Falling leaves

At this writing, Twink Macaraig is no more. The outspoken journalist, television anchor, fearless Filipina has gone to where there are no villains nor tyrants. Her bereaved husband Archt. Paulo Alcazaren announced her demise on Facebook. Although her friends knew that Twink was bravely  battling cancer for many years, her death is  painful, it has left a vacuum.  At the threshold of this  new decade,  I lost two dear colleagues, Sylvia Mayuga and Ninez Cacho Olivares. Earlier, Nelson Navarro and Isah Red passed on. How depressing.

Morbid as it may sound, last year I decided to list down the names of the dearly departed, relatives of course, close  friends. I had to be selective about  acquaintances and assorted celebrities, listing down only those with whom I had exchanged at least  10 words. By 31 December 2019, my friendship tree had shed off 48 leaves.

There were truly unexpected departures among my school and childhood friends– Melinda Arcenas Garcia whom I would fetch every time we had a class reunion succumbed to misdiagnosed dengue; Ramon Cardenas gave a sumptuous last supper before giving up the ghost;   Regina Paz Cruz, Ilona Canlas and Ateneo neighbors,  Gary Lising and  Ernest Leung have moved on.

I wept for my aunts Elena Roces Guerrero, Betty Lara Rialp,    Margaret Burke Guerrero and Tessie Ojeda Luz; lamented the loss of  kindred spirits George Sison (I could do no wrong!) Dez Bautista (I awakened his love for heritage), Karina David (my ally during Erap’s brief rule); gone are the patronesses of culture Carmencita O. Reyes and Ching Montinola;  audacious environmentalist Gina Lopez, heritage advocates Architects Ramon Zaragosa and Bobby Manosa, KOR Supreme Commander Roger Quiambao, Senator Nene Pimentel will be sorely missed;    Atty. Bart Fernandez who guarded my back at the Department of Tourism breathed his last.

My first dance, Ramon Arellano, died alone in Nevada, according to our mutual friends. I did not know Noel Escultura, painter, co-worker at the National Museum had passed on; as for Pastor Saycon, Vicvic Villavicencio and Rudy Albano,  I heard the sad news on A M  radio.I shall not name the rest of the relatives and in-laws, nieces and nephews much younger than I who should not have gone ahead, and   beloved contemporaries of my mother, solicitous to the very end.

Last week, my former classmates and I had another monthly reunion, more than 20 of us gathered at the Last Chukker of the Manila Polo Club; we took a lot of group pictures, no more single ones, it was decided at a previous meeting. Some protested saying that we should stop taking photos as we already look so decrepit, others said we should continue compiling  a photographic record of our meetings just for pleasure, for our own exclusive group and no longer for more public platforms like Facebook. I am sure that during that reunion  I was not the only one wondering who among us will be the next to go. We do not discuss our aches and pains, nor do we enumerate maintenance medicines and remedies, we argue about issues but we know that we are at the “departure lounge” and our flights will be called sooner or later. Gone are the petty rivalries that agitated  our school days, it seems that the closer to death we are, the more united we feel.

Significantly, or should I say curiously, it is my husband, Tonypet  Araneta,  who thinks he is going to die soon, not of a terminal incurable disease or arsenic in his salad, but because of destiny. When he turned 80 last January 20, 2019, he began to say at every occasion and whenever we would see each other that  his father J. Antonio Araneta died at 80 and so did his uncle Salvador Araneta, ergo, he too is not going to survive his 80th year. Well, he has 4 more days to go and flutter into  that pile of fallen leaves.