MY FRIEND Arthur invited me to be his personal guest during the alumni homecoming in his Alma Mater (high school). He is the incumbent president of the general alumni association. In his town, he is known as “Toto Arthur”, a successful small-time sugarcane planter.
I spent the night before the homecoming in his “casa la granja” (farm house). He offered me the guest room. He and his “new wife” (young and really new) occupied the “dormitorio de amo” (master’s bedroom). Arthur got three boys with his first wife who already crossed the great beyond. All of them are now professionals and have their business in Manila. They have families of their own.
Arthur obliged me to wear my barong Tagalog to match his attire. “You are my guest. I will introduce you as the consultant of Silay City Government and a columnist of SunStar Bacolod.”
I did not argue. It’s no use talking against his will. His wife Eloisa (27 years old) appeared at the sala like socialite Raya Mananquil with her sheer painted dress, green paisley printed brocade jacket. She also had gold and printed resin neckpiece matching her acrylic monogram ring.
It was eight in the morning when we left his house in his Chevrolet Suburban. The road leading to the school was muddy. We hit the not-so-old covered court 10 minutes before the time for the program. There was a big crowd (almost 500) with more or less 30 retired teachers. The parish priest was already there for his invocation.
We still waited for almost an hour because five politicians have been invited to give messages. Arthur told me, “We cannot go ahead without them. Each of them donated one lechon baboy.” The priest was already irritated. He would still be giving communion to sick senior citizens in their houses.
One after the other, the politicians arrived late with their valid excuses. The three came from Bacolod. “There is terrible traffic congestion in Bacolod!” The two other politicians invited other three politician friends. Arthur gave the opening remarks. He introduced me properly after presenting his “new wife”. The people in his town are used to seeing his variety of “new wife”.
I was disgusted to see the three politicians in their “purontong attire”. They would want to be excused because after the program they would go to fishpond to fish. The other two were in their working clothes because they came from their farm, and the other three were in their sandals because the road was muddy.
Arthur, Eloisa and I appeared like “ornate saints” on stage because of our fabulous attire. All the eight politicians talked as if there is no tomorrow. Three old retired teachers fainted. The host class was obliged to distribute salted peanuts on the tables of the teachers with bottled water. The program ended at almost 2:30 in the afternoon. The priest disappeared earlier without saying goodbye.
Other intermission numbers and inspiring speeches from successful alumni were deleted because there was no more time and everybody was super hungry. The politicians did not attend lunch anymore. They sensed that the alumni in all batches were angry because of their long speeches. They made their own excuses to hurriedly leave. The host class was obliged to send them food.
My barong Tagalog was already crumpled because it was too hot on stage. Arthur simply smiled after reading my mind. Lunch was good. Each batch had its long table loaded with food and beer. I noticed that the two lechons near our table were just skin and bones. The good meat seemed to have been removed before grilling the pig. The stomach was just loaded with indian mango and tamarind leaves, lemon grass, and empty bottles of soda.
I got reason to be happy for lunch. Arthur brought me three saucers loaded with the town’s popular food: “bonog” cooked with “labog” and native vinegar, fried eel, and “banag” with gabi cooked with coco milk.
That was very compensating for my crumpled barong Tagalog. The host class invited me to go back in the evening for the pageant but I was told that more politicians will be attending.
I decided to go back to Silay. Arthur requested his driver to take me home. The “new wife” gave me a good hug. I told her, “Take good care of Arthur. He can be naughty if not properly attended.” The “new wife” answered, “I know that he is extinct but I also know what he wants.” She gave me a cute box and another memorable hug.