Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Grand Alumni Homecoming

(In which a decade almost did nothing.)

Last Saturday was scheduled for a Grand Alumni Homecoming of the Angono Regional Pilot School for the Arts. (If you haven’t heard of it, that’s fine.) All students from all the batches were invited as the school reached its tenth year. The arts program started in 2000. The first graduates were batch 2004 and that’s us. Anyway, I looked forward to that event.

I was conditioned that reunions are just another season where people earn extra bragging rights about their life achievements. But since we’re just recent college graduates, I abandoned the idea and dreamt of what’s going to happen instead. I expected to see my old high school friends who, by now, must be moving their way up the corporate ladder to achieve their goals. They’re going to tell me stories of how they got there and I’ll be happy for them. I also expected those who I don’t really have a warm relationship with ever since high school to be friendlier for the gathering’s sake. And of course I expect the Sorority to be pretty and intimidating as ever.

After running an errand for my father that Saturday afternoon, I had to really rush to get to the venue at seven in the evening. But unfortunately, I arrived late – about half past eight – and was totally embarrassed to be unpunctual. The embarrassment turned to a gaping expression of surprise when I saw how “many” people were already there. Imagine around eight large round tables in a wide multi-purpose high school gym. Now picture three or four tables with people. No, I didn’t say fully occupied tables.

So I looked for people I know. I spotted four female classmates and sat with them. Then they continued sitting there as though not a soul has entered the circle. But they managed to get their cameras out of their cases and snapped a shot. I was included in the picture but I felt that I might as well vanish. An acquaintance from our batch sat next to me and greeted the girls. After a lukewarm response he queried, “Hey, was I never missed?” I admired his audacity. I never dared to pose that question, especially to people who don’t seem to care. After a couple of minutes, the girls started to stand to get to the receptionist’s table behind us – one by one, without a single word – and we were left there, a pair of losers in the midst of prima donnas.

We spotted a couple of our batch mates in a corner and approached them. At last, we had a conversation. After we got bored from sitting and talking, we took some pictures, sat back and simply waited for two more hours. The supposed-to-be-set-at-seven engagement was now expected to start at eleven or later, which accentuates not only the unpunctuality of some people but their inexplicable penchant for late-night celebrations as well. And then the start of the program was marked by the arrival of the food. (sigh)

Now on more disappointing things.

We were informed to wear semi formal dresses fashioned in 2010. So I was expecting a semi-formal occasion. You know, it’s a reunion of artists so I thought they will occasionally be playing classical music. (I didn’t say that they should make classical music the theme of the celebration. Drowning everyone with Bach or Mozart in this time of the evening isn’t a very good idea.) But not only do some people showed defiance over the dress code, the people behind the program defied balance when they mixed round tables covered with white cloth and topped by a floral centerpiece (They even sprinkled rose petals around the center piece. Well, I actually liked how classy the design was.) and semi formal dress code with a remix of rock, hiphop, country and RnB. Oh and have I already mentioned the neon light and disco ball around the stage versus the candles in crystal glasses on the classy tables? Wait, they also have a couple of bands who played rock! Actually, I can deal with that. I wasn’t expecting a royal banquet. But what I was just looking for was something to match the dress code and the tables as well the celebration for a decade of artistry. Is that too much?

I have been used to the fact that the Sorority is a popular cohesive group in our campus. (No, they weren’t tagged that way. It was a term I coined for my own consumption.) Wherever they are, they exude this aura of eternal friendship mixed with a subtle arrogance. And no, they weren’t all girls. But since the group was dominated by females, I don’t want to bother how to label the males. Anyway, so they have this aura that’s enough for everyone – okay, me – to feel intimidated. But just like other people, they shine with verve when together with other Sorority members and quiet when with others. But they are as equally intimidating. (Or maybe because I just have low self-esteem. Whatever.) The reason why I include them in this sad list is because I never felt that the reunion was made for everyone. Just like what a friend said, it appears as though the presence of other people weren’t warmly acknowledged. It’s like non-members do not belong. And for that reason, we preferred to stay in a distant corner, albeit being surrounded by youngsters from the most recent batches.

To give you a better idea, here’s an example: I saw a classmate from the Sorority in the buffet area whom I knew was sick from a Facebook comment thread. So I asked her if she feels better now. But she didn’t respond. Though embarrassed, I just thought that she might not have heard me. I thought that’s the end of her ignoring act. But during the closing part of the program, where the girls’ picture was taken, I sat next to her since there isn’t any more seat. I was the last in the row and on her left was her friend followed by another friend. When the paparazzis signaled that they were about to snap a shot, she tilted her head to the left and turned her back on me as if she’s the last person in the line! How inimical can one be! Not to mention rude! And the appalling thing is, she never even apologized nor realized that she just gave someone the cold shoulder to be captured in a photograph! It was as though she never recognized nor knew me. That actually makes me feel worse than an unwelcome, random soul.


The party wasn’t a total disaster actually. There are some things I really felt happy for and I will always remember them. I admire the people who were never my classmates and the male members of the Sorority who approached us and smiled at us and asked how we were getting along with the other people while desperately waiting; or thanked us for attending and for appreciating their performance and promised a better one next time. Those people helped us see the beautiful things in the party and appreciate their value. The warm welcome of these acquaintances is better than all the other things in that reunion combined.