Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sometimes A Great Notion: Part 1 - Plans

"The past is funny ... it never seems to let things lie, finished.
It never seems to stay in place as it should"
~ Ken Kesey

"There are some things that can't be the truth even if they did happen"
~ Ken Kesey

Sometime around the advent of the new millennium my father began voicing the desire to return to the Philippines. I didn't think too much of it at first, it was not like he needed my permission to go. I simply said "you should go" and left it at that. Over the next few years he returned to the subject frequently. I didn't know what the problem was, buy a ticket and go. But he seemed uncharacteristically hesitant. This from a guy who left school and home to travel a 100o miles to west Texas to help round up a herd of wild mustangs, put them on rail cars where they were transported to Galveston, then on to a ship and across the ocean to Greece. This from a guy who quit his job and moved his family across the ocean to live and work in the Philippines. This from a guy who over the previous 25 years had visited, lived and worked in rural Mexico, South America, Africa, Nepal, Egypt and had taken several trips to Europe. Often times I wouldn't even know he was out of the country, calling the house week after week with no answer. Finally I learned to call around to his various siblings where I would learn of his whereabouts.

So why should taking a trip to the Philippines be so difficult? Sometime in early 2003 he was talking about it, again, and fed up I said "quit talking about it and just go!".

I'll go if you go

I was totally taken aback. Never in my entire life had he ever expressed needing my help with anything. I didn't know what to say.
I'll go if you go

Up to that point I had never even considered going back, at least not after all these years. There was a time in the late 70's and early 80's when I thought of returning often. But now, nearly 27 years since I had last been there I was rather ambivalent about it. All of the people I had remained in contact with were stateside now, I assumed that the majority of my schoolmates were here as well too. Sure, there were places I'd like to see, foods I'd like to taste again, but I wasn't sure what other motivations there were for me to go. If I wanted to go to a beach, I could go to Mexico for a fraction of the price.

I was married, we were settled into our lives, two out of three kids graduated, we had jobs and pets to attend to. More importantly, the thought of being trapped with my Dad for an extended period of time was not very appealing. Since my marriage, our relationship had slowly improved, but some things don't change and at times it was tenuous at best. Dad had an expression he liked to repeat every time we came to visit:

"Company is like fish, after three days they start to stink"

This was his way of letting us know he didn't want us around too long and certainly was mutually true of our relationship. By the second day I was always ready to leave. I couldn't imagine being stuck with him on a plane for 24 hours, let alone a few weeks. I let the subject drop, but then he brought it up again a month or so later. And again a few weeks after that. And again the next month. He had seized on this idea and wouldn't let it go.

I'll go if you go

My boss was from the Philippines originally, and made the pilgrimage back to see his parents and siblings once a year. I mentioned my father's desire to go back, half thinking that perhaps he could be my dad's travel companion the next time he went. We discussed cost, safety, things to do and see, the best time of year to travel.

Then my father received a letter from Tony Ngoho, one of our former "students" inviting him to come visit. Back when we lived in the Philippines, my mother had come up with an idea of putting a few deserving kids through college. She started with one, and by the time we left eight years later the number had grown to around thirty. A nurse herself, most of the students were in the local nursing program, some pursued BAs, others got their BS degrees, a few went to seminary after college, of which Tony was one. Of all the students who lived with us over the years, Tony was most like family, more like an older brother to me.
I'll go if you go

Slowly, the idea percolated, the desire to return began to outweigh the disadvantages. I thought of bringing my wife, I had always wanted to show her the places I so often talked about. So it was that, in the summer of 2003, having become confused from all the Texas heat, forgetting in an instant all the misery I had gone through over the last 45 years, I finally caved in to my father's request.

Things quickly fell apart from there. The original plan had been for just the two of us to go, the stepmother had no interest in going to the Philippines. Then I modified it to include my wife, and when the stepmother found out that she was going she decided she would go too. This is not what I had envisioned, I had figured that two against one would make the situation manageable, but now, two against two, we were clearly outnumbered.
This should have been my first red flag that things were not going to go well. Still, I thought, it shouldn't be too bad, we'll let the old fogies do their own thing and we will go off and have our own adventures. How bad could it be?

So I reluctantly purchased four tickets and contacted a friend in the Philippines to secure reservations for us in February of the coming year. This should have been my second red flag: why was I buying the tickets?

Dad wrote Tony and together we made an itinerary. You would think after growing up with the guy I would have remembered how easily sidetracked the old cuss could get. This should have been my third red flag; Dad never sticks to the plan. My wife and I scheduled vacation time, applied for passports and waited. Mine was a simple renewal and came back quickly, but this was her first passport and weeks went by, the departure date loomed. She was beginning to panic, then, just a few days before we were scheduled to leave it arrived! It was time to go.

In February of 2005 we boarded a plane for Detroit where we would meet up with Dad and the Stepmother. There we would board another flight bound for the Philippines. We checked in and waited, and waited. Boarding was announced and still no sign of them. We had their tickets and just as we were about to go up to the counter, here they come wandering over. They had gone to get something to eat and didn't hear the boarding announcement.

The jumbo jet was packed, mostly with Filipinos, a smattering of Japanese and Koreans; we were among the handful of Caucasians. Looking out over a sea of dark heads from our seats near the rear of the jet, my father commented on how many Filipinos were on our flight. Standing up to see what he was talking about, the stepmother said with her megaphone voice:
How can you tell? They all look alike to me... Now, Do all Filipinos have black hair?

Four hundred heads turned around to see who was addressing them. Mortified, we slid down in our chairs and hid our faces. My father tried to distract her, getting her to sit back down by saying he is going to teach her a few Tagalog words, starting with the word for "thank you":
Stepmon: Sayluhmet
Dad: Salamat
Stepmom: Sayloomet
Dad: Sa. la. mahht.
Stepmom: Say. lay. met.
Dad: Salamat ...

That was when my wife and I realized that we had made a horrible mistake. But it was too late, the doors were closed and we were rolling down the runway. Their loud voices penetrated our earphones and drowned out both music and movie.
Stepmon: Sayluhmet
Dad: Salamat
Stepmom: Sayloomet
Dad: Sa. la. mahht.
Stepmom: Say. lay. met.
Dad: Salamat ...

My wife looked like she wanted to scream, she turned to me and mimed stabbing herself with a knife. Their "conversation" continued on until the flight attendants arrived to ask what we wanted to drink, and then picked right back up again til we got our meals. It was going to be a long flight.

From Detroit we headed north into Canada, the pilot commenting on the cities as we passed over them. Looking out over the snowy landscape below the stepmom turns to my dad and says:
What is that white stuff on the ground?
"Snow" my dad says. She is quiet awhile, pondering this bit of information.
But, does it snow in Canada?
Heads turn again. Oh my God. She was a schoolteacher for thirty years. We pretend we are asleep.

After listening to the same word being repeated for 20 hours, we finally landed in Nagoya, Japan. We disembarked so they could clean the plane, lemmings in an endless queue: out the door, up flights of stairs, down long halls only to find that our destination was the restrooms! For the men it was a fairly quick and painless procedure, but entirely different for the women. My wife found herself in a slow moving line, eventually ending up before a row of stalls. The woman in the stall directly in front of her seemed to be having some difficulty, bumping and banging against the door. Finally, the door opened and to my wife's horror there was no toilet, only a metal framed hole in the floor! Fortunately, the stall next to it became available and it did have a toilet, so she scurried into it before someone else could claim it!
Leaving the restrooms we re-queued and snaked our way back to the plane. Back on board we happily discovered that our surly flight attendants have been replaced with a bevy of laughing, smiling, cheerful Filipino attendants. Their mood was infectious and soon we were all smiling and chatting with our seatmates. Maybe it was just getting a break from our long flight, maybe it was knowing that soon we would be there, but that last leg of journey went by in no time at all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Part 52: Lost Horizon

"... you can't subject a mere boy to... years of intense physical and emotional stress without tearing something to tatters. People would say, I suppose, that he came through without a scratch. But the scratches were there - on the inside."
We sat for a long time in silence ...

Do you think he will ever find it?"

- from Lost Horizon by James Hilton

I was hurriedly cramming all my worldly belongings into my footlocker and suitcase for the summer. Five years worth of school magazines, yearbooks and newspapers, old scripts, a few school books and novels, left over school supplies, a photo album, sheets, blankets and clothing.

In a small air force flight bag I packed the bare minimum of clothing I would need to get me back to America. I planned to buy all the clothing I needed while I was there and much more.
I had been busy compiling a list of things I wanted to pick up including gifts for my friends.

A month earlier, in April, my parents and brothers flew to the U.S. for a four month furlough. I would be joining them now that school was out and I was excited to be heading back to the States for a short visit. I was looking forward to doing some sight seeing, eating American food and visiting the relatives. If I had time I hoped to see some of my friends from Brent who now lived in the U.S. and had made tentative plans to see my girlfriend in North Carolina while she was on furlough too.

I had got my bundle of exit papers from the local PC commandant, paid the appropriate fees and document stamps on my exit visa. Then I went to the Mission Board offices and picked up my ticket and passport. The treasurer handed me my documents, then pulled a dusty cash box from a drawer. Fumbling with the key, it groaned in protest at being opened, the lid snapping shut on his hand several times as he tried to extract a single ancient bill from its interior. Scrooge gripped it tightly in his hand for a few moments, stretching out his arm and retracting it several times before finally handing it to me. I looked at him in disgust and amazement. A measly five bucks "travel money" to get me back to the states.

The next morning I caught a Korean Airlines 747 out of Manila to Seoul, then on to Los Angeles. It was a long flight with a lousy movie and I had plenty of time to think.
I thought about my five years at Brent; I thought about my senior year ahead, planning and dreaming of the things I would do. Slave Day, Senior Skip Day, Prom and Graduation; now my name would hang in the Gym along with the names of my classmates.

The plane was delayed in Seoul and by the time we got to L.A. I had missed my connecting flight to Chicago. There were quite a few stranded kids at LAX and we spent the night in the terminal playing cards. In the morning while waiting for my flight the elderly couple who had been sitting next to me on the flight asked if I had spent the night in the airport and had I had anything to eat. I guess I looked hungry - I hadn't eaten since the day before but didn't want to seem like I was looking for a hand out. They wouldn't take no for answer and bought me breakfast.

When I got to Chicago I was surprised to see my mom's sister and her husband waiting at the arrival gate. They bought me a steak, we drank wine and they peppered me with questions. I hadn't seen them for years and happily recounted my adventures at Brent and my plans for my Senior year. Then on to Iowa in a inter-state commuter turbo prop. The plane circled the little airport, preparing to land, I watched the buildings below.

Then it hit me all of a sudden, from deep within me I knew with the utmost certainty; I would never go back to the Philippines again. The empty pit within me was a chasm that could never be filled. Then the wheels touched the ground and the plane came to a stop. Walking across the tarmac I searched the crowd for my family; I found confirmation on my parents faces. That was it. The adventure was over.

I never got to say farewell to the family who raised me, to my friends, my city, my school, my home.

"You sheltered me from harm
Kept me warm, kept me warm
You gave my life to me
Set me free, set me free
The finest years I ever knew
Were all the years I had with you

You taught me how to love
What it's of, what it's of
You never said too much
But still you showed the way
And I knew from watching you
Nobody else could ever know
The part of me that can't let go

I would give anything I own
Give up my life, my heart, my home
I would give everything I own
Just to have you back again"
- from a song by Bread

I never got to look for the little boy lying in his hole in the comote field, to tell him it's safe to come home.

I think he lies there still.


I'm sorry.

I love you.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Part 51: The Last Waltz

I will remember you and hold on to the
fine time that we knew,
sing a memory or two, when there's nothin' left to do
~ from "Love's in Vain" by Jimmie Spheeris

"The Devon faculty had never before experienced a student who combined a calm ignorance of the rules with a winning urge to be good, who seemed to love the school truly and deeply..."
~ from A Separate Peace by John Knowles

"What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind..."
~ William Wordsworth

Those were sweet, blissful days. I had fallen from grace, wandered in the desert, was lost and then found. I was humbled and found redemption.

The school year was swiftly coming to an end and I didn't see it coming. I didn't see the signs or learn from past events.
I didn't remember that all good things must end, that "some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them".

Jaime and I had a lot on our plates that spring. End of the year term papers, a play and we were busy trying to get the yearbook finalized in time to get it off to the printer.

Aah, the Ganza. Blood, sweat and tears. Lots of artistic disagreements, lots of shouting, lots of compromises. We had many a late night, drank gallons of coffee and smoked cartons of cigarettes. Cutting and pasting, banging away at the typewriter, digging through submitted photos, poetry and art. Jaime was the editor and you could see his hand all over it. Maybe a little of mine too, but it was hard to tell, we thought so much alike.

This year's edition reflected his anxiety and ambivalence about Brent, about leaving the Philippines. But this yearbook also reflected the tension and uncertainty amongst the students, staff and faculty. Unions, petitions and lawsuits; the Headmaster and a few teachers were facing legal proceedings. Brent was at a crossroads, a very different school from the school we arrived at five years earlier.

The one constant was the Campus, changing yet unchanged over the last 67 years. So, instead of doing the traditional dedication to a faculty or staff member, we made our dedication to the Brent Campus. Our staff photographers took pictures of Amos, Ogilby, Binsted, Weiser, Richardson, Hamilton, the Old Infirmary and the New Dorm. Pages were filled with photos of the Neutral, the soccer field, the gym, tennis courts and the Valley. Maybe it was his way of saying goodbye to each and every building, tree and place that had touched and shaped our lives.
This Ganza was his eulogy.

Each member of the Senior class got their own individual page and they spent a lot of time working on them, carefully crafting their last words and testaments. We finally got the last one and we submitted our almost finished product to the printer, happy, yet slightly unsatisfied, a bittersweet moment. A week later we had the printer's proof back for us to check for errors or to make any last minute corrections.
In an unusual turn of events, the Headmaster insisted that he see and sign off on this blueline before it was released to print. He didn't like some of the captions, in particular one next to his photo in his Halloween costume that said "Old Nick". He made some corrections and returned it to us, ordering the Ganza adviser, Mrs Sheffer, to make sure that his changes were made. This really rankled us, especially Jaime. We made some corrections of our own, fixing typos here and there and then Jaime, in a bold move, restored the original caption to the photo. Anarchy! His final act of rebellion.

t had been a rainless, hot spring and as the months progressed it continued to get dryer. The Neutral turned a rusty brown, most of the grass on the soccer field was dead or dying, brown patches of bare dirt dotted the field.

Field Day was a hot, dusty affair. I didn't much care who won the competitions, I was just trying to spend as much time with my girlfriend, in a few days she would be leaving on furlough with her parents for the summer. It was a day for hanging out between events with her and my friends. When the last event was completed, the last award handed out, we piled on the bus to head over to John Hay to take showers. Brent had no water.

From the earliest days of the founding of the city, Baguio has had a water problem. Despite having some of the highest annual rainfall of any city, collecting and storing water for the dry season had never been seriously implemented. In the 1930s, Mayor Halsema had worked hard to improve the water works, by the time WWII came it was adequate for the population of 50,000. In the late 60's and early 70's the population increased dramatically, once again the water resources for Baguio were over extended. Part of the problem came from the burgeoning number of tourists who came during the dry months, easily doubling the number of people living in Baguio.

In 1976, the lack of rain turned into a drought, water rationing was now in effect throughout the city. Downtown Baguio was a grimy mess, the rain that normally washed the streets and sidewalks clean, now just a distant memory. Fires were a real problem as there was no water for the Fire Department to use. The river that flowed past Asin Hot Springs became a tiny creek. Back at Brent the situation was grim, the water tower and cisterns ran dry. The Boys dorm reeked from unflushed toilets, the boys reeked from want of showers.

Only the local US Airbase had a steady flow of water. Over the years the military commanders and planners of Camp John Hay had continuously improved and supplemented their water storage and collection system; they now supplied Brent with potable water for drinking and for the kitchen to cook and wash dishes with. Brent had 50 gallon drums of water of dubious quality trucked in for flushing toilets in the Administration Office, Ogilby Hall and the girls dorm. My friends and I went to John Hay almost every day now, to shower at a friends home and use the "facilities".

With Field Day out of the way, we focused our attention to the last play of the year, "Flower Drum Song", a musical being directed by Mrs Viduya. It is a story of the struggle of assimilation, maintaining cultural identity and the struggle between the older and younger generations. Sammy Fong, a nightclub owner, is about to enter into an arranged marriage with illegal immigrant Mei Li. But Sammy is in love with club dancer/singer Linda Low, who is romancing Wang Ta, son of a wealthy Chinese businessman. Mei Li falls in love with Wang Ta, but is honor bound to fulfill her contract. It was a convoluted plot, but a lot of fun to produce.

Most of my classmates were in the play, Beth Wagner was Mei Li, Paul Bautista was Wang Ta and Paul's sister Margie was Linda Low. Jaime had the role of Sammy, Dayne Florence was the father of Mei Lei and I had a minor role as a slightly deaf, dirty old uncle. About half of the cast was Caucasian, which in a play about Chinese Americans can be problematic. But the blond haired kids dyed their hair black, and with some make up it didn't look too rediculous.

The Junior class was busy preparing for the Junior-Senior Prom. As class president I found myself making most of the decisions, but I tried to delegate where and when I could. A couple of classmates were looking for a band, others were in charge of decorations and setting up. The class treasurer and I went to look at various venues for the prom; we went from restaurant to club, sampled the menus and worried about parking. Finally, one of the kids whose father worked for VOA was able to negotiate us a good price at the John Hay Main Club. With the money we saved I ordered 12 dozen long stem red roses which would be handed out to the girls when they arrived (for those slackers who were too cheap to get their dates flowers).

The only thing I hadn't done yet was get a date for the prom. Jaime was going to go by himself and then asked Flo Lusk to go. I too had been tempted to go by myself, but then I decided to ask Lisa Marks, one of my girlfriend's friends, so she could go. I warned her that I would be busy making sure things were running smoothly and that this was just a "friends only" kind of date. My friend Jack was taking our buddy Vic Horne's sister Tracey and Vic was taking Pam Johnson; Dayne Florence was taking Jasminda Salapong.

Trying to keep an accurate head count so we could order enough food, I was surprised to find a few of my classmates had not RSVP'd yet. I asked one of them if he was going and did he have a date. He said he wanted to ask one of our classmates. Maybe it was my recently restored self confidence, maybe it was the inner peace I felt, but I was emboldened. Not thinking how it might appear I said Do you want me to ask her for you? He said he did, so I sought her out right after our next class and asked her point blank Do you want to go to the Prom with him?
She did, and her response gave him the courage to approach her himself. This would be the first time going to a dance for both of them.

Finally it was prom night. I had to get there early to help set up. The night was a blur, every time I turned around someone was asking me something and I hurried here and there, checking on this, checking on that. Some of the day students had arrived in their own cars and naturally had smuggled in alcoholic beverages. Every now and then two or three would wander out to have a "smoke" or "get some air". I didn't have time, I was getting pulled in all directions. I didn't even get to finish my dinner. Finally, I collared the class vice-president and told him he would have to deal with the questions for the rest of the night. I found my date and we danced and I even made it out to the parking lot.

Because of Martial Law there was a curfew, those who were not planning to stay had to leave early, but the majority of the guests stayed and danced all night. Just before dawn things began to break up, I made my final rounds, then headed back to Brent with Jaime and our dates. We caught a cab and they dropped us off at the bottom of Brent Road, from there we walked up to the school.
Out of the mist on the road in front of us, two figures slowly grew in size and then we recognized them, it was Mr Keddie and Mr Spitzer. They were leaving school early, trying to stay one step ahead of the law, they were headed to Manila to catch a plane out of the country.

Then one sunny day it was Graduation. The Gym was packed with parents, students and relatives. Pomp and Circumstance began playing and the Seniors filed out with me leading the procession up the aisle. Our class advisor Ms Estacio whispered loudly "What's he doing! He's not a Senior!" Apparently after decades of teaching at Brent she had forgotten the long standing tradition of having the Junior class president escort the seniors to the stage. At the foot of the steps I turned and stood to one side, congratulating the seniors as they filed past going up the stairs. There were speeches and awards, the senior class sang "To Each His Own". They called the names and handed out the diplomas. Then it was over and the recessional began. The Seniors posed for pictures with family and relatives and took their last class picture. I worked my way through the happy crowd, congratulating my jubilant friends, meeting their parents. There at the back of the gym was Jaime and his family and as I approached them I was overwhelmed with grief.

Up to that moment the significance of this graduation had been hidden from me, locked away in some remote area of my heart and brain. Jaime was leaving. For five years we had ate, slept, fought and laughed together. Brent had molded and shaped us and we had grown and changed together. We shared a million memories and experiences. He knew what I was thinking and I knew how he felt. So different and yet so alike. We had the same friends, we liked the same girls.
We felt the same rage, the same joy. We had made choices over the years based not on the facts of the choice itself but on our friendship. As much as two friends could be, we were joined at the hip. He protected my front, I watched his back.

We were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.
He was Phineas: intelligent, athletic, boisterous and charismatic, a magnet that drew everyone towards him, there did not seem to be anything he couldn't do. We all shined brighter around him. I was Gene: quiet and introverted, yet around him I grew more confident, more outgoing. Because he was naturally assertive, I was often accused of being his "tuta", a puppet, but they didn't know us very well. There was a lot more give and take than they would ever know. They didn't know that when he was his most self-assured and adamant, inside he was tormented by self-doubt and feelings of inferiority; that when I backed his play I bolstered his self-confidence as well as mine.

It seemed we had always been together, that we had always been friends. Because of this, it never occurred to me that there might come a day when he would leave me behind. I guess I thought we would live and die together. I stretched out my arm to shake the hand of the conquering hero. If he had maintained his composure I could have made it through unscathed, but the look on his face told me everything. Time to back his play one last time. The enormity of it engulfed me and the tears began to flow, then to gush.

It wasn't a graduation, it was a funeral.

"To each his own it's plain to see
To walk alone you have to be

It's all for you and all for me
- You'll see
I'm gonna miss you, yes, I will

No matter who you are,
I'll love you still

For my life is my conscience, the seeds I sow

I just wanted to let you know.

Familiar faces that I've seen

Turnin' red and turnin' green

They just got caught with writing on their sleeve

I guess I'll leave

I'm gonna miss you, yes, I will

No matter who you are, I'll love you still

Will you cancel my papers and lock the door
'Cause I ain't gonna be 'round no more

Will I make it through the summer
Breaking ties with the old and new?

Losing one just gains another

There is nothing I can do

I'm gonna miss you, yes, I will

No matter who you are I'll love you still

For my life is my conscience, the seeds I sow

And I just wanted to let you know"

~ To Each His Own by America

Monday, April 4, 2011

Part 50: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Dong! Dong! Dong!

For four long years I would jerk awake to the sound of the Chapel bells pealing loudly every Sunday morning beginning at 6:00 a.m., calling the staff and their families to the early morning service.

Donggggg! .......
The Kalinga Quasimodo would wait for the last echo to fade away, allowing you to drift off to sleep again, before yanking the rope again.
Dong! Dong! This would continue on for a long miserable hour, then a blissful reprieve of an hour and half of silence before the bells would begin ringing again.

Dong! ........ Dong! Dong!
now ringing to call parishioners to the second service of the morning. By then most of us had resigned ourselves to the fact that our sleep was over and got up.

Dong!.... Dong! Dong!

For four long years I listened to the complaints and threats about the Chapel bell and how they would resolve the problem - everything from placing a roll of toilet paper over the clapper to stealing the entire bell! Anyone trying to sleep in on Sundays had a tough time of it. There was no escaping it, the bells could be plainly heard everywhere on campus, the sound bouncing and echoing off the hills and buildings. The boys had it worse than the girls, as our dorms were situated closest to the Chapel.

My first two years in my room below the Infirmary it wasn't too bad, our dorm parents made us younger kids get up anyway and go to breakfast
every Sunday at 7:00. Fresh fruit, juice, pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs, fried eggs and sometimes cheese omelets. Sunday morning breakfasts were the best. But, for the upper classmen trying to sleep in, it really must have been hell, especially for the boys in Weiser Hall, directly across from the Chapel.

Dong! ........ Dong! Dong!

We were not the first, decades of boarding students had their dreams rudely interrupted by the loud clanging. Generations of boarders plotted and conspired against this usurper of their Sunday morning slumbers. It was something that unified and joined us together, our mutual dislike for the Chapel Bell.

Now in my fifth year at Brent, ensconced with all the male boarders in the New Boys Dorm, I became more acutely aware of
that damn bell. Situated almost parallel with the Chapel, I could clearly see the bell tower from my bedroom window. I tried stuffing cotton balls in my ears, I learned to sleep with a pillow over my head, turned the radio on in an attempt to drown out the noise. Nothing worked. Weekly I listened to this new batch of boarders bitching about the bell. Bleary eyed, they would sit on the student lounge steps cursing bell and bell ringer. Schemes and plans, variations of which I had heard a thousand times before spewed from their lips.

One Saturday afternoon, in the spring 1976, I decided enough was enough. I was done with just cussing about it.
If you hate it so much
why don't you guys do something about it?
There were some non-committal responses and mutterings.
Fine. I'll do something about it.
Leaping to my feet I pointed to Andy McMullen and another kid.

You guys come with me.

Sending one to get a roll of toilet paper, Andy and I scrounged up a ladder. Heart pounding, with the two kids holding the ladder I climbed up into the bell tower. Once up there I realized that the toilet paper roll idea would not work. What to do. Then looking at the knot an idea popped into my head. Carefully reaching up I leaned forward and untied the rope from the bell - just enough to disable the bell, but not enough for the rope to fall. Success!

The following morning was blissfully sweet, not one ring from the hated chapel bell. Silence. Blessed Silence. For the first time in almost five years I got to sleep in. Some who claimed to be awake swore they heard a low clunk as the clapper vainly tried to strike the bell. By supper that night the word had spread amongst the boarders. We were instant heroes!

On Monday morning, however, for the second time that school year I was called into the Headmaster's office. Someone had seen us carrying the ladder. Teachers were outraged. Some wanted us expelled, others wanted us suspended for a month. Dr Ralph Rodriguez was in charge and asked us for a description of our shenanigans. I told him the whole story in vivid detail, and he laughed when I was done. Shaking his head he said "Boys, I know it was just a silly prank, but the staff is very irate about the whole thing and are screaming for your blood! I am going to have to do something. I am considering suspending you from school for two weeks."

Vaguely I could see that it had less to do with the Chapel Bell and more to do with the general labor situation at Brent and the new generation of "disrespectful" students. They needed an outlet for their frustrations and we were it. Better than being expelled, but still bad news. Gathering up my courage I spoke up.

But Sir, just last week Dick was caught with alcohol in his room and he was only campused for a month.

Dr Ralph swiveled in his chair looking out the window across the campus. His desk clock ticking loudly, we waited in silence awaiting our sentence. Finally, he turned back with a big smile on his face.
"Ok. Two weeks campused, woodpile duty. Apologize to the staff. That's my final decision."

It was a wonderful world.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Part 49: Surprised By Joy

"To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken."
-C.S. Lewis

It was a warm, dry January when school started again. The soccer field and Neutral were not their normal vibrant green. Noticeably absent was the daily afternoon shower that usually rolled in between 3:30 and 4:00. Water shortages were already beginning to be a problem around the city.

We took advantage of all this warm weather by playing football, Frisbee and Red Rover after school. The football games were played with no pads or helmets, 12 to 14 players per team, all on the field at the same time. Other than the quarterback there were no set positions, everyone was a linebacker and a potential receiver.
We'd play with abandon, crashing in to each other like some medieval horde, without regard to potential injuries. Clothes were torn, lots of cracked skulls, bloody noses and bruised ribs.

We played Red Rover the same way. One day I was sprinting across the line when I was grabbed from behind. I wrapped my arms around a tree and tried to pull myself across. Someone grabbed one leg, somebody else grabbed another, lifting me off the ground, trying to pull me away from the tree. Then a third person peeled my hands off the tree. I slid down the tree on my face, the bark peeling away strips of skin from my nose and cheeks. Jack and Jaime helped me to my feet. I thought I was down only for a second, but when I got up Neutral was mostly empty, the opposing team having vanished. Where did everybody go?
"Well, you know, people are kind of scared of you"
I didn't know what to make of that, I guess I had been a little intense lately.

Brent was competing in the annual week of citywide
PRISSA games and the whole school went down to watch. Basketball, soccer, track and field events were part of the line up at Burnham Park. Mario Sarmiento and Peter Naylor were especially talented in the track and field events and we whooped and hollered every time they took the field. Peter was from New Zealand and liked to compete barefoot which endeared him to the local mountain men.

After the competitions ended for the day we would wander about downtown, shopping or getting something to eat. Some days there was enough time to catch a movie before I had to be back on campus. We would go as a group and one day I found myself sitting next to my former girlfriend from my very first year at Brent, who now was a Sophomore. Her friends were trying to hook us up, but it was a casual friendship; we hung out together, she made me laugh. That afternoon while watching
The Return of the Pink Panther she reached out and took my hand in hers. Still a little gun shy, I wasn't sure about this, but I was surprised to find that after four years my hand still remembered hers. In that round about way that people do, we talked about going steady again, she wanted to, I was hesitant about entering into another serious relationship. I told her I needed to think about it and promised her an answer soon.

I was one of half a dozen science fair winners from Brent who would be going to the Regional High School Science Fair being held in the town of San Fernando. We loaded up the bus with our exhibits and headed down to the beach. It was anti-climatic for me, I got eliminated when the judges came through during the very first round of judging. That was fine with me, I could hardly concentrate anyway.

That night after supper I walked down to the beach by myself and watched the waves crashing on the shore. I thought about the girl and the decision I had to make, I didn't know what to do.
I was in turmoil, once again thoughts and feelings I thought I had left behind came boiling to the surface. I prayed for guidance, I prayed for peace of soul and mind, I prayed for release from my despair. The wind whipped about me as I paced back and forth in the dark; and then there on the beach a wave of joy passed through me.

No angel appeared, the heavens didn't open up, there was no burning bush, I heard no voices. But there on the sand, by the churning sea, time stopped for a moment and I was left with hope and peace.

In the morning I caught a bus back to Baguio. I was eager to get back home and see the girl. By the time I got to Brent the calm I had felt the night before had left me and I reviewed the pros and cons once again... I was going up the hill towards Ogilby Hall when it occurred to me all of a sudden. I could trust her. She would never lie to me, she would always be there. Walking through the locker room I saw her standing by the book store, talking with some friends. I slipped up beside her and she searched my face for an answer. She must have found it, because she smiled and took my hand.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Part 48: The First Cut is the Deepest

"I used to be a King and everything around me
turned to gold.
I thought I had everything and now I'm left without a hand to hold.
But it's all right, I'm O.K. How are you?
For what it's worth, I must say I loved you.
And in my bed late at night, I miss you.
Someone is going to take my heart
But no one is going to break my heart again"

- from "I Used To Be A King" by Graham Nash

Funny how life goes on around you; the sun rose every day, people laughed and sang. So I adjusted to the single life. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, made new friends, hung out with a different crowd.

As so often happened at Brent, some kids didn't return after the holidays, leaving us to wonder what happened to them. Mike Kendrick never came back to Brent after the Christmas break, I got a letter from him a few weeks later telling me that they had moved back to Australia. He told me to write him, but he didn't provide a return address.

One of my new friends was Jack McMullen, I liked his sense of humor and admired his toughness. He was strong as an ox and his temper made it best to be on his good side. One day I saw him pick up a picnic table and hold it above his head with one hand and then throw it across Neutral. But mostly he was a good natured, jolly fellow and fun to be around.

I was still avoiding the ex, so Jack, Jaime and I spent a lot of our weekends off campus, hanging out with some of
our day student friends from Camp John Hay, Dayne Florence, Vic Horne and Keith McCullough.

Jack displayed his non politically correct sense of humor one day by making a wooden cross, then cutting up his sheets to make two hooded shrouds. Then soaking the cross with lighter fluid, he set it ablaze and we stood covered by our sheets waiting for the Base "Blue Bus" to arrive from John Hay. It then occurred to me that maybe this was not such a good thing to be doing. Keith alighted from the bus stopped and then fell down laughing when he saw us at the top of Neutral. He got up and ran up the hill toward us and tackled Jack and they wrestled for awhile. Keith spent the rest of the school day wearing Jack's sheet. He was a big guy, thank goodness he had a good sense of humor.

We were working daily on Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance", they were trying to whip us into shape. Mrs Villaba rehearsed us individually and in groups on the songs and Mrs Viduya worked with us on our lines. It was tough for me, not only was I not much of a singer, but my ex and her new beau were in the play as part of my pirate band. Most scenes where I was on stage they were on it too. I pretended to be over it but it was killing me. Fortunately most of my singing was relegated to a few lines here and there and for the rest I was backed up by a chorus of "pirates".

Finally, it was time for our performance. We were as good as we would ever get. I remembered all my lines and my voice only cracked once or twice. All in all we did moderately well, we had good material to work with, the audience laughed at our lines and songs and we didn't embarrass ourselves too badly. I got something out of it anyway, I kept my pirate costume and wore it at Brent's Halloween Carnival later that month.

I decided not to go home for Christmas that year. I put off getting my tickets until the last minute. Then when I was sure there were no available seats till well after the holiday season, I telegraphed home my apologies and watched my friends pack and leave one by one. None of them invited me home, but that was my fault, I didn't tell any of them I was staying. Misery loves company and I was it.

It wasn't too bad at first, although the silence in the dorm was deafening. I cleaned my room daily and listened to AFRTS. I joined the Christmas shoppers and browsed the markets. I ate most of my meals at the school. Mr Keddie and Mr Spitzer were there along with a few other of the boarding faculty so the dining room would be operating for the duration of the holidays. I was sitting in the lounge after lunch one afternoon, reading by the fire, when I was surprised to see an old familiar face from my first year at Brent.
I recognized her right away, she vaguely remembered me, but we slowly reacquainted ourselves. Homesick for her family, friends and the country of her childhood, she hadn't been back for four years. Now she was home from college and had stopped by to see her old school. I supposed her classmates had all moved away and I was the only one she sort of knew. She wanted to know what I was doing there on the empty campus and I told her I was staying in the dorm for the holidays. I saw her almost daily after that, sometimes we would drive around so she could see the landmarks of the city where she grew up.

A few times I went over to her folks house for a meal, sometimes just to hang out and watch them bake cookies and build a gingerbread house. It was nice to have someone to talk to and I felt safe with this college girl. She invited me to spend Christmas day with her family and at first I said "no, I don't want to intrude", but later when her mother asked me again, I agreed. It had been kind of lonely at night and I had been dreading Christmas. I really liked her family, I liked their warmth and laughter, the love they showed for each other. They probably didn't approve of my hair, but they never said a word about it and made me welcome. Christmas morning came and I was surprised and touched when there were gifts for me; later we sat down for the best Christmas meal I could ever remember.

She had been looking through her sister's Ganza yearbooks, she had read some of the things I had written. She asked me about them, commenting about a line here or there, asking for the back story behind a poem or two. She wanted to know if I was still writing and asked to see what I was working on. I had given up writing by then, I had written everything I could till I was all dried up. But she persisted, so reluctantly I showed her my notebook and after reading through it she asked me about it. Slowly but surely she coaxed out the story of my misery, things that I thought I had buried away for ever. I don't remember how long I talked, or the words she said to me afterwards. I do remember the hurt and pain at having to relive it.

One day while touring around the city in her parents car we stopped to admire the scenic view. There by the side of the road she put her arms around me, then kissed me. The passengers of a Jeepney driving by whooped and hollered but she wouldn't let go. A wave of emotion rolled over me: confusion and fear. My heart screamed out it's rage and pain, then another wave flowed through my hardened heart: a whisper of hope.

She was gentle and patient; by the time she left and school began I was ready to try again.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Part 47: Only Love Can Break Your Heart

"When you were young and on your own, how did it feel to be alone?
... But only love can break your heart
, try to be sure right from the start.
Yes, only love can break your heart. What if your world should fall apart?
- Neil Young

I spent a week before school started with Michael Kendrick at his home on the tip Bataan peninsula. His dad worked for the Australian Ford company and his house was in a small modern company development in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest village, surrounded by tall cogan grass. There was a newly paved two lane that ran in front of the housing development and past an abandoned unfinished ten story hotel and finally ended at cliffs overlooking the island of Corregedor. It was an odd place to find a community of Australians. There was nothing to do out there, but every morning there was a ferry that took the bored housewives into Manila. We did that a few times, we listened to records, he liked some Australian singer called Olivia Newton-John. But mostly we spent the days riding mini bikes up and down the empty road. One day we were blindly tearing through the tall grass and after awhile decided to pull up and walk around. We could see a glimmer of sky ahead and pushing our way towards it we suddenly found ourselves standing on the edge of a precipice! If we had driven another ten feet we would have gone right over!

I arrived back for my fifth year at Brent with a new sense of purpose and confidence. I was a Junior and felt like I was at the top of my game. But as the days and weeks progressed I came to find a Brent radically different from the way I knew it. Sure, the campus was the same, I had the same dorm room, arranged in the same layout I had the year before. But for the first time since I had started there in 1971, there were more new students than returning students. This was true with the faculty as well, we had all new dorm parents for both Hamilton Hall and the Boys Dorm; new teachers now outnumbered the old ones. In the dorms Jaime and I now had been there the longest. It was odd to be the "old timers" at Brent. There were just a few other boarders coming back, Mitz Lizares was returning as a Senior, James Jensen and Mike Kendrick were the only two returning from our class; it was only their second year at Brent. There were no returning Sophomores or Freshmen. Over at the girls dorm Leigh Gilmore, Susan Kendrick, Chris Fassnacht, Kelly Low and Renee Case were the only returning girl boarders. Amongst the day students it was slightly better, there was a slightly larger sprinkling of students who had been there for ten or more years. Brent depended on returning students to maintain the continuity. In years past, the old timers (teachers and students alike) shepherded the new students through the process of acclimating to parochial school life. This was especially true in the dorms, where the restrictions and confinement of boarding life were especially tough on kids who never had to deal with so many regulations before. Now they railed against the system and viewed us as out of step, out of touch and weird. They rebelled against the rules, the food, Chapel, prayer at meal time, even singing the Philippine National Anthem at flag raising. Never in all my time at Brent had I seen so many boarders being "campused" or on "woodpile duty" on a regular basis. Things seemed out of balance and on the verge of chaos and anarchy.

The school year had started normally enough, I went through my usual routines and when the boarders began to arrive my room already had that comfortable lived in look, as if I never left. We had new dorm parents, Mr Keddie and Mr Spitzer, two former Peace Corps volunteers. They were really laid back, casual in attire and attitude, casual about rules, drinking and drugs. Jaime took the room across from mine, the same one he had last year too. Michael had the room right next to me, James was next to Jaime. New students Jack McMullen and Jon Peiti were on our floor, Jack's brothers Andy and Ron were on the floors below as was Jon's brother Robert.

One morning I was crossing over to the locker room when a taxi pulled up and a woman and a teenager got out. They stood there indecisively, alternately turning from Binstead, to Ogilby, then to the Office and back again, clutching suitcases and looking lost. I went up to them and taking a bag, walked them to the Office. When they emerged a while later after registering I helped them with their luggage to Hamilton Hall. Leigh Gilmore was there and I introduced her to the new boarder. The mother was effusive with her thanks and her daughter who was a Sophomore flashed a smile at me, her eyes sparkling. My heart leaped from its locker and flopped about on the floor. Euphoria. I was smitten.

She joined us at our table that night, the following weekend we went to the movies and by the next week we were a couple. She seemed to like my quirky ways, she asked to wear my jacket. I was on cloud nine. The more I got to know her the more I came to believe she was ideal for me. The world was a wonderful, beautiful place; everything was as it should be. Things were looking up in school too, I was surprised to find myself nominated and elected class president, although I suspected that no one really wanted the job. Still, the year was turning out to be perfect.

This new found love took the edge off classes, as the new teachers were just as annoying as the new students. We had a new art teacher (another former Peace Corps volunteer) who, on the first day of class, asked us to paint a color wheel. But she didn't want it to look like a traditional color wheel.
So I made one that was amoebae shaped and got a "D"! I looked to see what everyone else did and theirs were the regular circle exactly like the one in the textbook. They got "A's". What the hell.

Then there was my English Lit teacher. He loved James Joyce, he even wore a little Irish cap and had an Irish temper to match. His temper regularly got the best of him, on more than one occasion he got into shoving matches during student/faculty basketball games. (The thing I really didn't like about him was the way he treated his Filipina wife, publicly ridiculing her in front of the students, faculty and staff.) On the class syllabus I noticed that the only author on the list was Joyce, and all of his books were on the reading list. I was not a fan of Salinger and Catcher in the Rye and found Joyce's Portrait of An Artist As A Young Man equally annoying. One day after a protracted argument about why I thought the young artist was an idiot, he marched me over to the office. There in the Headmaster's office he ranted, raved and foamed at the mouth. He wanted me expelled, suspended at the very least. Dr Ralph Rodriguez, assistant headmaster and in charge while Dr McGee was in Manila, stared at him bemusedly, then asked me to state my case. I calmly told him my side of the story and why I found Joyce so irrelevant. When I was done, Dr Ralph turned to my teacher.

Has he failed to submit any homework?
Has he failed any exams?

Has he been disruptive in class or disrespectful to you? (this had me worried, I was sure I was guilty on both counts)
Well, no, but he was arguing with me
So your objection is that he disagrees with your point of view?

My teacher started raving again and Dr Ralph turned to me and with a pat on the back he lead me to the door. "I don't care for Joyce much either" he whispered. Aloud he said "You can go to your next class, there are few things I need to clarify here." As I left the office I heard renewed shouting behind the closed door.

Over the coming months these new teachers (and our dorm masters) and their disregard for laws and local customs would find themselves in and out of trouble with the authorities. Even our Headmaster would find himself in court facing charges.

Meanwhile, life continued at Brent. There was a school dance at Camp John Hay and Kevin Martin, as Senior class president, auctioned off the freshmen and new students to raise funds for Senior Skip Day. The Junior class would be sponsoring the Prom this year and I was surprised when Bessie Manois, our class treasurer, told me how much cash we had in the bank. Of course, under the strict supervision of our class advisor Ms Estacio, we had saved every penny we earned since seventh grade. Bake sales and our booths at the Halloween Carnival had done very well. This year at the carnival we had the rights to the "restaurant" and that should bring in a lot more cash.

Mrs Viduya held tryouts for the play Pirates of Penzance, where, despite my inadequate vocal talents, Mrs Viduya gave me the role of the Pirate King. Fortunately, I didn't have too many solos. Mark Viduya was the Major General, my classmate Greg Clavano had the lead role of Frederic, Marie Strasser portrayed his love interest Mabel and my girlfriend played Ruth, the "piratical maid of all work".

Out in the real world "The Thrilla In Manila" was getting underway. We were excited and impressed that the fight of the century would be taking place in the Philippines. (President Marcos had offered to sponsor the event - which everyone suspected was to divert attention away from all the arrests going on under Martial Law). We gathered around the TV and watched while Ali and Frazier battled it out for 14 rounds. I was a little sorry for old Joe, he took a beating. A few days later I took a worse thrashing.

It was a big surprise when, on one sunny day at breakfast, that I found myself without a girlfriend.
Apparently she liked the captain of the basketball team better. I was devastated, I never saw it coming.

Some of my friends knew it but didn't bother to tell me. The signs were there of course. One night a few weeks before I awoke to the sound of laughter coming from the next room. I got up and went next door to find Leigh and some of the girls had snuck over from their dorm. A bunch of the guys on our floor were there and so was my girlfriend. I didn't think anything of it, I waved at her, but I was too tired to stay up and went back to bed. I didn't recognize that she was being distant.

I was crushed. I stumbled around like a zombie.
There was no consolation, I had poured my heart and soul into that relationship. I felt so betrayed. The worst part was that she seemed so happy, much happier than she had ever been with me. I attempted to be brave and tried to make the best of things.

I was the idiot with a sick smile on his face.
It was hard, there was no escaping them. She was there at every meal, sitting at his table now. I could hear her voice, her laughter. There they were together on the steps of the student lounge, cuddling on the Neutral. He was on my floor, I saw him in the bathroom, in the halls, they were together in our dorm sala, there he was with his arm over her shoulder and she was still wearing my jacket. So, I began avoiding any place I thought they might be. I kept to myself, hung out at the library or just stayed in my room. Days and weeks went by, the loneliness and isolation, at first so unbearable, now seemed like an old friend. I wore it like a mantle, my crown of thorns.

"If I laugh, just a little bit, maybe I can forget the chance
that I didn't have to know you. And live in peace, in peace.
If I laugh, just a little bit, maybe I can recall the way that I used to be, before you.
And sleep at night - and dream. If I laugh, baby if I laugh just a little bit... "
- Cat Stevens

Friday, February 11, 2011

Part 46: There and Back Again

"As all things come to an end, even this story, a day came at last when they were in sight of the country where Bilbo had been born and bred, where the shapes of the land and of the trees were as well known to him as his hands and toes."
-J.R.R. Tolkien

Back at Brent I stripped my bed and packed up the last of my things for storage. We didn't have to haul our trunks down to storage this year, as long as they were clearly labeled they would be moved for us. Then, after racing up to the dining hall for a quick bite to eat, Tommy Quinto drove us to the airport.

It was a long wait at Loakan airport, the flight was full and there was a lot of extra luggage, mostly from Brent students going home for the summer or back to the States. They were having difficulty getting all the luggage stowed away and had to repack the plane. They didn't make us wait on board, but kept us in the departure area. While we were waiting the airline passed out glasses of orange juice. I was thirsty and drank it down. Shortly thereafter I made a mental note to never eat bacon and eggs and drink orange juice so early in the morning after a night of drinking.

Finally, the plane was loaded and we boarded. Cindy was sitting next to me in the window seat, I had the aisle. After the Prom, things between us had returned to the status quo. We taxied to the far end of the tarmac and came about. Then we began lumbering down the runway, engines straining.
We didn't seem to be going very fast and after a certain point I realized that the wheels were not lifting off the ground.

Baguio's Loakan Airport is known for it's short, concave runway with cliffs on either end. Because the runway is so short, larger planes cannot use it. Even for the F-27 with it's large wingspan this runway was a little tricky. To help the pilots out, the Airport had installed markers every 50 feet along the runway. Large black lettering on a white background told the pilots how many feet were left till the end of the runway. A long hazard yellow line crossed the runway at the point where the FAA felt the wheels needed to leave the ground and a corresponding yellow marker at the same point shouted out a warning. From that point on the runway was crosshatched with thick painted lines. We called it the "Point of No Return".

I had been chatting with my seatmate, casually glancing out the window, noting the markers as we passed them. When we passed the yellow warning marker I turned with a grin to Cindy "We should have lifted off by now!"
Oh No! She covered her face with her hands and assumed the crash position. We continued to barrel down the runway, no sign of slowing down. Leaning over, I could see the fence rapidly growing larger. Finally, the wheels left the ground and a split second later we passed over the fence, then the road on the edge of the cliff. As we cleared the road the overloaded plane dropped for a few long seconds into the canyon below. Passengers screamed, some shouted, then burst into nervous laughter as we slowly began to rise again.

Leeanne, Lulie, Jaime and I were going to spend a few weeks together. Jaime's dad was going to drive us around Northern Luzon and I was just waiting for them to get to Manila to pick us up. Leeanne was busy saying goodbye to her boyfriend and I didn't like being the third wheel all the time. It was raining heavily in Manila and some parts of the city were flooded. I did a little shopping with Cindy, went to the movies and out for some pizza. Her folks maintained a home in Manila too and one night after I dropped her off I found myself stranded due to the high water. After some extensive arguing with the housekeeper, Cindy was allowed to put me up for the night. The Ya-Ya showed me my room, gave me the evil eye and pointedly shut the door firmly behind her as she left. I got the message.
No Funny Business Mister! I have to admit I was tempted. By the next afternoon the waters had receded and the family chauffeur drove me back to the Mission Guest House.

Jaime and his Dad showed up a few days later with Lulie in tow. A short time later Leeanne arrived by taxi and we were off. For the girls, this would be their first time to see parts of the country not normally visited by tourists; they were going to get to taste new foods. Away from the cities, restaurants and shops, they got to see the life in the rural areas that Jaime and I experienced growing up.
We took the National Highway north to the very top of Luzon to Aparri, the highway ending at the sea. Like Vigan, Aparri was a centuries old Spanish town located in the province of Cagayan and had been an important port during the heyday of the Spanish Galleon trade. There the ships would pick up bales of tobacco from the Cagayan valley before heading on to Manila.

There was little tourism there in those days, no big hotels or fancy restaurants. We had the beaches to ourselves; white sands and crystal clear water. Leeanne had been reading Jaws by Peter Benchley and was a little skittish in the water, constantly looking about and jumping if something brushed past her legs. Of course, this set my devilish mind in action and I scoured the beach for a suitable piece of driftwood. I found a large chunk of wood shaped like a dorsal fin and slipped in to the water when her back was turned, holding it under with my feet. Then, easing off behind her I slid under the water and holding the driftwood above me I swam towards her. She didn't notice the "fin" til it was just a few feet from her. Then the screams! I could hear them plainly even under the water! She was out of the water and clear up to the truck faster than you could say "We're going to need a bigger boat". She had some choice words for me when she saw me holding the driftwood.

There was an underlying sadness on this trip, despite the fun we were having. In the quiet moments, between the laughter, the somber misery returned to our faces. Leeanne was heading off to Montreal to law school, Lulie to Hollins College in Virginia. Besides the friends she was leaving behind at Brent, Leeanne was thinking of her boyfriend in Manila. So, when a few days in to our trip she came down sick, I think it was the sadness and loneliness more than anything else. While Jaime' s Dad drove her back to Manila, we remaining three caught a open sided Dangwa bus to Sagada.

The Episcopal Church ran a guest house called St. Joseph's and we reserved ourselves some rooms and went out to tour the town. We wandered through the woods, climbed the limestone crags; we spent a few quiet days relaxing, reading, writing. Then I caught a bus back to Baguio and then on to Manila; Jaime and Lulie took a bus to his home in Solano.

We had been together as a group since 1973. A lifetime of tears, laughter and loving; now these were our last days together. In the glory days we would have fought and died for each other. How could an insignificant calendar date in time abruptly conclude our relationships?

Our Fellowship was at an end.