Once upon a time,

there were four women who ruled the tiny world I called work.

When I first met Matec, she had a perm and a voice that carried across the conference room. She was brash, but she was also very kind. Once she sank her teeth into a project, she would not let go until we were all fainting from fatigue, just to get it done.

Elaine was a smart bomb with a dirty mouth and an intelligent smirk. She never had a plain old smile, it was either a smirk or a knowing grin. Her eyes would flash with her own mix of desperation and humor, and she used to don fake latex breasts and terrorize the artists into finishing her work on time.

Mother (Tere) was a terror, too, in her own way. She would always say, “What about…” and then let the sentence trail off, and we would all stare at the ceiling waiting for ideas to drop. She could be tactless, and very often emotional, but she was the creative strategist who always gave me a chance even if she thought my ideas were just a notch above crap.

Chiqui, I always thought, stood straighter and walked faster than everyone else because she was shorter. She was firm, and organized people and stray thoughts with ease.

They used to hang out together, have noisy lunches together, push one another to the limits of their patience, and Elaine would roll down the car windows and shout out Chiqui’s phone number to male passersby she thought were cute and needed to take Chiqui out on a date.

I saw them together at lunch today, a decade after most everyone parted ways. Elaine mimicked a Thai bar girl doing a razor special, Matec pulled out a giant folding fan from her red patent bag and gave everyone the lowdown on her body sculpting, Mother scolded Chiqui for not wearing her glasses and Chiqui ate everything on her plate while chatting left, right and center. It was a surge of nostalgia, sweeter than macapuno ice cream, and I was glad to see them being more themselves than ever.