Back when we were ‘bagets’

(The start of 2013 has so far been a pretty slow one for me. Should I complain or should I be thankful? I’d rather look at the bright side of life, and see this rare breather as a blessing.

(In the meantime, I’m reissuing an essay I wrote in February 2006 to mark the 25th year of our graduation from high school. My fellow graduates and I from UST HS had a blast reliving the past and reconnecting with each other in a dinner-slash-dance party at the grand ballroom of the Manila Hotel one February evening almost seven years ago.

(To put things in perspective, this piece, which first came out in our souvenir program before seeing print a few days later in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, antedates Facebook, Twitter and the iPhone, to name a few.

 (Indeed, seven years is a long time. But this was how I, a kid born and bred in Manila, viewed things back then. In case I missed out on a few things, you’re welcome to share them with me. —AYV)

YOURS truly (last row, fifth from left) and my second year UST High School classmates, circa 1978

YOURS truly (last row, fifth from left) and my second year UST High School classmates, circa 1978

BEING stood up is perhaps as old as time itself, but how we react to it certainly reveals a lot about our age and the generation we belong to. And if a generation consists of 20 years, then people like myself who finished high school in the early 1980s are perhaps twice as dated in their ways as those who came of age in the new millennium.

For example, when was the last time you heard a person chide someone for being extremely late? “Namuti na ang mga mata ko, wala ka pa?”

Or how many times have you used the word “Indian” in vain—“Bakit mo naman ako in-Indian?”—never mind if Indians had nothing to do with your friend failing to show up?

JACLYN Smith, Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson as their TV alteregos Kelly Garrett, Jill Munroe and Sabrina Duncan (

JACLYN Smith, Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson as their TV alter egos Kelly Garrett, Jill Munroe and Sabrina Duncan (

Apart from sounding so dated, such lines seem so unthinkable in an age when cell phones and text messaging have become as indispensable as owning a toothbrush and brushing one’s teeth.

Make paramdam

These days, if the friend you’re supposed to meet is a few minutes late, you simply text him or her to “make paramdam.” If he or she doesn’t text back, you give him or her a call. If for some reason you weren’t able to connect, you can text again and tell him or her not to bother anymore because you’re going home.

Of course, you may opt to give that “Indian” of a person a piece of your mind—again via text message. It’s really that simple.

It may seem surprising nowadays even to most people my age, but in our day, you stayed put and waited for a date no matter how tardy he or she was because you had no way of contacting each other. Instant communication had yet to be invented.

And as former University of Santo Tomas (UST) High School students, who spent our salad days learning about love, life and various stuff in-between from 1977 to 1981, we had coped with all the above “dated” experiences firsthand.

Unknown-1Apart from standing by our promise to show up on time, back then we had to specify and agree on where exactly we intended to meet.

Over or under

Would it be inside or outside National Bookstore? In front of Ali Mall Cinema 1, 2, 3 or 4? The ladies’ or men’s section of Cinderella? Under or over Quezon (okay, Quiapo) Bridge? Failure to do so could spell disaster.

TRAVELING in style via the Love Bus

TRAVELING in style via the Love Bus (

The stuff kids today take for granted was the very stuff we held dearly when we were younger. And these included (and hopefully still includes) our ability to speak English properly and in complete sentences (thanks to the evening news delivered in formal English and to “TV Times,” without a doubt our generation’s weekly entertainment bible) and spell words correctly without resorting to electronic dictionaries and abbreviations.
Not that we didn’t get the hang of doing the latter now that our near-arthritic fingers (ouch!) and dimming visions have become so used to “texting.” Btw, dnt u thnk thats gr8?! 😉

We didn’t need cell phones to be fashionable then. Not a few of us were already budding fashionistas back then when Calvin Klein was more than just a bottle of his and hers perfume, Gloria Vanderbilt was no mere American socialite, “boho” chic was known as “folkloric,” monk shoes had nothing to do with monks and Crayons were something you slipped on and laced up, and not colored with.

Yes, we were able to ride the first wave of the mall culture via such pioneer establishments as Ali Mall and Harrison Plaza. In those halcyon days, the now-defunct brands such as Azabache, Jazzie, Borsalino and Therese were the era’s must-haves.

The right stuff then

The place to shop was either on Zurbaran Street in Sta. Cruz or Cartimar in Pasay, where you got all the imported and “orig” stuff—from Ace bags to Sergio Valente jeans, Happy Feet bakya to Hang Ten slippers, Jovan to Anais, Anais perfume, Sony cassette players to Sony Walkmans, and hoodie jackets to skateboards.

Speaking of skateboards, some of us dared to risk life and limb and rode those wheeled contraptions in a vain attempt to ape Jill Munroe’s death-defying moves. Those who weren’t brave enough had to content themselves by combing and twirling their hair into a flip a la Jill’s trademark tresses.gloria-vanderbilt-jeans

Jill who? Come on, she can’t be that easy to forget. Dubbed as the sexiest angel with her big hair and toothy grin, she was pin-up girl Farrah Fawcett’s alter ego in the hit TV series “Charlie’s Angels.” For a variety of reasons, Fawcett and co-stars Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith became every high school kid’s fantasy back in the late 1970s, whether he or she was straight or somewhere in-between.

“Little House on the Prairie,” “Dance Fever,” “The Donnie and Marie Show,” and other “free” TV shows spiced up our weekend viewing. MTV, DVDs, iPods, cable TV, “Brokeback Mountain” and “Desperate Housewives” were then like light years away. Sigh.

"STAR Wars," the beginning (

“STAR Wars,” the beginning (

Of course, who could forget the slew of Japanese animated (the word anime had yet to make it to everyone’s cultural lexicon back then) shows that ran from Monday to Friday evenings? During their height, they were simply part of every man-child’s whimsy.

Robot craze

I remember Wednesdays and Fridays to be particularly hectic days in our young lives since my friends and I had to race down the sprawling UST campus as soon as the final afternoon bell rang at exactly 5:15 p.m. Why the rush? Because we barely had 45 minutes to catch Mazinger Z and Voltes V. The Bozanians are coming! To the nearest jeepney stop, quick!

Despite the introduction of huge and expensive first-generation VCRs called Betamax, there was (and is) no substitute to the giant silver screen.

images-2We excitedly queued up outside cinema houses on Recto and in Cubao (no multiplexes back then yet) to watch such popcorn flicks as “Ice Castles,” “Star Wars,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Superman,” “Grease,” and “Blue Lagoon.”

Those who loved Tagalog fare lapped up and parroted sound bites from such local potboilers as “Stepsisters,” “Bedspacers,” “Temptation Island” and “Underage.” The definitive teen flick of the 1980s, “Bagets,” was yet to be shown, but we in 1981 had long been basking in “bagets” teendom even before the movie opened in 1984.

Since our generation was privileged enough to live through part of the second “Golden Age of Philippine Cinema,” we were also exposed to quite a number of memorable Filipino films. “Aguila,” “Burlesk Queen,” “Ina Ka ng Anak Mo,” and the irreverent classic “Kakaba-kaba Ka Ba?” come to mind.

Remember the Love Bus?

Next to the jeepney, our favorite mode of transportation to get to our “happenings” (this

was before “gimmick” gained its current meaning of wild recreation) was the ubiquitous “Love Bus.” For a measly P1.50, we traveled in air-conditioned comfort to either Cubao or Makati from Escolta, and vice versa. It was certainly a much better deal compared to riding taxis sans air con as we headed for the hottest afternoon discos at Where Else?, Lost Horizon and Altitude 49.

Indeed, writing an entire book filled with reminiscences won’t be enough. I can go on and on, but I’ll be revealing to the rest of the world how old hat and, yes, dated my former schoolmates and I have become.

nd.236Well, I don’t know about them, but if being dated comes with being wiser and surer about one’s self, then I certainly don’t mind being old. And if getting old means trading one’s youthful looks with the pleasure of finally feeling comfortable in one’s skin, then bring on the years!

Being called a wise “thunder bird” (“tanda,” to the uninitiated) is certainly much better than being lumped together with what kids today derisively call “jologs” and “pasaway.” Such thoughts console when I look back on those days of Indian summer.

FUN and memories during our 25th anniversary since leaving UST HS in 2006

FUN and memories during our 25th anniversary party at the Manila Hotel in 2006. The once-in-a-lifetime celebration marks the day we left UST HS in 1981

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