Barkada is a Tagalog term meaning clique. More specifically, a barkada is a group of friends who hang together informally. I say “informally” (yes, with fingers of both hands gesturing quotation marks) to differentiate it from fraternities, sororities, or associations with a specific identity or stated mission. A barkada hangs together for no reason at all. Sometimes they sit around and drink a lot of beer. Most times they just sit around and chat. But more than anything, barkadas hang out just to be.
It had been 20 years since I saw Marlina. We had a reunion back in ’86 in Stockton, but even then, I don’t think we paired up to catch up. My college best friend Iza made a rare appearance and we latched on to each other to the exclusion of others.
Then, over the holidays and from out of the blue, Marlina posted a message and sent me a picture on Facebook, and we started emailing back and forth. I knew Marlina had made Minneapolis her home but, as fate would have it, she was visiting her mom and dad in New York. I told her I was going to be in New York and we decided to meet.
Marlina hadn’t changed at all. She's still as cute as ever, pretty, petite, witty, sharp and ageless. What a gift to share two days with her! As we caught up with each other’s lives, laying bare our souls, I saw her true inner strength. Out of respect for Marlina’s privacy, I will only say that her personal triumph over intense challenges has imbued her persona with palpable power.
“Cross with confidence!” Marlina prodded me and Monette, as she jaywalked across busy Lexington and 49th, oblivious of oncoming, honking New York City cabs.
Over and beyond my superficial example of her fearlessness, I found so much to admire and love about Marlina. We had a lot of catching up to do and we talked non-stop as we braved the crowds and crossed the streets of Manhattan with determined confidence.
Marlina went on to finish grad school, headed up the Asian film fest in New York, moved to Minneapolis to work at a prestigious arts center, got married, had a daughter, and survived tremendous personal crises with incredible fortitude. Marlina’s way out was through, with courage, spirituality and humor.
What a gift she is to me! I’ve been missing intelligence, imagination and inspiration in my immediate circle, and somehow we found each other again. Time hadn't ravaged our connectedness.
Marlina, I thank you for who you are. I know who you are. You are a perfect child of God. In you I see the manifestation of divine power and light. You are an example of strength and faith. You don’ta looka like-a man. You are whole, perfect and complete! Now and forever more. And so it is!
Barkada ko, mahal ko. My friend, I love you.