Friends in Memoriam at Chrismastime

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Dec 23 2015 03:42 PM | Updated as of Dec 23 2015 06:45 PM

Never ever put off calling on dear old friends. Procrastination has consequences, you know. In the meantime, friends may have gone off, we failed to say “good bye!” and then we later on find out they won’t be around anymore. Shucks! If only I had known.
Having been an expatriate for a couple of times and for stretches of time with each departure, I do remember dear old friends I have lost touch with. And never will again. My bad!


Last week, I thought of a long-time friend from Sulu, Limpasan Idjirani and his wife Salma. Both Muslims who lived in Zamboanga. It was there where I last saw “Idji,” about 23 years ago. You see, we were ‘brothers!’ Where else to go but Facebook. He was not there. A Dayang-dayang Idjirani was. From out of cold cyberspace, I called on her, introducing myself, hoping she was a daughter or a niece. She responded, happy to note that an old family friend came a-calling but sorry to say that her father-in-law, Limpasan along with his wife, have left this world. I have lost a unique friend.

As a young man, Limpasan had gone off to Afghanistan on some scholarship or study tour. He was an activist in ameliorative endeavors for kith and kin while I was engaged in Filipinas Foundation work on Filipino Muslim Affairs. I met him through Major Eddie “Abdul Latiffe” Martelino who was then under camp arrest in Ft. Bonifacio, as an offshoot of the Jabidah incident. This was in the late 1960s.

Even when I lived in HongKong during the early Martial Law years, we were in touch, keeping abreast on “developments.” I did sneak back in to Manila, then, every so often. This time, I wanted to feed upon his insights on the Bangsamoro Basic Law and its impact. Now, I am rendered wanting in useful information.


Another instance, another dear friend. For a couple of years, I have been wanting to get together again with Isabelo Tinio Crisosotomo, the most prolific Filipino biographer and a valued member of Iglesia ni Cristo. He was President of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) during the Martial Law years. (In pre-1972, we both taught at the then Philippine College of Commerce, before it became PUP, along old calle Lepanto in Manila, courtesy of another friend, Dr. Nemesio Prudente, then the school President. It broke my heart that Cris had a falling out with “Doc” Prud, whom I admired immensely.)

The last time Cris and I were in touch was when he wished me well. I had just returned to Manila to join President Cory’s Cabinet as her Press Secretary. Cris earlier had also sent warm greetings when I served as Consul General in Honolulu keeping tabs on Marcos in exile. I had heard that Cris had settled in the Seattle area. I was able to trace a residence in the outskirts registered in his name, only to be answered by a Hispanic-speaking lady, most probably a caretaker.

A few months ago, on a visit to Manila, I sought him out but my search was fruitless. He was not on Facebook but I found him on the Internet. Googling him, hoping to find him somewhere in the US, I looked forward to having good times again and reminisce old ones. Alas, this was not to be. It was an obituary I saw. Cris passed away 10 years ago! Oh, the laughs we would have had interlacing our usual cerebral give-and-take!


And then, there was Hermie. Hermogenes Ilagan, Jr., son of the country’s most eminent Zarzuelista, in fact, regarded as the Father of Tagalog Zarzuela. Hermie was a dedicated advertising man. I used to tease him and called him the ‘pageboy’ in the royal family of Philippine theater, being its youngest son. His elder siblings were Gerry de Leon, Angel Esmeralda, Tito Arevalo and Conrado Conde, all giants of the Filipino silver screen. If you are in your eighties, these names were ‘household.’

(I must remember to put together what I can still recall and share it. The Philippines has her own “Barrymores,” you know. And ours is superior! The Ilagans. Abangan!)

Anyway, this was some 12 years ago. It had been about two years since I had last seen Hermie in Manila when we exchanged phone numbers. I was visiting from Texas. He was likewise visiting having immigrated to the US and lived in California. When I first arrived in San Diego for a hotel job, I called up his number. His wife, Marietta who I also knew (she belongs to the mestisaje Fernandez clan of Palawan) answered the phone. “Hi, Marietta, this is Buddy Gomez. Don’t tell Hermie, I just want to surprise him. Can you please put him on.” A brief silence…and then softly she tells me “Buddy, your friend is no longer with us, he passed away a year ago!”

What was I to do! Belated sympathies, what else. What a blast of laughter we would have had remembering past associations and encounters. Cris, Hermie and I worked under a hard-nosed task-master, an icon in Philippine p.r., advertising and promotions, “RR” de la Cruz. Now, I will have to do my reminiscences by myself. I will smile and laugh. Alone.


I have done this before while he lived and I am doing it again to honor his memory now that he is gone. A few Christmases ago, I borrowed from this dear old friend his all-time favorite yuletide sentiments set in prose only he can stitch together. Raul S. Gonzalez passed on more than two years ago in Manila and I found out only months after his departure.

Raul was President Diosdado P. Macapagal’s last Press Secretary. In 1954, Raul was managing editor of the school paper “The Bedan” when he gave me my first by-line, my break in campus journalism. This was after we were Boy Scouts in elementary. He in the Air Scouts, me in Sea Scouts while in HS and still classmates on to college. “Der Snoil 66.” Red Lions spelled backwards and there were a dozen naughty young men.

Here is Raul:

“Christmas disdains big words, shuns fancy sentences, abhors tangled thoughts.

Peruse the words of Christmas and delight in how majestic they sound in their ordinariness: star, angel, shepherds, wise men, good, joy ,glory, God.

"Parse the sentences of Christmas and marvel at how so much elegance can flow from constructions as simple as: ‘She shall bring forth a son and you shall call him Jesus.’ ‘There is room in the inn.’ ‘Fear not, for I bring good tidings of great joy.’ ‘You will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.’ ‘Lo! The star, which they saw in the East, went before them, till it came and stood over where the child was….and they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.’

"Ponder the thoughts of Christmas and know that in all history no message can be found as clear and sure; no philosophy as deep and true, as these: Darkness comes but light follows. Nothing is bad that hope should be abandoned. After primal sin, the promised Redemption. The man with eyes shall be a staff to those who are blind. We are not just our brothers’ keeper, we are our brothers’ brother. Christmas is merry because the Savior is come.

"In keeping then with the style--and the spirit--of Christmas, to this Savior this writer this Christmas this prayer breathes: Keep the earth good and give men peace; and for you, my cherished friends: this wish--Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year…..”

'Hierba mala'

To all you my dear departed, expect this “hierba mala” to join you sometime. To play catch up, but not just yet, I hope. There is still usefulness to perform and to be enjoyed.

And to y’all, a Texas-size Merry Christmas and a truly hopeful Waray-waray “Ma-inuswagon nga Bag-o nga Tuig!” Survive. Prevail. Stay Safe, Happy and Healthy.

Now, do not forget to be in touch and call on friends, ya hear!

P.S. This practice of remembering, reminiscing is a useful preventive to dementia……(Ah, Alzheimer, postpone thee awhile!) So is blogging and calling on old friends!

READ: Back where it all began

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