November 24, 1942 to September 13, 2013
In the late 1980s I was a young girl, not yet 25, working at A.B. Bookman in Garfield, New Jersey, as a typesetter. Bayani Mendoza De Leon was a proofreader there. The first time he spoke to me, it was because he was very impressed with my typing skills and asked how I got to be such a good typist.
Now this was before home computers, and I shared that I spent many hours typing poetry I wrote on my Smith Corona typewriter at home. Bayani expressed interest in my poetry and we became good friends, spending all our lunches and breaks together, as we were both vegetarians and very much into the new age. Bayani was a lot older than me — at age 46 he seemed almost ancient. But the age difference didn’t stop us from becoming friends. Then something extraordinary happened — Bayani became my spiritual mentor. He gave me hundreds of books and tapes on Teachings of the Far East, Gurdjieff, Buddha, Ouspensky, numerology, alphabet-ology, The Bible … and so on. I stopped going to night clubs for about eight months, spending all my time studying with Bayani and on my own.
I celebrated my 25th birthday with Bayani. Our favorite restaurant was The Gate in NYC (of course it’s no longer there). It was a Japanese restaurant that served green tea and red bean ice cream — something extraordinary back in those days. Another restaurant we favored were Pumpkin Eater up on 79th Street. We also saw one of my favorite musicians — Mick Karn — perform at The Bottom Line.
Bayani was also a well known musician in the Philippines. He was friends with another musician, Eleanor Academia, who was from California (where Bayani spent some time living). One day Eleanor treated Bayani and I to lunch in New York City. She had a great saying, “Spend your money, save your soul.”
When Bayani left A.B. Bookman several months after we became good friends, we touched base a few times but really didn’t keep in touch. So I was beyond thrilled when out of the blue I heard from Bayani in 2011! He found me via my website (www.peartreeenterprises.com) and wrote me an email! A few months later, February 2012, we got together for lunch at my favorite restaurant, Veggie Heaven. He was in great spirits and we had a wonderful time. I was 48 (two years older than Bayani was when I first met him!) and Bayani was 69.
We promised to keep in touch, but sadly, that was the last time I saw Bayani. Our last email was a few weeks after our lunch.
I heard of Bayani’s death today by chance. I was looking up info on music.orb and found that they acknowledged his birthday! I was excited and Googled him — only to find a sad tribute about his death on You Tube.
I was shocked and sad. When we were friends back in the 1980s Bayani met both my mother and grandmother. He also took pictures of my sister and I one night before we went to a Halloween party. That’s how close we were. I once met his sister too and had dinner in his home when she was visiting. I still have photos of me and her together. As well as all the pictures he took of my sister and I on Halloween, 1988. One of the few nights I deviated from my spiritual studies.
So many fond memories, but my favorite was when we took breaks at A.B. Bookman and sat in the hallway sharing vegetarian snacks like Eden Soy Milk and Japanese plum ball sours. In just 15 minutes we shared great food and had such deep conversation. It was great!
So September 2013 was such a tragic month. My Billy cat died Sept. 3, my mentor Joan Finn died a few days later, and then Bayani (which I just found out about) left us at age 70.
Rest in Peace to a wonderful soul and an ever-joyful spirit … a deep, quiet man with a good heart. Definitely heaven’s gain.