October 11, 2011.
At our university, while I was still on duty, my Freshman teacher Ma’am Aguilos invited me to dinner in place of her husband. She received a text message from promoters of Club Astoria informing her that she was privileged to attend a seminar(ish) event at Hotel Alejandro between 5:30 – 7:00 PM, with a free dinner for two and a complimentary ticket. Ma’am Aguilos’ husband was not available at that time, so she thought of bringing me along. The idea sounded wonderful for the first few minutes, until I realized that I had a meeting at 5:30 regarding my practicum, and a birthday celebration for my Aunt at 7:00. Knowing our speaker, it would be delayed for at least 30 minutes. And I was right. we started the meeting at around 6PM.
When the meeting commenced, I was feeling guilty for making Ma’am Aguilos wait for me. I tried asking my other friends to switch places with me, but no one did. They felt embarrassed having dinner with their teacher, even if it was free. So, I decided to skip the meeting, asked my other friends who were attending to take down notes, and felt the guilt diminish little by little.
Rain drizzled, posing difficulty to commute. The wind felt as if it was blowing directly on our direction, making us shiver. But that didn’t stop us from reaching our destination. A tricycle stopped in front of us, urging us to ride it. We did. The ride took less than three minutes.
Hotel Alejandro was decorated with Philippine and American Flags, in preparation for the Leyte Landing Holiday in a few days – 20th of October. We proceeded to the Front Office, inquiring about the promotion of Club Astoria. The front desk clerk was quick to answer, hinting that she was asked the same thing a million times. She informed us to wait at the Lobby Cafe and wait for a representative to assist us. We thanked her before leaving.
The Lobby Cafe was populated with as little as four people in different tables, probably waiting for the same thing. Food was prepared, waiting for people to empty it. There was an appetizer, three main dishes, and a dessert. As we settled on a table, a representative came to us, discussing matters I didn’t bother listening to. Ma’am Aguilos signed a sheet, marking the end of their conversation. She introduced me as her student, explaining the absence of her husband. After their conversation, the representative told us to have dinner first. After which, the seminar(ish) thing will start, lasting from 60 to 90 minutes.
I was handed a white plate, a spoon, and a fork,by Ma’am Aguilos. She started choosing what to eat while I took a little bit of everything. It was a habit of mine when eating for certain occasions. Of course, I held back, decreasing the portions of my food, knowing that my Aunt’s birthday dinner celebration would involve a variety of food, and lots of each. I had to save space for both dinners.
We ate in a sophisticated manner. Ma’am Aguilos moved with grace and elegance. I did too, for reasons I couldn’t explain. The people around us, on the other hand, ate naturally, regardless of where they were or who saw them. Pictures were taken before, during, and after dinner. I found myself talking naturally with Ma’am about anything I thought of. She, in turn, answered intrinsically. When both of us finished eating, we proceeded to the function room.
Upon entering, noise welcomed us. There were separate tables composed of one or two customers and a representative in black. Each of the table had a black laptop and speakers from CD-R King. The representatives were “sales talking” the customers into registering as members of their hotel. I had no issue about it if they only conducted it once in front of all the invited customers, and not dispatching one representative on each table, trying to engage in a conversation all together. Voices from the front and the back were too distracting. The other tables would be filled with laughter, while some tried hard just listening to what the representatives had to say. It was crazy. But they seemed to be confident that it would a haul a mass of customers.
The sales representative in-charge of filling us in was a former student of Ma’am. He was delighted to once again talk to Ma’am and reminisce the days when he was still a student. Now, employed in a business and managing to earn money, he was on a mission to convince Ma’am to become a Member. His name was Mark. He wore a black polo shirt, black pants, leather shoes, and spiky hair. Chubby would be a good description of him. Usually, when orienting customers, the representatives mentioned the price last. But since Mark was a good friend of Ma’am, he decided to give her special treatment. He showed the prices first, how the payments worked, and how much the down payment is. Then, he showed us a video presentation of Club Astoria Hotel. After a long exchange of words, Ma’am concluded that the place wasn’t practical for her current lifestyle. She did, however, refer a few people she knew who might be interested. I checked my watch, and it was half past seven in the evening. A slightly great timing. I left first, waving goodbye to Ma’am and thanking her for a great time. She thanked me in return, wishing me a safe trip.