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My memories of Cynthia Barker, Worshipful Mayor of Hertsmere in UK by Boy Villasanta (Part 8)

The awards night at the Laguna Colleges in San Pablo City had not started it but Cynthia Alcantara-Barker, one of the awardees as an Outstanding Alumnus of the school was an early bird. That’s how professional and prompt she was as her Western orientation worked about how precious time was among peoples. She carried over this attitude in her homeland where respect for time was bungled because of many limitations, feudal backwardness and biases.

We tailed Cynthia in getting into the hall where the event would be held. Many alumni and guests were already milling around, exchanging pleasantries of any nature. It was still drizzling outside and the formal wears, especially of the ladies, were kept away from the wet pavements and floors on their red carpet walk.

I was at the time talking to actress and beauty queen Azenith Briones on the phone. Azenith was also from San Pablo City and she was familiar with the Alcantaras. “Magkaka-generation kami nina Ador at Gene Alcantara, ‘yong mga panganay na kapatid ni Cynthia. Magkakakilala kami d’yan sa San Pablo. Pakausap nga kay Cynthia, magsi-say hello lang ako (Ador and Gene Alcantara, the elder brothers of Cynthia were my generation. We knew each other there in San Pablo. My I talk to Cynthia, please, I would just like to say hello to her),” requested Azenith.     

I turned over the phone to Cynthia and she talked to Briones. There were pleasantries between the two. Although it was a short talk, I could imagine the excitement that transpired between them as kababayans apart from Cynthia’s reminiscences of her town mate’s fame as an actress and beauty queen during that time.   

When I returned to Azenith, she told me she would host a lunch with Cynthia, Ador, Fil-Briton filmmaker Jowee Morel and me.

Briones was in high school at the Our Lady of Fatima School, now renamed Canossa College, and Ador and Gene were also in secondary education at the Ateneo de San Pablo. The two exclusive schools for men and women were friendly with each other. The young boys’ adventures in wooing young girls were at the disposal of teenage escapades. Azenith was one of the prettiest campus figures in Fatima and all eyes were at her including Ador and Gene’s who were just a couple of years apart.

At the auditorium, we (Ador, Mitch Desunia, her assistant and other members of Cynthia’s entourage) were seated on mono block chairs among the audience. Jowee was roving around to shoot the proceedings for his doc film about Cynthia.

All three or four honorees were seated onstage. Each one was cited of their achievements in his/her respective field and later called on to deliver an acceptance speech. Barker was awarded for her contributions to international politics as a councilor of twin borough Esltree and Borehamwood in Hertsmere district in the county of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. Being a pride of her alma mater and her city was always attributed to her in the course of the awarding.

 

When it was Cynthia’s turn to accept her plum, she was humble and down-to-earth to narrate her experiences in Laguna Colleges and her political journey in the UK. All her past struggles, she said, were factors to her being a firm and principled, in more ways than one, individual.

There were also musical intermission numbers in the program participated in by students and graduates of the school. 

After the award rites, a pica-pica or passed around cocktails of fried peanuts, strung hotdogs with marshmallows, small slices of pizzas of various flavors etc. was served.

There were photo-ops for souvenirs of the alumni and the awardees. Cynthia had a photo opportunity with Karen Agapay, the Vice Governor of Laguna and her other friends and classmates. There were many people who wanted to pose for souvenir shots with Cynthia, a rare opportunity to take a memory with the celebrated UK politician.

It was a memorable event not only for Cynthia and the other honorees, alumni and guests but for us as well. Ador was thankful we had time to witness a very significant affair which involved not only her sis but many San Pabloeños and San Pabloeñas and other neighboring residents like Tiaong, Dolores etc. in Quezon Province and also from some towns in Batangas Province who took learning in Laguna Colleges, already an iconic educational institution in the city.

When Cynthia saw me after the awards night, she was very concerned about our (with Jowee) lodging that night but I told her it was already arranged by Morel a day ago. Cynthia was confident afterwards about our safety and stay-in in her hometown.

There was still a postscript of the awarding that would happen in one of the alumnus’ houses and most of the awardees would be around. There was also a tour to some places in San Pablo City that the honorees must not miss precisely because these were landmarks already they would be proud of as citizens of the community and as graduates of Laguna Colleges. 

Cynthia gave us an assurance that she would follow us up in the hotel. Ador, meanwhile, advised us that he would tag along Cynthia to the post-gatherings to make the most of his short stay in his native beloved town. It was heartwarming for the Alcantaras to walk down memory lane in the community of their youth.   

The drizzle had subsided but it was still a gloomy night and a threatening rain was hovering over the dark clouds that evening.

Mitch and Jowee decided to spend the night away going around town. I and Desunia’s assistant had to join them as it was painting the town red to ensue. We immediately boarded Mitch’s car and proceeded first to the National Highway where there were clubs and videoke bars lined-up but we begged to enter because they were mostly girlie bars with exclusive male customers although they were tempting and inviting. Thanks but no thanks to the empty chairs inside these disco clubs.

Finally, we settled in a karaoke bar in the heart of the city very near the church and it was worth it. (To be continued)

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