Friendship Day is celebrated in different dates all over the world starting from April to July to August of this year. I would say; however, it should be celebrated every day!
So, who are our friends? What are friends for? What is friendship all about?
Seldom that we see friends extend their appreciation and love to each other beyond the ordinary needs of friendship on a daily or short-term basis. We usually associate it with friends extending credit to a friend or comforting a friend for the day. Beyond that, it’s no longer within the realm of friendship, especially during difficult times just like the present corona virus pandemic situation.
But not for Batch ’65 high school graduates of the Urdaneta Community High School (UCHS), now the Urdaneta City National High School (UCNHS), who spontaneously helped their batchmate Rafael “Paeng” Benito (financially, notabuloy but voluntary friendly support, prayers, words of encouragement, etc.) from the time he became sick two or three months ago, up to the time he passed away last week. The support came in various forms like prayers, mass offerings, financial assistance (thanks to Bien Zabala Cordingley, Bert Lapena, et al for initiating the financial assistance), kind and comforting words, words of encouragement, providing the ambulance to and from Paeng’s residence to hospital (thanks to Mely Parayno, including taking care of the driver’s services), medical care needs (thanks to Dr. Lorenzo Agbanlog for the coordinated medical efforts) and show of love and affection to our dear high school friend Paeng (thanks to Vicky/Greg Calacsan from San Diego, CA who was in contact with Myrna and Paeng in the Philippines, for the overall coordination and updates given to all members of Batch ’65 residing in different places the world over through the group’s FB chat page.
His life-time partner Myrna Jandusay patiently and religiously took care of Paeng up to the last breath of his life. Myrna, you are the best and you deserve the best accolade on earth for taking care of Paeng without hesitation and doubt in the hope that he gets better every day. You displayed an unconditional love for Paeng even during the dark moments of his life.
UCHS Batch ’65 graduates gave their emotional, medical, prayers, and financial support to their batchmate Paeng (Philippines) till his last breath and even during burial moments. This is a show of true friendship regardless of affinity and… in distant places! That’s what friends are for, right?
Among those who sent financial support and deep concern are: Greg/Vicky Calacsan, Bert Lapena, Amy Labarinto Retirado, Fe Malagayo-Alluri, Bien Zabala Cordingley, Joweh Sumait, Rose Tangalin Santos, Roger Andrada, Rosa Andrada Manuel, Mely Parayno, Joy “Ligaya Cabading” Delos Reyes, Mila Goroza, Danny Calacsan, Cora Massin Jacob, Eufrosina Tigno, Eliodoro Calacsan; Amelita Goroza Gatchalian; Agnes Magpale; and
Those who comforted, offered prayers, extended medical and emotional friendly messages and words of encouragements were Dr. Lorenzo Agbanlog, Atty. Mario Bravo, Cris Ramirez. Arsenio Dulay, Dave Sumera, Minda Ventanilla Tomines, DelPogi Domagas, Maria Patacsil Fernandez, Apo Lakay Nozuelo, Gloria Benito, Leticia Malbog Tria, Lolita Zarate, Aida Moreno Ambrosio, Mar Mateo, Bong Raymondo, Aggie Pass, Rizalina Garcia, Herminia Andrada, Gilda Doot Nikel, and Manny Martinez.
Members from Batch ’65 come from various countries all over the world from Australia, Europe, Philippines, Canada, and the United States.
In the FB chat group of UCHS Batch’65, Paeng’s classmates shared their moments and experiences with him during our high school days ranging from spending hours in the library, in the playground, in the canteen/carinderia, even under the trees reminiscing Paeng’s jokes and antics who was known at that time as “kitikiti” (in English, a person who wriggles a lot; malikot, another word in Tagalog).
Fe from Canada posted this in FB: “Let’s pray for Paeng’s soul that he may Rest in Peace. Let’s remember him as the happy go lucky guy who made us smile because of his being “kiti-kiti”.
Mila from the US said: “Paeng is not suffering has no more pain anymore… Fe you were right, kitikiti siya… During vacant time we stayed at Mr. Pasig’s Office di ba librarian siya? Doon kami kumakain. Doon kami nagkukwentuhan, nagtatawanan… Napakasaya niya talaga. I missed those times…”
Because of Paeng and the group chat, “… we were able to reconnect with each other and with Facetime we even feel physically closer to each other, nakapag-usap tayo face-to-face kahit thousand miles away…” Joy (California) commented.
Delpogi from the Philippines wrote in the chat group: “Goodbye Paeng bespren. Death is a part of being alive. Gone too soon. Rest in peace, idol!”
For her part, Bien, also from the Philippines, wrote: “The song ‘Diana’ will always remind us of him.” Diana was Paeng’s favorite song and he sings it with gusto and with all body actions every time there is an occasion.
Gloria (Philippines) also commented: “Rest in Peace Paeng. Death is the beginning of new life, in a place where no more suffering and pain…”
Rose (Canada) has this to say: “’So sad to hear about Paeng… but this time pain and suffering is gone…RIP Paeng… lots of memories we had in high school… under the tamarind tree with Amante, Roger, Letty Siores, Estrella Romero, Amy, Zeny, me, Ysmael Sipin, Alfredo Basa, Orlino and more… cannot remember names… we were studying, laughing, copying codigo for coming test. Yes, Bien is right, Diana song is the best to remember you… Rest in Peace.”
He was a character, a true friend (Fe said he takes vitamin F for friends), a person you can never forget!
Paeng, we will miss you but your memories and friendship will not be in vain and never left to oblivion because they will linger in our hearts and remain in our minds forever! You will be with us… in thoughts and indeed!
So, who are our friends? They are those that understand us, those who learn with us, those who treat us with respect and giving constructive criticisms instead of destructive ones, those who listen to us, and they are the people whom we can rely on in sickness or in health (just like the UCHS Batch’65 graduates who displayed true friendship to their high school batchmate Rafael “Paeng” Benito who passed away this week)!
Again, Paeng, we love you! You will be with us… forever and ever… Amen!
(ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.)