September 13, MT90-get together

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Part 1: Chocolate Surprise

Life is like a box of chocolates, you will never know what is inside… so how the Europeans say it— the continent of praline makers.  Indeed, since I took on the batch of MT90 expedition (parang kotse a), life indeed became sweet choco surprising.  Who would expect that mere browsing through list of members of 4amt90ust e-group  and clicking on a lit up smiley icon of jamesclugue user ID, would unexpectedly catch an unannounced arrival of James Lugue to the Philippine Island.  I was compelled to ask once again since my mind cannot fathom the reality behind the news.  Quite timely it seems that at the point where the batch is so actively gathering her chicks, I bump into an OFW brother’s electronic path.  Delighted like a kid over a chocolate treat, palms stick out fingers looking good not over pralines but towards the keys of the texting mobile tool.  In seconds, news reached Karl in a flash.  Through the tips of our fingers, James soon finds himself within the two embracing arms of AMT90UST. Then words started to linger on the chat box speaking of long craving for Filipino food yet fear of the threat it gives to the heart, of working in the floating luxurious vessel over the ocean, of the apprehensions over the upcoming cataract operation, of Liza Punsalan and the kids, of Pampangueno classmates…etc…etc…  Logging off time came and so we parted from YM with well wishes and a get-together cooking up.

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Part 2:  Tempering

Tempus breve est, (bahala na kayong mag-interpret) that is how the Roman’s put it.  Time is ticking away and along with the pendulum my thoughts can not be stopped from swinging at one batch-mate to another.  I wouldn’t want  a chocolate to melt on our hands as it can no longer be enjoyed nor it be likened to the water that simply dripped out too fast.   Timing is important in catching batch-mate’s attention, but keeping them interested is a challenge of maintaining their mood.  Like chocolates, preparation is a more a matter of temperature than time.  Chocolates if improperly heated sets out coarsely, grainy and surface becomes cloudy called bloom, hence a method called tempering is done in order to come up with a glossy, smooth creamy candy that melts so creamy in the mouth. So am on a watch over James’ icon and text messages.  Apparently, when finally I get hold of James over YM again, I was told that an unwanted opaque contact lens has grown on his retina and becomes a miss on vision, so it has to be taken out yet. Hence, the get-together that we were cooking up has to be kept over a low fire for tempering and keep the rest at a bay.  Good thing James vacation leave will yet to end too far.  For the meantime I have launched an SMS crusade of prayers for the success of eye operation.  Few has classmates responded, one is Jesus Ong who as an ophthalmologist can give a very credible opinion.   So that leads to J-J SMS consultation.  How much they would like that it be a J-J operation but then Jong does not have a clinic in Manila, good thing James has a relative ophthalmologist in Pangasinan. Then to my SMS prayer crusade the ever crazy humored Willy Alba texted back with these sentence “It is too late for a circumcision,”  followed by the seldom respondent Rowena Lim and Malou Torres, who in turn inquired more about it and in the end both replied “too young to have a cataract.”  So the day of the operation came and this SMS well wishes was sent to James.  Hours had passed; I surfed through my Friendster account and found under friend’s activity that James has recently uploaded a picture.  When I clicked into his album linked, the image that had flashed on the monitor is a man with a white patch on one of his eyes.  I could not help but be amused not on the image of a white patched Captain Cook, but at James dexterity over the digital and e-technology.  James proves that he can keep up with the fast changing e-era unlike the majority of our batch-mates.  From there, it is obvious that the eye operation went well so I texted him again, then he replied that if things go well, the other eye will be operated on.  Once again I have inquired if we now raise the temperature of the get-together.  Gladly did James offer his dies natal is to be the date for such a gathering and indeed the mini-reunion starts warming up. Once again my fingers started to dance the revo on top of the key-board, jumping from one keys to another.  Hence, the e-group of both MT90 and 4amtust90 has once again come to life announcing the upcoming party.  Yet the right thumb proves to be such a dancing queen, for after a group dance, it went solo on top of a flashing dance floor of a mobile keypad.  Soon enough SMS announcement of such social event runs around.  Priorities where given over Pampangueno brothers and sisters for they are quite near.  Malou Torres-David who is working in Angeles but is based in San Fernando expressed her interest but could not commit because it is the nanny’s day off.  Joyce Navarro-Camino from Section H gave a positive response.  Dr. Ricky Deang of Section H, a family medicine specialist based in Dau but is working in Mabalacat, would not like to commit also due to paternal duties. Dr. Jobbie Mamangun of  section H, a neuro-psychiatrist based in San Fernando declined the invitation because it happens to be his wife’s birthday as well, but texted me Marvin Mateo’s mobile number.  So I phoned in Marvin’s number but it was left unattended.   RJ could not yet be found.  I was only given the information that he moved to Batanggas, the hometown of his wife.  These Pampanguenos are followed by all Section A in contacts that are residing in the Philippines.  Rama de Leon-Bitong declined for she is currently taking her training in Endocrinology in St. Lukes.  Rowena Lim-Lato begged off due to family matters.  Dennis Bascon turned it down since it is general cleaning day in the laboratory of Ospital ng Maynila.  Dr. Elani Alfonso-Roldan, a pediatrician and professor gave a negative reply because she has classes then.  Dr. Emily Carbonel-Dy  and Dr. Rosalee Eng-Doctor texted they cannot make it because of clinic hours.  Gina Macababad now based in Cagayan, texted that had it not for the great distance she would gladly come.  Jacqueline Mariano using a new number declined because it coincided with the birthday celebration of her in-law in Angeles.  JC Huang-Pascual confirmed her presence in the afternoon and invited the rest over for an overnight at Subic after James’ party.  Dr. Jesus Ong also expressed his interest but Palawan is a fly away.  Joy Ramos-Igarta wishes the same but it is the eve of her fathers 40th day of transit to heaven.  Karl Zafra although did not commit but is more likely to come.  Mike Lui and Willy Alba excused themselves for reasons I can no longer remember.  Lastly for section A, Dr. Alvin Matulac and Florante Manahan replied late asking for the date of the event but did not confirm or deny their presence.  After this the rest of the batch mates declined because:  Dr. Aldrin Nadres if I remember right, will be attending a convention; Dr. Fidelis De Leon will be in Baguio that day; Joy Esguera, based in Cavite is tied up to her family business; Dr. Mon Carmona will celebrate his birthday on the 12th; Dr. Nixon Cabochanpongco will be in his brother’s birthday.  Dr. Poi Nicandro will fly to Legaspi for his clinic there.  There is one whom I cannot recall says he will be in Boracay for a convention (sarap naman).  The rest who replied cannot be mentioned due to my memory gap (Haay tumatanda na talaga).  After all these, once again the fire is set to a low to keep the chocolate from burning.

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Part 3: Checking into Varied Chocolate Molders

One of the greatest pleasures I had during my practicum in Shangrila Hotel and Diamond Hotel is working with chocolates for such had given me an opportunity to create one of the world’s most luxurious treat- chocolate pralines. Yet, handling chocolates for molding is not an easy task because molders must be kept clean, dry and the insides must be kept shiny and free of scratches, otherwise chocolate will stick to them and the candy will come out scratched or chipped. Similar matter concerns every host. Hence, to make sure that his guests experience will not be tarnished, James offered a night stay in his house especially for those coming from Manila. I however am determined to go with JC after the get-together, but since I will be coming from Quezon I inquired if the same offer can be made prior to the get-together date. Emanating from the Filipino blood that he has, there is no second thought of manifesting the ingrained hospitality woven in our very culture. Delighted over such arrangement, I started plotting out plans to maximize trip. In view of the fact that the road trip is in transit, I decided to take side trips in Manila trying my luck in finding the girl that was once sweetened the host’s chocolate concoctions. But to no avail did my fate lead me to a positive result. Nonetheless, a spark of hope remains for a colleague gave me some basic information. Right after I sped off to take the FX that will lead me to the terminal of the giant rolling rabbit. But an emergency call from a friend came that I have to alight he car in no time. This resulted to a two hour delay for my departure. At 6:00PM I finally made it to Philippine Rabbit. Upon disembarking from a jeep, I immediately asked the uniformed men which bus leads to Dau. These men without hesitation pointed out to the bus with a Baguio signage. But another man pointed out that I buy the ticket at the booth. However, one man reached out his hand on my bag, offering help. Fear to entrust my bag to stranger, I begged off. Then, on my way to the booth I check out my cellphone too look into undeleted message of James and there I read that I will get off to Dau. So I did what I was told and right after I boarded a bus. When the bus left I received a message from James that I ought to pay a fare until Sta. Ines. Too bad I paid already, so I inquired from the conductor if I can pay additional amount to from Dau to Sta. Ines and he agreed. It was a pleasant trip going to Pampangga. The traffic flow was quite smooth and spacious. In less than a couple of hours I arrive Dau Terminal. I texted James as instructed, to announce my proximity. However when I reached San Lorenzo Ruiz Church, the bus stopped. After five minutes, the bus remains remains immobile, so I look out of the window and there I saw the conductor and a man loading several packages in sacks, I sigh and texted James the reason for the delay. Half a quarter past the bus starts rolling cutting through the drizzles. In five minutes the conductor barked “Sta. Ines!” I stood up from my seat and through the windshield I saw the gateway arc of the town of Mabalacat. Then my cellphone gave a couple of beeps announcing James’ message saying to look after a white lancer car. Upon alighting, immediately I spotted James and the car. James reached out for my bag and gladly I handed it out to him. He in turn placed it in the trunk because the car is packed with his daughters. Upon boarding I was introduced to his three daughters, which to my apology I cannot remember their names. Then he steered the wheel to their house. At around half past eight in the evening we reached a place where written the name of a dentist. Apparently, Liza’s father is a well known veteran dentist of Mabalacat. Then the car went in the garage and I found around the area are several units of houses. We all alighted and James brought me to an old house in that compound. Then we reached the room where I saw Liza Punzalan seated before a computer. James told me that Liza is a Medical Transcriptionist and at that moment she is working. After exchanging pleasantries James asked me if I have taken my meal and I gave a negative reply. In a short while dinner is ready and I gobble unreservedly. As I wolf down, I let James do all the talking and anecdotes of his work in a luxury cruise ship linger the air fascinating me to envy for such is my frustrated dream. When I have finished gobbling, I took the turn for MT90 buzz. Anecdotes of classmates and batch-mate became like checking into varied chocolate molders, making us drool over varied theobroma pralines, confections and truffles it will give. Good thing the youngest daughter of James popped out like jumping jelly beans out of the door that we restore the sense of time. So we call the day off and looking forward to the diverse chocolate surprises that tomorrow will bring.

To be continued….

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