I did not know her but had seen her in the campus. We were classmates in Econ 11 the previous semester. She had a comely face and I can never forget how she wore pink-rimmed glasses. The party elders instructed me to approach her in the library so we could talk, and they told me they had already told her what I was going to talk to her about. The minute I approached her she started crying and we went to the ladies room. I wasn’t too crazy about the restrooms of Rizal Hall back in 1985 because they looked like dingy closets where the ghost of a katipunero or some such character from the past might suddenly burst out of. They were dark and dank, which only made the grief in Fe’s eyes all the more pronounced.
She didn’t tell me what was wrong but we had an instant connection. I knew there was something troubling her and I waited for her to calm down. Eventually she did, and she said she would think about my invitation. I already told her I would be part of the slate — and a few days later she joined the group, and our party won 10 out of 12 seats, Fe and myself included.
Thinking about how life brought us together makes me smile today. From running together in the student council to eventually going to different law schools but pursuing the same career path, we have forged a friendship that saw us burning the telephone lines back when there was no DDD (Direct Distance Dialing) yet — she lived in the land of anting-anting and I was in Erap Country. We started writing each other notes while she was caught in traffic, or I was in some class. We went to different law schools so we started writing letters longhand. (This was before the dawn of e-mail).. we became a part not only of each other’s lives, but of each others families.
If there is one person in this world who, I can say, knows me inside and out, it is Fe. She has held my hand through my worst moments — and although I took and passed the Bar while she herself was trying to hurdle the California Bar Exams in 1995, in spirit, she was there with me. I wrote her a ton of letters and I received her letters in return. I remember a map of the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she scribbled her thoughts and stories. She literally lived with another man — her sister’s boyfriend then — who generously offered to share his flat with her during her review and the exam.
Personality wise we are both the same and different in very marked terms. She is loud and I am the more composed one. In matters of the heart, I am the bolder one, yet she falls in love with as much if not more passion than I do. She laughs louder than I do but we can sit for hours sitting at Choices or lounging the afternoon or evening away in Cafe Adriatico, talking, talking and talking. She was such an emotional crutch for me that during a previous bad relationship, I learned how to commute from Manila City Hall to Bacoor, Cavite just so I can have a shoulder to cry on. Her other girlfriends felt jealous of our relationship — and I never quite understood why. I was never jealous of them — to me, my friendship with each of my bestfriends is unique — each one is close to me in some way.. each is a bestfriend.
We have had our disagreements, but we have only fought once. I still remember that one time I stormed out of her office because we were arguing about having a rape complaint filed into someone’s record in Human Resources. It didn’t take us long to patch up.. the next day, we talked about it, and we made up. We have argued passionately about a lot of things but we have always kept everything in perspective. We never lost sight of the fact that above and beyond our differences, we were friends.
My moving to New York was something that Fe foretold. Just as she told me I was going to pass the Bar Exams.. She saw me in a dream, walking in Central Park. She had walked those streets herself a while back, and so she knew in her heart, I would make it here somehow. I couldn’t believe her because I never dreamed of living on this side of the world ever. The distance has been most painful for us because of the dependence we shared as friends and as sisters. During my last visit, I wish we could’ve spent more time together, but I knew she had issues she had to deal with. It was great seeing her again but something felt different.
Now, I realize that that is actually what makes our friendship truly unique. Because despite the difference I could see and feel, I knew in my heart, that we were still the friends we have always been… and always will be. Friendship between true friends will withstand those individual changes — it’s all part of accepting that other friend through thick and thin. She may have changed, but I did, too. Our circumstances continue to evolve as we grow in our unique way, but we have not grown apart. She finds it too painful to write but she always manages to send me word somehow. In her moments of joy and sadness, she remembers to share her happiness and grief with me. We may disagree on things but we never let go of each other’s hands no matter how long it takes us to say something again. In our hearts and minds, we’re always together, even if we are actually thousands of miles apart.