I’ve been in the Tampa Bay area since last Tuesday, attending a reunion in Sarasota of my Manila high school friends. I’ll be back home Monday evening.
These reunions are like an oasis in a desert. All of us feel a strong bond to anyone who attended the school even if we did not know each other at the time. We have a shared experience that no one else can understand or appreciate. We are a very special family.
Thanks to the Internet, my high school “barkada” slowly began regrouping beginning in the early ’80s. An all-classes reunion was held in 1982 in the San Francisico Bay area after a conversation between two ‘67 alums who thought a 15th graduation anniversary reunion would be nice. The reunion was opened up to all classes and the organizers hoped 150 might attend. They knew they were onto something when 400 attended (almost 600 counting spouses, teachers, etc.).
That began regular all-classes reunions every three years. As you can imagine, planning a reunion for hundreds of persons is a difficult undertaking. The reunion committee had hoped other groups would organize reunions in other cities but that was not happening.
I did not learn of the reunions until 1995, and attended my first one in 1996. Seeing old friends I had not been in contact with for some 25 years was very exhilarating. I enjoyed the reunion so much I did not want to wait another three years for the next reunion.
Since Vegas is my second home, and Vegas is associated with “party,” I decided to organize a reunion there for the next year and had no problem enlisting help. Although we made the reunion open to all classes, most of the attendees were from the decade of the 70’s. We enjoyed it so much that we began holding regular reunions in Vegas.
It didn’t take long for other “decades” to begin organizing their own reunions. Now, the classes of ‘45-’55, ‘60s, ‘70’s and ‘80’s all hold regular reunions throughout the country.
Many alumni live outside the U.S. and they joined in on reunion fever. Now there are regular reunions in Australia (the “Down Under” reunions) and also in Europe. The third “Down Under” reunion was held within the last month. And a reunion is planned for Hamburg next year.
The Sarasota reunion is the first reunion in Florida, not counting two reunion cruises which only originated in Florida. Any “first” reunion can be difficult. One issue in Florida is that there are not that many alumni in the state, compared to California or the Washington D.C. area, for example. The organizer planned it on his own and there is always a learning curve.
But the reunion is a success. There will be 50 alumni, almost all from the classes of the ’70’s, 15 “asawas” (spouses), two former teachers (one is actually a former principal), and one parent. Participants are from 28 states and Italy. The Vegas reunions typically attracted about 35, so Sarasota will be twice as large. And it’s not as if there’s a been a lack of recent reunions. There was a reunion in Washington, D.C. in October 2013.
And although it has only been Spring for a few weeks, the weather is going to be very warm. But that’s why Florida is called “The Sunshine State.”
These reunions are probably no different from other high school reunions. But of course our reunions have a distinct Filipino flavor.
All reunions have beer. We prefer one beer:
All reunions have food. We prefer the classic Filipino “party” food: lechon (spit roasted pig).
A favorite reunion activity is looking at old yearbooks.
And hanging out by a swimming pool and telling tall tales is always good.
This reunion will feature two new activities: the first beach barbeque (lunch) and an evening party at the organizer’s waterfront home. For the evening party, he’s arranged for a bus to pick us up at the hotel, take us to his home and then return us after the party.
The evening party will feature another “first” – a special kalamansi vodka beverage using kalamansi from bushes that he and some and neighbors are growing. (You may recall that I recently bought a kalamansi bush to grow in a pot.)
Keep your eyes open for Kalamancello, a kalamansi-based alcoholic beverage which some Manila friends of mine have already been drinking at social gatherings. You can check them out drinking it at a party by visiting the Kalamancello Facebook page:
I hope this is the beginning of regular Florida reunions. The organizer is Class of ‘75 and retired about a few weeks ago after closing on the sale of a business he owned. So he’ll have time to plan more reunions!
And there’s already another reunion coming up this year. It’s my class’ 45th graduation anniversary and so were are having an October reunion in San Diego with the Classes of ‘69, ‘71 and ‘72. I’ve already made my hotel reservations.
And since it doesn’t make sense to fly out to the west coast for just a few days, and Vegas is close to San Diego….
All our reunions end with this wish: