Wednesday, 7 December 2011


A ‘bahay-nipa” to highlight a typical batch year homecoming. Taken in 2005 at a resort on the outskirts of Mambulao. – Picture courtesy of ARNEL P HERNANDEZ (Batch ’73).

The 2007 homecoming: What was it all about, anyway?

Batch 65
Port Moresby

IN THE LAST homecoming held five years ago, I was one of the hundreds who came home from overseas and elsewhere to attend.

I was curious to find out what goes on in a homecoming so I decided to come to Mambulao with my brother Arnel (Batch 73) and sister Helen (Batch 67).

I never bothered about alumni homecoming, except for the home coming that I usually did every year to see my folks in Parang and some old friends who would still remember me, and to see my childhood beach near our home – the Parang beach.

I was on my annual holiday in Manila and driving to Mambulao for a few days’ stay in our ancestral home in Parang has been part of my sojourn every year.

It’s nice to see old folks every time and reminisce on the old days when we where young and our families were poor. We are better off now, and as we recalled the old days, there is some sort of pride that comes off with it.

Of course, the prospect of seeing my old high school buddies was more than enough to kick the inner excitement in me. I would be seeing my special groups of classmates – actually my core group -- who were both my friends and fierce competition in the academic arena.

On the eve of the homecoming, I knew the agenda already:

1) Assembly at the parish church ground at 8am;
2) Mass for homecoming alumni and community;
3) Grouping of alumni according to batch years;
4) A 2.5km parade from the church ground to the home of our Alma Mater in Parang;
5) Assembly at the school auditorium, by batch year.
6) Welcome speeches and introduction of attending batch years.
7) And so on.

This is the campus multi-purpose auditorium where the forthcoming general alumni homecoming will be held
On the Big Day, I marched with zest, along with a handful of my high school buddies and classmates. I remember holding one end of our batch year banner proudly declaring: “Batch ’65”, while a lady-classmate took the other end. I was 58.

I could not remember if we had our male classmates with us during the march. No, I was the only male in our group of less than 20. That was us, Batch 65!

When we graduated, there were more than 200 of us who went up the stage to receive our “certificate”, which was nothing but a rolled A4 white paper fastened by a red ribbon. That’s okay.

Those locals who had recognized us as they stood by the road sides gave us enthusiastic applause. We applauded back.

My brother Arnel marched in his handsome white duck uniform. He was then a US Navy personnel. He has retired already, but re-enlisted as civilian personnel, working the same line of job he had when he was an active US navy man – a warship engine boiler expert.

Handsome in his 5’8” frame, he was one of the famous attractions during the march and at the gathering at the school auditorium. He was popular among many women classmates because of his special outreach project that he conducted from Okosuka, Japan, where he has been based.

His social project, which he carried out with some Mambulaoan colleagues, had benefited a number of poor folks from the town.

The hours went by and the day aged.

We watched some stage presentations, performed by the students. We listened to many overseas attendees who were asked to come up to the stage and to tell something about themselves.

It was a getting-to-know-you again, once again.

We exchanged business cards, contact numbers and addresses.

Emma Lasala, the one who organized our group for the homecoming, announced to us batch members that she had prepared some late lunch finger foods.

“If you guys are bored, let’s get on with it…”

Her family home was just on the other side of the rugged road to Larap on the other side of the high school hollow block wall fence.

So we pulled out from the gathering to sneak a bite.

We came back after an hour and the program was still pushing, with some hysterical teens belting out songs and jokes led by a group called “Children’s News Network” – CNN for short. Inside my head, it was more of Children’s Noise Network.

I moved around the hall in the hope of chancing on faces I would recognize after 37 years. I left our Alma Mater in 1965. I met a number of them – from different batch years.

I stayed close to the few remnants of my high school group, who was with me from first to four year, and who were my fierce competition academically.

There was Emma Lasala, Gloria Abrina, Monying de la Cruz, Lydia Tuliao … gosh… I couldn’t recall a name anymore… but they were there and they took care of me till the day was over.

If something significant was decided on by the homecoming alumni during the day-long gathering in that auditorium – say a noble project that would benefit our Alma Mater or the community - I never knew.

I didn’t even know if a new set of officers was ever elected by the homecoming members.

But it appeared that life goes on as far as the alumni association is concerned, pushing with what it has been doing all these years to sustain whatever project that has been started before.

As I said earlier, I did not know what goes on in a homecoming so I went back to Papua New Guinea not knowing the significance or insignificance of such a once-every-five-year exercise.

Always pushing for results, our friend Samuel Tatom from Batch 66, the patriarch of the Larap clan, has been complaining about the stagnant nature of the association during the last few years.

He has called for an overhaul of the organization in bid to inject fresh blood and energized enthusiasm among the officers.

The aim is to spur the alumni group into action: to deal with the pressing problems of joblessness among the sons and daughters of the less-fortunate members of the association, to give the aging facilities of our Alma Mater the much-needed facelift and to get involved in urgent community issues on environment like that of the waste pollution along the Parang beach and the degradation in the quality of water of Mambulao Bay.

The last two are tough ones and that a head-on collision with the powers-that-be at the municipal government is very likely.

This made me realize now that the last homecoming – the 2007 homecoming – was nothing but the usual gathering of old and new faces from the school, with the main aim of getting connected to one another once they get back to their usual groove wherever they are in the global landscape.

I wish, when I attend next year’s general alumni homecoming, we, the members – both locally and from overseas – could come up with a sensible agenda to push in the next five years till we meet again in year 2017.

It would be beyond my conscience to waste another five years from April 2012 because we, the alumni, had failed to agree on what do afterwards.

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