Class of ’79: Progress through return to roots

I recently attended a reunion of Class ’79 of the Jose Escaler Memorial School (JEMS) in San Juan, Apalit, Pampanga. As I walked through the reunion venue I was immediately greeted by unfamiliar, yet smiling and welcoming faces. Our host, immediately told me, “You don’t recognize me but I used to walk with you on your way home after school.” As I went around greeting those who are present, a wave of nostalgia washed over me, transporting me back to the days when the biggest decision I had to make was whether play ‘moro-moro’ on the sprawling ground of our school or look for fallen sampaloc fruits behind the stage.

As the clock ticked, other classmates began to trickle in one by one. Some had changed significantly, while others were frozen in time, wearing the same mischievous grins that defined our elementary days. The laughter that echoed through the room was a symphony of memories, each note triggering a flashback to the simpler times when our biggest worry was whether we have watered our vegetable garden or where we will go after class.

We sat in a circle, a blend of adults with the hearts of children, and the stories began to flow like a river of shared history. Those we were seated on Row 4 then are now among the most affluent among us while some of us who were considered ‘byasa’ remain working our way to daily survival. Those woes where very shy and timid during our elementary years are now proud and industrious organizers of events, like our reunion. We marveled at how life had shaped us, molding us into the people we had become, yet leaving traces of the mischievous children we once were.

Amidst the laughter and banter, a sense of camaraderie emerged. The years melted away, and we found ourselves reliving the magic of our shared adventures—swimming along the banks of the Pampanga River, the unforgettable trips to the rice fields and mango plantations where we will be chased by farmers and watchers, and the epic battles on the playground. We were not just classmates; we were co-authors of a story that unfolded in the classrooms and hallways of our beloved elementary school.

In the midst of the reminiscences, a realization struck me: the spirit of our childhood selves was alive and well. We may have grown taller, wiser, and perhaps a bit rounder, lesser hair, less agile and less rowdy but the essence of those carefree days lingered, like the faint scent of chalk dust in the air.

The reunion activities were scheduled to start around lunchtime. I already made plans to just stay until after lunch. But as the hours passed by, with hundred more stories to hear and share; I found myself eager to hear more stories, updates and reminiscences of how we lived and spent our childhood days. I ened up being among the last to leave after dinner.

As we bid farewell to one another, with those whom we shared our childhood and nurtured our friendships, I left with a heart full of gratitude for the journey that had brought us back together. The reunion was not just a trip down memory lane; it was a celebration of resilience, growth, and the enduring magic of childhood friendships.

When I was asked to share a short message, I shared with them the 1st paragraph of the Valedictory Address I delivered during our graduation. “One day, while I was reading, I came upon an expression which runs thus, “No man is an island.” Being young, I could not understand it.

It had no meaning to me. But because I was fascinated by the expression, I started to ask people.”
Right there and then, I realized that my speech rung through. In spite of the years that separated us, we remained connected with one another. Most of us have only seen one another for the first time after our graduation. But we felt that we were not strangers at all. We were friends and were families. In parting I shared with them, “Kailangan natin nag awing mas madalas ang ganitong mga reunion. Mas masarap na meron tayong binabalikan, kesa saw ala na tayong pinupuntahan.”

As I stepped out into the moonlight, I carried with me the echoes of laughter, the warmth of shared stories, and a renewed appreciation for the bonds that time could not break. The elementary school reunion was not just a reunion of classmates; it was a reunion of kindred spirits, bound by the enchanting thread of nostalgia that connected us to the playgrounds of our past. To Tip, Lorns, Nilds, Lito, Jess, Thank you for the well-organized reunion and for your selfless dedication and effort. To the ‘late’ John and Irene, kudos for successfully hosting the program and the contests. To Eden, Penny Lane, Jojo, Nick, Bong Aquino, Esteban,Donna, Hodel, Pablo, Marissa, Vilma, Mercy, Remy, Dan, Jessie, Rosy, Myrna, Liberato, and to those whose names I cannot read from the attendance, thank you very much. It was time well-spent, a journey worth-taking and worth looking-forward to. Until our next reunion.

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