Thursday, November 13, 2008

FEU high school e-group and friendship

I currently moderate a Yahoo e-group called “feu_magkababata.” Members are alumni of Batch 1981 of the Far Eastern University (FEU) Girls’ High School (GHS) and Boys’ High School (BHS). FEU is one of the popular universities in the Philippines, located in the area popularly known as “university belt” in the capital city of Manila. Back when I was studying in FEU (from the early 1970s--Grade 1 to High School [HS]), FEU was already famous for giving good educational training and having a nice, wide campus. The university belt’s streets (like Morayta or N. Reyes where FEU is located, Recto, Legarda, etc.) are home to a number of colleges and universities, as the moniker obviously implies. Our HS was established in the 1940s, and we were the last batch to graduate where the boys were segregated from the girls, and even teachers of the boys’ high were mostly different from those of the girls’ high. Boys were also housed in one building, and the girls in another, with the two buildings several meters away from each other but almost face to face. Needless to say, the batch after us already had mixed-sex classes, thus we were called “the last of the segregates.” And FEU continued to operate the HS facility up to around early 1990s, so we heard.
Anyway, going back to the feu_magkababata e-group, it was set up on August 30, 2005 by myself and Requito, upon his suggestion actually, since about four or five among us classmates/batchmates from way back grade school (where boys and girls were mixed in class) going all the way to HS were already exchanging e-mails at that time. Actually Requito and the four or five people I mentioned were among the few people who were my classmates from grade school to HS with whom I’ve remained in contact after many years. But we wanted to renew our communication with many other “missing” classmates/batchmates, especially the HS batch, for some reasons like we just plainly sorely missed one another and also that our batch was to celebrate its silver anniversary the following year. Requito said that the idea of forming an e-group was fine and worth watching out for “if it will soar,” especially since we were hopeful that many batchmates had access to the Internet and, hopefully also, had e-mail addresses given the prevalence of Internet usage. I volunteered to form the e-group.

Thinking of an e-group name
But Yahoo’s steps to forming an electronic group were quite easy to follow; the tough part was thinking of a name for the e-group that should capture our school’s name, carry the essen
ce of our batch in the FEU GHS and BHS, and be welcoming enough for other batchmates so that they will feel easily right at home from the moment they receive the online invitation to join the e-group. Well, after I came up with a few names, I finally decided to use feu (name of our school)_magkababata (Pilipino term for people who’ve been friends with one another since their youth). And, so, our little e-group was born with the initial four or five members. We rarely used the e-group in the early months. One member even e-mailed her USA vacation photos to the e-group, and she asked in her e-mail if anybody was actually opening and viewing the messages in the e-group. All the members replied "yes," all four of us. Well, in the latter part of the year that the e-group was formed, it had slowly grown in number as more contacts were added through referrals (like some batchmates knew how to contact others, and I immediately sent out invites to them for the e-group). Also that latter part of the year, several of us had already began meeting to talk about the holding of the batch’s silver anniversary reunion in 2006. Thus I got hold of more e-mail addresses to add to the e-group. Since all of us in the committees formed for the reunion were busy and still had to adjust our schedules for our face-to-face planning meetings, we agreed to hold discussions via e-mail. I thought that the e-group would be perfect for that. But since we were planning a May 2006 reunion already, I thought that adding all these new contacts to the e-group would take up a lot of time since many of them I found out had e-mail addresses but not too Internet-savvy. Or they weren’t into checking their e-mails that much. I then decided to form a separate e-mail loop for our batch, especially at that time for the purpose of gathering people who would know and be interested about attending our silver reunion coming up in just a few months. Well, news sure spreads like wildfire. Almost everyday, I would be adding many names (new referred contacts) to our e-mail loop, and I would be sending out e-mail to this loop everytime I had three to five new contacts, to announce their inclusion into the loop. At the back of my mind, I was always wondering when I could transfer all these people to the existing feu_magkababata e-group, without losing anyone in the email loop who could be uncomfortable with going through the steps in joining an e-group. The steps were actually quite simple but could be a bit of a challenge to those who were, like I said, not much into the Internet or computers for that matter, or for those who weren’t using Yahoo e-mail addresses. But then I was also starting to ask myself how long I could sustain or maintain the e-mail loop, whose list of contacts had been growing longer and longer. And I was aware that Yahoo could already consider e-mails from this loop as spam, at some point and thus block the e-mails.

Transfer to the e-group, we must

But I knew the time to take action had come. Whether they liked it or not, the e-mail loop contacts had to transfer to the e-group, fast. To guide them painlessly, I hoped, I wrote the steps to take in accepting the online invite from the group owner (me) and posted it in the e-mail loop. I gave them a deadline to take the necessary steps to transfer to the e-group, or else, they wouldn’t be “in the know” of the latest in the batch, especially w
ith the forthcoming reunion. Happily, most of the batchmates obliged and joined the e-group. A small number really couldn’t because of Internet limitations in their offices (where they mainly accessed their emails), and other understandable reasons. I maintained a small email loop for these hopeless cases, ha! ha!, sending them e-mails every now and then for important news about our batch (like parties, events, fund-raisers).

ow, our then struggling little e-group has grown to 190 members (especially after we successfully held our silver reunion in May 2007 in the Philippines, complete with 14 teachers whom we gathered from everywhere). (See our photo at the Holy Mass we held at the FEU Campus, with some of those who attended, a week before our reunion celebration.) The 190 is still a small number considering that we had a thousand population in our batch (for morning and afternoon classes, boys and girls). But I consider this 190 (and still growing) big enough, and a success number already. I’m saying this for many reasons. First, 190 is far more in number than the four or five original members.
Secondly, apart from garnering members from all over the Philippines, we’ve also touched base with batchmates in New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Sweden, USA, Canada, Middle East, and they’re all active in the e-group, whether as posters and/or readers.
Thirdly, many in our batch who’ve lost track of their friends in school have joyously found them back in the e-group. In fact, after our May reunion, many have had small reunions or get-togethers with their friends.
Fourthly, new friendships or acquaintances have been formed through the e-group, as we all get to see e-mails written or forwarded to the e-group by batchmates we didn’t get the chance to know before when we were still studying, especially for the opposite sexes who were separated by buildings but were in the same Batch 1981.
Fifthly, through our e-group, other batchmates have come to know of the need of some other batchmates and have generously provided help like financial assistance or job referrals, and even prayers.

United, we e-mail
In our feu_magkababata e-group, the GHS and BHS are united as one, exchanging hellos; memories of our being students then; the current updates in our lives; hopes for the future; jokes and more jokes; and even then-and-now photos in the e-group’s website. Some of the e-group members are active in posting messages; others are happy being silent readers of the posts. But whatever the sort of activity they do in the e-group, I sense that all of them, well, maybe except for one or two who couldn't cope with the deluge of e-mails every now and then—surely, we can’t please everybody although we try to—are happy being in the e-group. It does takes a bit of my time and some effort to be the moderator of our e-group. I keep an eye on things to make sure that there are no hitches in the e-group (like there are no problems in posting messages, new contacts are promptly invited and given welcome messages in the e-group, online applications to join the e-group are screened to make sure that they are really alumni of our batch). I’ve also been posting every start of the month the birthdays of the e-group members. But this time and effort spent feels worth it when I get thank-yous from some batchmates for keeping the e-group together, and who say how happy they are for finding their friends again in the e-group. I also get great satisfaction that the homesickness of batchmates living or working abroad has somehow been eased by thier participation in the e-group. I am also happy that even people I know who were/are shy are also in the e-group, even as readers. Well, I always say to my batchmates that I’m just moderating, just doing my share, but the success of the e-group is really up to all the batchmates as e-group members.
In 2011, our batch is celebrating its thirtieth year. There are initial talks to hold a reunion like we did in our silver year. And we’re glad that the e-group is already around because it’d be of sure help in getting more batchmates together in planning and implementing a possible big reunion in 2011. This would be so unlike in 2006 when we were then just starting to build our contacts (via e-mails and phone numbers), and had quite a difficult time with lesser people in the committees, with such short period to prepare for our silver year celebration.
By the way, I requested May, a batchmate based in Canada, to be my listed co-moderator in the e-group. I told her to be my co-moderator since I think it would be good for any e-group to have more than one in case something happens to the e-mail address of one of the moderators or registered group owner (like if her or his e-mail suddenly closes down).

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