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When I saw a statuesque sophisticate walking into the lobby of Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino last January 16, I honestly thought that Miss Cebu 2013 organizers must have invited a supermodel from New York to grace the event as one of the judges. Little did I know that it’s my New Zealand-based best friend, Julia Abad, who’s currently in town for a holiday.

Over a month ago, she won as first runner-up at Queen of the World International 2012 (a pageant for alternatives) in Auckland, bagging most of the special awards: Best in Evening Gown, Best in Swimsuit, Darling of the Press, and Miss Photogenic. Barely a week before Miss Cebu, she invited me to dinner via private message, but I declined the invitation because I was in Malabuyoc, and even if I was in the city, I would’ve said no nevertheless, saying that I prefer to see her at lunchtime, considering my work shift and biological clock. I was glad to hear that her dinner with some of our friends from the beauty and fashion industry was a fabulous one.

It’s been five years or so since she left the country for a greener pasture in New Zealand as a licensed physical therapist, and for a more colorful way of living as a professional and respectable transgender. And before she did, I felt so blessed to be left with some of her casual getups—pants, polo shirts, and shorts—which she wouldn’t be needing over there any longer. She’s both surprised and touched to know that I still do use them, and that I’m going to treasure them for the rest of my life.

To Julia, thank you for the friendship. I am very happy for, and proud of, you. Hope to see you again before you go back to New Zealand soon. I miss all those years when we worked together. (She choreographed and directed the annual search for Miss Pagadian in Zamboanga del Sur and other pageants here in Cebu, while I wrote the scripts.) Those were the days. And I want you to know that I miss you more as a friend than as a colleague.