Hello, January

January is the girl whose birthday is in December.

She was the closest thing to a college girl friend, but what could have been an epic friendship was interrupted by circumstance.

I met Jan in freshman merit English class under her cousin, the late Dr. Doreen Gamboa Fernandez. We were seatmates on that first day, when all of us first year students were trying too look less lost than we actually were. I was 17 and she was, I think, 15 or 16, away from her sheltered life in Silay City where the family had a plantation.

Not a few people remarked that we looked like sisters or cousins -- fair-skinned, big eyes, and not-so-thin. And because we were blockmates, AB Comm, we shared not just honors English but all other subjects as well. Except PE.

At that time, I had a boyfriend whom I was constantly assuring that nothing was going to change even if I would be meeting many new boys, Atenistas at that. All my other free hours (not much though) I spent with Jan, making sense of what was promising to be an interesting college life.

Interesting, indeed, because on finals week of the first semester of my freshman year, I found out that I was pregnant and my life was never the same.

The following semester, I filed for a leave of absence citing hepatitis (I later on came clean to the school and to my scholarship benefactor, and they accepted my profuse apologies). That sem, I lost track of Jan and everybody else. Soon I found out that she had developed some water in her lungs and had been advised by her doctor to go back to Negros and finish her degree there. She attended La Salle-Bacolod. She sent me one letter, in the days before email and social media, and I think I replied, but that was that.

Meantime, I got married, had my baby, went back to school, shifted into English Literature, had yet another baby, went back to school again, and then graduated. Life went on.

Thank God for Facebook. She added me or I added her a few years ago, but today we chatted and it was nice.

She got married in 08, has one baby and is working from home. I told her that Le Boyfriend (I think she met him once or twice) had turned out to be a Le Mon, and that I was wearing many hats because I was raising my four kids on my own.

That kid I got pregnant with during freshman year? She will soon be 20. So yeah, we are officially old. A friend from our block is now a pastor of sorts in Bo Sanchez's team. Another is a morning show celebrity, who has remained thin despite having babies. Plural. We guessed it comes with the territory.

Jan is based in Bacolod but we agreed we would meet for coffee if she happens to find herself in Manila. That can't be soon, but it's something to look forward to.