Women of Wisdom

Girls from 4-Wisdom, also known as Yeah girls (photo from Lyla G.)

I was at a party of families yesterday; I brought Sophie and Elmo. The moms/wives were women I have known since kindergarten or grade school.

The group was formed officially sometime in our senior year, where we were all classmates in IV-Wisdom. I was not a core member, then or now, but some of the individuals in the group are very, very close friends of mine.

Bates is my best friend. I see her once or twice a month for lunch or dinner. We have been around for each other in happy and sad times. She is Bea's ninang but all my other kids also call her ninang. With her I can freely be myself, be stupid and confused and goofy – and not worry about getting judged.

Jennie is now in another country, married to a foreigner. She is also “Ninang” to all four kids. We occasionally chat and I think she sometimes visits this blog. You run to Jennie when you need to get some sense knocked into your head. God knows I have needed that several times. Since leaving the Philippines for good in 07, she has only come back to visit twice. I miss her!!! One day I will visit her where she is.

Berna used to be a constant seatmate because our last names were often listed next to each other. We have generally gotten along great but have lost touch after college and in the years that followed. It's only now we have reconnected...and two months ago she stood as Sophie's confirmation sponsor. She sent her mother as proxy and after only two hours with her, I was ready to have myself adopted by a caring, humble and kind woman! No wonder Berna turned out the way she did. 

Grace has also always been around and I am glad that she seems to be enjoying the good life. She was with me during a very tough phase nine and a half years ago – and I will not forget that! On her 18th birthday, I was already five months pregnant with Bea. The group was in a Tamaraw vehicle that brought us to and from the party, and I was there and my boyfriend was there and I later learned from Jennie that everybody was dying to ask if the rumors were true (at five months I still wasn't showing). When my baby daddy and I got out of the vehicle, Jennie told them – yes, it's true.

Leah was briefly my best friend in the fifth grade. I remember that for my birthday she asked her older brother, who drew very well, to draw me a portrait of moviestar Romnick Sarmenta, which I kept for years. She is humble and unassuming despite being very smart (BS Math in UP!) and talented. Her 18th birthday was also memorable, and what is weird is that I only remembered yesterday, when I hitched a ride to Valenzuela with their family. Her birthday is in April, and I was 8 months along the way, but she took the trouble of going to my grandmother's house to personally invite me and I was touched by that. So I came in my maternity dress – to everybody's discomfort. I did not tell them, but I felt a tinge of envy that all of them seemed to lead normal, exciting, uncomplicated colegiala lives while I was...knocked up, unsure of what the future will bring, and trying to put up a brave front that I was enjoying every minute of it.

The others I have yet to get to know individually, but I am thankful they have started inviting me to their gatherings again.

I was not at core because at the time the group was being formed, I was always absent from school. My mom was dying then, and I scarcely had any free time. I also had a boyfriend at a very young age of 16 – a college boy whom they only knew from a distance, the same boy who later ended up as my husband, the father of my children, and now my ex. At that time, in 1992, they were content peeking across the window at the boys' school adjacent to ours and getting to know those boys at some canteen after classes.

In college, I was even more inaccessible because I was taking care of babies and maintaining a scholarship. In fact, two of the girls attended the same university as I did, but I would just say hello to them and then move on. (Come to think of it, I really did not make any strong friendship bonds in college, I did not even have an org, because of my situation).

But now I am in again, and whereas before I was the only one who constantly had a boy companion, now I am one of the very few without. The husbands now have a table of their own – and I am thankful nobody is teasing me because I do not quite know how to respond that there is an entirely different story about why I do not have a representative at that table. 

Sometimes I feel self-conscious about still being different from most of them. They come from two-parent families, have solid marriages, and are financially comfortable. In the meantime, I'd only met my dad when I was 21, am now technically single after ending a most unfulfilling, stifling marriage, and get by on a “just right” income, renting a townhouse, raising four kids – two of whom  are in college – as the sole breadwinner. I still take public transportation. One can go on and on....but I decide to stop. Jennie would probably tell me off and say I am such a drama queen. Of course she would be right. Yes, this is exactly the kind of friend I need.

I have known these girls since we were in pigtails and affectations would be useless. And look – there's another invite for the next event, and I will most likely be going.