by Lucille de Mesa, Baz Grimm-Pitch, Celestine Trinidad, Ibyang Riot, Sarah Bulalacao, Mikki Shiu, Maria Criselda Santos and BJ Medina
The last time Philip saw them was fifteen years ago.
Anxiety and excitement filled him as he arrived at their meeting place. This was the first time since high school that they were going on a trip complete. The other times, they were all either too busy or something always came up for one or two of them, making them cancel the reunion altogether.
All Philip knew about his barkada was their careers, thanks to their social media feeds—Brenda was now a doctor saving lives, Girlie the head accountant of a world-renowned firm, Dimitri an award-winning architect, and Andrew, the #househubby with twins, who probably were the most Instagrammed kids in the world.
With his mind still on the latest photo of the twins in their summer costumes—a bee and a flower—Philip rolled down the windows of his car, which was parked on the side of a gasoline station across the town market. The rising sun promised one of those scorching hot days but he thought he would enjoy the breeze of the early morning, and the rush of the people outside, as he reminisced about him and his barkada’s prank-playing ways.
Philip snickered as he remembered placing a live frog in their adviser’s water bottle when he and Andrew were given the task of refilling it in the nearby water fountain. He also recalled how they lied about Girlie’s Shark-Week problem to get them all out of a class. “Fun times,” he chuckled to himself. He wondered whether they would have more fun times on this trip. Would we still be the same around each other? Or will we be acting like the grown-ups that we are?
The buzz of his phone on the dashboard snapped Phil back to the present.
“Hey, Phil! Sorry, sorry! I’m five minutes away. Where exactly are you?” The female voice was garbled, but Phil could make out who it was.
“Hi, Brenda. Five minutes or five hours?” He joked. “Hurry up, everybody’s here!”
“I’m almost there! It’s only 7:45, for crying out loud. We agreed to meet at 8!”
“Kidding, Bren. By the way—”
“Ugh, I knew it!”
“—I’m parked at PetraGas, near Julia’s CookieShop.”
“Got it. See you!”
And sure enough, less than five minutes later at that, a redhead was walking towards where Phil was parked. If not for the enthusiastic hand-waving, he wouldn’t have recognized Brenda, whom he remembered to be a hair purist. “I would never dye my hair like yours, Girlie! I’m for au naturale!”
“Nice ride, Phil! Now, help me, because this baby is heavy,” Brenda gestured towards the huge mountaineering bag on her back.
“Did you pack your whole life into this backpack? And Bren, I thought we were going to the beach, not the mountains.”
“PHIIIIL. Just… Just! You know?” Brenda swung open one of the car doors and propped herself on the passenger seat.
Just as Phil was stowing his friend’s lifepack in the trunk of his car, the rest of the gang arrived… in a tricycle.
“Whoa, what happened to you? I thought you were arriving with Hailey?” Hailey was Andrew’s beloved red Corona.
Andrew, being Andrew, just laughed as he paid the manong who drove them over.
“Hailey gave up,” a slightly irritated-sounding Girlie answered. “As we thought she would, like, fifteen years ago.”
“Oh, come on, Girlie. It wasn’t too bad. It was actually a great way to start this trip,” Dimitri interjected as he took Girlie’s sports bag. Dimitri, always the positive thinker, was once again to the rescue. He then turned to Phil, handing him the bag with a grin. “Hey, man. Finally!”
Phil, now feeling more relaxed as the familiarity of his friends set in, took the bag and grinned back. “Finally is right. This was one heck of a long time coming!”
“Let’s not make it any longer!” Brenda yelled from the front seat, her head hanging out from the window. “GIRLIE! Let’s sit in the back, and then, LET’S GO!”
Andrew, Dimitri and Phil exchanged knowing looks. “Here we go,” Andrew said and whistled. At 8:07, Brenda time, they were off to the pier to board MV Redemption, the ship that would take them to a trip worthy of fifteen missed years and more.