"The happiest moments my heart knows
are those in which it is pouring forth its affections
to a few esteemed characters."
- Thomas Jefferson
As a Staff Club officer of Atlas Mines, I once volunteered to hide the Easter eggs for an Easter Egg Hunt activity sponsored by the Club. I contacted Ernie and enlisted his help.
At midnight, we went down to La Salle school grounds with the eggs which Ernie carried in a knapsack bag. We walked, joked and talked leisurely on our way to the school. When we opened the bag, we found to our dismay that a number of the boiled eggs have cracked! Because there was no more time to replace the eggs, I was grumbling the whole time we were hiding the eggs and mapping their locations. He helped and apologized guiltily but was quietly amused by the whole thing. (A number of the eggs found the following morning were a mess, and some kids were befuddled to find empty and broken egg shells not knowing that nocturnal insects had a feast the night before.)
Our fishing expeditions were one of the happiest moments I had with Ernie. We'd ride his mountain bike to an Aroroy beach and spend hours swimming and fishing in the waters. We didn't use fishing rods. We just had home-made spears and goggles as gadgets. We competed as to who would get the bigger fish or the greater number of catch (usually he did). Ernie once remarked upon seeing the beauty of the reef corals and undersea vegetation that a lot of people do not know how much they're missing not having seen such incomparable beauty in their lifetime.
The picture below is one of the very few pictures we had during those 1992 to 1994 days in Aroroy. This one was taken at Manoboc, Baleno where Ernie and I first learned how to fish. With us were my Atlas roommate, Erning Silarde and my distant cousin and our host, Boy Rodriguez. Please click on the picture to see the bigger-sized photo.
Ernie once took the habit of taking early-morning walks to a nearby hill. I said that I'd go with him one time provided that we walk the mountains to the next town.
With some snacks and mineral water, we set out early one morning. Just as the sun was rising, we were on top of a mountain enjoying the view of the sea and the landscape below as we walked. It was an exhilirating feeling and adventure. We didn't know the way and just asked directions from the very few people we met along the way - mostly farmers who were bringing their goods to sell in town. We walked for hours and when we got hungry, we sat underneath a tree and took our snacks. Seeing writings on the tree trunk, we also wrote our names and the date on it. When we continued, we became alarmed when the trail we were following just stopped in the middle of nowhere and we had to follow a river (all the while concerned with the fact that communist rebels were known to maintain hide-outs in the area). We walked on, whistled, sang, shouted, rested, washed our faces in brooks, traced river banks, assisted each other at steep inclines but we finally arrived in the next town five hours later. We were so tired that we took a ride home and slept the whole afternoon.
This was one episode in our friendship we enjoyed reminiscing and we just knew that it was a wonderful one-time experience that we would treasure for the rest of our lives.
Ernie never got drunk in his whole life. When we were just new friends, I noticed that he wouldn't drink alcohol when we and other friends got together. It turned out that he had an allergy to alcohol. Even just a glass of beer would produce reddish swelling and itchy irritations on his skin.
I advised him to learn social or moderate drinking so he wouldn't feel left out during our friends' get-togethers. Feeling like an expert teaching a novice, I told him to practice drinking a bottle of beer every day until his allergy disappeared.
The allergy did go away but he had such discipline that he wouldn't drink more than he could take. Though we drank only occasionally, Ernie progressed to 3 or 4 bottles of beer and even to some shots of hard beverages years later. Just the same, he would pass to me his shots and bottles whenever he started feeling a little tipsy. He thus never experienced a hang-over and couldn't symphatize with me when I complained of having one.
Here is one rare instance when we had a few drinks with our good friend Rommel Dizon who's also our 'batchmate' from Aroroy.
One time in 1997, we were both fascinated to find each other carrying new bags of the same shade of blue, of the same size and of practically the same design which we bought separately from different stores on the same day. We found it remarkable because nobody mentioned to the other any intention of buying a new bag before the incident. Just showed that we almost had identical tastes and even thought alike sometimes.
When Ernie and Lanie were planning their civil wedding (four months after he started chemotherapy), Ernie made sure and checked that I didn't have a scheduled fieldwork on the special day. He said that he would change the wedding date if I were not in town.
The wedding took place at Lanie's place the day after my field work in Iloilo. Because there's no best man in a civil wedding, I became the godfather instead. It was a simple and casual but special affair with only about a dozen select people in attendance.
On my way home after the ceremonies, Ernie and Lanie saw me off. While we walked, he put his arms around Lanie and me then happily declared, "Besides my family, here are the two most important persons in my life - my wife and my best friend."
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