“B . . . this is your Manong Junior.”

“Who?”  He sounded so familiar and confident I would know him but the Junior I knew has been long dead, he could not be calling from his grave.

“Don’t you know me anymore?  Your Manong Junior, the son of the late Felix.”  Ah, the cousin of the one that passed away, the son of his father’s brother.

Of course I knew him.  I haven’t seen him since college.  Last heard, he went to Manila while I went to another city.  Even when all the students would come home for college vacation in our town, he wasn’t there as he was busy as a working student.  He was the quiet older brother of my classmate and high school buddy Betty.  The dutiful brother with a pleasant smile on his face always.

We are distant relatives so their parents doted on me and his siblings treated me like one of them.  How could one forget picking tree-ripened fruits of their caimito (star apple), huge Java guavas and Indian mangoes.  I hang out with Betty everyday that their parents encouraged me to feel right at home, ipab-pabalay means I was licensed to go directly to their kitchen when around.

He said he found my number through Google.  I last talked to him when I was searching for alumni who went to our high school for our reunion in Honolulu.  His sisters attended but he and his wife didn’t come because they were just settling down in Vancouver.

Good thing he tried Googling me when my old number didn’t work or we could have missed seeing each other.  They came for his wife’s nursing school reunion.  I invited them at my apartment, even though it is only half-furnished as I just moved in.

I haven’t entertained for a long time.  There was a downpour as I got out of church, not very encouraging to do more shopping but I had pre-boiled pork hocks in the freezer waiting to be transformed into crispy pata; plenty of stocked fresh vegetables for chop suey.  The bisugo or sea bream I bought from Argyle last week will be fried.  Fresh bananas, French Sea Salt Caramel ice cream and blueberry frozen yogurt were the choices for desserts.   They came from their reunion picnic where they ran out of rice, luckily it tops my list so I cooked a potful.  Quite an unpretentious home cooked dinner.

His wife Eppie, was just as nice.  I liked her immediately and their daughter Kathy, is stunning, simply gorgeous, confident and intelligent.  They projected Manong Junior’s personality and character, humble, down-to-earth, sincere, warm – I could sense only positive vibes from them – this family lives in harmony!

When I was growing up in our hometown I hardly talked to Manong Junior; aside from his sisters, I chatted more with his overly gregarious younger brother, Rudy.  This time we had a lot of catching up to do, we walked away from the dining table 4 hours later.

Manong Junior hard at work in my kitchen

To my embarrassment he efficiently washed the dishes, no amount of pushing him away from the sink would do.  “Just let me do this, you are like a sister to me anyway.”

Thanks Google for a great reunion!

With Manong Junior’s family: wife Eppie and daughter Kat

Pixie warming up to her guests

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