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Gone in 24

AND so it has come to this. For three months we anticipated it, saved for it like coins being dropped into the piggy bank one at a time, and suddenly now it’s here, tonight at midnight, only it won’t keep, it won’t stay, a whiff of perfume coming on strong at first and then fading out quickly, completely. It’s Christmas Eve, hours to Christmas Day!

Then it will be gone, “The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight.”

Christmas, or what leads up to it, is also, alas, a time of sad remembering. How many friends and colleagues did we lose in just this one year? Verily, 2016 was not such a kindly year after all. But then 2015 was no better.

We miss them, yet for all the times we shared, and the jokes and meals and that thing called friendship, how well did we know them? Jun Alday, interior designer who spent 28 of his 64 years in Hong Kong, was one of them. His sister Cleo thought that Jun was a loner, “until I saw on his computer how wide a network he had of friends and clients that he continued to keep in touch with years after he had left Hong Kong.”

How many of his closest friends, except for classmates in San Beda, knew that his baptismal name was Luis, or that he was an alumnus of Baguio Military Institute (where his father had exiled him to make a straight guy out of him)? How many of Jun’s friends were in on his secret, a private collection of rare Oriental antiques, a vice he could only have nurtured in HK, his spiritual home? About the rich and famous of HK who were his clients Jun did not brag, but he did mention a prominent Filipino businessman who to this day has not paid his bill in full.

Jun Alday’s ultimate reward was Hong Kong making him more famous than when he lived and worked in Manila. Still, after leaving HK for good, he could not get it out of his system – so he chose to live “among the alien Chinese” in Manila’s anonymous Chinatown.

Where you are now, Jun Alday, please don’t try to tinker with the Christmas decorations and you are not allowed to re-style, re-design heaven’s home of many mansions. (Jullie Y. Daza)