Alumni reunions are time machines that can transport you back to a particular period in the past. And depending on your experiences during that particular time, reunions can bring back memories that could be either bitter or sweet.
But our little alumni reunion last Nov. 24 in the house of our gracious hosts – Mr. Dante and Dr. Doree Ann Espiritu – in Bloomfield Hills evoked memories that were mostly merry and sweet.
Yes, we enjoyed reminiscing the days when we were students at Roosevelt High School (RHS) in our beloved town, Piddig, Ilocos Norte. Those were the days when we were oozing with energy and enthusiasm and our eyes glittered with big dreams about the future.
Now viewed after a lapse of five decades or so, those dreams proved to be the magical force that motivated us to realize our potentials.
The alumni get-together in the Espiritu home indicated that many of the young men and women who imbibed their secondary education at RHS had fully developed their potentials and, as a result, had become successful in their fields of endeavor. This is an unmistakable proof of the excellent education given to us by our alma mater. And there is no reason why it should not be.
The founders of RHS – Sirs Emilio Ventura, Jose Pimentel and Justo Arquero, all deceased – had impeccable credentials as world-class educators: They were alumni of top schools here in the United States. For example, Mr. Ventura, who is the grandfather of Doree Ann and our mathematics teacher, was a graduate of UCLA. (“The two goals of mathematics are speed and accuracy,” he used to tell his first-year students.)
The three founders were working students here in the US during the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt after whom the school they founded was named.
Instead of staying here in America or working in progressive cities in the Philippines, they decided to go back to their poor hometown and established RHS with the paramount objective of providing quality education to the youth. To a large extent and despite the school’s modest facilities, they succeeded in fulfilling their mission, which is their everlasting legacy to our town.
We, the alumni who joined the reunion, now greatly appreciate the legacy of the founders who, we learned, will be appropriately immortalized in a monument to be erected in front of the school.
Aside from this writer (class 1961), the reunion participants, who have their own success stories to tell, were Figette Ventura, Monina Silvano-Ford (1966), Carmelita Flores-Aramo (1960), Rosaline Flores-Bugayong (1963), Nemia Nicolas Franco (1954), Chris Franco (1976), Victoria Silvano-Mangandog, Angelina Silvano-Godoy, Amy Silvano, Marr Ventura and Doree Ann V. Espiritu.
Rosaline, Monina, Carmelita and Marr travelled all the way from Chicago to attend the reunion. Victoria, Angelina and Amy, all sisters, live in Ann Arbor.
Nemia was a classmate of my aunt Carmen Aggalut-Basamot and cousin Virginia Antonio.
Some of us, who are now seniors but still young at heart, have fond memories of our Roosevelt High School days. Young as we were then, love was beginning to blossom in the heart. Inevitably, the conversation turned to such topics as “who married who,” and “who among our classmates are now rich and famous.”
In those days the Flores and Silvano girls were among the town’s budding beauties.
But the remembrances turned morose and somber when we remembered our school mates who had passed away. I felt sadness when I learned that my classmate Francis Franco, elder brother of Chris, died in a vehicular accident some years ago. We also remembered Councilor Johnny Silvano, also an RHS alumnus, who died a few years ago due to accidental shooting. May the Almighty give the souls of Francis and Johnny eternal repose in His Kingdom.
The memories rolled by merrily and alive when Marr, brother of Doree Ann, took center stage and regaled us with stories about certain RHS teachers who were either loved or feared by the students due to their peculiar way of teaching. The story telling by Marr, who is an undiscovered stand-up comedian, was greatly entertaining as it was complete with acting and voice mimic.
The reunion was made more memorable by the Ilocano (what else?) dinner served by the Espiritu couple. We enjoyed partaking favorite dishes that included “pinapaitan,” “lechon,” “dinuguan” and “kare-kare.”
The dinner reminded us of the unique way parties are held in our town, where the hosts are spared the trouble of having to send out invitations. In Piddig, people seem to think they have the inalienable right to attend every “pagdadayaan.” But that is another story.