It could have been a dry April fool’s day if Bingbing Badiola-Bretan did not answer my calls. New York’s sky threatened with some drizzle and I was struggling with some of the effects of a major drop in my H/H (that lab measure of the red cells in the blood.) I waited patiently. I wanted to know what we would do for the night.
Not for long, Alec, Dr. Annelee Badiola-Lojo’s brother, went to say where they had been. I presumed they couldn’t have seen all what New York’s Museum of Natural History displayed that day. But sundown was about to begin.
My energy heightened when Alec said they were about to meet me at Joe Shanghai, a perky well-lit food house with the aroma and taste of Asia right at the solar plexus of Queens! That meant the Badiolas, my cousins, the Ibalonians, accepted my invitation!
Joe Shanghai in Flushing could pass as an ordinary restaurant. But as Bingbing Badiola-Bretan explained when we met later, it was a place with an outstanding past. I had to know why.
“How could that be?” I asked. Bingbing yelled above the din of frenetic noises of hungry eaters. I could barely hear her. The fast waiters were serving us scrumptious food which easily filled the heart to the brim.
“Years ago, I first met my husband right here,” Bingbing revealed, to my surprise.
“Hmmm… Wasn’t that cute?” I said. Now I understood why the restaurant was Bingbing’s favorite haunt. That moment, I considered that place a holy ground as well. It had the feel of our tambayan of UP Diliman.
Who wouldn’t be glad to see Bingbing, Annelee, and the Badiola Family tagging along a cute little restless kid babbling with child talk on his father’s lap? Who couldn’t feel nostalgia for the years gone by when cousins Annelee and Bingbing were present, but without brother Totoy? Who wouldn’t feel elated to hear Mama Badiola talk about our families from Baao, Camarines Sur, Philippines?
I missed the Badiolas for more than 30 years. And I could only wonder, “Was the night on April 1, 2008 enough to weld our bonds of the past?”
Yah, I thought so. With laughter and lasting joy pervading on the table, UP Ibalon and kinship remained cozy in our little reunion!
I came home thinking I wanted to see them again after we said goodbye. Our stories weren’t finished yet. Hicksville in Long Island, New York seemed a good place for another meeting this Saturday.