In a recurring National Geographic Channel commercial, it says that we have an average of 17 friends during our childhood and adolescence but this drops to just three by the time we are adults. And after watching reruns of Hey Arnold! on Nickelodeon recently (and reviewing the close bond between main protagonist Arnold and his best friend Gerald), I started thinking about the concepts of friendship and having best friends.

In my younger years, I was essentially a lot like Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory, sans the secret laboratory. I liked staying inside and reading books or watching TV all day. Physical activity was something I dreaded, as shown by my efforts to escape P.E. classes and avoiding performing in dances or plays. Inevitably, this led to my being bullied for years to come, mocked for my unusual intellect and nerdy demeanor.

My first major step to developing my social skills was basketball. It was a sport I abhorred at first, but living at our ancestral home in a highly rural setting, I took up the game and fell madly in love with it. Soon, I was playing regular games in our backyard half-court and the full-size court at the nearby church with some peers who lived just nearby.

After overcoming massive grade deficits resulting from transferring from school to school in my earlier years (as well as my innate stubbornness), I would find myself in a religious all-boys’ school upon hitting my first year in high school. I made my mark almost immediately with my knack for general information and skill in speaking and writing in English, but it also earned me the envy of many of my peers as well. Bullied in humiliating fashion from having tech pens stolen to doormats smacked in my face to rocks being placed in my bag, high school would become some of my least fondly remembered years in life.

I found comfort in the adults of the school, specifically the teachers, religious men and even some of the non-teaching staff. It was here I met arguably my first (and perhaps closest friend to date), my English teacher named Alrose Torres (or Ma’am Rose, as known by the students) who was also adviser to the school paper. Being sticklers for impeccable English as well as intelligent conversation, we got along very well and I was soon spending my break periods chatting with her about all and sundry.

She convinced me to join the school paper in my second year and I started out as a staff writer. With the amount of material I was contributing to the paper, she soon took the amazing step of electing me as the editor-in-chief in only my third year, bypassing several talented seniors in the process. Taking on the challenge, my friend and I made serious changes to the school paper, making it more attractive and appealing to my peers and superiors alike. The changes proved so popular that I ended up serving an unprecedented second consecutive term as editor-in-chief.

In my third year, I would gain another teacher and mentor as a trusted friend though more unconventional means. We were taking up economics as part of our Social Studies subject and we were on the topic of taxation. I was sitting in the front row one day and our teacher Arceli Liwanag (or Ma’am Cel as known by the students) taught us how to calculate our income tax, all of which I could barely comprehend. After she had set the rest of the class to performing some exercises, she unexpectedly sat in an empty chair next to mine and quietly asked if I understood her lesson. I shook my head and she spent the next few minutes clarifying everything for me. Having discovered her equal penchant for good conversation, I sought her out regularly as well.

But various personal problems took root in my senior year of high school, and I was soon struggling with my academics and duties to the school paper. The bullying had gotten so bad that I had to call my aunt and her British husband to get things back in control. While it eventually ended up in an expulsion for one and suspension for another, it showed how vulnerable I was in my state. And with the struggles I faced for the entire year, I eventually found out I would not be marching at my graduation. It was a devastating blow to me, and I ran to my friends Ma’am Rose and Ma’am Cel for comfort. They expressed shock at the news and while comforting me as best they could, they took action on my behalf. Despite their amazingly valiant efforts, walking up on stage to receive my diploma was not meant to be.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, I took summer classes for my two failing subjects and managed to get passing grades that allowed me to enter college soon after.

I would eventually meet up with them on occasion, and despite the years that have passed we remember each other fondly. Even with a lack of regular communication, we manage very well.

I met up with Ma’am Cel recently while spending the weekend at my grandfather’s place, and it was refreshing to see such a wonderful friend and mentor after distance and time had worn on. And so the affair made me realize that I was fussing over the wrong aspects of a good friendship all along.

True, I do not know their favorite color or foods. Yes, I am clueless about what animal they would become if they chose to be one. And certainly, I do not know all of their pet peeves. But what I have seen in them is much more than that. They do not fuss over such petty details, and they do not expect much from me except my continued friendship, love and respect.

And so it is I finally figured out the science behind best friends. For it is often in what is unsaid and seemingly insignificant to others that friends are born, and friends become best friends. And even if the day comes that I can count my friends on only one hand, I can say I have all the friends I need.

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