IF YOU are one of those who got a copy of my book you might have read some of the people I mentioned there as my friends. If I gather all my friends I made over the years, it can fill one coliseum. I am an extrovert. I love going out. I love to talk and listen to people. I love breaking bread and drinking with people who share the same passion. Since I was still in my shorts and was a precocious grade school pupil in Porac Elementary School I remember having the most friends among schoolmates.

And as the years passed and as a teenager starting to grow soft hair on the upper lips I formed a gang called the Archangels and members were mostly coming from our barrio and nearby. So it is so difficult for me to adjust to getting lockdown and staying home most of the time alone in my room, viewing TV and immersed with my books, Netflix and YouTube in this time of pandemic.

Earlier and already in my senior years, I frequented hotel lobby’s, cafes like Starbucks where I leisurely drink my brewed with Bert Kilates, a casino man who worked many years with different casinos in Vegas before he was hired by Jose Antonio Gonzalez to manage Mimosa casino in mid-nineties. Places like Cafe Mesa where I used to hang around with ‘mga playboys na walang girl friends’ and watching those long legged waitresses. “Hindi na kayo playboys, quipped Mayor Pogi Lazatin. Mga Payboy kayo,” he added.

In some some days I go to the casinos in Clark and sip coffee with my friend Ban Pineda, the guy who has the biggest eggs in all of Minalin. Businessman Joey Son, entrepreneur Raul Aquino aka Steven Seagal and with them I share in many occasions a table at Midori casino and two hours of storytelling is not even enough. Serious talks when meeting colleagues from Pampanga Press Club and Capampangan Media Inc.

Certain low IQ members of congress cannot even fathom the discussions among my peers there like veteran broadcaster Mario Garcia, analysts like Joe Cortez, Bong Lacson, Tonette Orejas, Vot Vitug, Noel Tulabut, Eric Jimenez, Joey Pavia, Rolly Eclevia, Dik Pascual and many more. Younger members in our press clubs can discuss wide range of subjects. It is my impression that Bale Balita is a breeding place for intellectuals.

In all my adult years, I have several businessmen friends from fellowship groups now known as Wednesday Club and Monday Club. The two groups meet regularly as their days suggest. In Monday Club, members are numbering to more than fifty. Prominent among them is Congressman Mikey Arroyo. The Monday Club saw its birth in 1992. In the Wednesday Club, which was organized in 2002, these gentlemen will answer the roll call: Jess Nicdao, president of Pampanga Chamber of Commerce, Renato “Atoy” De La Cruz, a furniture exporter and infrastructure contractor, lawyer Ernie De Vota, a retired Bureau of Internal Revenue director and currently a member of the board of Clark Development Corporation, Ferdie Beltran, a successful contractor and owner of several business concerns, retired police General Guillor Eleazar of the PNP who’s running now for a Senate seat, Jaypee Bautista, Bong Tanate, William Bigornia, all businessmen from Urdaneta, Pangasinan, Joseph Policarpio, executive of R.D. Policarpio construction firm, former Bacolor mayor and currently provincial Board Member Jun Canlas, ladies man and businessman Martin Vitug, Engineer Rico Guilas, businessman Naz Tuazon, former Capas Mayor TJ Rodrigues, Magalang Mayor Romy Pecson, businessman Eriko Limjoco, retired BIR official Rey Manalili and retired PNP Colonel Pete Retirado.

The list of members in Monday Club is too long because close to one hundred became members and they became my friends. Few are gone now and others are abroad but those who stayed behind we still meet. The likes of senior members Fil Del Rosario and Atty. Willie Untalan were always the early birds. Before the pandemic, Lupo Apilado, Atty Manolo Feliciano, Angelo Baltazar, Journalist Chito Bautista, Troy Recabar, Ray Dizon never absented themselves. A roll call today will include Col. Marvin Bolabola, Ariel Jersey, Jimmy Santos, Marlon Marquez, Alvin Alfonso, Orling Magic, Tony De Jesus, Ric Balatbat and Rene Tayag. Despite their numbers, never enough in my hands.

Aside from swapping jokes, drinking our choice of drinks and savoring delightful cuisine, we are once in a while are drawn to serious topics such as politics, economy, geographical issues, etc. we disagree and agree later.