I enjoy stories especially if they are about love---and real. I may be deemed by people as cynical at times but the truth of the matter is I am a romantic at heart. I believe in LOVE and how time and space can be transgressed in its pursuit and what people will do for its sake. Say whatever...mushy, cheesy...I still believe.
So here I am sharing this story to anyone who may come across this blog. This is a true-to-life love story of my aunt and uncle (her ex-BF really) that was written from the point of view of the man. Since I was young I always considered him as family and I admire how much this man would do for the sake of his lady love and family. How I wish there will be a happy conclusion to this love story!
(Note that he shared this to me quite some time ago. Names and some narrative were changed to protect the characters involved.)
As promised, I'm sending you a love story with a glimpse of high school days of not so long ago. I hope that this will help you understand that in life, there are things that are bound to happen even when we think they should not have. There are also bits and pieces of our childhood memories that keep on nagging like an unfinished business or a puzzle left unsolved in the past. In my case, I found the next chapter of the story after 36 long years. I'm sure there are lots of mysteries along the way, which are yet to be uncovered and retold. I am praying and hoping that the Lord did not start a beautiful love story without a happy ending. I hope you will enjoy reading and please do respond with your feedback.
Music Now and Then
The late 60's were the heyday of the Beatles, Bee Gees, Fifth Dimension, Everly Brothers, Cascades, etc. Unlike today, music then were like poems sung with pleasant melodies, about sad and happy love stories. Some were melancholic but most of which were at the tempo of jazz music to go with mash potato, "bay bay", watusi and such other modern beats that kept the hall shaking with expressive and intense body language. Sweet music had never been outdated or outmoded even those days because passionate touch at a close body contact was indeed a heavenly pleasure for us teen-agers. So, jam sessions were held with no lights at the dance hall. I can recall that in one of the parties, a classmate had to climb the electric post just to turn off the streetlight. For sure, there were naughty teen-agers who made advances in the dark with the willing consent of their partners. But generally, party dancing then was pure entertainment and clean fun. It never crossed our mind that dance as other people say, is a vertical expression of horizontal desire. In later years, the dance floor is equipped with blinking and intermittent blinding lights and blaring sound, which they call as discotheque or disco for short. Popular attire were Vonnel and Montagu shirts and SDK (samahang double knit) for men's pants. Signature brands were not as yet conceptualized. By that time, mop hair and bell-bottoms were slowly emerging as the fad in the early '70s.
On Christmas holidays and summer breaks, my peers were always looking forward to such gimmicks; however, inviting the ladies for such parties was not an easy task. It required a little skill on ethics and good manners. A host had to get the approval of virtually the entire clan of a lady who is to be invited that starts from her grandparents, parents and sometimes, uncles and aunts. And the lady should be escorted home up to 12 mid night without extension or she can never be invited ever again.
At the high school campus, we boys were always at the watchful eyes of unsmiling sisters. Boys' classrooms were separate from that of the girls but that did not prevent us from committing petty mischief like girl watching, rather, legs viewing under the stairs. Believe it or not, Christmas parties were not allowed inside the campus and the worst, junior-senior prom was not permitted though neighboring high schools held it regularly. We were so pathetic!
The Love of My Life
When I was in my senior high, I got promoted in the PMT (Preparatory Military Training) from company captain to adjutant. It wasn't clear to me about the basis of my promotion except that I had a hoarse voice that sounded like a horrifying thunderclap, which was necessary to intimidate and discipline the boys who were my juniors. One day, we officers were asked to form a line while beautiful ladies were summoned to group themselves. Little did I know that the sisters were pairing us with them as our military sponsors for the foundation day. Then lo and behold, the beautiful one descended from heaven! This gorgeous lady was the brightest of them all and she easily stood out in the crowd. I was then praying, "Lord siya sana ang maging sponsor ko, Lord please, parang regalo mo na sa akin, magpapakabait na po ako." So, my prayer was a combination of supplication and confession and it was effective. It did not take long before somebody dragged my arm from behind and the sweetest voice said, "O Jun, eto si Laura, siya ang maging sponsor mo." Then the sister made the widest smile I could not forget. It was sister Imaculada, the mother superior and the principal. I was the envy of the other officers so I stood taller than my height. Again, I didn't know the basis why I deserved my charming sponsor. Later I realized that sister Imaculada had a soft spot in her heart for me because I was a regular acolyte in church and she noticed that I could not take off my eyes from my beloved. It was a euphoria, which remained as the highlight of memories during my happy days in high school. If I was proud of her, my parents were much prouder. My Mom chose the most beautiful orchids in our garden and made an elaborate corsage for her while my Dad arranged for a photographer one month ahead of our foundation day. So I said, "Dad this is not my wedding yet!" He replied, "Gusto ko nang magka apo eh!" then we all laughed together. It was a joke and maybe, it was not because at that time, Dad was already 65 and Mom was 55.
Conservatively Scandalous & Love Letters
Taking a young lady to a movie or to a simple dinner date was enough to get her scandalized. Our place is a small town where everybody practically knows everybody. The town's conservative culture had its roots from people of Ilocos region, La Union and Pangasinan who migrated in the locality at the turn of the 19th century. It was a sleepy town with marginal business activity. No doubt, gossips especially on morals were the people's favorite pass time. To avoid the prying eyes and sinful tongues, writing love letters was fun and a safe mode of communication. I admit, it's where I learned essay writing and English became my favorite subject. Love letters were strictly done by handwriting with a fountain pen and not with a ball pen or that makes the letter informal or impolite. Scented stationeries were not yet available so, typewriting papers were applied with a little amount of Avon perfume. You just don't seal it in a letter envelope afterwards. The letter is yet to be folded in an elaborate fashion. There was a particular book on love letters being passed around and it was where I learned some big words. But my classmate copied a classic letter in verbatim and sent it to his prospect and her reply was, " Please turn the book on page 36 for my response."
The Hassles of Courtship
The only decent and permissible way of personal communication was for a boy to visit a girl in their home usually on weekends from 7pm to 9pm, not a minute longer or a member of the family sits behind the suitor and he or she keeps yawning with irritating sounds until the poor boy bids good night. The lady's grandma may get so mean. She would spread the mat in front of the young lovers and hangs the mosquito net. It is a brazen way of saying that the boy had to go and he may no longer welcome on the next visit.
I was fortunate that I was never a victim of such human indignities. I was brought up the old fashioned way and courtesy became easy for me and so was the girl I learned to love the very first time. I was never hassled whenever I paid visits. I was profusely polite with her family. On several occasions, I was even tempted to greet their dogs "good evening" just so I'll get everybody on my side.
Zeny, the Blinker
I was not offended that Zeny, the youngest in their family usually sits on the upper deck of the stairs. I felt all along that she was just waiting for candies or chocolates from me but not as a posted security guard assigned to look after unwholesome closeness just in case I and her sister got carried away with passionate emotions. Or maybe I thought she was just excited to watch a classic love story unfolds right before her very eyes. But Zeny also blinked especially when it is late in the evening so that despite her tight guarding, I managed to dip my sweet lips to her sister's cheeks once in a while. The timing of kissing and Zeny's blinking should be perfectly synchronized or her Papa and her uncles would give me a wild chase over my neck. Like most of us, I will never forget my first kiss with my first love. It made me feel as though I had a first glimpse of heaven. More kisses followed but not in their home for fear that I would be cornered when I get caught. Sometime later, we had a couple of late night escapades with my Dad's car, which I used to park at the ground of the Elementary School. It was a back seat romance just talking about sweet nothing or just watching the moon and the stars. You won't bite it? Ok, ok, it was passionate one or you may call it as torrid French kissing but that was all there was to it, nothing more! Remember, this was medieval times, ok?
My Love Being Left Behind
Time flies and it flew so fast and my high school graduation was fast approaching. I was one year ahead of her and it was just human to be confronted with apprehensions and anxieties about the beautiful chick I was leaving behind. I got worried that I could not visit her as often as I did once I get to college. She will be out of my reach and definitely out of my sight. What if she gets lonely and she meets somebody smarter than I was? What if she meets a fast working guy who feasts into her vulnerability, more so that she was so naïve and childish? What if she forgets me altogether? These were the questions that popped out of my mind, which drove me crazy. But the naked truth was, the lady was too beautiful for me and I was so insecure.
In high school, I had a very low self-esteem. I was an ordinary looking young man with average grades, and yes, with modest allowance. My self-confidence suffered even more when some teachers compared me with my brother Glenn who was two years younger than me. He was smarter, more talented and endowed with awesome leadership. At times I felt like he was everything I was not. But the damage had not gone far enough for I was always proud of my brother. We never had a sort of sibling rivalry prevalent to growing kids. Among us brothers, it was Glenn and me who easily understood each other despite his petty mischief. Maybe it was the reason why we developed a striking similarity as we grew older and practically shared a common taste on perfumes and clothing, Up to now, people at the hospital he works call me "senior", in short for Dr. Glenn Senior. I am proud of it.
The inevitable did happen. I got enrolled at the Saint Louis University in Baguio City. Except for semestral breaks, I was only allowed to go home every month so, letters were the only means to get in touch with her. Waiting for monthly vacations seemed like forever but there was nothing I could do about it. Her letters also showed that she was also missing me. Whew, what a relief! A year after, she enrolled with the University of Baguio and she stayed at a nearby dormitory. I was always proud to be with her especially walking along the Session Road for all eyes were on us, or rather, on her. On several occasions, we dined out and watched movie in the city, far from the scandalous vultures in our town. What I enjoyed most was coming home and going back to the city by bus with her. I often wished that we get stranded along the way but it never happened, not even once.
Pride to Jealousy
She had a lot of admirers and was swarmed with suitors. I felt as though she had more time flirting with other men than me and so, pride turned into jealousy. Petty quarrels ensued but we managed to patch up everything. But bad things turned into worse for she seemed to be really enjoying being adored by more suitors and obviously, she loved being the envy of the other ladies in the dormitory. She either did not have the heart to say, "I'm already committed" or she refused to say it coz he enjoyed being pursued by men. Oh, how the devil loved looking at me being pissed off. Whenever I talk to her about the problem, she always had an alibi and when she cried, I melted like a cheap wax. That was during my 2nd year in college and in her first year.
Glenn, the Juntor
By this time, Glenn was preparing for his entrance exams at UST. His first ambition was to become a priest but Dad, a rabid Protestant strongly objected and in effect he said, "You may choose any course you want, but never a priesthood." When Glenn chose medicine, Dad was dumbfounded coz family finance were not enough to send him to medical school; furthermore, there were two younger siblings who would soon be in college. But since Dad could not talk about the bargain, Mom asked Glenn to just choose a shorter and less expensive course but Glenn was bullish and unrelenting. He even presented a challenge that if he failed in any of his subjects in pre-med, he was willing to shift to a less expensive course. We took the bait but as always, Glenn won.
Finance and budgeting were Mom's area of specialty. She was the eldest among the brood of seven and she managed to send most of them to college with her humble teaching profession and that is why she got married at the late age of 35. Dad was just a low pay US Veteran. Being the eldest and in my desire to help in the family budget, I volunteered to transfer from a dormitory to a 3rd rate boarding house as a bed spacer. Later on as I sensed that my Mom was still in trouble, I got myself employed with SLU's Registrar's Office as a part time employee while I attended night classes. That way, Mom would only pay for my tuition fee. Oh boy, Mom was so proud of me!
Glenn made excellent grades in his first year despite his meager allowance so I made a solemn promise that I won't marry till he got his medical license. I made good of that pledge but that would hound me for the rest of my life. My aunts would usually chip in during Glenn's enrolment and an uncle offered him to stay with them so he would save on dormitory and food expenses.
After getting committed with Glenn, I talked it out with my girl especially on the long wait but she neither signified her approval nor disapproval. But I never assumed that silence means yes so I gave her enough time to sort things out. At about this time, I felt like I was losing my grip on her since she was flying high with her admirers.
It was a semestral break and my girl was chosen as one of the beauty contest candidates for the town fiesta. It was the first time that sponsors searched for real beauties for unlike before, it was a popularity contest. Of course I was proud of her, but on the second thought her exposure would mean further invitation to more admirers. She won as the second runner-up from among several candidates but for me, she deserved to be the town's queen.
My trouble did not stop after the fiesta. She was enticed to join the Miss Lakambini in Manila and she was promised with possible product endorsements if she gets discovered. She was young, fresh, ambitious but inexperienced. She was good- natured but easily swayed. I told her, "When you get to Manila and you meet several smart guys, you will forget me." I was prophetic for she married somebody else just as I thought. But her marriage will come later.
On her birthday, after the town fiesta, I brought along with me a board mate because I was so proud to introduce my girl. I knocked at their dormitory, somebody opened it but good heavens, a couple of other ladies and I presumed her admirer who was holding her hands had a little too much of wine. They looked haggard and she almost could not stand up to meet me. I felt as though I was stabbed at my back and couldn't breathe. There was no physical harassment but the embarrassment was too much for me to bear. My heart was about to explode in rage. I wanted to bite off the man's head but I was able to compose myself. She tried to talk to me but I didn't say a word. I just stared at her with a dagger look and turned my back towards the door. My companion likewise maintained his silence till we arrived at our boarding house and he was trying to console me. She never heard a word from me ever again. As far as I was concerned, I was done with her. There was no need for explanation because you don't have to light a candle in a broad daylight. What I witnessed was obvious enough. I'm sure there was an opportunity to mend things and pick up the pieces as we always did but I thought it better to grieve now than to bleed later. That sad incident had a profound effect in my life. It gave me a positive rather than a destructive outlook in the future. From then on, I worked and studied harder with just one goal – to strive harder so I can prove that I am a better person and a better husband than any of her suitors.
The Healing Process
It's true, time heals but there was no easy and quick fix. In the first few days after the incident, I couldn't do anything right. I was devastated; I got so messy and uneasy. I had to cry it out and it was a relief. I got worse for the next few days and weeks that followed but my determination had slowly put me back on track and in one piece. I was overdoing things like studying all night, always cleaning my room and I became a compulsive worker in the office. I thought I found an effective way of getting over with a recent nightmare. I was making a gradual progress and I got a better focus on my goal. I was always at the school library either doing my assignment or just reading books. Reading is a solitary pass time and it soon became one of my passions. I think, it was the cheapest form of entertainment and the easiest way to forget unpleasant memories and it worked. There is no doubt that the sad incident left me with deep wounds and excruciating pain for I never had a serious relationship in the next six years.
Finally, Graduation Day
College graduation finally came and I was so happy. Sad memories came like a broken record but my wounded feelings had grown callous. I think the healing was complete for by this time I can just look back and laugh how childish and sentimental I really was. And so, bitter memories turned sweeter for I still longed for her. I wanted to share with her my diploma, a symbol of my personal struggle and sacrifices. I was so proud for I finally made it against all odds.
To Catch or Not to Catch?
One day, her cousin and our mutual friend came and told me that she was looking for me and wanted to know how I was doing. I knew that reconciliation was in her mind and I was tempted to start with her all over again. I knew early on that the only way to catch and snatch her from the claws of other men was to marry her. And when I wanted to get involved with her the second time around, I would pursue her up to the last lap. There was no doubt that I was falling for her again and this time my feeling is more intense than before. But something came in the way – my commitment to Glenn to help him get through college. It's a dilemma getting more complicated. It's not as simple as choosing one from the other and the pressure was so overpowering. I matured much ahead of my age because I have shouldered responsibilities at a tender age. I did not regret the hardships for it molded me into a better person and helped me get through big decisions. But this was a tough one!
At this time, I was busy looking for a job in Manila and settling down was too far ahead even to think about it. To start a family, I wanted to have at least, a modest savings, adequate life insurance for security, sufficient income to pay for house rent, daily subsistence and basic household conveniences. Those are basic needs and I was not trying to be ambitious. But Glenn's needs was my first priority so there was no way I could squeeze in my love life in the meantime. I did not attempt to reconcile much less, visit her despite my intense cravings. I did not want to drag her into waiting for eight more yeas so I had to suppress my feelings no matter how it hurts.
Dead End Ahead!
Two months passed and I was told that a suitor from Manila with flashy cars frequents their home. I surely felt jealous because my Dad's old car was no match to the enemy. Not long after, I heard she was married. It really broke my heart and the dam had to give way. Yes, I cried and bled maybe, more than the first incidence but what could I do when I had nothing to blame but myself? There were times when I hated myself for I knew that a failure is the person, not the incident.
My First Job
About a month after my second nightmare, I received a notice informing me that I passed the PNB exams and requested that I report at the head office immediately. The euphoria was overwhelming that I almost forgot that I was nursing heartache.
In the early 70's PNB was the country's premier and most reputable bank. Its head office was an imposing modern structure in Escolta, a high-end commercial district. Makati and Ortigas Center were not heard of by this time. I was so fascinated upon entering thru the huge door of the bank. Marble floors were mirror finished and the high ceiling with chandeliers complete the ambience of a five-star hotel. Older men were either in crisp barong or in dark suits while the younger sets were dressed in white long sleeves with matching neckties. On the other hand, the women seemed to be in party dress and some were in long blazers who walked and moved like commercial models. The room was filled with blooming orchids and exotic indoor plants. You can smell the cool air in the lobby from a centralized aircon with the scent of fresh flowers and air freshener. I entered the bank at 8am before it opened for the day's business. I showed the bank's notice to the guard and he let me in. I was in a rugged attire and felt that I was out of place. I asked the guard whose throwing the party? He answered with sarcastic smile, ”There’s no party. It's an ordinary business day and the people you see are in their proper attire and uniform." I have never been so embarrassed in my whole life. Nakakahiya!
I was assigned in a department at the 6th floor of the 12-storey building. I was introduced to young men and women mostly of my age and they were so warm in welcoming me. I learned that most of them were graduates of UP, Ateneo, La Salle and other exclusive schools. One smart guy asked what university I graduated from. When I said from SLU, he laughed and asked, "Where is that?" but he would soon be my close friend. I did not have a hard time adjusting to my new job and so with people I worked with. They were all professionals, highly motivated, considerate and unselfish.
Fantasizing in the Work Place
Again, I thought of my beloved to whom I could have shared my excitement over my first job and my first salary. I could have been proud to introduce her to my office mates as a beauty queen and my childhood sweetheart. How I dreamed of walking with her along Escolta and people would shout, "Ang swerte mo pare, paano mo nagayuma 'yan?" But it's time to work and work harder because Glenn is on his way to my office to get his allowance. And that was routine. On paydays, Glenn with four or five of his classmates take lunch at the Bank's canteen under my name and he gets his allowance from me. I knew that he was proud to introduce me to his classmates in my office at PNB Escolta. I was also proud to introduce him to my officemates as my brother, a medical student of UST. He used to come to the office in immaculate white uniform with stethoscope dangling in his shallow pocket. He really had the striking personality of a high profile and a hot- shot doctor even in his college days.
A year has passed and I was always excited working and learning things in the office. I really felt that I was working with the big league so I did everything I could in the best way possible hoping to climb the ladder of success sooner than I expected. I was so engrossed with my job that love life for me then was just a sentimental thing of the past. And who cares? I was young, full of energy, ambitious, oozing with self-confidence so, love can always wait. But despite my deliberate attempt to forget sad memories, I often dreamed of my high school days like looking at myself writing love letters or asking her parents that I will take her to a jam session.
Dream and More Dreams!
One dream I can't forget was so vivid. We were on the beach in one late afternoon. She was sitting on my lap while my arms were wrapped around her waist. The sun sets behind the silhouette of rocky mountains while the calm waters turned into crimson red as reflected by the sky. It was like a postcard of perfect scenery frozen in time. The ocean so colorful as it was had tempted her to take a dip near the shore. I followed her but she went farther and deeper. Not long after, she was yelling for help but as I struggled to rescue my love one, my feet got heavier and got stuck in the quick sand. Out of the blue, a huge creature with pair of horns appeared and he snatched her out of the water, but the more she was shouting and gulping for breath. I couldn't do anything except to cry and holler but nobody was around to lend a hand. I was shaking and perspiring. It took some few minutes before I got back to my senses.
Luck Still Slipping Away!
One afternoon some few days after the nightmare, I came out of the Bank's main door then suddenly, I was shocked to see my love one tagging along a little girl. I thought I was dreaming till our eyes met. It was one in a million chance that I will see her after nearly five years since we last met. She just passed by with a cute little smile. I was about to go after her but something was holding me. I felt as though I was frozen till somebody, my boss from behind, hanged his arm around my shoulder and led me to a nearby coffee shop and suddenly, I forgot what I saw.
Was it pride? Definitely not, for despite what happened in the past, I missed her and the truth was, I still loved her. Until now I could not explain why I acted like an insensitive brute. Such rare incident never happened again even for the second time. Nearly thirty years after, I came to know what really happened on that fateful day. I learned that she was at the Bank's main door for few hours with a little girl who was the niece of her husband. She was hoping that by a stroke of luck she would see me going out of that door. She did not realize that there were about 1,000 personnel in the building. Her purpose was to know for herself how I was doing. But the real thing was for her to unload some familial problems concerning her one-year-old marriage. I was single, uncommitted and still madly in love with her. I am sure that if only we had the chance to talk, events could have resulted in another way. If we only had the chance to talk, I would have snatched her too like the huge creature; but not to harm her but to save her from a lot of miseries and heartaches. I could have cared less who would cry or who would have harmed me in the process.
SETTLED FOR GOOD
Wounds developed into scars. I finally accepted that fate prevailed over my plans and desires. Five years later, I found a girl who loved and marry me. Two decades later, I found the missing chapter of my childhood memories and love life.
The End, At Last!
I hope that in the future, I will be able to write the concluding episode of my love story. I don't however guarantee a happy ending because life is full of mysteries and surprises!
They are in their fifties now and still somewhat hopeful for a happy ending to their story. --Maricar