Friday, October 19, 2018
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High blood

Friendship in the Age of Facebook, Messenger

When I was in college some 50 years ago, I spent the last year in a boarding house near University of Santo Tomas. Previously, I stayed with my unmarried aunts and a married cousin in Pasay City. My final year in college, therefore, was the first time I came to be on my own, and my experiences were both exciting and life-changing.

The boarding house was managed by a family friend whom we all addressed as Tia Charing. Her husband was the brother of a well-known figure in Philippine cinema whose wife was Tia Charing’s sister. Many of my dorm mates were from my hometown — Sta. Cruz, Laguna — and nearly all of us were graduates of the same high school. There were other girls from as far as Pagadian and Sorsogon, but it was only natural that we from Sta. Cruz would have a special bond.

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It was in this boarding house that Offie and I became friends. She was two years ahead of me in high school, and she was slim and lively, with a sophisticated air about her. She was enrolled in another university. As the months rolled by, we became closer. We were sometimes joined by Mariely, a medical student, and Melita, who was younger than the three of us but already had a steady boyfriend.

Offie and I often shared personal stories about ourselves and even the boys who got interested in us or were interesting to us. She was enthusing about an up-and-coming artist who would later become an icon in his field. She knew about the bookworm who visited me in the boarding house. Sadly, despite our closeness and the fact that we were from the same hometown, we did not see each other again after graduation from college.

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According to her, the last time we were together was when I visited her in her house in Sta. Cruz with a boyfriend. I am not forgetful, but I could not remember that visit, or the guy. When she described him as tall and good-looking when we were already connected and on Messenger, my husband, listening nearby, insisted that it must have been him!

After this supposed visit, Offie and I neither saw nor heard from each other again. We became busy with our own lives. I got married, became a professor at the University of the Philippines, and raised four kids. Decades passed and new ways of connecting other than snail mail came to be, thanks to modern communication technology. In our case, Offie and I owe our reconnection to Facebook. I had earlier tried to look her up, but I could not find her. But when I got connected with Sonia, a high school classmate and friend now living in Canada, I eventually “found” Offie.

It turned out that she taught for a while in the high school from where we graduated, but she did not stay long. She found work abroad and traveled the world. She then married an American and chose to stay in Maine after being widowed. She is also on Facebook, but using her married name. To make the long story short, we are now reconnected, thanks to Sonia.

Offie and I regularly update each other now and our own Facebook connections with our posts. In fact, we have many common friends, all schoolmates from Sta. Cruz. Sonia, Offie and I communicate very often via Messenger. When we do, it is as if we have never been away from one another for decades, laughing like we did when we were all still in high school. The Chinese philosopher Mencius is right in saying that “friends are the siblings that God never gave us.” This is even more true for me, because I am an only child who never felt alone because of my friends, many of whom were with me in all my journeys.

As of this writing, both Offie and Sonia are in the Philippines and even threatening to “invade” Davao City where I now reside. Even if they do not make it because both are leaving before Christmas, I know that we are now forever connected because each is just a call or post away. Facebook and Messenger have made the impossible possible, and friendship has been made forever by the miracles of modern communication technology.

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Teresita V. Guillen is a retired professor and former dean. She writes and paints and tends to eight small dogs and an old Siamese cat.

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