It was right after the successful premiere of “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral”—a film about the life and times of General Gregorio del Pilar who held off American forces pursuing then General Emilio Aguinaldo, the President of the newly declared Philippine Republic – which was jointly sponsored by the Ateneo de Manila High School Class ’68/College ’72 and Assumption College High School Class ’69 that the trip to Hong Kong was finalized.
At the instance of Gaudencio “Goody” Hernandez, joint HS ’68/College ’72 Treasurer, members of the class(es) decided to pay a visit to Hong Kong to meet up with Eli Remolona, Resident Representative of the Bank of International Settlements for Asia-Pacific, and his wife, Marie. Goody, who was the country’s Representative to the Asian Development Bank during the PNoy administration, promised it was going to be a memorable trip or else he will reimburse all expenses. With that generous offer complete with promises of a gastronomic feast from no less than the lady host, Marie Remolona, and, of course, incessant pressure from the wives, we finally got together in Hong Kong last Monday, Aug. 20.
“Lahat naman kayo retired or pa-retire na so what’s wrong with doing this one trip on weekdays,” was the ladies’ chant that got 10 of us going after that nightmarish airport bedlam caused by the skidding Xiamen Airlines plane stranding thousands of travelers from late Thursday night to Sunday morning. That 48-hour nightmare was more than enough to setback our dream of a break out from our sluggish two million to three million foreign tourist arrival this year and probably up to the end of this administration—unless Transportation Secretary Art Tugade and his senior executives can find a way to fast-track the opening of a new airport with all the needed facilities to make our connections to the world a little more accomplished and proper.
Perhaps he can begin that process by asking for the resignation of MIAA GM Ed Montreal and his crew as well as getting the airlines to a no-holds barred meeting just to find out why they allowed such a bedlam to happen at all. Why did they not declare Manila a “no go” zone after that Xiamen Airlines incident, say for 24 hours, knowing fully well that they could not get the airport back on track just like that instead of giving travelers all the promises and BS they could muster to the utter disgust of the thousands who had to agonize for hours only to be told a day or so after that they could not proceed. Or even those hied off to other airports like Clark and Cebu without the needed ground support. Mea culpas and all kinds of apologies cannot compensate for this grand brouhaha. But that is another story.
Back to our Hongkong sojourn. So, the 10 of us: Goody, me and Emily, Mike and Annie Molina, Dads and Techie Capellan Lito Bauza, Meenow Nivera and Benjie Atilano, got together with Eli and Marie for our first gastronomic work out at dinner in MAMA SAN, a hip Indo/Malay resto in what Hong Kongers claim was the original HK “Red District.” It was a hit, a truly memorable four-course dinner, made even livelier with tales of old, i.e., Loyola and martial law days, and new, work, travels and grandchildren.
Before that we had to pass by Eli’s office at the IFC Tower with views of the famous Hong Kong Harbor and, PCC, the tallest building in the city. Eli who is retiring this October after six years with the BIS, the so-called bank of central banks, showed us around and we had time to quiz (actually kid) him about the effect of the devaluation of the Turkish lira and the Venezuelan bolivar, among other serious monetary and economic concerns. Of course, we got the answers deemed proper not to rock the international monetary system. And the insights too on the cycles, moves and intrigues circling the all too hyperventilated world of global finance.
That’s all that I can share for now on pain of opening up conversations about matters which may cause my friends, specially those left behind trying to make sense out of the developments the world over, hours of tension and aches. All I can say for now is try to relax, take the long view and have time with family and friends like what we are into. Life goes on and while there are troubles everywhere, the world is not falling apart as we have memories to make and moments to remember.
In any event, even as we are off talking about what might-have-beens we continue to discuss what could still be done as we enter the lastquarter of our lives. Having struggled through college and immediately after, the martial law years, there is a sense of “giving back”—as in are we going to just let the country slid back into the chaos and ultra democratic ways of old where the class divide got even worse as the 1-percent rich got richer as the 99-percent poor got poorer in a country that has reached the 100-million population mark. Are there things we can do to make life a little better for the great unwashed and things a little brighter for those, our children, who are themselves making a go in another plane of struggle? These times are made even more complex with technological advancement, climate change and political-cum-economic warfare. Is there a way to fast-track our country’s way to mid-level economy status before we all retire and reminisce on what might should have beens?
There is hope, I believe. If only because even as we enjoy each other’s company and walk through the byzantine streets of this ever-busy city we are still dreaming of organizing farming communities to plant coffee and cacao and assisting them to level up and supply the needs of the Starbucks of the world or of tapping the artisans of Mt. Province, Betis, Ilocos and Sulu to make the labels, maligns, furnitures and cravings which we believe will be treasured by generations yet to come. There is hope. After all, despite all the worries and apprehensions not knowing fully what’s going on we are talking about President Duterte’s frustrations and about Strumms almost at the same breath. Life goes on and we will make the most and best of what the world we live in will offer.