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tec sanchez-tolosa
tec sanchez-tolosa
This book is for my friends—

the ones I found, and those who remained;
the ones who left and never returned.
The one I redefined, the one rediscovered,
and the one who stayed until the end.

You know who you are.

I'M STILL hoping that I get to write a second book. I want it to be a collection of personal essays on friendship. The lines written above are what I imagine I'd put down on the dedication page. One friend teases that I set out to write only to make dedications (I'm afraid I cannot vehemently object to that); while another feels that it gives me license to emote in public, short of embarking on a histrionic acting career (no contest to that, either). True as the above allegations may be, there is nonetheless much to be said about friendship.

Not that I'm the type of person to make friends at the drop of a hat, no. Perhaps one can count with his fingers the friends I've kept over the years. They are few and they come far between, but they are tried, tested and true---forged in the direst of circumstances and baptized in the little joys that run like rivulets, freshening up our collective spirit.

Things are so much simpler in the eyes of the innocent: to my ten-year old self, friends were playmates---the ones I played teks with, or challenged to labulan goma. In Dolores Homesite, we spent many lazy summer afternoons flicking away those little cards into the air, mouths agape as we watched who would win and take home the dangkal-dangkal a teks a makataya. We stopped only when our finger joints got sore from all that pitik. There were a few times we played well into the sunset, and went home with bruised middle finger nailbeds or abraded skin; ing masakit, mengaplas na ka taliri, menapnap la pa reng teks mu. I never had difficulty playing with those boy friends (male friends, I mean)---three of them were actually my brothers. I certainly appreciated nature's way of allowing the growth spurt to appear first in girls. Those extra three inches sure went a long way and allowed me to lord it over them boys. As in any game, intimidation works.

Labulan goma was, well, another thing altogether. Not that I was "pulmonarily" challenged, but it took quite an effort to muster all that air required to bring my batu over the other rubber bands. Not to mention that it was totally distracting to hear the admonition of the occasional elder passing by, "Oy, mengalislis na ka."

Friendships in childhood are kind, simple, unpretentious, and most poignant of all. A decades-old advertisement of a household name in dairy products used to show a young boy asking his friend who was moving to another home, "Sino ang best friend mo doon?" It captured the sentiment exactly. Children being young and oftentimes powerless, commonly have to say goodbye to cherished moments and ties when the adult situation---the loss of a home, the transfer of a job assignment---calls for it.

As we grew up, we probably devised ways to protect our affiliations and emotional investments. Today's young are enjoying to the hilt the wonders of modern telecommunications. Each friend or acquaintance is just a text or phone call away. What a far cry from the ages when we had to scribble in our little Precious Moments notebooks the phone numbers and mailing addresses of the friends who moved away. (Many times, though, it was us who transferred.) This was during a time when PLDT took an average of two years to have telephone lines installed in Sampaloc. Kanita, potang buri meng komustan ing kaluguran mu, sulatanan me or kaya awsan meng telepono. Makiyawus ka rugu keng siping bale, o nung marine ka, makipila ka king kantu, where you had to pay two pesos per five minutes of phone use. There were really bad days when you had to stand in a line of maybe eight people, kaibat ing mumuna keka atne KALUAT!!! ---mamapi ne ing telepono by the time you held it, and you could make out what the guy had for lunch. Kaibat mitagun pa, atna ne man kainipan ing tutuki keka: adwa ka pamung minutu, kalbitan na ka, asking "Matagal ka pa?" The last straw would be the moment when, finally connected to the friend's number you're calling, sabian nang Ima na, "Nasa banyo, e, tawag ka na lang uli."

In adolescence, friendships took on a very different turn. I strongly suspect friendship in puberty is occasionally an excuse to engage in romantic liaison (it takes one to know one, I suppose). Show me a teenager who didn't fall in love with at least one friend and I'll show you a turtle who can moonwalk while doing a 100-m marathon. (Can you blame me? I'm an old woman, mother of a binatilyo and two precocious pre-adolescent females.) But let me castigate myself and move on to say that the friendships which survive the tempestuous surge of teenage hormones, romantic inclinations, and naughty cravings turn out to be solid, sincere, and trustworthy. I theorize that that friend  who has seen you in your awkward worst, in spectacles, with inflammatory pustules of acne on your previously unblemished face, who stuck it out with you while you deliberated whether to be friends forever or risk amorous involvement, is carved to be your ally for life. As with our high school classmates, to those friends we become bonded at a time when we all were unsure of ourselves, groping our way through to establish our identities, struggling constantly to fit comfortably in our skins. Finally after much effort, from our ugly duckling suits we emerged as swans, still in sweet synchrony. Hence we learned how to take one another through our strengths and flaws, our quirks and highs, even through our kabaduyan and kakornihan, and managed to see the best in each one.

Do we grow critical as we grow older? I think we do, even in our choice of friends. Only a few continue to feel with their hearts; most of us assess with our minds. Do we, as adults, choose adult friends who are like us---perhaps because with our busy lives we can only afford to talk with those who speak our language? Or maybe because our adulthood is attended by privacy concerns that we never bothered with when we were younger? Is it possible that we choose friends rationally---because when we grow older we let the silliness slip out of us, and sometimes the laughter as well? What a pity, because laughter, to me, is an essential part of every friendship. And so is a sense of being at ease, of being safe and comforted. And of being totally yourself. A surgeon-friend of mine, who has gotten so used to verbalizing about the body's biological functions, has this test for true friendship: pag kaya mong sabihin sa kaibigan mo (of the opposite sex), "nata_ _ _ na ko," tapos di sya kumurap o mukhang na-turn off, a yun, talaga close kayo.

Isn't it funny, that for two friends to be close they must be open with each other?

Friendship, like love, never ends when it is true. At times it drifts away, but returns readily with the gentle tug of forgiveness and reconciliation---no matter the distance, regardless of time. Below is one of my favorite text messages, sent by an old friend, and on which I end this piece:

Parang saranggola ang isang dating kaibigan.
Gaano man siya kalayo, may taling nag-uugnay sa inyo.
Hanggang di ka bumibitaw, di siya mawawala sa iyo

[About the author. Tec Sanchez-Tolosa, MD is a full-blooded Kapampangan and a mother of three. A member of Pinoypoets since 2006, she is the author of the Kapampangan poetry collection "Ing Bie Kung Delanan, Ing Bie Kung Balikan (2006)." Some of her poems have been published in emanilapoetry and the online poetry journal Makata. While enrolled in her M.A. Creative Writing program, she was included in the anthology Sleepless in Manila. Tec is also a seasoned medical writer, with printed works in health publications and major dailies. She worked briefly with the ABS-CBN Foundation as a scriptwriter/researcher in the early stages of Sine'skwela. Raised in Manila and educated in St. Theresa's College during her formative years, she is a product of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, where she graduated with a B.S. in Biology. She later became a Doctor of Medicine and trained in diseases of the skin, hair and nails. She is now a Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS) Board-certified Dermatology specialist with an active practice in San Fernando, Pampanga and Quezon City.]

-Posted: 9:25 AM 11/29/07 | More of this author on eK!