ELPIDIO ESTIOKO: High school reunions usher hope, camaraderie, memory lane…

Every end of the year, alumni are hoping to attend the school’s high school reunions with pride and dignity. It is a moment for them to recall their high school days spent with their classmates/schoolmates whom they haven’t seen and met for years after graduation. For those who are abroad, they have to prepare for it – saving money, stretching their pensions, working extra hours…  to pay for their airfares and other incidental expenses needed during the reunion. It’s one thing they planned to do because they love to go back and rekindle their memories built throughout the years with friends and acquaintances.

Last year, the Urdaneta City National High School (UCNHS) held its Grand Alumni Homecoming 2022 on November 26-27, 2022 with a theme: “Adjusting to the New Normal, Reinventing with Reskilling and Upskilling and Being Resilient at Work till the Light Breaks Forth.”

The UCNHS alumni dedicated themselves to the memory and honor of the school’s founding Father, Dr. Pedro T. Orata, 1971 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Community Service, for his far-reaching vision and his pragmatic wisdom in setting up the mechanics for the establishment of their Alma Mater, literally from the smoking ruins of war.

During this reunion, UCNHS ‘Batch ‘65 was at the helm of the reunion and were actively involved in the two-day activities… well, some even extended it to 5 days, including the birthday celebration of Balikbayan Amelita “Mila” Gatchalian where all Batch ’65 members were present, in addition to her folks in the barangay.

“Those pictures and videos of mine… I can’t express how those get together merriest moments of my life attending the parade, the gala night, and many gatherings by our Batch ’65,” Mila said.

Couple Eliodoro & Vicky Calacsan from San Diego said: “Countless years and miles may stand between old friends but being with them this past Alumni Reunion last November 2022 reminded me of every memory of friendship shared even for a short time is a treasure. Eliodoro and I are so happy to see and being with old friends chatting, eating, singing… and dancing, laughing out loud (lol) with them. I felt like nothing has changed since high school days and for some since elementary days. There was so much love and joy being with old friends.”

Looking at the other side of the coin, both Canada-based Fe Malagayo Alluri and San Diego, California-based Danny Calacsan are one in saying:  Yes, good things are happening during and after the reunion – the joys of getting together, the social networking, acknowledgement and appreciation of the good works and the outstanding alumni like Joweh Sumait are doing, etc.” They however, lament the fact that some unpalatable issues seem to be hovering over the alumni organization. Example given were – programs are meant to be read before and during the events, but this didn’t happen in the last reunion, and not after most people have left town. They also noted the alleged financial mismanagement of a few (the case of the missing money) which happened in the past which was adjudicated and somehow happening at present.

Good points Fe and Danny. Your points are well taken in the interest of the organizers and the alumni. However, I won’t venture on this topic at this time. Maybe, what we can do is to remind the officers of the organization to be truthful and faithful in the discharge of their duties and for the alumni to be more vigilant and respectful in monitoring the organizations activities especially in the area of finance (or any transgressions in the complicated world of alumni homecoming) to prevent things happening again.

Joweh Sumait, Chicago-based ’65 alumnus who was selected as one of the outstanding alumni during the grand reunion narrated the activities from the parade, with a simple program at the UCHS Social Hall… to the culminating activity during the Gala Night at the Urdaneta Cultural Center… and the group’s kantahan, fellowship, sayawan, etc.

Joweh was recognized in the field of community service being “a man of action and leadership…serving the community in his capacity as president of the Urdaneta Jaycees; the Rotary Mother Club of Urdaneta; chairman of the Urdaneta Town Fiesta Marathon from 1983 to2009; and as chairman of the Board, Urdaneta Water District where he was awarded by former president of the Republic of the Philippines President Gloria M. Arroyo as an outstanding board of director of the Water District.

The Emerald Get-Together Reunion of Batch ’65 was emceed by former Batch ’65 president Arsenio Dulay with President Minda Tomines at the helm.  In addition to emceeing, he entertained the members with his singing and adlibs.

This early, Batch ’65 is now planning their participation during their Diamond Jubilee in 2025 hoping for a grand slam – Most Attended Group, Best in Uniform, Best in Float, and the selection of Queen and King of the Alumni popularity contest. Aiding the president and the rest of the officers in the planning stage is Founding Alumni President Atty. Mario Bravo, also a member of Batch’65.

The Grand Reunion was graced by Hon. Ramon Guico, Jr., Representative, 5th District, Pangasinan; Hon. Provincial Governor Ramon Guico 111; Hon. Mark Ronaldo DG. Lambino, Provincial Vice Governor; Hon. Chinky Perez, Provincial Board Member, 5th District of Pangasinan; City Vice- Mayor Jimmy D. Parayno; Fatima R. Boado, CSO V1, School Division Superintendent; Romel F. Millones, School Principal 1V, UCNHS; and Francisco F. Morante ’72, Alumni President.

Mayor Parayno said in his message to the alumni: “It is with great pleasure to greet you, the Urdaneta National High School Alumni Association, Inc. as you celebrate your 2022 Alumni Home Coming. Your theme – “Adjusting to the New Normal Reinventing with Reskilling and Upskilling and Being a Resilient at Work till the Light Breaks Forth’ is an expression of commitment and determination to withstand any adversity, it drives every alumna to take part in nation re-building and in the service of the others thru the activities initiated by UCNHS. Altogether, hold on to hope that the sun is still shining behind the clouds. Focus on the things that matter to yourselves and to others.”

Looking forward to the next year’s grand alumni reunion!

(ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments email the author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.)