The dead frog, the father of the groom, and other old world practices
PURPLE SHADES - Letty Jacinto-Lopez (The Philippine Star) - February 7, 2017 - 12:00am

No kidding?”  I giggled.  How could I have forgotten the crude method called the frog test?  Submit an early morning urine specimen to a laboratory where the liquid is injected into a frog.  A chemical reaction occurs inside the frog that makes the frog pregnant, and dead.  With frog pregnant, you are, too.  “There’s a bun (baby) in the oven (womb)”.  This was foolproof in the 1960s.  It was Star Wars’ galaxy-distant away from today’s over-the-counter pregnancy kit no bigger than a spearmint gum.  If you see two lines in the tiny window, you’re positive-ly expecting a visit from the stork.  If you wait a few months more, an ultrasound monitor will give you the vital signs to end the color dispute — pink or blue? 

What else is considered fossilized?

• Courtship.  The art of pursuing a girl followed a strict protocol.  The boy must get the phone number of the girl.  If she likes you, she’d give it to you; if contrary, she’d toss her pretty head away.  The boy calls in advance so that the girl can ask permission from her parents.  If they agree, a day and time are set for his visit.  He shows up dressed casually but still in his spanking best, bringing flowers, candies, stuffed toy, and a friend to boost his courage.  The boy lingers for a few hours, making small talk with the girl’s parents, and always at his best behavior.  The wooing is maintained through months, even years, the better to know each other (don’t forget the love letters), before the girl is won over.  Depending on non-negotiable priorities like earning a college degree, the couple waits until the signs are rosy and auspicious to take the plunge.   

“Not anymore,” said my bemused grandniece.  “We simply exchange text messages and meet for a meal, a movie date or bar hopping.  And then, we allow things to follow a common, chosen path. Parental guidance takes a back seat since the couple is of age to make willful decisions,” she surmised.

That therefore eliminates another moth-eaten practice — eloping, and the heart-stopping, galvanic excitement that defined it.

She was just 16.  Like the Everly Brothers’ ditty, Wake up Little Susie, her steady date’s borrowed jalopy broke down.  Biting her knuckles and scared-to-death to go home — our goose is cooked — her steady date suggested, “Let’s elope!”  They boarded a bus to a mountain resort and paid for a room with his emergency cash. Terrified at the thought of fuming parents, both fell asleep with their shoes on.  The following day, parents and siblings were waiting at the hotel lobby discussing the Guest List.

“Hah!” my grandniece snickered.  “Any couple can travel together even if marriage is not on the agenda.”  “In short, they are a couple and yet not a couple, right?” I asked.  “Uh-huh.” she confirmed.  “It’s a practical way to size up each other, warts and all.” 

What about cutting the apron strings, ergo emancipation?  I remember when my parents lifted curfew and as a single adult, I was allowed to go out with officemates for nighttime entertainment.  There was a row of restaurants, casinos, discotheques, and nightclubs along Dewey Boulevard called the Strip, notable for fine dining and entertainment plus a glimpse into the nightlife of Manila.  The Bayside, the Riviera, the Nile, and Jai Alai’s Keg Room dominated this vibrant scene.

At Bayside, I found the pitch-black interior quite menacing.  “How can anyone see, much less dance in the dark?” I whispered.  There was a 15-piece ensemble, which played non-stop music complete with music sheets.  The cheerful strain glued us to the glassy floor, dancing to every beat and tempo.  Think Latin orchestras of Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente, and local bands like Carding Cruz and their jazz, swing, and big band music.

In another hushed section of the club, any lonely man with deep pockets can pay for a lady companion to stay with him all night so long as he kept the bar bustling with his drinks.  It wasn’t easy to be a dance hostess.  The nightclub milieu was a far cry from the chaperoned jam session and barn dance environment of long ago.  Intriguing, too.

Wedding Customs.  Breakfast used to be the most popular time of day to marry because the old folks believed that the sun should never set on one’s wedding.  Dispense the dark to ensure a good beginning.

  I rose at 3 a.m. on my wedding day.  Neither the rooster nor the pigeon was up from its cozy coop.  Beauty consultants came early to give me that “blushing bride” look, removing any trace of sleep deprivation.

“Now, it’s dusk,” my grandniece concluded.   It is the preferred time to dress to the nines, whether in formal barong, tux and flowing gowns wearing baubles to rival the stars.  Contrary to what old folks believed, the setting sun symbolizes the beauty and mystery of life itself.  Isn’t that romantic enough?

It was also customary for the groom’s father to foot the bill.  Fathers with daughters, rather than sons, to marry off were in blooming luck.     

From the simple merienda fare during the pre-war era, to the breakfast reception of baby boomers, a new service has spawned called event planning, where a party of female consultants assured the success of your celebration but would cost (you) the earth. 

Who is left holding the bill?  It is more common for the marrying couple and both families to contribute.  Finally, the father of the groom, the one who has remained cool, collected, and inaudible, can breathe easy.

This is our shared past.  The old memories still tug at the heartstrings playing songs of love and recall.


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