July 31, 2004
August 1, 2004
ON A HIGH SCHOOL REUNION
Danny Estantino, UCHS Class 70)
recent couple of years have been a time to gather and remember.
Of late, my wife and I have been part of major celebrations such
as 25th or 50th wedding anniversaries, golden-year
birthdays and milestone gatherings that mark important dates.
Of these events, none evoke a spell of nervous anticipation like
my classmates from my alma mater, Urdaneta National High School in
Urdaneta City, Pangasinan first broached the idea of an Urdaneta
Multi-High School Reunion here in Southern California, I received the
news with trepidation. I
entertained some zany ideas like having an extreme makeover, wearing a
disguise or costume, or something of that sort.
After all I have been in hiatus, virtually invisible,
conspicuously missing from most activities after graduating from this
great institution in 1970. My teenage memories have been mothballed in my subconscious
mind. No, I did not attempt
to deliberately repress the past.
The culprits were the demands of domestic affairs, rigors of
raising a family, the stressful ascent to the corporate ladder, the
pleasures and temptations of worldly life.
All of these conspired against the bonds forged in years past.
Frozen in time for over 30 years were those teenage, tumultuous,
frivolous high school days. Then
came the grand reunion last Saturday July 31, 2004 at the Four Points
Sheraton Hotel in San Diego, California.
At the urging of Jhunn Ajelandro, my brother Bonnie’s classmate
and the gentle persuasion of Yvonne San Juan-Umali, my brother’s
friend, I caved in and submitted to the allure of the reunion.
It turned out to be a wise decision, one without regrets. I am
thankful to everyone who convinced me to go – Edward Ataop, Josefina
Bien-Estrada. It was a
grand event, a gathering of friends. Over 500 alumni from Urdaneta National (formerly Community)
High School, Divine Word College (formerly Academy) and Our Lady of the Lilies
Academy were assembled that evening.
Attendees came from all over continental USA, Canada and the
Philippines. Two of them
were my classmates, Noli Ortiz and Estela Marcelo.
wife, Carmen and I arrived at around 8 o’clock in the evening after a
grueling 3-hour drive along the San Diego Freeway.
Earlier activities obviously were over by that time.
The long buffet lines appeared chaotic but the people did not
show signs of impatience. There
was no time for that negative feeling. Everyone took advantage of the opportunity to say hello to
friends and familiar faces. Yes,
there were traces of the same profiles distorted only by a few love
handles, facial landscapes, receding or missing hairlines.
Those nametags were the lifesavers.
It avoided many a potentially embarrassing and awkward senior
excitement of the evening rose to fever pitch when tables started taking
pictures. And who can
forget those never-ending greetings, laughters and smiles, unabashed
hugs and kisses. Even when
the guest speakers, Remedios Tablada-Badar and Mayor Amadito Perez (who
flew from back home) were on stage, the groups seemed oblivious of the
speeches. There was no
disrespect except that everyone was caught up in the fervor of the
reunion. There were just
too many stories and jokes to tell, years to catch up with, experiences
to reminisce. Mario Doria
and I exchanged nostalgic remembrances of our youthful infatuations and
was not easy to tell when the dinner ended and when the dancing began.
People dashed to the dance floor at the sound of the first
danceable tune. The Mabuhay
DJ did a good job in alternating ballroom music with line dancing and
dance instructions. The
people came prepared for non-stop hip-hop, cha-cha, rumba, tango, etc.
The co-emcees of the evening, Lorenzo Suyat, Jr. and
Martinez, wisely paced the program with special performances.
These special numbers were welcomed breaks for they gave much
needed respite to the not-too-young limbs.
One of the highlights of the evening was a Hawaiian dance number
by Josefina Bien-Estrada, until lately, a resident of the hula land,
backgrounded by the entire cast of Class 1970 with the crooning of
Simeon Calacsan. Class 70
was the largest contingent not to mention the rowdiest.
Sadly, the party had to end by 12:30 AM.
Majority of us stayed and lingered by the hotel lobby.
We arrived home in Cerritos determined to come back the following
day for a picnic in the park. The
potluck was a continuation of the party.
There were more food, dancing and yes, karaoke singing.
We arrived back in San Diego in time to listen to Jane Bitanga
who belted out a love song. There
was no time to thank Class 1971 that graciously hosted this grand
reunion. To be sure, our collective hearts thank all of UNHS Class 70
including DWCU Alumni Association headed by Johnny Soriano.
say that home is where the heart is.
I rediscovered that home. This
reunion has reignited what has always been a fire within. That flame is the great pride of being a native Urdanetanian.