Aided by a lamppost, Arnel proudly unfolds the tarp of his high school batch at JPHS, the Batch '73, with the skylines of the city of Toledo, Ohio, in the background. - Photo courtesy of ARNEL P HERNANDEZ, Yokosuka, Japan.
By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
DURING the alumni homecoming held last April at the Jose Panganiban (National) High School in Jose Panganiban, CamNorte, one obvious spectacle stood out.
It was the colorful tarp banner display in front of a “bahay-kubo” built for the occasion by the members of Bath ’73.
This batch, as I have known it through my younger brother Arnel -- a batch member -- has a penchant for coming out “bongga” in big events such as the alumni homecoming, or in reunion of batch members held every year in a small group.
And as always, it succeeded. This was all because the members wanted it that way.
The “nipa” hut that the batch built for the once-every-five-year homecoming gig won first prize – for the best “bahay-kubo” erected during the affair (I had witnessed the workers built it while having a nice chat with some of the members who happened to recognize me as Arnel’s sibling).
The tarp banner, on the other hand, hung vibrantly on the makeshift fence of bamboo and wood scraps, savoring the feat that its owners had achieved.
It danced, it swayed, it whispered as the breeze gently caressed it, while the women in native dresses went about their chores embellishing the native hut, and the men tongued “sorbetes” as they strummed the guitar to the tune of “Bahay Kubo”.
The tarp knew that after this event, it would be relegated to oblivion, inside a “ba-ul”. To be resurrected only after twelve months, when the next homecoming reunion is put together once more by the batch members.
It would not be so, however.
Arnel, who is based in Yokosuka, Japan working as civilian engineer at the US Naval ship repair facility (SRF) there, was unable to come for the homecoming (he has retired as Naval personnel after long years of service but anyway re-joined the organization as a civilian Federal employee).
Those days, he was on especial work errands outside Japan, preventing him from making a swing to Mambulao for a sneak look at the homecoming gig.
Later, however, seeing the pictures of the award-winning nipa hut which was fronted by the humble Batch ‘73 tarp banner that his batch mates posted on Facebook, Arnel was inspired to further his group’s “bongga-ness”.
In emails circulated later among hundred-plus active batch members, he told them: I promise to bring this banner wherever my job takes me, whether it is within Japan or overseas, and display it in famous places that draw tourists.
Of course, with him posing next to it for posterity snap!
So it came to pass that the lucky banner has really traveled with him, and will be travelling from here on.
This fellow made the scenery a bit spiced up: Posing beside the Batch 73 banner, he wore brightly colored long-sleeved camisa-de-chino and baggy trousers, complete with a matching scarf -- typical of old-fashioned male Pinoys during those by-gone years -- with his feet protected by a pair of “balat na tsinelas”.
(He quipped: I was rarin’ to dance the “Tinikling” with this attire!)
The banner’s first outing was in Tokyo, where Arnel was assisted by his better half – Mariles – to spread the tarp for the camera.
Then it went to Hong Kong, followed by Okinawa.
Before long, it had cast its afternoon shadow in Toledo, Ohio; Monroe, Michigan; Hollywood, San Diego, and Long Beach, all in California.
Well, for all you know, Europe and Australia loom on the horizon!
And both Arnel and the lucky tarp know it’s just a matter of time when they would push with their overseas sojourn some more, doing something together never than before.
With wife Mariles in front of the famous Tokyo Tower.
The Tokyo Rainbow Bridge in the background, with wife Mariles.
In Hong Kong with the harbor in the background.
In Okinawa, Japan.
In Toledo, Ohio, with the skyline in the background.
In Maumee, Ohio, where he attended a training on hydraulics system at EATON Hydraulics.
In Monroe, Michigan.
In San Diego, CA, with best friend Robert Marfori, a retired US Navy serviceman.
In Hollywood, CA, with best friend and benefactor Robert Marfori (left) and son Jim Ryan.
In Long Beach, CA, with ex-US Navy serviceman Robert Marfori.
In front of former ocean liner Queen Mary, now a grand hotel in Long Beach CA, with son Jim Ryan. - All pictures courtesy of ARNEL P HERNANDEZ, Yokosuka, Japan.