SOUTH EAST ASIA, December 2009 – Friends can be here one minute and gone the next. Some stay forever while others just pass through. The ones who stay forever fleet in and out of one’s life like butterflies on seasonal migration from Canada to Mexico, and it is a good stroke of serendipity if both meet at one point in time. It was kismet that happened to me when I packed my bags for home to hide from the world and heal.  One of my old high school friends was in Manila from Connecticut where she’s now based with her husband and two children. It’s a bi-annual visit to the Philippines, alternating the celebration of the holidays with a visit to her husband’s family in Canada. The last time I saw her was at her wedding six years ago and six years later she’s now a stay-at-home-mum. She did not want to miss out on their growing-up years so she resigned from her job at a multi-national corporation. Another high school buddy who’s based in Manila was also in town. She’s also a mother – to four kids to be exact – who was also a stay-at-home-mum at one point. Imagine the gab session that ensued at Amici plus the tab that we rang up!

It wasn’t just my high school buddies that crossed my path in Manila. A long-time university friend was in town too with her husband that I’ve heard about but never got to meet until one afternoon at Amici. She and I went to the same university, attended some courses and stayed in touch no matter where we were. She’s based in France now, but we still reconnect as often as we can. We’ve burned the telephone lines talking about heartaches (mostly mine), literature (we’re both bibliophiles) and just about anything we can talk about (maybe with the exception of fashion). And we’ve discussed lesson plans (I’m back in teaching and she’s always been in teaching even in France) through Yahoo Messenger.

Leaving Manila, it was another reconnection with an old flat mate in Singapore. We lost touch after she left a newswire agency and returned to Manila. I suppose we just drifted apart although there were the occasional e-mails. But, shortly before she flew to Penang, we were chatting, having lunches and dinners, and viewing the exhibitions of Philippine Art at the Singapore Art Museum. No need for apologies for the silences and gaps – we both quickly got into the groove of our old friendship.

It was these reconnections that drove home the point of true friends and fair-weather friends. I’ve had enough of the latter type of friends much like my friend Persis ( They’re disguised Dementors that suck the life out of you. They know nothing of sharing, caring, giving and amity. They befriend you because they need you for something – a connection to a guy friend of yours that they’re pining for; a sounding board because they want an audience; a problem solver because they’re too lazy or dim-witted to organize their lives; entertainment because they’re simply cruel people. They take and take, but never ever give back anything in return. They only remember you when they need something from you and use the friendship card to weasel their way back into your life after a prolonged absence. These friends I don’t need and will never need thus out they’ll go together with stuff that I have outgrown.

True friends don’t make use of you. They ask for help and say “thank you” in return, and will be there to extend a helping hand when you need one. They won’t make you beg for it nor will you feel uncomfortable asking for it. They remember you despite their hectic lives and genuinely ask what’s happening in your world. They follow up on lunches and other gatherings just to make sure everything is going according to plan. They don’t pretend to listen to your stories, good and bad. They commiserate with you not because it’s the polite thing to do but because you’re a friend hurting inside. They celebrate with you because they genuinely feel happy for you, not perfunctorily sharing the joy while silently wishing you mess up big time.

Reconnecting with them was a salve to my frayed soul. They blunted the sword of jadedness I carried around with me to strike down the disappointments and disillusionments. They had their own trials and tribulations to get through, but they were far from worn-out about the world. They took away the spectacles of cynicism from which I was viewing the world and the people with. They reminded me that certain people stay in one’s life and that others arrive and leave at some point. They pointed out – much like my mum – that a conversation with the universe can be invigorating and enlightening, and that there are no codes or numbers to memorize to connect to Him or Her.

True friends accept you for all your idiosyncrasies, silences, intermittent letters and e-mails, political differences, inconsistencies, physical size and fashion statements. My list is short – I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the rest – but quantity is farthest from my mind.


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