Late dinner with Cesar Montano

THIS ONE'S too good to pass up.

I met up with old friends from my elementary days over a late dinner in Timog-Tomas Morato area. I hadn't seen some of them for the longest time. When we did meet, our previous encounters were always hurried—while lining up at the airport, queuing at the mall, so much so that I only knew bits and pieces about them, thanks to Facebook. We sat in the same classes for six years at Notre Dame of Marbel University - Elementary Training Department (now called the NDMU - Integrated Basic Education Department). They remained at Notre Dame for high school, while I transferred to Koronadal National Comprehensive High School after I qualified for its special science curriculum. I haven't been closely in touch with them since then (except for Katrina Magallanes who studied in UP)—primarily a fault of mine, the most irresponsible batch alumni president. To this day I have no plans of organizing any reunions.

Bellissimo Ristorante was the venue we had agreed on. Owned by showbiz couple Cesar Montano and Sunshine Cruz, the restaurant is housed in a residential area along Scout Rallos, flanked by condominiums, its location marked by an obscure sign.

Bellissimo Ristorante

The restaurant was quiet, the staff alert and welcoming. We ordered pizza and pasta whose names I could no longer recall.

pasta

I remember enjoying them. They weren't too spectacular, the flavors didn't explode in our mouths, but they were good nonetheless. I especially liked munching on the thin crust.

pizza

So let me tell you about my old classmates. Seated from left to right were Anne Jorice Enriquez, myself, Ronald Jariol, Katrina Magallanes, and John Mark Sunga. I still call them by the names written on their birth certificates—nobody addressed anybody by their nicknames during elementray. Some old habits die hard.

Anne Jorice, myself, Ronald, Katrina, John Mark

Anne Jorice still has the neatest handwriting. She has decided not to pursue nursing as a career. She's now working from home, tutoring Korean kids, and earning a lot from it. She's still the same old lovelorn Anne Jorice—always daydreaming about her crushes and going crazy over them.

Ronald is a third year medical student in UST. I'm glad he's doing well in med school. His discipline towards studying inspires me and puts mine to shame. We used to have the same sundo back then, and I remember him as a kind, gentle boy who wrote sports news for our paper. He was also a big campus crush after he won the most-coveted Marist Boy title.

ronald, anne jorice, myself

Katrina, who graduated class valedictorian, is still the stellar student that she is. She's in UP Law now. I'm sure she'll be a great lawyer someday. She was among the few people who made me cry in grade school, when she cut my hair in Mrs. Secreto's class.

John Mark is taking up Law at Arellano University. We were seatmates in first grade, and I remember using his Jurassic Park-themed notebooks as patungan when we had quizzes. He was a reserved and shy kid those days, but he has transformed himself—he now sports massive biceps. It was his idea that we eat at Bellissimo.

Cesar Montano sat at the table right next to ours. He's one of my favorite Filipino actors. He starred in Muro Ami and Bagong Buwan, among the best Pinoy films of all time, in my opinion. He approached our table, asked us where we were from, and kindly agreed to have our photo taken with him. He looked exactly like he did on TV.

kat, john mark, anne jorice, cesar montano, myself, ronald

His wife, Sunshine Cruz, was there, too. She was beautiful and charming and warm and welcoming—all at the same time. And she held my back during the shoot! I felt so self-conscious.

with sunshine cruz

I just got news that we were "featured" in Sunshine Cruz's Instagram feed. Technically, our backs were.

instagram ni sunshine cruz

You don't see us? Look closely. Haha. That's my claim to fame.

na-feature kami!

I'm definitely going back. Thank you, guys, for the grand time.

(Thanks, John Mark, for the photos!)

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