Back to the Garden (45 Years in the Making for Batch GS68/HS72)
The first half of February 2017 was a time like no other for close to 80 proud and battle-worn eagles. The boys of Ateneo High School Batch 72 (and GS68) carefully walked down the corridors - then their hallowed pathways - some gingerly trudging along, others waddling, one on an ambulatory wheelchair; but all in respectful awe, inhaling deep in an effort to dissolve welled-up tears and hopefully, clear choked throats.
Forty-five years ago, a group of long-haired, double knit bell-bottomed, nik nik polyester shirt-garbed kids who were convinced they knew the answers to all of the world’s problems stepped down from that hill, down to a real, unforgiving world that tested their mettle to the core. They all flew high, though some flew a bit too high and burned their wings. But time, as it has always done, smoothened the edges and tempered the passions, and brought them back home, back to their personal garden of good memories and happy times.
And so on Saturday, February 4, 2017, they trooped back amidst the high-fives and chest thumps, and gathered in the high school chapel to give thanks and to remember and honor those who couldn’t make it. Concelebrated by Fr. Kit Bautista, younger brother of batchmate Fr. Mon Bautista, Fr. Bill Kreutz, former math teacher, and Fr. Lito Mangulabnan, batch counselor, confessor, sumbungan ng bayan, and keeper of all personal secrets, the group sang the mass songs of the 70s, capped with an emotionally-charged group rendition of Ateneo’s graduation hymn. A very noisy and easily-distracted walking tour of the high school grounds courtesy of the High School’s Paul Daza followed. Favorite haunts, well-kept secrets and recycled stories littered each step of the way to the delight of the senior eagles. Lunch was at the cafeteria where the usual world-class cafeteria food was served, and an impromptu program hosted by Lito Cruz and Raul Buan was done in the middle of over a hundred simultaneous conversations - organized chaos at its finest!
The next following days were days of adventure, discovery and re-discovery. Tagaytay was chosen as central hub with Raul Buan’s ridgeview home as base headquarters. Batchmates Ricky Rivilla and Mike Limjap also opened up their private homes and hosted senior-friendly class nights. One group bravely attempted a round of golf in Splendido courtesy of Club GM Teboy Javier, another group joined a Taal Heritage Tour organized by Vince Eleazar, highlighted by a period dress pictorial which brought back to life some of the characters from Noli. Still another group headed towards Laguna for a cultural/food lovers’ tour. And during the times when all groups got together, there were hosted lunches, cocktails and dinners from big-hearted batchmates like Bobbit Panlilio, Raul and Teboy with “unli” food, wine, stories, laughter and good vibes. Many of the spouses were there to connect the dots and complete the picture of harmony.
Those who flew in from overseas, and even the locals from Manila were amazed at the welcome and reception, and the planning of the events. Pockets of mini-reunions, sidetrips, roadtrips, and foodtrips also sprouted instantly: a welcome dinner at Peking Garden, a John Graulty-hosted walking tour of the American Cemetery in Taguig, island-hopping in Palawan and beach-hopping in Iloilo/Guimaras, a guided Malacanang tour, a batch farewell bash in Club Filipino, and endless hosted meals in private homes.
The culminating event was dubbed Gala Night and held at Manila Polo Club’s Turf Room on Saturday, February 11. Revival band Child of Morning was the evening’s rabble-rousing, earth-shaking, foot-stomping standout performance bannered by classmates Boot Madrid, Chito Limcaoco, Jess Garcia and Jun Latonio performing the songs of our youth, and brought the group back home where all the good memories are kept. And there was a surprise performance from a banker, an educator, a lawyer and a doctor, a group known as Sawsawan Boys. Take a bow, Rene Encarnacion, Freddie Atienza, Reggie Angangco and Hamlet Lazatin! Even the batch’s dancing moves were put to the test with Mart Infante’s performance bringing the house down.
But there were serious moments too. Class president Jay Sugay presented the batch’s medical mission projects of the past several years where thousands of marginalized communities benefitted with selfless assistance from batchmates like Vic Gisbert, Skip SyLing, Mike Limjap, Vince Eleazar, Robbie Misa, Ricky Rivilla and many, many unnamed others. For this year, Jay once again called for pledges to allow the batch to continue its medical missions. In the span of half an hour, a whopping P630,000 was pledged, equivalent to 21 medical missions! For many, giving without counting the cost was the highlight of the evening.
It was truly a night to remember, to laugh about, to talk about, to dream about. And this batch has Raul Buan, privately referred to as “Chairman”, to thank for spending the last 14 months of his life preparing for this event. There were many others who gave much of their time and treasure: Jay Sugay, Toots Quiogue, Lito Cruz, GG Gonzalez, Jess Hofilena, Boot Madrid, Mike Limjap, Chito Limcaoco, and Marc Lagdameo to name a few. The list is kilometric and we know who they are. Iza Saliente, someone the batch hired to assist in the preparations evolved from secretary, to special assistant, to organizer, to honorary batchmate. It was a selfless group effort driven by over fifty years of brotherhood and a shared past of good memories and happy moments.
And as this same group of seniors look to the coming year -- their 50th Anniversary since graduating from the Ateneo Grade School in 1968, as they inch ever closer to their own personal doorways to eternity, their constant prayer is to be granted the courage and the strength in their journey to always strive to be men for others, to be constantly true, and to dedicate their remaining days in God’s service, and for His greater glory.
Lorenzo “Lorie” Z. Reyes
Proud Member of Ateneo Batch GS68/HS72