WITH the gentle rhythm of the ocean waves lapping against the white-sand shore, the soft amber glow of the garden lights warmly bathing the lush surrounding greenery in a velvety hue, and the balmy breeze of a dreamily moonlit tropical night all conspiring to create the picture-perfect venue — the stage was set at last for the long-awaited event.
Twenty five years in the making, and logistically as challenging to coordinate as any of NASA’s space shuttle missions, all roads led to this place that night — the Ocean Pavilion of Shangri-la’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa.
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Many came from lands far away to be there.
From Connecticut, South Carolina and Flo-rida in the East, and Arizona and California in the West — those who now call the United States home made the long pilgrimage across the Pacific to be there. Those now settled in Canada came too.
On the other side, across the Atlantic, from Cheshire in the United Kingdom, via Jakarta, Indonesia — I made my own way back. Interrupting his official tour of Thailand, another one of us flew in just in-time — in true military precision — to join in the festivities. And while those residents of Cebu and other places in the Philippines may not have covered as much physical distance, all of them unselfishly set their important commitments and obligations aside, to be one with the rest of us that evening.
For the members of the University of the Philippines College Cebu’s High School Class of 1982, this was a momentous event that no one wanted to miss. It was 25 years and four something months ago, when we marched up on that stage to receive our hard-earned high school diplomas — and accepted the challenge from our teachers, friends, families and ourselves — to be the best that we can be. And to a man and woman, each of us has responded splendidly, in our own unique and individual ways.
Among our ranks we now count numerous doctors, lawyers, managers, scientists, engineers, businessmen and women, journalists, nurses, members of the clergy, as well as military officers — and whatever the career persuasion — responsible parents and individuals all.
Across the globe we have touched and improved the lives of many — treated the ill and infirm at home and beyond, engineered the success of countless businesses across a number of continents, ministered to the spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters, and defended the lives and liberties of the men and women of our country – whether in courts of law, or in dangerous battlefields without any law.
The diversity of our endeavors is perhaps only a logical outcome of our origins — after all, we are molded by the university renowned for producing exceptional leaders of men.
Yet there was something extraordinary in the way all of us made good account of ourselves, and this we can only attribute with gratitude to the mentoring and guidance we received from our beloved professors, many of whom were there that night to share the special celebration with us.
Far from being a pompous occasion attended by middle-aged men and women who, by the nature of their accomplishments we would perhaps expect to be preoccupied with their own sense of self-importance — it was a night without egos, just a magnificently joyous communion — a journey back into the gentler, kinder times of our youth — when for an evening everyone was young and 15 again.
Even our ageless teachers seemed to regain that extra spring in their steps, aided no doubt by the pride in their hearts at seeing their erstwhile young charges blossom into mature and responsible individuals.
I cannot quite remember how it all ended — and that’s probably because for me, and for many of us, it really never has.
As I journey back to the other side of the world — at once inspired and humbled by the reminder of where I came from 25 years ago — I take with me the wonderful memory of that perfect evening, with the famous words from the immortal song by the Scots bard Robert Burns still loudly ringing in my ears:
And there’s a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o thine
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne
To all my friends and teachers, let there not be any goodbyes this time around, just a fond farewell, and ‘til we all meet again.
NOTE: Special thanks go to the organizing committee (Marcelo, Randy, Virgil, Joy, Carlyn, Emi, Alma, Rex, Leslie and Naresa) for their kind generosity and indefatigable energy in putting together the perfect event. The series on the Balanced Scorecard will conclude next week.
Published in the Sun Star Daily. Saturday, July 28, 2007 (http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/ceb/2007/07/28/bus/batuhan.for.auld.lang.syne..html)