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July 31, 2004

August 1, 2004




(by Danny Estantino, UCHS Class 70)

The 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 school reunions.

When 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.

My 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 moments.

The 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 indiscretions.

It 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 Nolieli  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.

They 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.