It was the first day of my friend’s retirement as a banker, after 35 years. Sol is only 55. Selfishly, I thought she deserved a thank-you from me, in the form of lunch with her at a five-star hotel. Afterwards, on our way home, she guided me on my first trip down the brand-new Harbor Link that connects Del Pan bridge in Manila to Mindanao Ave. in Quezon City. Quite an eventful day.
I wish every banker were like Sol A. She speaks a nonbanker’s language and takes care of financial illiterates like me — how many bankers think for their clients? The day before our intimate lunch, the people in her office had given her a resounding send-off complete with teary speeches, a mélange of colorful messages dominated by the headline, “Hello Pension, Goodbye Tension,” and an overload of calls both congratulatory and schmaltzy from clients. From her bank, the golden parachute to cushion her retirement couldn’t have opened at a better time: Bayanihan 2 will allow her to keep her substantial benefits tax-free.
If only for that, our little celebration was justified. We chose Diamond Hotel’s Japanese restaurant for its high ceiling, garden-like surroundings, and its light, delicate menu. An added delight was the hotel’s Christmas tree, done in pink, blue, and lavender with a unicorn front and back. The restaurant’s health protocols included a gift pack of hand sanitizer with towelette, an envelope to park one’s facial mask, and disposable tableware (sorry, no crystal, china, or silver). Another surprise was the presence of several other diners – Senator-“Pinuno” Lito Lapid being one of them – it looked like business as usual.
The biggest surprise was yet to happen. From Roxas Blvd. to Quezon City, the usual route is through Quiapo-España or Sta. Mesa-New Manila, but now there’s a new way. Cheap thrills, as Sol said, for I was enthralled by the glittering necklace of lights shining all along the 7-km Harbor Link, with no tolls to pay! Take a bow, Secretary Mark Villar.
Caveat: Don’t rush to the Link at the same time as those clumsy clankers, unless you want to spend 60 minutes in your car wondering who in the world will be the first to find a way to shrink cargo trucks.