February 25, 2018, 7:21 am
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Transitions

I WAS stunned yesterday when I came across an ABS-CBN online news item about Baguio’s Star Café closing after 74 or so years.
 
I love Star Café. Every time I have been up to Baguio in the last 10 years, I have made it a point to stop at Star Café maybe 7 or 8 times out of 10.
 
The last time I was in Baguio was late last year, when the mining industry had a safety conference at Camp John Hay. 
 
That was the only time I didn’t have my usual fried bangus and rice and egg plus some cinnamon bread and coffee from Star Café. I knew I’d regret it, but we just didn’t have time.
 
Reading the online story made me realize how much I lost by not passing by the café. Especially when I read that Joey Rufino the ever-smiling, really gracious and friendly owner of Star Café, died last December 18 – which happens to be also the death anniversary of my aunt Elisa, and the wedding anniversary of my elder brother and sister-in-law.
 
I really didn’t know Joey Rufino well, but he was an acquaintance for over ten years. He’d say hi and hello when we arrive, ask me questions about my work (most of my trips then were when I was still with Coke and managing the basketball team) and once in a while we’d talk politics after I looked at the headlines of the newspapers he had for patrons to read.
 
His wife Donna was almost always there as well, smiling warmly too to welcome us. They were smiles from husband and wife that you can always count on, like the sun rising in the east, and every time we left they’d say “bye” coupled with a wave of the hand.
 
She survives him, but with no one in the Philippines to help her run the café, she sees no other choice but to bring the curtains down on this quaint café.
 
I can imagine the real long-time patrons of Star Café having even fonder memories of the café and its owners. I can imagine those fond memories surviving for as long as the last gasp of the last living patron, long after the shutters are brought down for good, which will be on July 8. My friends and I have great memories of Star Café, and I have great ones too of the kindness of Joey Rufino, and I am not surprised that I feel part of me slipping away with the thought that soon the Star Café will just be a memory, part of a tale of the Baguio lost that I will share with my friends and my two dogs.
 
Thank you, Joey, for the warm hospitality and the great ambience and the food that we always looked forward to.
 
Transitions, I guess, are never easy. They’re almost always emotional, and difficult even if the emotions are positive. 
 
I guess that’s why people try to avoid transitions whenever possible, also because of the uncertainty that it brings.
 
But certain transitions are inevitable. Our passing on from this world, for example, which I call the ultimate inevitable transition.. No amount of stem cell therapy (a friend called it sperm cell therapy and our women breakfast guests were squealing in laughter – or was that excitement?) can prevent that from happening, no peeling of the skin or stretching of the wrinkles. We will pass on, and the inevitability of death should make it a teeny-weeny bit easier for us to accept it happening to ourselves, as well as to our loved ones.
 
The end of terms of office too, is inevitable. Either because it is constitutionally mandated – though there are efforts now and then to change that – or because, well, the ultimate inevitable transition (see paragraph above) will occur. I can imagine so many public officials and their families having great difficulty in transitioning from being high up there to coming down to earth and losing all the perks and pesos of being in power. Some start complaining about rats and roaches, but that’s because while up there they may have felt there was no coming down. Forgetting in the process one of life’s greatest lessons I learned while watching cartoons as a child: the higher you go up, the harder you fall.
 
Transition from one place of work to another is also inevitable, albeit more so for the generations after mine than for the generations before mine. My parents were from a generation of lifelong employment; the average number of jobs my generation on average might have through a lifetime would be three. But the next one generation might average twice that, and maybe, just maybe, the frequency of that transition will make each move less traumatic than my three moves have been. But it was always heart-wrenching to get to that day when you had to say goodbye to folks you’d “grown up” with because it was time to meet new ones and hopefully make just as good a network of friendships with them to add to those you made in the place of work that you were leaving.
 
Going back to Star Café, I have resolved while writing this piece to go up to Baguio very soon, maybe over the weekend, to dine at Star Café one last time. Hopefully, Mrs. Rufino would be there, and I could say hi again and hello again and then as many thank yous as I can for all the times that she and her husband were like a welcoming pair of aunt and uncle to us travelers from Manila. Yes, I am sentimental, always was as a boy and now as an ageing (I almost said “old”) man. 
 
Next time I see that Joey Rufino smile is when I have coffee with him in his café among the stars.
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