t seen each other for years grinning and so excited just to see each other, and there is nothing more exhilarating than to hear their friendly chatter and frequent laughter like children so excited to start their game. From different states in the U.S., some as far as California and some near Ohio, they came to Lorain in the Buckeye State with mainly one objective in mind and that is to see and reconnect with each other, for there was no agenda circulated, no plans of activities cooked and no program of whatever kind developed, not even a food menu. To them, seeing each other is more than just fun. There is a sense of awe, gratitude, gravity, glee, gladness, as though it’s a chance to hit a grand slam or win a grand prize. And they got more than what they bargained for. Not only that the atmosphere was saturated with the clean air of joy and elation, it was also soaked with the sweet tears of laughter. Those whose spiritual sinuses were clogged with the weariness of work, the monotony of life’s daily routines, and the disturbing mucus of life’s worries and uncertainties, cleared like for the first time they got a breath of fresh air. To have even a sniff of that air, I myself would not miss it for the world.
Many of us of the CIM Class 1972 may not have been good friends in those younger days, may have differences that are hard to bury, misunderstanding that nags like a toothache when one thinks about it, dislike and disagreement between each other that make one gag to remember, but this opportunity of seeing each other in merriment, to feast, to drink, to dance, to share stories and humorous experiences and to laugh, has given every one of us the means to make fun of the differences and discomforts of the past, and laugh. Instead of making some of us wary, they become fond memories of yesterday. And what a fun it was.
Edward and Vivian made some preparation many of us never expected. They hired a dance instructor to teach us different line dancing. The dance instructor is wonderful. She was patient, flexible and has a good sense of humor. She sincerely wanted us to learn and her game and pleasant attitude gave us some confidence. Thus we spent Saturday and Sunday afternoon dancing. It was encouraging because some of us don’t know dancing from walking and at least we were on the same level. Despite our awkwardness and rigidity, we went on and as we danced on, the bump against each other became less frequent. But I was more encouraged to dance when I saw Jesus Siady having a good time even if he was struggling with the dance steps.
Somehow, in every dance, the turning is almost always the one that gives us a fit. No matter how many times we are being shown the trick, if we are able to turn correctly, the timing is off. Dodong Mercado and Maning Juson said that it’s easier to study and pass the FLEX than to learn to dance. So they played mahjong.
A celebration of life
It often takes a person late into the middle age to realize that life should be a celebration, not a battery of stress and a series of anxieties and frustrations. We have always been invited, you and I, to participate in the celebration of life – to be present – one to another, and that’s all that’s expected of us. Living fully is celebrating our ties to one another - to our friends, to people dear to us – and our need for one another’s presence to complete our own. We capture life’s gifts, its riches, when we are intent to enjoy the company of friends and those who are dear to us. We miss what we most need when our hearts and minds are distracted, dismayed or disabled by doubts, cynicisms and hesitations.
In some research done on a group of retired executives who did not succumb to heart problems, many of these executives said that since they graduated college, they worked so hard into their retirement and didn’t have much time for friends and families, but they were so glad to have a BMW. Now that they retired, they are so glad just to have a BM. I guess they also did not have time for their basic elimination needs and so their bowels are giving up and are probably complaining: “We can’t do this anymore.” Their bowels now get readily stuffed up and thus they find comfort with the daily prunes or a bottle of MOM, and a colonoscopy every year. Instead of humming some happy tune in the toilet, they groan. With a lot more exertion needed, sweat, tears and mucus flow before the crap comes out, but with blood. It reminds you of what General Patton was called - Blood and Guts.
But our good friend Maning Juson is absolutely sure that he will have no problem in that department. All he does is see the sign of the M of MacDonald Restaurant and that does it for him. It’s good that he did not check-in at the hotel we were in, because at the back of the hotel is a big MacDonald Restaurant. His wife Billy would have been very busy changing his diaper. Just kidding.
As fun-loving alumni, a celebration of life has been what many of us of the Class 1972 had yearned for, wished for and had finally come to find. Every one of us was having a great time during our get-together in Ohio this past long Labor Day weekend. With the karaoke, we sang. With the dance instructor, we danced. We are never short of talents and when it comes to singing, Del Quijano is the most talented among us. In fact, if it’s the first time you hear Del singing, you are going to ask: “Who’s that?” and you’d go look and see not just to confirm who’s singing but also to listen with fascination. Even Delia, the love of his life for more than 30 years, still stops and listens with wonder to Del singing.
A short program
Under the guidance of Rori Tompar-Tiu, we had some kind of impromptu program on Saturday night in which we, the gentlemen, stayed downstairs and sang to the ladies up the hallway upstairs with Bisayan songs like “Pahaluka Ko Day” with the ladies responding “Haluk Lang Sa Uban.” It brought us back to the days we used to sing the words of love and admiration that we had a hard time expressing in front of the girl we admire or fall for. Only this time it’s more therapeutic because it's for fun and it pops the cork that keeps the years of tension bottled in.
Even Doming Ong, our CIM alumni president, also a member of the Class 1972 who, I believe did not expect to have such so much fun, was having a ball. When it was the ladies’ turn to come downstairs to sing to the gentlemen upstairs, it was his idea to hide in the room and to walk like a penguin and then drop our pants to show our butts to the ladies as they started to sing. Every one of the ladies was shrieking with laughter that one of them tripped on something and almost fell down.
I don’t know about the rest of us but Ed, Joe, Pompei and I have to admit that we were a little bit disappointed, because it was the butt of Doming and Celso (Costelo), not ours, that the ladies were so excited to see and were wild about. We thought ours were the cutest, but sadly they were not. No wonder why Ray Castillejo, Louie Claudio and Benfer Aranton hesitated while Henry Clarite, Tony Lee, Jesus Siady and Jun Vitualla did not even unzip their fly, let alone drop their pants. They knew all along that there is no other butt that is cuter than that of Doming and Celso.
The ladies threw flowers at Doming and Celso, but some of the gentlemen were hoping that the ladies would throw their panties at them. Anyway, we collected coins and threw them down to the ladies below after they sang. Rori Tompar-Tiu, Marlie Pahilan, Leni Espiritu, Ibyang Litorja-Lumayag and Vivian Suico humored: “Thanks, Guys. We now have some funds for the CIM project.”
A short program
The celebration was great because everything was spontaneous. It was meaningful because it gave and showed us what friendship is all about and what it can do to our hearts and minds. It was powerful it swept our pleasant emotions away with the rise and fall of the happy sounds of the chorus of laughter. At times some of us wondered what makes us different, what raises us above the rest of the CIM alumni? Nothing really that we can think of except perhaps our love of life, of laughter, of fun and the unshakable desire to be with each other for a celebration.
Rori Tompar-Tiu delivered a beautiful poem she learned when she was still in fourth or fifth grade. That was a very long time ago but she had it in her memory like its part of her daily life. I was amazed to know that Rori could recite a poem like a great poet. It was a moving poem especially that Rori recited it with feeling. She was serious and sincere that some of us listened to her with our mouth opened.
Rori’s poem was followed by Joe Graciosa’s re-affirmation of love for Elena. Joe stood up to say beautiful and endearing words as his way of re-affirming his undying love for Elena. Joe said that the day Elena said “Yes” to him was the happiest day of his life. We could see it in their eyes how much they love each other. Maning Juson whispered: “Love is blind, but only the blind cannot see.” What he meant was that being lovers, Joe and Elena were far from being blind. They knew from the start that they are really meant for each other.
Hector Vamenta presented us with his balak. Hector is the only one that I know of from the Philippines who has been in the U.S. for many years and yet hasn’t lost his great command of the Bisayan dialect. He seems to simply snatch those deep Bisayan words from out of thin air and then put them together spontaneously in rhyme and rhythm that years ago must have mesmerized the young ladies he presented his balak to and sent some of them to the toilet peeing. His balak still has that mesmerizing effect but it’s its funny part that made the ladies’ bladder leak.
The Ring of Friendship
Before Rori left on Sunday evening, she conducted a unique ceremony called the Ring of Friendship she said she learned when she was a girls’ scout. This ceremony is unique in its simplicity, meaningful in its gravity. Rori said that it was routinely done at the end of their girl’s scout camp. I did think the ceremony came from the American natives or Indians. Regardless, it was a unique experience at least for those of us who paid serious attention to it.
We formed what is called the Ring of Friendship by crossing our right hand over the left to hold each other’s hands forming a ring or a circle. Once the ring is formed, an absolute silence for at least few minutes is required not just to achieve solemnity but also for every one to seriously think of and soon make one’s own personal wish. But Rori had a hard time achieving and maintaining silence because Celso Costelo kept whispering: “Ka-ototon man ko,” and Billy Juson would say, “Ayaw na mo ug pakatawa kay tingali ug maka-ihi ako.”
Being the hosts, the procedure would start and end with Edward and Vivian on a clockwise movement. Vivian is on the right of Edward. Once silence is achieved, Edward is to make his wish after which he would squeeze the hand his right hand is holding which is that of his friend to his left and that friend would make his wish and he would then squeeze the hand his right hand is holding, and so on to the next friend until the squeeze impulse would travel back to Vivian who, after making her own wish, would then make the final squeeze on Edward’s left hand completing the ring. But the impulse was delayed because instead of squeezing the hand of his friend to his left, Hector Vamenta kept squeezing back the hand that squeezed his. If it were the impulse of the Purkinje Conduction System of the heart, the EKG would show complete heart block.
At the end of the ceremony, Rori gave us a gift – a unique stone she got from Mexico as a remembrance or a stone of friendship – one for each couple and one for everyone else. We chose our own stone by sticking our fingers into a small bag and without looking in, feel the stone we preferred to have. My wife used the stone we had as a locket of her necklace.
The essence of the ceremony is to cement the bond of friendship, make it strong, unyielding and unbreakable. It’s like taking an oath or having a blood compact. It makes you feel you are bound to it if you take it seriously, and you should if you truly respect the bond of friendship. For the ceremony speaks of infinite bonding, of longing for closeness, of love of relationship and the feeling that all that makes our time worth spending is in the strength of that bond for us to respect or ignore, to cultivate or neglect.
I do believe it did the job. It gave me some pleasant feeling of awe, respect or reverence of the friendship we are having for each other. Despite my initial inability to make a wish, when my hand was squeezed, all of a sudden I was able to make one wish. And this is my wish: “I wish we will all be given a lot more years in this world so that we all can have more fun together.”
I don’t know if there is any other beautiful way to thank our most gracious hosts The Suicos – Edward, Vivian, Charlene and Vanessa - that can be expressed in words. For three days and three nights, they gave us everything in their house with such graciousness and hospitality that make us feel like it’s our second home. Indeed we felt at home the same way as we felt at home in Del and Delia Quijano’s residence in Pensacola, Florida during our first get-together last year. These couples whose hospitality is something to be admired and desired, gave us a wonderful sense of gratitude and an inner pride to know that they are one of us.
The Suicos treated every one like good old friends. Charlene who is so nice and respectful called us Aunts and Uncles and was always there ready to attend to whatever anyone of us needed. With all the cleaning, the cooking and the serving of tasty foods that are different each day, desserts and drinks, etc., not to mention the driving back and forth to the airport, other people may see such celebration as an inconvenience and a sacrifice for the hosts, but Edward and Vivian clearly showed that they see it as an opportunity to enjoy and celebrate with friends, and a rewarding experience.
Of all the few classmates I had never expected to tell funny jokes, Vivian is one of them. But to my surprise, Vivian entertained us by telling us so many funny jokes that made our throat sore and our rib cage ache. She was the counterpart of Pompei Jubay on the ladies’ side. But every one shared their jokes and their humorous life experiences with all of us.
Pompei’s ability to recall and tell jokes one after another like clockwork is a constant source of amazement. His knack of making every joke funny and his sense of humor often make my head shake in wonder. I can’t imagine, and I would not dare to, our Class get-together without him.
The house is big and beautiful inside and outside that I believe reflects the tender taste and the discriminating touch of the owners like it’s something they skillfully and diligently planned, designed and decorated not just as a great place to live but a home to be proud of. If the house is a young woman, then she’s what every young man would dream of – beauty and brain. The best way to describe it is - class. To me, a beautiful house like Ed and Vivian’s represents one’s hard work, ambition and determination. It’s a symbol of achievement, a fulfillment of one’s dream and desire.
Ed, Vivian, Vanessa and Charlene, on behalf of those of us of the Class 1972 who attended our class get-together, thank you so very much.
Also on behalf of those of the Class 1972 who attended our class get-together, I’d like to express my gratitude and appreciation to Billy Juson who devoted her time and effort to embroider T-shirts bearing our name and CIM Class 1972 that we were wearing during our get-together. It was a professional job Billy did. Anyway, I want to remind every one that the embroidery was free but the T-shirts were not. The T-shirts cost $10 each – whole sale price. If you forgot to give Billy your $10, please send your money to her. Embroidery is not Billy’s business. It’s her hobby.
Future Class 1972 Celebrations
We decided that our class get-together will be every other year. After all, we have the CIM alumni reunion every year. Our 2006 get-together will be in Wisconsin to be hosted by Joseph and Elena Graciosa. Our 2008 get-together will be in Missouri at Dodong and Ditas Mercado’s residence. The date will be the same – on long Labor Day weekend .
As already explained in the past, this kind of get-together is not possible in a hotel during any day or night of the CIM alumni reunion because of the loud noise we are making. Not too many people take too kindly a group of foreign graduates laughing out loud. This is possible only in a private residence.
If you are one of those members of the Class 1972 who have not attended any of the first two get-together and you still have some doubt and hesitation regarding attending our future get-together, just think of it as visiting and spending time with friends on a weekend, or going to a camp with them. All we can say if you are still hesitant is to try it once and then go from there rather than keep burying your heart under an avalanche of doubts and hesitations.
To most if not all of us, our class get-together is definitely therapeutic. But to those who haven’t yet attended, it really depends mainly on the way you see it and on whether or not you are willing to open just a little bit of your positive side to be able to see the goodness of everyone and everything. If not, then you’d be very hesitant to attend and you may only find yourself justifying your hesitation with excuses rather than reasons, and even with negative comments and criticisms, alienating yourself further. In the Disney movie Pollyanna, during the last sermon in the movie, the church minister says: “If you look for the good, you can find it. If you look for the bad, you can also find it.” Thus the question that each of us should ask ourselves as often as possible is this: "What has having found the bad done to us if it has not only made us a cynical and unhappy person?"
But what mainly made this get-together a blast are the excitement and cooperation of those who came – their unshakable desire to see and spend time to reconnect with each other and have fun, their years of longing to share stories, humorous experiences and jokes in order to laugh freely and heartily because they understand or have not forgotten that the chief business in life is living and the most important part of that business is laughing and having fun. It is this part that enriches our spirit because it enhances our love of life. Unfortunately, it is also this part that is often neglected and taken for granted by many people, leading frequently to a spiritual bankruptcy.
Indeed this part of the business of life rushed headlong through every one of us who attended our class 1972 get-together, seizing our joy and laughter, soaring with them. It’s like we were still in the age of foolish hopes grinning and laughing as though we knew all the secret details of human life and could care less whether the world is revolving or at a stand still. We laughed and laughed and laughed and thoroughly enjoyed our time together. Some couldn’t stop laughing until they had nothing left in their voice box or until they had to change their diaper.
We all came home with our own share of the profit of fond memories. It’s the only profit that you can squander anytime and still have what you want in the end so that in the winter of your life it’s still there for you to hang on to, to warm with a smile and even laughter rather than to be frozen bored, resigned and resentful, cursing a wasted past, leaving your spirit emaciated. It is this kind of profit that fosters a healthier perspective on all the situations of your lives. It keeps life empty of regrets and fills it with meaning. The best and simplest way of looking at such profit is - it adds days to your life and life to your days. And as the song continues: “With any luck, then I suppose … the music never ends…”
Dear Alumni & Friends,
After 32 years, I was so thrilled to meet some of our classmates, last seen during our CIM graduation in 1972. What a joy to renew friendship and to reminisce good/fun/hard times while in medical school. Thanks to Isabelo for your video tape presentation of the Caduceus pictures.
The venue of our class reunion was in the gracious home of Ed and Vivian Suico in Lorain, Ohio (September 3-6, 2004). Thank you so much Ed and Viv, and your housekeepers, for warm hospitality, generosity and of course, for the delicious Filipino/American/Chinese food - lechon, halo-halo, steak, lumpia, pritong buwad, nokos, paksiw, kinilaw, sikwati, empanada, insomada, pan-de-sal, bodbod, mais, mangoes, etc.
Special thanks to all who brought pasalobong food. Everyone felt the spirit of camaraderie and the joyful atmosphere filled with colorful jokes - "green, red, hot, chili, etc." The leading comedians were Pompei, Celso, Maning and Vivian. The best singer is Delano. The harana was orchestrated and led by Edward, Francis, Celso, Cle, Abe, Ray, Delano, Benfer, Mike, Henry, Louie, Maning, Pompei, Joseph, Hector, Jun and Doming. All the ladies responded to the harana from the balcony with their song "Si Filemon, si Filemon, namasul sa kadagatan." When the ladies sang their counterpartharana, the gentlemen in the balcony responded initially by showing off parts of the covered anatomy below the waistline. What a sight! (Someone reported she had a nightmare about it.) The men threw coins to the ladies who responded by throwing carnations - very romantic.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed the line dancing led by professional dance instructors hired by Vivian. Among the "star dancers" were Leni, Vivian, Zeny, Lucing, Lorna, Billy, Francis and Celso. I had a "Show and Tell" time when I shared family pictures and the book about the findings of our research project on Filipino clinical depression. Thanks to Abe and Marlie for your book review. Also, thanks to Evelyn for sharing with me some news about my daughter's supportive friends in Chicago.
During serious and quiet moments, we made our wishes led by Ed and Viv and said our prayers in silence as we held hands to make our human friendship circle. This was followed by giving of the agate stones ("to soothe the spirit"), which were chosen by the recipients by feeling the stones without looking.
Our trip to church was breath taking. Louie, Zeny and I were almost hit by a car since Zeny who was driving did not stop because she did not notice the red lights while she was trying to read the name of the street. When we saw Maning Juson after this incident, he said, "Namuti ang itlog nako" because he witnessed the near accident while he was driving behind us.
After the Catholic Church Mass, we were again having bouts of boisterous laughter when Maning told us about his Bitin-Wati" story. (For more information, ask Maning.)
Before we went home, Joseph and Elena had officially accepted our proposal to them to host our next reunion in 2006. Isabelo and Ditas also agreed to have the reunion in their home in 2008. Somebody said, "Lupig nato ang Olympics - very advance planning."
On behalf of our Class '72, I want to thank Cle Estrera for initiating, promoting and organizing this reunion, and Leni and Joseph for their assistance in handling financial matters. The presence of the beautiful spouses of our alumni and their helping hands made our reunion a great success!
Special thanks goes to Billy Juson who embroidered our shirts with our names and reunion banners, and the photographers who took pictures as if we were "mga artista"
We went home with so much joy in our hearts - "napagaw sa kinatawa" and the memories linger. Indeed, thanks for the memories!
With much love and gratitude,