Birthdays happen only once in a year. And this gettogether with my friends also transpires on the day I was born.
Last January 5 (yes, I shared birthdays with famous celebrities like author Umberto Eco and Prof. Raisa Gorbachev), I had no inkling who would attend my birthday bash at Café Antoccino (a favorite hangout of Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio).
In the early morning, I opened my Facebook and right there, I saw the birthday greetings of my family members. First to greet was my sister, Evangeline Capuno, who now lives in Digos City. Next to greet were my sister, Jeannyline Arriaga and my niece Meryl Louise Lapinig.
My two sisters, who now lives in the United States, followed suit. “Happy birthday, Manoy,” wrote Elena Chase, now living in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Marilou Eplite also never failed to greet me; she calls Florida as her home now.
My editors, past and present, also sent greetings: Isabel de Leon, who used to edit my lifestyle write-ups for “Manila Bulletin;” Erlinda Bolido, my science editor at the Press Foundation of Asia; Eleanor Leyco-Chua, the beautiful editor of “Health and Fitness;” Dr. Rafael Castillo, publisher and editor-in-chief of “Health and Lifestyle;” and Psyche Roxas-Mendoza, the managing editor of “Philippines Graphic.”
My high school classmates, who are also into social media, greeted me, among them: Dr. Ujean dela Cruz, Delia Moralde, Glocelyn Bardago, Gerry Calba, Luzviminda Bautista, Archiles Astillero, Rebecca Salarda, Ninfa Alfeche, and Armi Bugayong.
I thought two of my best friends have forgotten my birthday, but both never did. Dr. Jun Ruiz, a medical doctor now based in Manila, greeted me. So did, Gregory Ira, a Filipino-American environmentalist who now lives in California.
But it was the party that I was looking forward to. Every year, during my birthday, we had this gettogether at Primo. But this time, I had changed the venue to Café Antoccino, which is located at Guerrero Street.
When I sent invitation, some of those who regularly come turned down because of valid reasons. Kelvin Lester Lee, now an assistant secretary to the executive secretary of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, could not make it since he has to report for work at the Malacanang. Dr. Dante Comedido said that he has to renew his US visa and the interview was on the same day of my birthday.
Wilson Catingub could not also make it as he had to fly to Luzon on January 4 and return to Davao on the 6th yet. Wilfredo Rodolfo, my buddy since Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists days and now a media bigwig of Aboitiz Power, was nowhere since he had a prior commitment to do in Cagayan de Oro City.
Three professors from the University of Mindanao (Joe Maninang, Bon Jovi Cabreros and Bonz Militar) also failed to come due to their commitment as university professors. Board member Lanier Cadungog, the “cowboy” from Davao del Sur, likewise begged not to attend for very important matter to be done in his office.
Atty. Israelito Torreon, the dean of the College of Law of Jose Maria College, also told me he won’t be able to attend since he had to deliver a eulogy of one of his law professors who had gone to another world.
So, I really never know who would attend. First to arrive was Prof. Armando Mortejo, who was bringing a birthday cake. Then, Alan Abais, a radio personality from ABS-CBN, came next. My “kumpare” and childhood friend, Daniel Solaña, how a firefighter official, was third.
The four of us were already talking when – all of a sudden – Atty. Torreon, wearing a barong Tagalog, appeared. I was totally flabbergasted as I was not expecting him to be around. Although it was just a fleeting visit, I was glad he did come.
Another surprise was the arrival of Atty. Nick Caraquel, a famous immigration lawyer from New York. I never expected him to come because he was just discharged from the hospital due a health problem that had him confined since December 31. He brought with him three other people.
Then, my visitors came one by one: Tek Ocampo of GMA News, Elric Ayop of PTV-4, Rudolph Ian Alama of Philippine Information Agency, Harvey Lanticse of Aboitiz Power, former head of the Tagum City Information Office Cromwell Bonghanoy, former tourism officer Dashiel Indelible of Mati City, Darrell Blatchley of D’Bone Collector Museum, and Dr. Richard Mata (known for his anti-dengue advocacy).
I want to thank all my friends who came to my birthday bash. Your presence made it extra special. Also, an appreciation is extended to Tony Uy, the owner of Café Antoccino, who was there to support me during the party.
Again, thank you and see you next year!