I was out practically the entire day yesterday to meet with a friend and high school buddy whom I haven’t seen or heard from in nearly two decades.
A few weeks back, I was surprised when he called me up as I was about to leave for home. I guess the call was prompted by several messages I sent him via his Friendster; he never responded to any of those messages, anyway. It was our first phone conversation, mind you. When we left our old town in Bukidnon, cellular phone was still unheard of then, probably still an exclusive military technology. Limited fixed telecom services were mostly confined to the nearest city at the time–Cagayan de Oro.
Jun Cagunan was a classmate from 2nd year until we graduated from high school. I recall as a freshie he did not have many friends among school mates as he spent his grade school days in a Chinese school in Cagayan de Oro. But I remember playing cards with him during our grade school years when he would come home for summer. We didn’t play pusoy dos, of course. The card game was actually a spec-war between certain automobile and plane models; whoever got the highest-spec model won the game. That simple.
Fast forward to high school. Although JunC was relatively a new face on campus and did not have many friends, he was able to establish an acquaintance with schoolmates early on. This must have something to do with him being the son of a second generation Chinese trader who used to run a grocery that bore the sign People’s Store. This must have also earned him the monicker–Intsik. He was singkit, unlike his brother Tatang and sister Jingle; his sister Titit, however, shares his narrow eyes they inherit from their father.
JunC was into basketball as it was very popular among giggling school girls while I abandoned it in favor of softball. When we became classmates on our second year, JunC was already playing the guitar, and I thought he got more pogi points for that. He had this crush since our freshmen years with whom he was so crazy about. But the girl played it so hard that until our junior year, JunC hardly made it to the first base, or so I thought. But I could sense there was some kind of mutual attraction. But he was persistent, tenacious, and patient, and I could see early on he was this type of guy who had no trouble giving up everything for something. I was witness to countless special cards, often bearing my ‘finishing touches’ on the blank spaces, being sent consistently to his crush like they were at the municipal post office–they come regularly.
In between school, we also had gimmicks like any normal grown-up small town boys, with almost nightly session mostly consisting of alcohol and cigarette consumed not in some hippie bars because there was none in town but in those small but ‘reliable’ neighborhood sari-sari (sometimes sira sira) stores that sell liquor even to minors like us. In all those sessions, JunC registered a very good attendance rating, only that he had to pass on the glass. In exchange for his non-participation, we sort of came up with an unspoken code: he should just play the guitar until we shall have downed the last bottle of whatever spirit we fancied. That worked until we had our last session probably in the run-up to our high school graduation.
JunC hosted us friends countless noisy evenings at their house, banging their walls, doors, tables, pots and anything that gave off sound in total disregard of their neighbors’ right to a good night’s sleep after a hard day’s work. At one point, a neighbor who could no longer stand the drumming and the beating all around the house, banged their wooden wall hard, which stunned as ‘musicians’ inside. It was followed shortly by a familiar clanking. Holy s%$t, he must be loading full his FAL assault rifle already. For a moment, we were all frozen. There was absolute silence. It took ten minutes for one of us to recover from shock and to finally manage a murmur.
That was the beginning of the end of our rock star days in JunC’s house.
After graduation, we embarked on our own journeys to discover more. And that was the last time I had heard of him. Until a few weeks back.
So, it’s bonding time for old buddies. By his own admission, he is not familiar with the ins and outs of mega Manila. After deplaning in from CdO, where he had spent the last leg of his three-week vacation from his IT work in the Northern Territories, JunC txted me right away, asking me about our scheduled meeting. Since he would stay somewhere in Bicutan, I thought it would be convenient for us to meet at any place in MOA. But there was a transport glitch, so I offered to fetch him in Bicutan. Luckily, by the time I arrived at his sister’s place, the car was already available.
While deciding where to eat, I asked if his newly-acquired Australian taste buds had any preference but I guess he was too hungry to recall any. So in the absence of any preference, we entered the first restaurant on view. There you go.
So what have you been doing the last 19 years? Family? Kids? Work? Former classmates? Old flame (his, not mine)? Parents? Sibings?
After a couple of hours, he asked to be accompanied to get his hair cut and some scalp relaxation. Barbers are not my fare these days as I find their rates ridiculous (some charging P500 per haircut, plus the customary tip of not less than P20). But momentarily, I suspended my distaste if not disgust upon JunC’s insistence I should get at least a trim, and finally took one of the empty chairs. In the next 30 mins, I allowed the barber total cranial control. After all, they call their barber’s shop SHARPER IMAGE. Well, let’s see.
As he was buffing me up, I could see there was some grain of truth to their name. I realized I am getting the hair cut that I have been wishing for years now. The last time I sported this similar cut was about seven years ago, when I dared sat at a newly-opened David’s branch which, fortunately for me, offered 50% off as part of their opening promotion. And at a quarter over a hundred, plus throw in some tip, sharpening image at that barber shoppe doesn’t hurt at all. Thanks JunC, I now know where to get buffed.
As I’m writing this, JunC might be catching up on all the lost sleep 35,000 feet above the Pacific.
Good news. JunC has offered to work on hosting a website for Xavier de Damulog High School at no cost at all. JunC and I will be collaborating on this effort and we hope to get the site up and running in time for the 40th grand alumni homecoming on December.