What Reunions Bring About (Really)


Dr. Saturnino P. Javier is an interventional cardiologist at Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital and Medical Center. He is a past president of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) and past editor of PHA’s Newsbriefs

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For someone who has been around for more than half a century, it is expected that there will be considerable opportunities for get-togethers and reunions – with high school classmates, college friends, Medicine batch mates, among others.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down once again with a number of my trusted, closest friends – from residency in Internal Medicine at the Santo Tomas University Hospital (STUH).

Who cares about traffic gridlocks and snail-paced motoring from Alabang to Ortigas Center when this was an opportunity to reconnect and reminisce – with US-based allergist Francis (Peralta), vacationing USbased cardiologist Badette (Gancayco), along with cardiologist Clarice (Mendoza) and nephrologist Angeli (Roasa) who are both based in the University of Santo Tomas?

Back in the late 80s, we were five of the six graduates of a three-year residency program of STUH. But we knew one another even during Medicine proper, clerkship and internship. With all the momentous events and cherished experiences together, we essentially had a lifetime to share with one another.

Prior to this get-together, I had been to a high school reunion just a year or two ago. Years back, I also attended the Silver Jubilee of our UST Medicine batch. In all these occasions, everything starts with a customaryhandshake for guys, or a buzz on the cheek for the ladies. The first handshake that goes with a seemingly perfunctory “How are you?” brings about an instantaneous, well-calculated and speedy assessment of each other’s looks – especially when one has not seen one another for decades. Remarkable how a few seconds can enable a rapid correlation of time interval with physical attributes that is immediately followed by a conclusion on whether one has grown old commensurate with time, or one has looked far different from anyone in the pack.

I remember how in my high school reunion, the eyeball can switch from receding hairline to abdominal girth to grey hairs then to facial lines and crow’s feet avoiding any noticeable fixed stare on the platinum-dyed hair or the diamond-encrusted ring. Deliberately or not, a meticulous evaluation of physical appearance against time takes place along with the courtesies – then culminates in a conclusion that is tempered by three essential elements – charity, reality and honesty.

Frivolous? But I would think that this is process that many honestly go through. When one coughs out a remark that is half diplomatic, half-serious, half-insulting – “You still look the same!” or a kinder – “You look great!” (never mind if the high school classmate could very well look like your father), there has already been an accurate assessment of looks vis-à-vis the passage of time.

In many batch or class reunions, what follows this flippant phase is declaration (or confirmation if already known) of statuses. All kinds. Civil status (divorced? or dating again?), paternal status (how many kids? Or even, any grandchildren?), home status (residence? type?), work status (hospital position? affiliation?), kids’ status (married or not? “did they pursue medicine?”), among many others.

There is a fleeting sense of urgency in the need to update each other of what has transpired during the years of relative quiet. Then comes recollection of events gone by – a nostalgia-filled trip down memory lane. Crazy experiences, mischievous activities, memorable hospital encounters, consultants’ oddities, etc.

Mundane things could be interspersed with the profound. One segues from the frivolous to the deep, from the inane to germane. Over spicy tuna sashimi and shrimp tempura of Marufuku (where we met), Badette was raving about my inaanak Raphael’s thriving internet gaming café business, Angeli proudly shared photos of her now octogenarian parents in the US, Clarice talked of teaching and related academic chores in UST and Francis ranted about Trump healthcare, the burdensome paperwork of US clinical practice and the newfound thrills of solo medical practice.

In between, Duterte issues come in – his health scare news, Marawi crisis, the traffic jams – and then back to Trump, parental joys, retirement plans (“I want to farm” – was like a refrain in a chorus).

When one leaves a reunion, one has inevitably been through a seemingly lengthy albeit rewarding process. While essentially an opportunity to catch up with time, it provides an abbreviated yet unabridged recapitulation of lifetimes – the ups and downs, ordeals and triumphs, fears and joys.

Here, a history is rewound, while the future is played fast-forward for everyone to have a privileged peek and appreciation.