I could go on and on. But this is one reunion that I will always remember.
Amado Yoro the poet and Estrella Pada Taong the educator were awarded illustrious members of their school's list of graduates. That is point one.
Point two is this: how this alumni association has linked itself with a noble cause: the medical missioning in Ilocos-land where the poor and sick are given the chance, many for the first time in their life to see a doctor, to see a nurse, to see a medical personnel. You hear Manang Estrella tell the story of how they did it and you say to yourself: charity comes in full circle.
Point three: I read a poem, "A Dream of Drums and Drumbeating." It is the story of my father and the poverty and famine and hunger that came in 1968 and 1969.
The story is familiar and I recall the scenes now, vivid and overwhelming.
I recall the scene because Manang Estrella talked of the life in Sinait, Ilocos Sur, the very life that I have come to know in all of Ilocos, in all of the homeland, in Ilocos and elsewhere, in the past as well as in the present.
The 1968 and 1969 events of famine and hunger have not changed.
We are still eating the cowhide meant for making drums, as was the intention of my father who probably had heard the frenzied beating of the drums he was to make, imagining perhaps the callused but nimble fingers of young drummers dancing on the drum's cowhide surface, the dancing of the fingers creating the primeval music of ancestors and anitos long gone, the ancestors as anitos, the anitos as ancestors remaining with us and seeing and seeing so much what we have become as a people.
We read the news and stories from the homeland and we remember all of them even as we partake of sumptuous dinners over here, like this dinner that we partake of in this reunion. There is abundance, and you cannot eat abundance when you remember hunger.
I feel sad even as I try to be happy attending reunions like this one of the Sinait National High School, the reunion feting two good friends and life mentors, recognizing their exemplary contribution to serve our people and minister to their needs.
I see poetry in all this, the contradictions coming in as intense and as real as we put our hands together in recognition of their humanitarian deed, with Manong Amado remaining forever a poet of our people, with Manang Estrella remaining forever an educator reminding us of what we have yet to accomplish to serve and keep on serving.
There are lessons here, profuse lessons about life and living.
It is as if I am hearing the sounds of drums being beaten by drummers young and old who have just partaken of a full meal of food and dreams pursued.
A. S. Agcaoili
July 15, 2006, at the 11th anniversary of the Sinait National High School, New Empress Resto, downtown Honolulu