by Elpidio Estioko
The Urdaneta City National High School (UCNHS) Multi High School Reunion to be held in California this year is selling like hotcakes!
Graduates now residing in Hawaii (like Assemblymember Rose Martinez, a graduate from the Divine Word College of Urdaneta (DWCU) and Iris Rosario Lauvao from the Our Lady of the Lilies Academy (OLLA), among others), may have to register their reservations now since 18 out of 30 tables were already reserved by alumni from all over the world who will be attending the reunion in California.
There are about 20 to 25 Urdanetanians who are now residents of Hawaii who graduated from the four high schools in Urdaneta City. This should be a heads-up for them! I know they are eagerly wanting to see and meet their previous classmates in high school whom they haven’t seen for many years now.
The event organizer is OLLA alumnus Fe Gonzales Sepulveda. The reunion will be held on September 17, 2023, at 6pm at Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California. A picnic will follow on Monday, September 18 at Admiral Park in San Diego, California.
The multi-high school reunion will be attended by alumni from four high schools in Urdaneta City – Urdaneta City National High School (UCNHS); Our Lady of the Lilies Academy (OLLA); Divine Word College of Urdaneta (DWCU); and the barangay high schools of Urdaneta.
Yvonne San Juan-Sera, The Global Urdanetanians (TGU) president and one of the reunion organizers who is mainly in charge of reservations said: “We will be adding tables as soon as all the 30 original tables are reserved/filled out.”
The way it is going, additional tables will have to be added as many alumni from the Philippines, in addition to a huge number of alumni in the US, are very eager to join and attend the event.
Based on the reservations and queries, among the batches whose alumni are eagerly contemplating attending are those from Batches 60, 64¸65, 69, 72, 73, 76, 79, 80, and 81, coming from the four high schools.
Six years ago, was the last time we had our multi-high school reunion held in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 1, 2017, at Tropicana Hotel. That reunion was very memorable because, aside from 365 alumni who attended, the deadly 2017 Las Vegas shooting likewise happened the day after our gala night.
I would like to recall some facts, not to scare prospective reunion attendees but to have a knowledge of what transpired and be part of history during the active shooting incident. I remember, on the evening of October 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old man from Mesquite, Nevada, opened fire upon the crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada.
From his 32nd-floor suite on the Mandalay Bay Hotel, he fired more than 1,000 bullets killing 60 people and wounding 411 others. About an hour later, Paddock was found dead in his own room with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The incident was later recorded as the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the US.
The good thing is that all the alumni who attended the reunion survived the shooting! However, there were inconveniences for some. David Sumera, Batch ‘65, his wife Merry and his cousins were trapped in the Strip and locked down at the Bellagio Hotel, while we (my wife Delia and I) were likewise grounded/locked down at adjoining Tropicana Hotel where we were billeted when the shooting started at about 10:00pm in the evening. Everyone scampered for their lives toward our hotel’s parking area as police officers positioned themselves to track down the active shooter.
I remember another Batch ‘65, Alberto Lapena and his wife Zeny from Melbourne, Australia who were also scheduled to attend the reunion with purchased tickets to the concert, but they failed to make it due to an unforeseen circumstance. Had they made it, they may have been victims also considering that they would surely be attending the concert (they being country music lovers), so it turned out to be a blessing on their part.
Cris Ramirez, Batch ’65 with his wife Jackie, from the Philippines, were stopped on their way to the Strip that evening by police officers and were told to turn around and leave the area.
Event coordinator Sepulveda was worried and tried to call everyone making sure everybody was fine. She was happy we were all safe. Except for hours of fear, tension and no sleep till the early morning the following day due to the lockdown, all the alumni in attendance were safe and sound.
The Las Vegas incident was a scary moment of our life which we were able to avoid and thank God we were all safe! We became part of history in the making, I would say!
That flashback reunion will never happen again, not in Temecula, right?
In fact, this will not deter the alumni from attending the 6th Multi High School Reunion in California this coming September 17, 2023, because there’s a lot to recall, a lot of bonding to be made, and more hello’s and hi’s with old high school buddies and BFF’s, whom we’ve missed for years!
ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. He just published his book Unlocking the Chain of Poverty: In Pursuit of the American Dream which is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Xlibris Publishing. For feedbacks, comments… please email author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Elpidio Estioko