DIAMOND! St. Agnes alumnae celebrate their 60th

Donning the blue and white. A class picture at the East Hampton home of Loida Nicolas Lewis.

By Rocio Casimiro Nuyda

Diamond, by definition, is a precious stone consisting of a clear and colorless crystalline form of pure carbon.  It connotes brilliance.

The word holds meaning to 16 high school classmates who graduated 60 years ago. Diamond is the commemorative gem for the 60-year jubilarians, and we celebrated this milestone in a 13-day reunion. 

We are Benedictine-educated women of St. Agnes Academy in the province of Albay, Philippines, a satellite school of St. Scholastica College in Manila.  Like diamond we led brilliant lives.  Like diamond, we are hard to crack as evidenced in the grit and confidence that each classmate exuded. Like diamond, we sparkled in our individual personalities: lively, articulate, and confident.    

A meticulously planned itinerary was the order of the reunion days. Seven classmates — Evelyn Estevez Duran, Zenaida Redito Gregorio, Fe Gutierez, Erlinda Gonzales Belleza, Andrea Malejana Millano, Mary Navarez, and Julieta Peralta Golez — flew in from the Philippines. They were joined by classmates who reside in different cities of the United States, Norma Balana Rubio, Noemi Goyena Navarro, Salvacion Lee, Lourdes Lianko Chua, Angelita Altea, Leonor Cabigao Bismonte, Jennie Yap Chan, Loida Nicolas Lewis, and myself.

Channeling Edith Piaf in stripes and beret.
At the New Jersey home of Jennie Yap Chan, who is shown here holding a blue plate, a gift from the girls. The author is the lady in red with her arm around Jennie.

Hosted in the homes of two classmates, the first week was spent at the East Hampton vacation home of Loida Nicolas Lewis, and the second week in the New Jersey retirement home of Jennie Yap Chan.  Like school girls, two classmates shared a bed, romped around in pajamas, woke up to the blaring sound of Zumba music signaling that the day has started in the daily morning exercises.

We donned our high school blue and white uniform, a white outfit to comb the beach of the Atlantic Ocean, directly below the Hampton home, a dressy outfit for an evening of at-home disco dancing to the music of a disc jockey partnered with dance instructors non-stop.

We watched the acclaimed Broadway musical, “Hamilton,” yes, all 16 of us.

We went sightseeing in Manhattan, New York; Atlantic City, New Jersey; White House, Washington D.C.; Mount Vernon, Virginia; and Baltimore, Maryland. We feasted on daily gourmet meals of lobsters, steaks, scallops and many food delicacies, that we would otherwise not indulge because of ballooning waistlines. We savored the Bicolano delicacy “pinangat” a specialized version of Laing in rich coconut milk, all 20 pieces, packed for our delight by our Philippine classmates.

All-night disco with dance instructors.

We serenaded each other in the celebrated French song of Edith Piaf, “La Vie en Rose,” and we could not be outdone in a red beret, striped shirt, neckerchief with matching shoes, looking totally Parisian. 

We hugged, we shared stories of life after high school, we laughed, we kissed, we played the piano, we giggled, we sang cheer songs, we exchanged beauty secrets, we gifted each other, but most of all we expressed love.

We filled the air with a profusion of positive emotions and energies, we emoted the meaning of friendship. We discovered that no matter the years and distance between us, we remained friends, and we matured into women of substance.     

Sixteen high school classmates from 60 years ago, exhilarated in this one moment in time, basking and thankful in the blessing of good health, energy, and wisdom. We parted with a promise to do this again in five years. Until then, we remain brilliant DIAMONDS. 

© The FilAm 2019

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