MY FRIEND RONIE ABING

[My friend Ronie is shown in this photo proudly flaunting his US citizenship naturalization certificate with his left hand while toting a tiny US flag with his right hand]
[My friend Ronie is shown in this photo at the entrance door to the Campbell Heritage Theater proudly flaunting his US citizenship naturalization certificate with his left hand, while toting a tiny US flag with his right hand]

I met Ronie Abing in 1991 as he was employed as messenger after having been recommended by a former colleague at the Allied Bank Legal Department, actually by the then Congressman Tim Adaza of Zamboanga Del Norte in Mindanao, Philippines. Ronie as messenger of Allied Bank’s Legal, where I was one of the legal officers then, was regularly tasked to serve as runner, errand boy, delivery boy and of performing all other sorts of courier service for Allied Bank’s Legal Department as well as its officers.

I learned thereafter that Ronie was born on July 30, 1966, a date which coincides with the natal day of my Daddy Max, though 44 years earlier.

I also learned that Ronie’s parents are Nilo Abing, a staunch political leader of Cong. Adaza, and Consorcia Laranjo. Ronie went to school at the Sinipay Elementary School in Zamboanga Del Norte; high school at the Sibutad National High School in the same province and did 2 years of college at the Misamis University.

It came to pass that in line with an upgraded program of professionalization and standardization at Allied Bank then, Ronie who failed to graduate from college due principally to his family’s penury, was among those employees of Allied Bank who were dished out with pink slips in late 2003. Earlier though, in 1998, I have already resigned from Allied Bank as I was lured by my UP Law classmate to put up a private law office.

Ronie asked me for help after he was served the notice of termination by Allied Bank’s Personnel Department. At that time, my wife Dang who just went through culinary training at Gene Gonzales’ Center for Asian Culinary Studies, needed some hand. The foregoing transpired as Dang was asked by my father-in-law who loves to be called by his acronym Anteva (i.e. Antonio Evangelista), to put up a catering service in preparation for Anteva’s putting up of a call center facility in Ortigas Center, Pasig City,Metro-Manila. My wife’s catering outfit was eventually tapped to serve the call center officers and employees with meals. Thus, I asked Dang for help and she eventually designated Ronie as the dining room supervisor.

During the height of the call centers’ operation, Dang’s catering outfit was delivering food at the call center facility twice a day good for 1,000 people. Eventually however, due to some technical problems that arose in regard to the representation by Anteva’s American partner, Anteva sold the call center facility and the catering business vanished in thin air.

Ultimately, I came up with some kind of working arrangement with Ronie (to afford him some livelihood) whereby his services were made available to my Law Office on call basis. The foregoing was considering that there were others who were displaced from my wife’s former call center catering business. Meanwhile, Ronie was able to snatch an arrangement with another officer at Allied Bank, from friends whom he has developed and collected during his 12 year stint thereat.

Through the help of an Allied Bank friend, Ronie was placed as caretaker of a house in Las Piñas City, south of Manila, which got foreclosed by Allied Bank and that while the realty was still unsold, Ronie with a token monthly stipend was allowed to stay thereat sans any rent.

With Ronie’s natural gregariousness and his equally folksy trait, Ronie became friends with the Barangay Pamplona 3 officialdom in Las Piñas City and  he was subsequently appointed as Assistant Executive Officer of  the barangay. [English explanation: a barangay is the smallest political unit in the Philippines akin to a “village”]

After Ronie showed his competency in doing investigative and mediating/conciliating work (honed perhaps by his over a  decade of working stint at Allied Bank, and at times immersed into legalese talk with Allied Bank’s battery of lawyers) with regard complaints and counter-complaints aired by quarreling neighbors as well as plaints about burglaries in the village, Ronie was promoted to the topmost post of Executive Officer.

It was a usual day of hectic work one Monday morning on December 17, 2007, which brought sunshine into the gloomy life of Ronie. Indeed, it was the first time when Ronie met Lelila Strand (“Lila”), a gracious balikbayan who got widowed following the death of her American husband. Lila sought Ronie’s help due to a burglary which occurred in her house in Barangay Pamplona 3. Ronie came to investigate and eventually Lila and Ronie became friends. After some time, with such amazing blitz, I learned that Lila and Ronie became affianced to each other and ultimately led them into tying the marital knot.

Months earlier,  before Ronie got promoted as the barangay’s Executive Officer, Ronie would speak about how hopeless he feels. He narrated how he sees life as miserable as he was unable to finish college; was forlorn in his love life; was terminated from his employment and was trying to make ends meet from the paltry sum he was receiving as stipend from Allied Bank and the nominal wage from the barangay. This was because his siblings and his ailing mother, following the demise of his father, who live in their hometown in Zamboanga del Norte (more than 1,000 kilometers south of Manila) were all looking to him for financial support and sustenance . And Ronie would scrimp on his money, sometimes would even skip meals; just as he could send some amount of money to his kin in the province.

Indeed Lila changed all of this “doom and gloom” scenario which has continuously haunted Ronie’s mind.

Thus, following Ronie’s and Lila’s marriage on November 15, 2010 here in the Philippines before a magistrate in Las Piñas City, Metro-Manila; Ronie joined Lila in the US on June 3, 2012. It was a day which changed Ronie’s outlook and perspective in  life. While before, there was despair and hopelessness; Lila brought Ronie much hope, love and noble aspirations in life.

In August 2015 when I and Daddy Max went to the US, originally just to watch my THREE (3) daughters perform and compete in the 2015 World Hiphop International Competition (“WHHI”), I never thought that mine and Ronie’s path would again cross.

It turned out that at Santa Clara, California; a side trip which I thought up in the last minute, to allow Daddy Max to reconnect with his past (by visiting his American father’s tomb), we met Ronie with Lila after coincidentally meeting up through Facebook when I was surfing through the internet and chanced upon Ronie’s FB account.

Now, Ronie is always brimming with hope and pride for his only and everlasting love, Lila. Ronie now works as a Personal Care Attendant (courtesy of the connections which Lila have developed being a long-time US citizen). Driving his brand-new Camry car,  donned in his Ralph Lauren suit, and sporting an Omega watch on his wrist, Ronie together with the love of his life, Lila, trekked to the Campbell Heritage Theater on November 10, 2015 for the oath-taking ceremony as a citizen of the United States of America.

THAT’S MY BOY, RONIE!!!

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