Sunday, September 23, 2018

College Reunions: Friends and Priceless Memories

What is it about college reunions that just makes you crave for more and leaves you with a feeling of good will that stay with you long after the last Facebook picture is posted? Just a week ago, I traveled all the way to Vienna, Austria from New York to reconnect with my college classmates. It has been 38 years since we graduated from the College of Nursing. Twelve classmates from all over the world (United States, Canada, Oman, Philippines) descended on to picturesque Vienna to bond over shared nostalgic reminiscences and to join the 60th birthday and retirement party of our classmate Amie. In 2011, a group of us met in Las Vegas. Since then, we met in New York, and in the Philippines. Reunions are addicting.

We find joy in going back in time to fondly remember the times when we struggled with school and clinical rotations. Our professors demanded that we submit our assignment on time, our clinical instructors watched us like hawks, and our parents waited for our school grades after every semester.

Nursing school was tough but we had fun. We came of age in the 70’s, with the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Eagles, and John Travolta. Somehow, we survived Martial Law and enjoyed the last three years together as Section 2 of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing class in Arellano University.

Half-day in classes with bookish professors then off to clinicals in V. Luna military hospital, Camp Crame, Mental Hospital, Quezon Institute, and the former GSIS Hospital. It was during our internships when we formed the deep bond that continue on long after the starched immaculately aprons and white caps have been replaced by scrubs and lab coats.

I remember our month-long rotation at the Plastic Surgery Ward where the patients welcomed each new group of nurses with enthusiasm and excitement. These were the soldiers disfigured by war in Southern Philippines. The student nurses were part-nurse, part-social worker, but we were actually entertainers for those suffering from depression, homesickness, and loneliness. This was when a special soldier sang Elton John’s “Skyline Pigeon” to me; an almost love story that never came true.

Bonding over the tedious work of group thesis, often sharing secret crushes while munching on sweet delicacies. Those were care-free days, of a time when we managed to enjoy an occasional outing with the barkadas; of out-of town trips disguised as community health nursing sessions. Those were the days when we dreamed of graduation, so that we can begin our path to our professional career. Those were the days when we promised ourselves that we will conquer the world.

Thirty-eight years later, we come back together to reminisce about our college, as well as to celebrate the men and women we have all become. At this time, as we are all within retirement age, we finally have the personal time and better finances to take vacations together. No more small children to bring along the long trip.

We don’t have rose-colored glasses; our lives were punctuated with disappointments and trials along the way. But on that week in September, we all agreed that we have come a long way from the wide-eyed young adults with big dreams. We appreciated the successes we have achieved. The deep bond of life-long friendship and camaraderie came full-force as we got to know each other again. We are different now, all grown-up with aches and pains in our hips, and yet we are still the same classmates who giggled at every silly memory from thirty-eight years ago.

My favorite moments from this reunion are the simple ones: when we shared jokes and school stories during our long bus rides, when we voiced our concerns about each other's health, and when we talked about our families. When we were able to spend a few minutes to find what makes us sad and what makes us happy. When we showed how much we care for each other. As we sang “That’s What Friends Are For” at Amie’s party, we surreptitiously wiped away our tears. Then, as we all decided, just gave it our all as we danced/flailed to "Tayo'y Magsayawan." Hala Bira! PRICELESS.

Life is short. The friendship we sustained is invaluable. Yes, we need to plan the next college reunion. And we better have more classmates (about 25 of them) to come this time.


Day 1 was travel time for me. Just a reminder that I have to save for Business Class accommodations next time.

Day 2 in Austria with 9 classmates from the Arellano University College of Nursing Class '80 section 2. Green is the color of the day. Bus ride to Salzburg then Ampy and I decided not to risk life and limb climbing a castle so we got separated from the group. Did our own tour walking the streets to the sound of our own music. The hills are alive, indeed, although we missed the chance to sing ala Julie Andrews. All the way to the Gardens. Under the rain past the bridge of padlocks. OMG, my aching feet. How I wish I'm 20 years younger. All worth it in the company of friends including Janet C who needs to go on Facebook. Thanks to our excellent hostess with the mostest Amie. Waiting for two more classmates Louie and Janita to arrive.

Day 3. Trip to Budapest, Hungary. Purple coding this time. Danke to Amie Carino Limjap for coordinating our expeditions. Sorry that you could not join us but we know you're busy with the prep for your big day. ASO! Enjoyable trip because of Aurora Villanueva, new Austrian friend who entertained us with her bugtong-bugtongan, fed us till we can't eat no more, and taught us German phrases. Ich danke dir sehr. The bus trip was so much fun and we learned interesting things about "bolitas" and pole dancing. Budapest is a beautiful country with impressive building architecture. So much history in this place. I would love to come back here again. The HopOn and HopOff bus ride and the cruise along the Danube River just teased us with a mere glimpse of the attractions and the culture with the majestic Parliament and churches that make the scenic Budapest skyline the "Paris of the East". The Danube bisects the hilly Buda side and the flat Pest side of the city.

Day 4. Prague, Czech Republic. Dobry vecer. Blue color coding for the day. As if we need to herd sheep along. It is difficult to keep 20 people together. Need more time to visit the place, five hours is not enough to explore Praha. Especially since I hate walking on the steep cobble steps up and down the side of the hills. Found a quaint Pinoy shop to eat Halo-halo which is being run by a Czech native married to a Pinay. Supposed to eat Czech food but ended up in Burger King Praha style. On the way to Prague, more bonding. Reminiscences of our nursing days, including a revelation on a college crush. Took the Flix bus then the train to Landstrasse station then to Hilton Intercontinental Hotel. Arrrggghhh! I definitely passed 10,000 steps today.

Day 5, Part 1: Exploring Vienna in our red AUCN reunion tshirts courtesy of mayora Cely De Belen Sabariaga. It must have been an extraordinary sight with our group of ladies and one gent (of a certain age) roaming around Vienna in our red shirts, us chattering away even as we (particularly me) struggle with the long walk. Started the day at Schonbrunn Palace where we posed to our hearts' delight. Then, the rest of the group went to the First District to shop for their Louie Vittons. Lita, her daughter Gerilyn, and I met up with Aurora to explore. We shopped for Lindt chocolates and enjoyed a cool cocoa drink,

Day 5, Part 2. Dear classmates, Thank you for the surprise advanced birthday treat. Your gesture certainly warms the heart, truly appreciated. We met up with the group to eat lunch at Brandauer's for authentic Austrian food. Then, surprise! I offered to treat the group but they turned around to treat me instead. Classmates, Thank you soooo much for the advanced birthday celebration. Four September birthday celebrants got our Austrian chocolate cake.Thanks Aurora for the Sacher torte and for your gift of time. Happy birthday to my fellow celebrants Lucy, Janita, and Gerilynn. A special thank you to Gerilynn for being our "mom" as she guided us through our stubbornness during our travels. Ich Danke dir sehr.

Day 6, Amie's 60th birthday celebration. With classmates from her nursing days at Arellano University. A surprise presentation. There is a longer version of our presentation. I did the into. Then we sang "That's what friends are for " (which made Amie cry). We followed that up with a rousing rendition of the VST & Company's "Tayo'y Magsayawan". Just with less than an hour of practice. Gutsy and heart-felt performance.

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