Exchanging a simple “hi” and a handshake after Vicente “Vicboy” De Lima, a common friend, introduced us to each other, Ruben “Fards” B. Fajardo Jr. and I silently acknowledged our shared interest in this sport. So, it was inevitable to bump into him again in running events. However, this possible regular encounter did not happen.
The second meeting occurred after more than a year. August 25, 2013 he was waiting and cheering for his fellow 83neans, one of them was my then running coach/pacer, at the finish line of T2K (Tagaytay to Kawit). That event was my maiden ultra marathon. His terse but genuine congratulations during our second encounter was a peek to a budding friendship among running enthusiasts. Also a Bicolano, he was easy to communicate with.
Surprisingly, year 2014 provided us three chances of a repeat. It was in Camp Aguinaldo, his territory. First was March 9. I took the manly challenge of training with these veterans on the road. Keeping up with their pace and endurance was my barometer whether I was already physically calibrated for my first 80-km ultra marathon.
Second was March 30. I was again invited to join four 83neans– Bob Castilla, Noel “Ghibz” Guevarra, Ernesto “Ernie” Badong, and Vicboy– in their Mayon 360 Ultramarathon simulation training run. A busy man on that day due to the call of duty, Fards just welcomed and sent us off with a hand slap as we exited Camp A gate one by one. I smiled. I had been treated as one of the boys.
Third was June 24. Fards sweat it out with us on this day. It was my post-Mayon 360 celebratory run with the 83neans, who assisted me in my ultramarathon journey. FYI: Ateneo de Naga High School Batch 1983, collectively known as 83neans, is known for their tagline Running Men for Others. Their advocacy is to raise funds while running. The pledges which they collect for each covered distance are then donated to their chosen beneficiary through an outreach program.
April 2015, Ed (another 83nean) and he accidentally celebrated my second Mayon 360 with me at the finish line since they also participated in the 80-k two-man relay category. Then, a lull between the 83neans and me came for more than two years. It was basically a radio silence.
If he didn’t message me for my birthday greeting on his wall September 2017, I wouldn’t be hearing anything from Fards.
My response to him was my big dream of reaching New York to run a marathon. Everything was a wish. Never did I predict that its realization would come 13 months later after telling Fards about it. Look at this snippet of our convo.
That thumbs-up said it all. Thanks to Messenger, I gained another virtual supporter and cheerer for NYCM 2018. He inquired whether I had my warmer and reminded me to tell him if I needed one. His thoughtful gesture and moral support added to my motivation and perseverance which made me survive the marathon. So since I was already in NY, I accepted his invitation twice which led to two epic incidents.
After getting my freebie from the NYRR (New York Road Runners) store on November 2, Ruthie and I dropped by his office at the Philippine Consulate General before accomplishing our day’s schedule. This visit was unexpectedly hitting two birds with one stone! Tadah. There waiting at the lobby for a different reason were Jackson Chua and Carl Ong, two of my former students in the first school where I taught. And I recognized them at once. What a serendipitous meeting in New York City, USA and not in New York, Cubao, Quezon City after eons! 🤣😂
If it were a basketball game, I was doing a fast break in narrating my sneaky NY trip to them since Jackson, being a friend in Facebook, hadn’t read any update about my running NYCM 2018. Ditto with Fards and the other six 83neans who are our mutual friends.
Concluding my quick talk with my ex-students after politely declining a dinner invite from Jackson, I joined Fards and Ruthie. Afterwards, he invited us to eat at Subway. We didn’t turn it down despite eating our light breakfast at McDonald’s along Manhattan earlier. Finally talking to him face-to-face in NY brought me back to that message I sent him in 2017. The feeling was surreal!
We knew he just had a limited time to meet us, so we didn’t keep him long. But, his next invitation almost sent Ruthie and me into a frenzy. It’s a tour of the UN Headquarters! Yehey! My last day in the USA, we found a window in doing it. And this exclusive but free guided tour took me past Cloud 9 on November 13, 2018.
This experience made me see the United Nations Headquarters as more than a building. In actual it was more than the headquarters that holds the seats of the principal organs of the UN.
Seeing the different official gifts coming from the UN member states, I realized that I have just entered another museum in the US. Extraordinary artworks such as paintings, tapestries, sculptures, dioramas, and mosaics adorned the walls and hallways.
Ruthie and I couldn’t contain our amazement and happiness as we strolled through world history with Fards. It was an informative and very meaningful “educational trip.” Well, our knowledgeable but low-profile personal tour guide might consider a sideline job someday. Hehehe…
Later on, Fards led us to one of the restricted areas for paid tours. We immediately searched for our colors. Raising our flag in the USA for the third time made me prouder as a Filipino!
When Fards decided to tour us, his “mission” to let us enjoy and learn was carried out smoothly.
However, his paving the way to the fulfillment of our fantasy inside the General Assembly was a stand out!
Perhaps, this is one of the invaluable perks of having an A1 shadow guardian.
I had tears from laughing! We will always remember this role playing inside the GA, and we have Fards to thank for it.
Then, we did a time check. Fards invited us to eat lunch in his recommended restaurant, but we graciously refused. Maybe, if we wouldn’t be going to NYRR shop again before returning to New Jersey for my last-minute packing, we could have stayed. Just thinking about my departure gave me a baffling emotion of sadness while we had our last set of photos.
I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic while writing about how Fards contributed to the precious memories I had in NY. I can’t claim that we’re good friends, but his warmth, benevolence, and hospitality toward us urge me to do so. An officer and a gentleman to the core, he will surely accord anyone with the same treatment (not to mention his being your photographer as an added bonus)!😎
When we left the UN Headquarters, I brought with me the unparalleled impalpable mementos and this paramount reminder.
But, come to think of it. My exploration of UN took me to heaven!