Catching up with someone whom you have not seen for several years is like watching again your favorite movie or TV show that you grew up with; it certainly brings back memories of the old days.
I’m glad I gave a nod to my college classmate’s invitation to meet her and her family in Singapore. And because my 4D3N trip was packed, I had to arrange the schedule and ask Rochel (or Rocel to us back in college; I didn’t know her name suffered from a glitch in birth certificate documentation) if it’s fine to have an early dinner with them on my last day in the Lion City before I head back to Changi Airport to catch my 10:40PM flight back to Penang. She candidly agreed, so I met her and her husband at the facade of Raffles City Mall that sunny Sunday afternoon on mid-July. Meeting her after 1997 seemed like going through a time machine in a heart beat.
It actually felt like we’re back to one of our classrooms inside the Science Building or in the canteen of Far Eastern University in Manila (that we fondly called, Tayuman because we’re only provided then with cocktail tables less the seats, so we’re used to eat standing, hence we coined, Tayu-man!). Rochel and I were classmates from 1993 to 1997 when we’re taking up Bachelor of Science in Biology; we belonged to 2 different sets of friends (or in the Philippines, we call it barkada) -she’s with all-female-barkada who were all very studious in every sense of the word (I actually described her group to her husband as nerds to seriously mean their unparalleled devotion to studies, they’re mentally competitive!). We lost contact after graduation. It was only few months back that I found her on facebook.
It’s unbelievable how we squeezed 15 years in a casual and friendly dinner at Din Tai Fung. One thing’s sure -it’s always nice and easy to talk about those college days; everything sounded like they all happened just yesterday. Those were the years with less worries and almost no priority, at least for me.
Fifteen years went by and I heard nothing about Rochel. While waiting for our food, I did not expect that she would ask me about how studying Medicine was like. At that moment, I wasn’t sure whether she went to Med school or not; worse, I was clueless that Rochel became quite depressed soon after her father told her that her dream of becoming a doctor had to be shelve due to their financial difficulty back then.
I told Rochel, she never missed a thing.
She and her husband have been very blessed and they’re financially stable now in a country more progressive than one could imagine.
I think that’s all that matters.
We both believe that Lord has His ways of leading us to our own paths as we live our own lives.
And Rochel’s gratitude to God for everything that happened in her life is inspiring!
Not that I regret becoming a General Physician and a Lecturer of 8 years but going through Medical school robbed me of my social life -anyone who went through the same path could attest. Attending special occasions like birthdays, holiday celebrations and reunions like Christmas and New Year’s day were not always possible during those gruelling years in Medicine; it was books before anything else. A lot of things were sacrificed, tons of efforts were exerted. In my case, there were times that I felt I had studied enough but everything seemed like the lyrics of a James Ingram’s classic song, “I did my best but I guess my best wasn’t good enough!”. Days got even tougher when we’re having those unforgettable 24-36 hour duties in various private and public hospitals for 2 consecutive years (4th year in clerkship, and another year in completing Post-Graduate Medical Internship). It was all about efforts and sleepless nights in exchange of 2 letters added to your surname after graduation, plus a license after passing the board exams and registration. Nonetheless, if there’s one thing I am most thankful of my years in Medicine was the day I met my lovely wife (yeeehaaa!).
Some of Rochel’s bestfriends even went to Residency or Post-Graduate trainings and became specialists. She continued sharing a piece of her life by relaying that during those times that most of our college batchmates and I were in Med School, she worked and earned money to send herself to study another field that offers a more lucrative career. She studied computers and all about Information Technology. She landed a job in the Lion City; made a beautiful family and the rest, as they say is history.
Cliche as it may sound but there are reasons for everything.
We have different fates.
We live different lives.
And everything is attributed to a cause greater than ourselves.
This is Rocel and her husband, Alvin. Rochel has been based in Singapore for 6 years now and the couple have been doing great on their jobs. They have one beautiful daughter, Audrey who was left at home with the nanny during our dinner. Despite my time was limited, our meeting was warmer than what we chow down! They gave me a paper bag with 4 bottles of Belacahan and Chinchalok Chilli sauces and even sent me recipes of how to use the sauces. According to Rochel, she noted that my wife Tina, loves to cook. The gesture was really thoughtful! Thanks for the dinner treat, guys! It was delicious! Hope to meet you again when my family and I get to visit Singapore again.
On a lighter note, here’s a run-down of what we savored on that early dinner at Din Tai Fung.
Rocel ordered Stir-fried Spinach with Garlic
*”A deceptively simple dish made with only premium young, tender shoots. Every batch of specially selected vegetables is almost identical in length and quality, and is cut with precision before being tossed in the wok with just a teaspoon of sunflower oil.”
She also had Fried Rice with Shrimps & Eggs 虾仁蛋饭
“*An extremely popular dish, the ingredients are pared down to simple rice, shrimps, eggs, and spring onions, creating a taste of familiar comfort. Each plate is of a certain weight and minimal seasoning is used so that the natural fragrance of the eggs and spring onions shines through.”
Rocel’s husband, Alvin simply had Beef Noodles
And as I sincerely trusted their taste, so I submitted myself to their choices for me to sample…
Truffle Xiao Long Bao 松露小笼包
*”A paragon of fine taste, an award-winning steamed dumplings laden with the finest truffles. Served only to foreign dignitaries and very special guests in Taiwan, bask in the fine aroma of truffles.”
See how the Art of Making Din Tai Fung’s Legendary Xiao Long Bao HERE!
Fried Rice with Fried Pork Chop
“*Munch away on this scrumptious dish of deeply marinated pork chop, which is deep-fried to perfection. The meat is juicy and tender, making for a wholesome gastronomic experience at Din Tai Fung.”
It’s fifteen years after graduation and I never expected a simple reunion would be in Singapore. Looking back, it’s a wonderful feeling that we passed those days of going through college and eating our food while standing in the canteen during recess and lunch breaks.
PS : I personally asked Rochel to review the draft of this blog post prior publishing in this site. I’m glad she gave me a green light and a happy note! Thank you so much, Rochel! May you and Alvin receive more blessings for you to continue to be a blessings to others!