After almost two decades, I was able to meet Wally. He is back in Metro Manila and is now working with the government, his concern mainly about how to maintain a family in this difficult period of our country. The years have changed his physical appearance only but little, and talking with him easily brought memories of the old days.
The one memorable moment I had with Wally in the past was when we, together with Lily, were walking one night on a road cutting through one of the hinterland barangays of Cebu City. Because I was familiar with the place, I chose to act as their guide, a decision that later proved wrong. Until now, I could not help but smile at the experience.
At a curve, we met two people, one of whom had a rifle and wore a green military jacket. What immediately sank into my mind was the idea of military men on patrol. Suddenly, I shouted, “Run!” and the three of us scampered toward the side of the road, down a hill then up another hill.
It turned out it was a false alarm, as the people we encountered were our farmer-friends. Because the terrain was hilly and bushy, Lily, urban-bred, would suffer scratches and bruises and had to be fetched by the farmers in the area we were hiding. If I remember it correctly, she limped and had to ride a carabao to make it back to the road.
Of course, when old friends meet, we tend to make light of past experiences, even those that tested our resolve and placed our lives in danger. But that tendency makes the reminiscing bearable, even enjoyable, and prods us not to want to end the talk, like what happened when Wally brought three other friends for a cup of coffee and later dinner with puso and lechon.
Talking with old friends reminds me of how ordinary my life has become. I am still amazed at how I tried to be brave in those days and how big the responsibility I carried (although I would reckon with the magnitude of the job only years later, when I was no longer an organizer). Those times, you lived your life by the day because death was a constant companion.
This is probably the reason why two decades seem just yesterday. The experiences we went through, because these were almost always life-changing for everyone of us, have already been etched deeply in our subconscious, easily seen by a mind scanning the past.
For the past several years, I have tried to be normal, even glossing over in the biodata I submitted for employment some seven years of my life. But we are all living in a continuing past, and so there’s no escaping those years that shaped the way we journey to the present.
–Candido O. Wenceslao
August 14, 2006