In this Sept. 6, 2016 photo, police inspect one of two unidentified drug suspects after being shot by police as they tried to evade a checkpoint in Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines. Bodies had begun turning up in cities all over the Philippines ever since President Rodrigo Duterte launched a controversial war on drugs this year. Drug dealers and drug addicts, were being shot by police or slain by unidentified gunmen in mysterious, gangland-style murders that were taking place at night. AP/Aaron Favila, File

A toast to undying love
PURPLE SHADES - Letty Jacinto-Lopez (The Philippine Star) - July 24, 2017 - 4:00pm

Number 45 sparkled like pink champagne.  This was a celebration, the kind where everyone was snug in his feeling that it was the right, most beautiful occasion to raise a toast to.  The couple, Manny and Ann, had never once separated, not even in a random, frivolous thought and always made decisions using words both right and gentle.

Ann and I had a shared past.  We were fumbling, inexperienced moms to precocious offspring, Sobee, her daughter, and Jebo, my son.  “Do you remember when you fetched Jebo in kindergarten in your Volkswagen Beetle?  I envied you because you could drive.  You wasted no time in sending over your instructor.  Soon, I was fetching Sobee, oftentimes late, but that just gave the kids more time to soak in the sun in the school grounds.  Such fun and such freedom!” 

We giggled like we were back in the waiting shed while her children took charge of the scrumptious Chinese lauriat and the entertainment.  There was a string ensemble playing music to dine to, including concert pieces that we knew by heart.  Ann’s bunso, Martin, took charge of the power point presentation with background music provided by Elvis Presley and the Beatles, all carefully chosen to exult the love and romance of his doting parents.     

Manny took the mic and began, “When the kids asked me to speak tonight, my initial reaction was a big, resounding ‘Why?’”  Looking back on those struggling but hopeful years, Manny soon realized that he and Ann had woven a rich tapestry of challenges, losses, triumphs, and treasures.  Together.

Every experience brought personalities into the picture who influenced, inspired, and spurred them to choose from the heart without dismissing good sense and propriety.  They were Manny’s and Ann’s network of contacts, which covered his first job at Procter & Gamble, Ann’s dormitory days at St. Rita’s Nursing School, and further on.  Each person was the exceptional Why.  There were their first neighbor, a steady client, a cousin, a co-parent, playmates of Sobee, Manito and Martin, foreign partners, in-laws, spiritual advisers, not to forget household staff who stayed loyal and faithful to the family.  Manny pushed down a catch in his throat and confessed, “Ann answered my Why’s.  She handled them with warmth and tenderness and always with God as her Guide, her Source of strength.  These living and breathing Why’s built up all the gifts and blessings that we have been sharing for the past 45 years.  Thank God for our Why’s.”

Manny and Ann, may we be so blessed as to count and be thankful for the many Why’s in our lives as you have.

* * *

Number 50 glowed like treasured nuggets.  “Chito and I will celebrate our golden anniversary and I want you with us,” Bettina declared.  I laughed.  “Of course, Bettina!  How can I forget?  Back in college, when we were made to sit alphabetically for spot recitations and dissertations, we steeled ourselves when the roll call reached H - I - J - and K. (“Huang, Ibazeta, Jacinto, and Kahn, you’re next!”)  Our combined courage pushed us to surprise our professors, even ourselves!” 

I thought Betina was the bravest in our class to have taken the plunge shortly after we earned our college degree.  Even then, she knew that her career (Bettina is an excellent chef and baker) had to take a back seat to a budding, promising life with Chito, her one true love.   

    At the reception, a friend exclaimed, “Whoa! The entire barangay is here!” There were no empty tables, just an expansive sea of smiles echoing the bonhomie so palpable that night.  I caught former classmates Isabel and Chari, Bettina’s original bridesmaids, who whispered to me, “We will dance.”  They cleared the floor to a medley of the mambo, foxtrot, tango, and fiery Latin numbers so reminiscent of the big band and jam sessions era.  At the catchy beat of El Bodeguero, I was ready to grab my partner and dance the cha-cha-cha, too.

Bettina wore a gown with lace appliqués that brought Billy Holiday’s song to mind, “(she was) like a sip of sparkling burgundy brew.”  She looked smashing with absolutely no wrinkles, not even from smiling, while Chito was still the chevalier who lovingly entrapped her heart.  The wedding souvenirs were candied almonds — Confetti d’amore — flown from Italy.  For their Cinquanta Anni di Felicita, why wouldn’t any heart sing when this obviously still-in-love-with-each-other couple quoted Robert Browning, “Grow old with me.  The best is yet to be.”

Now, that is a toast to undying love.

* * *

Number 46 hasn’t happened yet, but if numbers 45 and 50 are precursors to more captivating times, number 46 will warble like a poem of Hafez, a Persian poet, “Last night, from the cypress branch, a nightingale sang.”  We will dance a mean boogie, even a sensuous rumba, and belt our lungs out to love’s sweet refrain.  Hold that toast.  Abangan.

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