General Admission

Appreciating Sol’s Sydney sojourn & reunion

By Al S. Mendoza


SYDNEY—Hi, mate!

This city, booming and bursting to the seams but still sparse of population that makes it still very lovably livable, continues to charm me even as this was already my sixth visit here since 1985.

A highlight of those six trips, of course, was my coverage of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when I was still the sports editor of the Inquirer.

Shops here still usually open at 10 a.m. but many close mostly at 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.

They extend business hours up to 6-6:30 p.m. usually Saturdays and Sundays, but night-hogs would soak it up on weekends to as late as 1 a.m., partying/drinking on extra-wide pavements beside pubs and bars.

This capital of New South Wales is so vibrant—its economic growth surpassing projections robustly almost yearly—that it has fast transformed into a convergence of many migrants, mostly Chinese.

“In 2000, there were only about 50,000 Chinese arrivals against some 100,000 Filipinos here already,” said a Filipino who moved here in 1970.

Records now show that Chinese population here has ballooned to nearly 500,000—487,976 to be exact, surpassing migrants from Ireland (416,642) and Scotland (307,460).

This city has only a total of nearly 5 million—the most populous of Australia’s 7 states.

Do you know that Australia has only a total population of about 25 million?  Peanuts, when compared to the Philippines’ nearly 107 million.

And what brought me here again?

I was bodyguard/escort of my beloved, the eminent (ahem!) writer Sol F. Juvida, when she attended their high school homecoming lasting 9 days—the longest reunion on record worldwide, I guess.

She reconnected with her 23 high school classmates from the PCC Laboratory High School in Lepanto, Manila, where only about 120 passed the entrance exams out of some 1,248 takers, according to alumnus Auroa “Urra” Garcia.

Urra, from the famous powerful Albano clan of Ilocandia, produced with her Agrix Films the blockbuster ‘80s flicks “Hubad na Gubat,” starring Tetchie Agbayani, and “Tubig at Langis” by the famed Danny Zialcita (rest in peace).

During  the batch’s dinner-dance party on Nov. 3 at nearby Burwood City, Grace Esquillon (married to Tony of Masbate) had this touching line in her invocation: “Father, we entrust to your loving care and protection the loved ones whom these families had left behind. Send your angels to watch over them.”

The delegation, with Maripet Ripoll-Alvez doing a yeoman’s job as mother hen, went to visit the Australian Parliament House and it was at that marble-laced palace that I learned about Australia being a federal government.

“Indeed, travels really broaden our horizons,” said Ramon Acebes of Batanes, the loving hubby of Becky de Leon.

Becky is dear Sol’s best friend along with Jopen Lotho, she with the comely smile and who has a striking resemblance with Sharon Cuneta, if not Ara Mina.

In her well-applauded opening remarks during the Nov. 3 reunion proper, Editha Johnson (married to Australian Bill) said: “For sure, we will be swapping lots of memories and stories not only tonight but in the following days as well.  Who knows, some of the stories might even be true so let’s just go with the flow.”

And then came Editha’s punchline that brought the house down:  “Anyway, we are seniors now and we can get away with almost anything!”

Anytime, you can say that again, mate!

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