March, April, May: months of graduations but also of despedidas. The practice of despedida parties as well as bienvenidas has long been part of Philippine culture. Brought by our Spanish masters, these were opportunities to bid the friend/relative farewell or welcome him/her. Despedidas are usually given to those getting married, those leaving for a short period of time and also, for those leaving for good. Bienvenidas, on the other hand, are usually given to relatives and friends who arrived after a long period of absence.
Earlier today, a very good friend of mine left for New York for good. Paolo, who has been a funny and caring companion, joined his mama and sister in the Big Apple and I am not expecting to see him for quite some time. Though we weren’t really close in our earlier years, our friendship deepened in college and I am thankful for that precious friendship. He was that friend whom I could literally count on, someone I bothered and who bothered.
His departure comes at a time of many other departures. His own farewell party, or what we call despedida, was held jointly with his blockmate’s own despedida. Christine de los Reyes, who is also a friend of mine, decided to host the despedidas in her family’s beautiful compound in Pásig last Friday. Notably, last Wednesday, Paolo and I were also in a despedida for some of our foreign exchange student friends, namely Yvonne, Nikola, Melanie, Chloe, Mikel and Louisa. After spending months in our tropical country, they bid our country farewell, all with good words for our archipelago (but also quite a number of not-so-good comments on Manila, the pungent and corrupt capital city).
I never liked despedidas. Although the food, drinks and music in despedidas are usually notable and gay, I never really found it comfortable to leave despedidas. It was a party – but a party that had someone leaving either temporarily or for good, and for me, this change or disturbance always affects me. I always feel sad when a friend or relative leaves more so if that friend or relative was really close to me. How does one leave a despedida? Does one say good-bye because one is leaving the party or because the person is leaving? I think the food, music and drinks keep us from focusing too much on the departure of a person and with stomachs fulls and bodies inebriated by wine and vodka, we do not dwell on the person’s departure.
Friends often note how my frown can be awarded for its constancy and severity. I must admit of my preference to be alone and to keep a very select circle of friends. That’s why when one of them leaves, I feel sad…really, really sad. In a few months time, my close friend Nicole will be moving to the far south that is Alabang. Paolo has left, as well as my former close friends Macky and Jorel, two wonderful guys I used to speak with on the telephone FOR HOURS. Close friends know how I despise change; despedidas are parties that speak (sing) change. Someone’s leaving, someone’s no longer going to be there physically near you or accessible to you unlike before.
Perhaps the grandest despedida I attended these past few days was my own batch’s graduation, a solemn way of saying farewell to our university. Again, it was a bit more painful to me as compared to the others. For me, and the rest of those who studied in the Ateneo since Prep, saying good bye to my 16-year home was painful and bittersweet. A 16-year routine has dictated that from June-March, days will be spent in that lovely 100-hectares of trees, grass and classrooms along Katipunan. To break away from that physical place BUT ALSO from that figurative second-mother is hard. I have made so many friends among the students, staff and faculty from that institution that to simply leave it seemed impossible. So many memories, terribly many memories, come from my years in the Ateneo de Manila. Alas, last 25 March 2011, I gave my last farewell to Ateneo and unexpectedly, tears flowed generously.
On the other hand, last Wedesday, my High School barkada had a bienvenida for our beloved friend, Gian. After months spent working in sunny California, Gian’s is back albeit temporarily before returning in September (again, a despedida lurks). My barkada (with one missing!) celebrated and ate to our hearts’ delight at a buffet ala carte Japanese resto, and we reminisced and congratulated too those who have graduated. It was a wonderful 3-hour lunch.
However, there’s also another bienvenida me and hundreds of thousands of other fresh graduates are waiting to have: acceptance into some form of employment. We are all waiting for our own bienvenidas in that place they call “the real world”. The despedida we call graduation was long, solemn and grand while this bienvenida into the real world is subtle, petrifying and almost damning.
For a person like me who detests change, despedidas and bienvenidas, whether they may be grand or simple, traditional or unconventional, almost always causes me some sadness or anxiety.
As I bade Paolo farewell, my mind almost conked out when I started thinking “Who’s going to replace him?” Funny, I was biking when I sent my last “good bye” text message to him and just as it was sending, Vivaldi’s “Requiem” played on my MP3. It was sunset.
Bye, bye Paolo, Christine and welcome home Gian 🙂
Bye, bye Block H, DS, Ateneo and welcome “Real World” (or should it be the other way around?)!