I have days wherein it doesn't take much to remind me of Manila and my life there. An Asian product here, a Tagalog sounding word there, and suddenly I'm back in my beloved, hot and humid country, sweating like a pig, hair frizzy and skin sticky.
Some days, I'll be in the middle of doing the most routine of tasks and I'll be reminded of someone. Or to be more exact, that someone doing the said task much better than me. I had one of those moments today. I was driving our twelve year old Chevy down Highway 50, listening to its many creaks and groans and moans when out of the blue I thought of one of the safest drivers I have ever been driven by, Angelo Barretto.
It was a rainy night past midnight in November 2000 and Angelo had just flown back to the Philippines after bagging the Gold medal from an endurance race in Europe. I was his unofficial publicist at the time. (We met when he guested on my morning show, Zach and Joey in the Morning, in 2000.) He had been racing - and winning - across Europe without any sponsorship deals back home and I wanted to help his cause by connecting him with all my (at the time, traditional) media friends.
He won, I helped people know, the press awarded him Driver of the Year 2000. He came home to a TV channel crew welcome, monsoon rains and a surprise welcome back party. We partied with his closest friends and supporters until finally calling it a night at 3AM. The Barretto family chauffeur was going to drive me back to my radio station where I had left my car.
But seeing how slippery the roads were and how low visibility was, Angelo took the wheel. Jetlagged and exhausted from traveling halfway around the world, he reasoned he felt he was the better driver for the conditions. Fresh from his victory on an endurance track where driving for 24 hours is the norm, none of us argued with him.
We flew steadily and safely down the main road called EDSA - his brother, his driver, and his publicist. I felt... secure. His steady hands and able maneuvering had us all dozing off that by the time we arrived at my building twenty-five minutes later, we hardly knew we had stopped.
I remembered this night today and as I thought of Angelo and wondered what he's up to these days, I caught myself in mid-missing and realized our friendship does not so much warrant a longing as it does a remembering.
Now that I have been back in the US for more than a year, I'm learning more and more how to distinguish between the two.
Slowly, the things I once thought I could not bear to be without are merely things I remember.
I guess this is what happens when a new life takes the place of an old.