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A Way of Rounding Things

The first time a close friend invited me to attend a theater workshop, I was a little bit skeptic. I asked her what’s it all about. She mentioned about exaggerated gestures while acting, forming a group in circles and making your own dialogue when you’re picked. My friend could  not help but laugh at my reaction. I had my mouth opened, trying to understand what she said but failed.

“Close your mouth or else a fly might mistake it for a cave, “she said in jest.

She said it was fun, instead of spending the summer of not doing anything. I told her I do read,  a lot, I pointed. But she reasoned out that a theater workshop was something different and that I have to test the waters  to learn it. When I asked her who’s handling the workshop, she said it was her cousin, Jun Matias. By the look of it all she seemed exited, even beaming.

“So there’ s the catch.”

So I asked her who’s Jun Matias aside from the fact that he was her cousin. My friend answered, in near irritation, that he was a theater artist from PETA,  once became a staff for a famous director named Lino Brocka and  that he also writes. I told her I am a fan of Lino Brocka movies, that it was cool his cousin writes but I am not familiar with PETA,  at that time. I apologized  and told her I am not interested.

Together with Richard Reynante, Jun Matias  was the creative genius behindPrecious Pages Corporation and Lampara  Books Publishing(credits goes to Facebook.com for the image)

“You might regret this one day, you know, ” and left.

Luckily, my friend did not take that personally. Our friendship did not tint by shallow disappointments. Besides we were in high school. Our place at that time was still  backward. Summer workshops and self help programs where unheard of. Sadly, there had been a time that I  spent my summer just by reading pocketbooks when I should have tried other arts instead. My friend did finish the workshop and to show my support, I’ve watched their play, which turned out quite well.

A decade later, when local television was full of the weekly shows from Regal Films and Viva Films, I got the chance to catch  Jun Matias’  name. He did write, this time his name on the screen was Segundo Matias, Jr. He wrote  stories where artists like Gretchen Barretto, Rita Avila, Jean Garcia and Aiko Melendez who was just a teenager then but whose acting ability can be lined up with the veteran ones, appeared . The stories were simple, depicting of one ‘s ordinary life, its woes and joys, all compressed in an hour because of the commercials.

It was in the late 1990s’ that his name became such a revelation. I have read in the newspapers that he had been publishing books. Love stories at that, just like the Mills and Boon and Harlequin local versions. But it was in 2003, at  my son’s recognition event that I had one of  the biggest surprises in my life.  An alumnus will give a short speech about his younger days and humble beginnings. Turned out the visitor was nonetheless, Segundo Matias, Jr fondly called Jun Matias. He was already then  a businessman, the man behind the famous, “Lampara Books Publishing,” and “Precious Pages Corporation. ”

(credits goes to lamparabooks.com.ph  for the image)

He had gone a  long way. What more my son and I shared a picture with him and I have to admit I did not know what to say when he handed me the medal so I can pinned it on my son. He was just looking at me. I thought of something like, ” Your cousin is a good friend and I am sorry I did not attend the workshop you spearheaded then . I could have learned a lot.”But did not have the guts to say so.

Lately, I have learned he had chains of  Precious Pages outlets in most major malls in the Philippines. When I visited one of his stores, I even had the gumption to interview some of his staff. They said  he was a good hearted person, fun to be with and easy to get along. In fact they even knew his birthday which was just a few days away then. They asked me if we were related. I told them we were and we came from the same place.

This  store found at the SM Mall of Asia, is just one of the many store outletsthat Jun Matias handles( credits goes  to the phr.com.ph for the image)

Funny, it took decades, for us to meet. I did not plan nor envisioned it will happen, but somehow, fate did find its way.  Before I could not help but ponder the meaning behind all these. Somehow, I know now.

Personally, I am not that regretful of that missed opportunity. I may not be  young, but given the chance I can still attend theater workshops. As for us having a connection, he is a Facebook friend and I did send him a message about what happened many summers ago.  It is also  true that we are related, on my grandmother’s side, as  told by my aunt and my mom . Strange, though that  meeting him  was like  the gift of writing or any other God given gift for that matter. One can set it aside,  forget it even, until an incident or a person perhaps sent from Above, will point out that gifts were given so they can be harnessed, and shared so people can learn, be inspired and perhaps realize that they too have gifts lurking within, waiting to come  out. Meeting him finally, was like finding my creative voice, which somehow, found its way home.

I know one day, when I get the chance to write a short book for kids, he will be the publisher and his autograph will be the first one I will have.

Because now I know that  life indeed  has a way of rounding things.