September 15, 2001 Reunion ˇ Chili's ˇ Music 21 Plaza

 
 
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  On the Day Itself
  At Chili's
  At Music 21 Plaza
 




 

Since we were deeply engrossed in our exuberant conversation inside the van, we hardly noticed that we are already circling the Greenbelt area and after a few more minutes, Chili's Bar and Restaurant came into view. So, I went off the van first and held the sliding door open to let the rest of the group alight from the van. There were some jitters and butterflies in my stomach (again, as far as I'm concerned, but then the other two "roses" may not be bold enough to admit it, hehe) as we went inside the posh American resto. One by one, we trooped towards the area reserved for us, straining our necks in looking at the long table set aside for the group at the farthermost left corner of the room. At the backdrop is the signature red brick wall with the Chili's logo and some appropriate bright amber lighting setting the ambient mood of the surrounding area and sprucing up the path as we "walk down memory lane". Three familiar faces were already eagerly smiling back at us and the first one that I recognized is Liberty, followed by Ailen and lastly by Mary Yrene. I sat at the end of the table with Liberty flanking me at my left and Mary Yrene by my right. At Libay's left side is Ailen, then Mary Ann sat beside her, followed by Ged and lastly Jean Anne. While Joel sat beside Mary Yrene followed by Rossano at Joel's right side. 

After the perfunctory "hi's" and "hello's" and ordering Iced Tea as refreshment for each and everyone of us (since it is refillable making it the most practical choice, di ba?), we ordered the following "pica-pica" or finger foods as they're casually called. First on the list is southwestern egg rolls and frankly, I don't know why it was called egg rolls as I didn't see nor tasted any eggs in it. It was more like small-sized, sliced pieces of french bread with some toppings and mayonnaise dip, I think(?), to which Mary Ann Santos developed a taste for (right Mary Ann, joke only!). Second is the Mozzarella fried cheese which is better than cheese sticks, zesty to the taste but not brittle to the bite to which Mary Yrene beat me in getting the last stick, hehehe. And lastly is the bottomless tostada chips which are like oversized, unsalted potato chips with salsa dip (or was it finely-chopped tomatoes?) which, much to my chagrin, was later "monopolized" by Rossano and Marlett who cited some article or another about territorial jurisprudence! Shocking, di ba? Imagine, invoking constitutional rights in "defending" tostada chips all to their lonesome, hahaha. My goodness, Marlett truly epitomizes a fine example of a female barrister as she reminds me of a "feisty" Erin Brockovich, agree?

But first let me relate to you our initial meeting in more than 20 years that happened outside of Chili's. Well into our trip down memory lane, I felt my cellular phone vibrating inside my breast pocket, reluctantly forcing me to excuse myself from the group to accept the call. So I stepped outside of the restaurant and within a few moments, while lost in conversation with the person on the other end of the line, along came a lovely lady in a tasteful orange long-sleeved blouse & jet-black slacks. She stopped on a dime before entering the door and then nonchalantly blurted out my name in an almost melodious query, saying: "Abner???" As I slowly turned around to heed the call of my name, elated at the cognizance after so long a time, a warm smile greeted me from the heart as I instantaneously said, "Marlett???". It was similar to watching a slow motion picture, as frame by frame I started advancing towards the gorgeous lady standing a few feet away from me, abruptly forgetting that I put my call on hold, feeling excited in seeing a cherished friend after all these years.

You might say that it was like a romantic scene out of the movie "An Affair to Remember," "Sleepless in Seattle," "Forget Paris," "Forces of Nature," or even "Notting Hill." But wait 'til you hear how the scene ended up and you would agree with me in concluding that it was more like a cut out of a commercial from MENTOS -- the Freshmaker, hahaha. Because as I was closing in on Marlett Balagtas, I noticed an imposing figure, a hunk of a man that looked straight out of a body-building gym, about a yard away from us whom, fortunately for me, I immediately surmised as her beau. He accompanied Marlett up to Chili's and went about his way at the corner of the street. Hence, instead of giving Marlett a friendly hug or a "beso-beso", I just settled in shaking her hand and opening the door for her to show the way inside, like a devoted doorman of an elegant establishment. Then I returned back to my phone call to end it courteously, as I casually popped a Mentos Candy (or was it Polo, the mint with a hole?) into my mouth feeling a bit relieve and refreshed, hehehe. Later on, as we narrated that delightful anecdote to the group, they were hilariously imagining the scene and everyone really had a good laugh out of it, unmindful and oblivious of the leery looks from the faces of other restaurant patrons. We proudly felt as if we were the only people inside Chili's during those enchanting moments (MA(lay) & PA(kialam) nila, haha).

Now, while going about our own ways, bits and pieces of information and stories being exchanged from one pocket of group to another, along came another lady in serious black blouse and faded blue jeans. With her patented cheerful smile that goes well with her short hair approaching our table as demurely as she can. And I am talking about the cutest among the group -- Luisa Magsakay! I told Joel to offer the seat beside him as Rossano, sensing the seating arrangement, forthwith transferred to the other vacant seat. It was like Nińo Muhlach & Aiza Seguerra seated side by side and the only missing item is a guitar for them to sing the most popular ballad in the Philippines today--"Pagdating ng Panahon" (tee-hee, para maiba naman ang tawa). When the laughter piped down, Liberty told us that she can only stay until 5:00 pm since her husband is unaware of her "escape" from their house and that is what I would dare call as DESIRE with a capital "E" (for Escape, hehehe). And so is Mary Yrene, yet she is not an escapee, rather she still has some prior commitments to attend to, I believe. But we prevailed upon them and bargained for their stay for thirty more minutes until 5:30. And just as when we were no longer expecting any arrival, along came the last maiden of the group -- Mary Anne U. Galang from RFM. The boys were told that she didn't spend her elementary at LaCo so we were dutifully introduced to the charming lady in resplendent fuschia pink sleeveless blouse. And almost immediately as I looked at her, my eyes narrowed shut, stunned at the apparent similarity and semblance to, I think no need to mention as you know who, right? Waves of memories of light-hearted moments during my childhood and adolescent years overwhelmed me as I recall one of my long-standing "crushes" during my elementary days. Those fleeting glances, stolen glimpses, nervous smiles and the enduring inspiration that was evoked and led me to strive hard in achieving high marks and in sustaining a good class standing, all of which may have directly or subconsciously molded me into the person that I have become (yung good side, ha). And it didn't simply end there because as if on cue, Me-Anne sat beside Jean Anne, bringing back flashes of remisniscences as the two cousins would usually sit side-by-side and I find myself in a quandary asking "how much more nostalgic can the situation ever get?" (wow, naging medyo romantic yata). It's a good thing that Me-Anne didn't mind (I believe) being likened to Estrelita since all of us agreed that both of them looked a lot like each other.

Enough with my childhood sentimental romance, with my somewhat melancholic reverie and let's get on with my exciting present story, he,he,he. Well in the middle of the "raucous" celebration, Libay bravely attempted to put some semblance of order into an otherwise "chaotic" state of affairs as the "little boys and girls" in all of us were having so much fun and not heeding "mom's" call to attention. However, after a bit of patience and motherly persuasion, the principal agenda of the meeting got under way and we have reached an accord on the following: (a) the date of the Grand Reunion to be held on 29 December 2001, (b) the contact persons, namely; Ged, Libay, Joel and me and (c) the rest of the details are available for perusal in Libay's Minutes of the Meeting which she has already e-mailed to everyone on board friends@sangandaan.net.

Then at precisely 5:30 p.m. Liberty and Mary Yrene finally begged to be let off as they really need to leave and so we relented at last to their farewell. The rest of the group was in a dilemma on what to do next or where to go. I think Luisa first suggested that we party in StreetLife - a hangout for most Makati & QC yuppies with live jazz or hip-hop bands for invigorating sound entertainment and a food-court type arrangement offering a wide selection of cuisine to cater to the varied tastes of its patrons, venturing to simulate life in the streets of Paris under one roof. But then the others were quite hesitant to proceed there since they want someplace peaceful and suitable for storytelling and just as well because as I recall, StreetLife was closed for renovation and will be reopened in November.

I hinted to the group that perhaps we could try out a KTV Bar and Music Lounge, occupy a private room for the remaining ten of us and sing to our heart's pleasure to extend the get-together. Yet most gently declined the idea, offering their disinterest in singing due to the quality (daw!) of their voice as an excuse. You know naman us Filipinos, we are quite reserved and humble as far as our singing talents are concerned, di ba? So with the afternoon sun still barely up and slowly touching the horizon, we reluctantly said our "good-byes" to each other and the girls were doing their customary cheek-to-cheeks, prolonging our stay a little longer in front of Chili's. Actually, after Ailen Jacela and Me-Ann Galang went to the parking building to fetch their respective cars, we were waiting for Ged's van and Marlette's boyfriend to arrive. Yup, Mr. Body-builder himself whom I met a couple of hours ago and was then in a nearby café waiting for Marlett for their date that evening. Ross & I decided to accompany Marlett to the café only some few meters away and were formally introduced to "Boss" (that's Marlett's pet name to him) who also happened to be an attorney with a VERY firm grip and a solid handshake. As we walk back to the parked van, Ross & I were trying to mimic the physique of Marlett's sweetheart vainly pulling our stomachs in and pushing our chests out. And as I sigh with a sad note, I told myself that at least the majority of the group would still be together inside the van with the addition of Louie Magsakay who will hitch a ride with Mary Ann Santos & Jean going to Caloocan.

Inside the van around 6:00 p.m., while driving through Makati & EDSA's traffic-clogged streets and avenue and after passing by Ailen in her glistening black car whom we saw busily texting and driving at the same time (that's the fad here nowadays, comparable to bungee jumping, hee-hee), Ged asked me about the KTV bar that I was recommending a while ago. I casually answered that it's a place along Timog Avenue in Quezon City being frequented by music-lovers and aspiring singers alike, called Music 21 Plaza. Rooms of varying sizes can be occupied depending on the number of persons in a group and the amenities include a big screen television for videoke songs, air-conditioner, two microphones and a superb sound system. Arrays of cuisine like Filipino, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Chinese and American food and drinks will be offered for selection to go with the package. One question led to another as their interest on the place is now being awakened and spontaneity is certainly dangling in the air, as I've told you before, the craving for camaraderie was far from being quenched at all. The minor obstacle now is how to inform the others, particularly, Ailen and Me-Ann who are by then well on their way home already to Cubao and Novaliches accordingly. But thanks to the convenience of modern communication and texting as we were able to inform them readily about the impromptu gimmick.

The problem now is that Me-Ann doesn't know where the place is and I am the only one familiar with the location. So after some brief coordination on the cellular phone, we decided to wait for her at the EDSA Shrine, while Ailen needs to go home first and will simply follow us to the place later. The van arrived at the Shrine first and after a short wait Me-Ann's car has caught up with us. I decided to transfer to her car since Ged's driver seems to know where the place is. Hence, with us leading the way, the van merely followed us to our destination along Timog Avenue.

At Music 21 Plaza...