Two friends of mine
In a span of five days, I lost two very good and close friends. The first, Alice de Dios, was declared dead at 2 a.m., Aug. 29, and the second, Conrada (Cons) Aragon, at 11 a.m. of Sept. 2.
I am overwhelmed by sadness. I commend their souls to the Lord and thank God for their friendship.
I first met Alice when she took the Cursillos in Christianity which we conducted in Greenhills in mid-1968. Aurora Aquino, the mother of Ninoy Aquino, was then the president of the Cursillos for Women in the Philippines. At the graduation ceremony of this class, she was impressed by Alice’s “jump” (her reaction to the retreat) and contacted her. Soon after, Alice joined our team and thus started our friendship.
We attended formation classes and gave Cursillo classes three or four times a month nationwide except in Region I, Marcos territory. She played the accordion and gave talks. She was very generous with her time and resources. Her van, which we called our school bus, was always at our disposal.
When Bishop Leonardo Legaspi, OP, DD, became the head of the Ecclesiastical Commission on Religious Education, he organized the Christian Maturity Formation Seminars and assigned our team to take care of the weekend retreats to be given free to public school teachers. This we did with his leadership and aided by Bishop Ted Buhain.
We were often roommates during these seminars and became close friends. The loss of our husbands in the same year, 1991, only six months apart, brought us even closer.
As a group for our prayer meetings, we met at the house of Alice Lejano and once a month with our spiritual director, Fr. Guillermo Tejon, OP, in San Juan, followed by lunch in different eating places.
The time I spent with Alice I consider quality time. It was time spent mostly with the Lord and serving Him. She was deeply spiritual, a fact that came to light when, after her death, her daughter Stella found her journal containing her “conversations with God.”
Early in 1962, my husband Felix and I visited our lot in a subdivision in Quezon City. A next-door neighbor came out to welcome us to the neighborhood. He, Stan Aragon, turned out to be a former student of mine in prelaw at the University of Santo Tomas. He introduced me to his charming wife Cons.
Cons and I had many things in common. We were both born in 1923, and only four days apart: Nov. 26 and Nov. 30. We were both teachers; she taught at the Paltok Elementary School and I at UST. We each had many children, who became good friends and played in both our gardens. We both enjoyed eating, exchanging recipes and dishes filled with goodies shared from time to time.
We took care of each other as well as our families. When Jet fell from our santol tree, it was she who applied first aid and phoned me at UST to inform me of the accident. And because their place always got flooded, I had an opening made in our common wall to allow the floodwaters to pass through our yard and thus flow to the creek at the back of our property.
In 1985, Cons decided to work as housekeeper for a rich Jewish couple in San Francisco. While there, she underwent breast cancer surgery and suffered a stroke. When her employer died, she returned home, in 2002.
Our friendship was resumed. By then we were both retired, financially comfortable, with our children settled and successful in their careers. We called this period in our lives “our harvest time.” We attended religious and social functions regularly, and played mahjong once or twice a week. Life was fun and good.
But last year, she was diagnosed with colon cancer (stage 4). A month or so before she died, she told me, “Nena, I’m not afraid of death, but I want to live longer so that I can savor the love of my children.”
The word savor struck me, and I thought of us senior citizens who are basking in the light of our children’s love, which we often take for granted. Do we relish and appreciate such a love? And do we return the same? If we don’t, then it’s time we did before darkness descends.
Two lessons I learned from this experience of loss, and both are priceless. First, the value of friendship: It’s an investment that pays remarkable dividends. Second, the preciousness of time: Let’s not squander it. Let’s use it well—to love, which means both giving and forgiving — and be loved.
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Lourdes Syquia Bautista, 93, is a retired professor of UST, a widow with 12 children, 27 grandchildren, and 21 great grandchildren.
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