Baby boomers – the pre-departure area L Monico L Monico

Baby boomers – the pre-departure area Featured

I WILL depart temporarily from my regular fare of politics and analysis of issues behind the headlines. Today’s item touches on a topic concerned with the demographic subset to which I belong, the “baby boomers.” We came right after the “greatest generation” that fought a world war. The end of WW2, I surmise, stimulated the homecoming warriors to wage another war in matrimonial beds perhaps to collectively replenish the population lost in the war; or young couples freed from the stresses of almost a decade of world conflict surrendered to the long suppressed hormonal demands for sexual proclivities. This precipitated an unintended consequence — over-production of babies. Except that in poverty-stricken Philippines, we continued this pleasant task as an inexpensive leisure time diversion, exacerbated by the Catholic Church dictum to go and multiply. And that we certainly did, merrily driving population growth through the roof and supplying the insatiable world demand for OFWs. Thus, I came into this world as the eldest of 10 livebirths. And so were many from my Ateneo de Davao high school class of 1960, grade school 1956, and kindergarten 1950, whose parents were similarly oblivious to “birth control.”

But today, we are a dying breed. Magnificent breed indeed, “legends in our own minds,” nonetheless dying all the same. Class ’60 could be a microcosm of my generation. There were the original nine of us who matriculated in Grade 1 in June 1950 (5-7 years old): Alvin, Dinky, Gamay, Gus, Jimmy, Ting, Manding, Ferrer and me. We had our first death in Manding Valencia†, our valedictorian; first in class, first in death! In a plane crash. The irony of it all is that it could have been Sammy Lutz, who at the last moment exchanged flights with Manding (but this is part of the class ’60 compendium of narratives, myths and lore; the expanded version available when the ADD Class ’60 book is published — if ever).

It was similarly true for Boy Ferrer† our Grade 6 valedictorian who graciously gave us two weeks’ advance notice that he was passing on (due to cancer). This precedent is now prescribed by our designated class president-for-life, Dinky; allowing the living time to fit out new barongs.

In the 1980s, our professions scattered us to the four winds but our desire to revisit our roots prompted Pete Ancheta†, Alvin and Eken Angeles to initiate yearly reconnection during school alumni reunions. These became regular affairs when many dropped by Davao to visit old haunts, update one another, relive some memories and boast about our careers and amorous conquests. Joey Ramirez† holds the record when he succumbed to a fatal stroke amidst camaraderie and merry-making. May he rest in peace.

To date, 29 of us, a good third of the original batch of 80 have passed on. Statistically, at this rate, we should all be gone in another quarter of a century notwithstanding advances in medicine and drastic changes in lifestyle. There is a morbid silver lining to this. UN statistics on population longevity establishes the male life expectancy at birth in the Philippines at 64.72 years; which give us an average bonus of a decade over our expiry date.

This macabre Russian roulette of who goes ahead happily is not in an alphabetical order; else Ting Valdez, Aks Verde and Rey Vicente have the advantage. Our being in the ‘departure area’ as it were, and the thought of ‘who goes next’ is I think the single biggest impetus that binds class ’60 together at this late date and heightens the need for a buffer from the inevitable. No one wants to board ahead, not Romy Espaldon or Mac Cabonce, our two elders, or even Alex Nidea, who is bedridden.

A dark depressing cloud descended upon us lately, triggered by the recent demise of Art Gumban. Art was literally bigger than many of us, but he possessed a demeanor perhaps influenced by devoted wife Mila. A taciturn man with an arresting smile permanently plastered on his face emitting mixed unreadable signals on whether he is angry, bored or happy. Yoly Salazar, his confidante, swears that this gentle giant of a man was sweet inside and out. He did not last a year with his pancreatic cancer.

Ben de Guzman and Boy Gomez proffered a theory which could have an element of truth; that only the good die young; “…ang masasamang damo, ay matagal mamatay,” giving a sigh of a relief to Philip Kimpo, Ochie Teoxon and Ben Garrido. On the other hand, this certainly presents a portent and a disadvantage to the likes of Pribhu Balchand, Gus Dacudao and Ruben Hilario who are the most religious in the group. Along with our designated pastor, Romy Butiu, they certainly have reserve seats if called upon early into the bosom of His Kingdom.

We will someday die but will fight tooth and nail to postpone it. Thus, we all are feverishly clinging to the familiar and a camaraderie simply to recapture memories amidst an early stage of dementia and Alzheimer — which, I’m afraid, is a much more lethal form of death. Thus, we have recruited our wives to join us in these sorties to cover up for us, reminding us to refrain from repeating old jokes. But just the same, we laugh heartily as we don’t remember the new ones from the old.

At this point in our lives, we indulge ourselves by organizing simple gatherings and out-of-town sorties. At the core is our Wednesday merienda that sometimes stretches out toward evening with Philip leading the call for beer. Danny Tiongko recently celebrated a birthday dinner with Manila-based classmates which could be a precedent for a weekly gathering in the capital region. And our hacendero, Jimmy San Agustin, has invited us all for a taste of Roxas; and Boy Tan for an engagement with the indigenous tribes of Bukidnon — whose appearance and forest smell he has emulated and absorbed.

We don’t need excuses to do lunch to celebrate a birthday, or when our rich classmate Mar OngAnte with gorgeous wife Aleli sponsor dinner — which is not that expensive as septuagenarians are in a habit of calculating calories and comparing cholesterol and blood-glucose counts while our doctor Art Perez dispenses free advice and Vic Mabunay extols the health benefits of natural coconut oil. Our appetites are decidedly reduced by talk of maladies. And the customary greetings of “how are you” are interpreted literally as a challenge for bragging rights on the latest ailments, from diabetes, to high blood pressure to erectile dysfunction. At least our conversation has not yet deteriorated into what brand of adult diaper gives the best comfort and does not leak!

And so, this narrative of the weekly gathering of old men will continue with such fervid attentiveness with the knowledge that this will not last long. The last passengers will be called soon, as one needs to surrender one’s boarding pass — “…another one bites the dust.” In the meantime, see you Wednesday afternoon.

Read 894 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 December 2018 14:13
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