30 YEARS IS A LONG TIME GONE: A LETTER TO A FRIEND

(NOTE: I received the following unedited email recently from a friend based in California whom I have not heard from for the last 31 years. The death of a fraternity brother induced the exchange of emails.)

Dear Sonny,

I have been informed of important news about tom for all the years. I have been in the states for 31 years and i have not missed any important news.

Anyways, I am happy that you rekindled old flames with old friends and brods and sis. i remember those days when the frat was at its infancy very vividly. in fact out of my love for it, i had it tattooed on my right  upper arm. thats beside the point. btw today is jun’s 51 b-day.

what are your plans regarding the frat? are you trying to come back or you just passed by to pay your respects?

well, to tell you the truth i like to see you again as a friend, a long lost friend. its been a long time.

i have 4 grown children. 3 girls and 1 boy. one is newly wed to a caucasian last week in nebraska. she is my third daughter.  my son is the only undergrad in the family. mama spoiled her. 2 are in masteral program and about to graduate. no grandchildren yet. i married my elementary classmate from manila. she is a nurse. i retired from the navy in 1994 after 20 years of service. i have done several things since then. i taught in college in los angeles for 5 years. i now manufacture and market my inventions. its all vanity products. i always have fun with women anyways. so far, i am doing ok with it. its very promising.

i’ve had 3 heart attacks. had 5 surgeries in 3 years all major. i’m ok though and in very high spirits. i enjoy life as it comes to me. held many prestigious positions here in california form sales to management to research. i even worked in manila in 97 as the vp in steel asia.

i married a very pretty woman to offset my looks. thank god, my children are decent looking. i cant believe that i would get this way. i’m very ok with my life now after years of struggling while i was sending 4 kids to college here in america.

tell me about yourself and family.

its a good feeling talking to an old friend. i remember those days vividly. i sure miss your friendship and company

Bobot Capati

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Dear Bobot

I always believe that we have reached that stage of a very fast- paced life. Take yourself for example. Given what you have done so far, I think you are a man who has attained more than one life time. You are what Tom Wolfe calls A Man in Full.

I envy what you have so far achieved. You have a great and wonderful family, which is a treasure if you ask me. As a father and husband, you have brought home the bacon and provided much for your brood. Investing in good education for your kids was the right thing to do. I always tell my kids that education is the only inheritance that their mother and I can leave them. In this swirling world, a person must be some kind of a specialist to survive. Without any skill, one shall be left out. I tell them to brace themselves for the next five years. Pity the individual with no specialization. Technology is about to change our way of life as in fact it has radically changed our routine. One morning on our way to the office with my daughter tagging along, she forgot to bring her cell phones. She has two — would you believe?  She was so desperate that she pleaded me to please go back home and get her gizmos pronto or her day is ruined. She said she’s like a person stranded in an island with no one to talk to.

Materially-wise, I am a poor man. When I was a young lawyer, I talked to this old veteran who was my seatmate in a law seminar. He said that lawyers as a rule do not a rich man make. Compared to captains of industry who make oodles of moolah, lawyers content themselves as consultants, they nevertheless lead comfortable lives. By comfortable lives what the old man meant, he told me, was enough roof over your head, a three-square meal a day, tuition money for the growing kids, the money-in should at least equal the money-out, and a car in the garage. That is all I have. I don’t have investments in stocks, nor do I have other substantial properties that I acquired in the course of my practice except some small-sized lots in the province given by grateful clients. And the old man added, prepare yourself to work till you’re a hundred. So long as your mind does not give up, he said, lawyers do not retire. He said that lawyers will always have work. If you’re out of clients, the least that you can do is be a clerk.

When I finished law in 1980, there were only 45 million Filipinos. Now we are 85 million. With the famed Pinoy’s mental frame, I do not run out of clients. There will always be stupid Pinoys who need equally stupid lawyers to fix their problems. And we work out fine. Since human nature does not evolve into something superior, the weak is always fodder to the strong. So there, I act as some kind of an equalizer, a fellow not much different with that fictional character of Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quijote de la Mancha. You and I have our own windmills to tackle. On some days, I am a glorified fixer bragging of who I know and not what I know. On others, I am the man from La Mancha championing the rights of those who have less in life. I founded the Sentro ng Gabay Legal sa Quezon, a public law interest NGO dishing out free legal aid to the indigent and fighting losing propositions in the Province of Quezon. In the Philippines if you are rich and powerful, you are really strong, a veritable one-eyed king in a country of the blind. Only a revolution can topple you. In the meantime, short of a revolutionary environment, you can do whatever you want.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not into Ka Roger’s mold. I believe in Deng Xiaoping’s dictum, “to get rich is glorious.” Ka Roger and his ilk are dinosaurs already proved wrong by the lessons of history. I accept the fact that this country will be poor for quite a long time. There’s a fun going around here that says:”Kung kakain ka ng kamote, kamote na lang; kung kahoy, kahoy na lang. Huwag kang kakain ng kamotengkahoy dahil malalason ka!” Remember the mass poisoning in Bohol? How about our environment? Our forests are dwindling and our seas will soon be barren of corrals, fish sanctuaries all. A lady-client came to me one time with a problem, consulting on what to do with her two-timing hubby. Mrs: Attorney, ang mister ko may No. 2. Gusto kong gumanti. Puputulin ko ang puno ng kanyang kataksilan-ang kanyang ari. Anong krimen ang maaring isampa sa akin? Attorney: Illegal logging!

I also ventured momentarily in politics having been elected as a provincial board member twice in Quezon from 1992 to 1998. Then I ran as Vice Governor in 1998 and as Governor in 2004 where in both instance I lost. Anyway my dabbling in politics boosted my law practice. As you know we lawyers are not allowed to advertise. My exposure in politics is an indirect way of advertising your wares.

Take care of your health. If your illness is in the genes, ask the experts. We now have designer drugs, remember? If you want to get slim, you can pop a pill for that. For weak hearts and runaway collateral (cholesterol), they have specific capsules for that. You got a limping dick; le’ weekend will take care of that. The French call Cialis le’ weekend because its potency lasts almost 36 hours compared to Viagra which is only effective after one pop. How many pops can you make for 36 hours?

Kidding aside, the best formula for excellent health is SEX. S is for no Smoking; E is for Eating right; and X is for regular eXercise. You got it wrong there, kid. One more thing, you got to use it, or you lose it.

As to my four kids, I still have two who are in college. My first two boys, both alumni of La Salle, are now working in two American companies in Makati, the eldest as graphic designer, and the second as building administrator. My only girl is in her third year of Sociology at UST, while my youngest boy is an incoming freshman at La Salle. I am hoping that they both take up Law. So far so good, they tell me. My kids are my best friends. I enjoy their company and they let me into their little secrets. We have our own peculiar calls, language and private jokes.

When my Secretary resigned five years ago, I took my wife in as replacement. She is a UP graduate in Comparative Literature that makes her over qualified for the job. She used to work in various publications as writer. I got a ribbing from some of my friends that I got a Jaworski for a Secretary. I am not bothered anymore. I am 50 years old, who cares? Maybe I reached a point when I need my wife more than she needs me. She’s got the hang of legal forms. On her own she can dish out simple motions and sign my name on them. Now I can delegate more, and the stress is less. She’s not only computer literate; she’s an expert in it having learned its intricacies under the tutelage of my eldest son. And the best part is I am not worried anymore with my syntax or my prepositions. She was with me in Jun’s wake and I introduced her to those who were present. She was a classmate of Susan Cosio at Saint Paul’s and she knows the Taracatacs; and Pia Bediones as they are both members of the UP English Club.

At 50, the psychiatrists tell us, the depression creeps in. But the best antidote there is work, work, and work. There are some sleepless nights on what is in store for the next 20, 30, or 40 years. Years ago one old man in Quezon told me that he seemed to realize that the concept of soul or heaven or hell is all a great hoax. But be steadfast, there is no substitute for spirituality. Remember the Pascal Wager? If you bet that there is life after death and you are right, you win and you win bigtime. On the other hand, if you bet the other way around, that is, there is no life after death, and you win, you lose everything.

We have experienced what 30 years is all about. 30 years ago, we were invincible 20-year olds. But 30 years passed and boy it was fast! When we were killing time in the tambayan, we thought that one hour takes an eternity. Projecting another 30 years and we find ourselves 80-year olds. In 10 years we are 60. In fact Jun G. at 50 went ahead. We are not indestructible after all.

Right now I think I have made some headway with the frat. When they saw me at Jun’s wake, there were some awkward moments. The greetings were tentative. They didn’t give me the frat’s handshake. But Tony and Dick were their old usual self. It was when we were saying our goodbyes, when the handshake was solicited. It was warm and nostalgic. Tony texted me that there will be some meetings and he’ll see to it that I get invited. In fact, next week, the frat has a film sponsorship for some fund raising for Jun G’s college-bound boys. Benjie Somera sent me ten tickets and he expects me to attend. Menchie Quejas sent me a heart-warming e-mail, telling me that she sent you my email address and that she browsed over my websites. I sent her a prompt reply telling her how grateful I was.

All told, Bobot, I could not just sweep under the rug the seven years I had with you guys, starting in 1971 when the five of us: Jun, Tony, Manny, Dick and I hied off to Alabat Island and founded the frat. In May, 1972 and Batches A and B were born. It was in 1978 when I last saw them. And in 1998, I met and talked with Jun G., of all people among the brods, in a restaurant somewhere along Wilson, SJ.

Both of us were in Batch B.

Bobot, you and I terrorized the rest of them.

Whenever I pass by Altura or Santol in Sta. Mesa, I remember my brod who once resided there with his really sweet mother who’d always welcome us with the best merienda in the world.

Regards to you and your wonderful family!

Sonny Pulgar

(This is a work of fiction.)


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