Sunday Lifestyle

History is delicious

SECOND WIND - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star
History is delicious

Eulalio “Loy” Ventura and soon-to-be-wife STAR columnist Barbara Gonzalez

Where do I begin to tell the story of how great a love can be? Where do I start?” Opening lines from the song of the movie Love Story. One day, approximately two years ago, I remembered watching Carmen Soriano who was all of 18 years old performing as a torch singer.  I, around 11 years old then, thought — I want to be like her when I grow up. But time sometimes sweeps childhood dreams under the rug where they gather balls of dust until one day you decide to sweep under and your old dream rolls out.

So at age 72, I decided to pursue my old dream and took singing lessons to turn me into a torch singer. A few months later, I went with friends to a birthday party in Pampanga and during a lull on the way home, I told Philip Suzara, “Guess what? I’m taking singing lessons.”

 “Oh,” he said, I know a lawyer who lives in a condo near you. He hosts a small group who simply love to sing.” That ended that conversation. But after a while Philip rang and said, “Let’s sing at the lawyer’s condo. I’ll pick you up.”

 I really did not feel like going but appreciated Philip’s effort and said yes. That night sometime in late July 2016, I met Eulalio “Loy” Ventura, a semi-retired lawyer who likes to sing. His condo was crowded, so many people there, but I am shy at the start of anything. Towards the end of the evening Loy invited me to sing but I did not want to. So I said, “No, thanks. Why don’t we just dance? ” And we danced for about 10 seconds, smiled and nothing happened. No feelings were sparked. Not even a bit of interest.

A couple of weeks later, one of the girls called and invited me over again. I went until I began to be a regular. We would meet to sing at what they called Club Lee. I admired Loy for his singing. He had a wonderful voice and he would tell about how he once fancied himself losing 20 pounds, dyeing his hair and turning himself into a crooner.

Soon it was Halloween and we wanted to have a Halloween party. I suggested we have it at my home for a change. Loy showed up with his five women, most of whom were very much in love with him. I wasn’t one of them but I decided to call them Loy’s Harem and wrote about them.

Little by little friendship began to grow among the group. Then in February I got the idea to put up a senior’s singing place at Punta Bar. “Okay,” Loy said, “but you be the producer, director, you do everything.” Drawing on my 33 years of past experience in advertising, I did. I even financed the show. In retrospect it was minimally successful. At the opening, our biggest night, we had 48 people. Once we only had seven people. However, we had begun to perform together. My voice seemed to have improved. Loy began to take us shopping for clothes and going to Mass afterwards. I, who had stopped going to Mass many years before (I think as part of my rebellion), discovered I enjoyed going to Mass with Loy and receiving a kiss on my cheek at the Blessing. I began to like Loy a little more each time. Then suddenly a tragedy occurred. He had to be rushed to the hospital because he had fallen in his bathroom and hurt himself.

I visited him at the hospital only once with one of our friends. There I found him surrounded once again with all his fans who sat around and watched television with him and then drew him out to have merienda at the restaurant and had him pay for it. Something about that activity did not sit well with me. I couldn’t put my finger on it so I just stayed away until finally one of his daughters called and told me that he had a small stroke and that his children decided to pull him out of the Punta show. So I decided the next show would be the last one and that was carried out by only three of his five women that by this time included me.

After that, things headed downhill. I was no longer a vital part of the group, I noticed. Once Loy called me to his flat and I read to him from my book We’re History! He muttered, “I hate literature.” That hurt me because some form of literature is what I create in these columns. Also I found out that some of the women who were desperately in love with him were badmouthing me. That made me decide to walk away from this atrocious (my honest opinion) group. I never showed up again for any of their events. No one ever called to invite me either.

I threw myself into activities at The Sunshine Place. I wrote a book for them. I exercised a lot. I was talked into having a solo show at The Happy Garden Café, which turned out to be more successful than the one in Punta Bar but I still didn’t have a singing partner. I could not find one as good as Loy but was too proud to call him. He didn’t seem to be interested in me anyway.

The strange thing is, I decided to keep going to Mass alone every Sunday. Then suddenly at the beginning of September as I opened the door to the church, Loy was opening the door at the opposite side. We smiled broadly at each other. I surprised myself by gesturing that he come sit with me and he very happily did.

“I didn’t expect to see you at Mass,” he said, “you have kept going?”

“Yes,” I said, “thanks to you I discovered I enjoyed it. How did you get here?”

“I drove,” he said.

“Your children don’t want you to drive,” I said. “Next time call me and I will pick you up. You’re on my way. I can pick you up and bring you home, no problem.” But when I saw my car drive up to pick me up I ran outside to ride it. I was filled with fear so I escaped fast. I did not understand why. Maybe it was an inkling, a premonition, an anxiety over things to come.

The next Saturday he sent me a text asking me if I would pick him up for Mass and invited me to lunch afterwards. This time I said yes. Soon it became a pattern. I would pick him up for Mass then we would have lunch. We would talk and laugh together. We had a lot of fun. He agreed to become first a guest singer then a regular singer on my show. We enjoyed each other’s company immensely through our rehearsals. I even persuaded him to join a choral group at Sunshine Place. In the middle of all that he invited me to the grand opening of one of his businesses, Cruven, in Silang, Cavite. We spent the weekend in Tagaytay together as friends, sleeping in separate rooms. But we were growing to be closer friends.

Sometimes you know that God means for you to be together. I had stopped going to Club Lee because two of the ladies there grossly misunderstood me and made me realize I didn’t like them. One of them is particularly sneaky and manipulative, always speaking half-lies and twisting the truth. Loy had invited me to return to the group but I refused. If they don’t like me, I don’t like them either. I’m not going back as long as the one I don’t trust is there.

One Wednesday night at Club Lee, she accused Loy of always screaming at her and picking on her and told him he was also disliked by two other women in the group. She wasn’t going to tell him why. She said to ask them. So he did and was extremely upset over the hostile albeit false responses. So he said, “You can continue having Club Lee in my home but I will not be there because you make me uncomfortable. Their own actions put an end to their being at his place.” That led to his desire to put up another group of people who might want to come together and sing with him once a week.

Loy absolutely loves to sing. He loves the stories behind songs. He enjoys immensely discovering the songs’ hidden meanings. Everyone who comes to his home, he encourages to sing. Singing to him is an expression from his soul. Once the old Club Lee ended, he asked me to help him put together a new one. We successfully did when Rudy Romero, once my neighbor when we were both newly married; Ruben and Mandy Torres, my cousins on the Rizal side; Gigi Travers, an old friend of mine from Maryknoll College and Chet and Lorna Gonzalez got together to sing.

That night, Rudy told the story that when we were neighbors he would shave every morning at their window that looked across at our apartment where, after saying goodbye to my husband, I would garden in short shorts and bare feet. He said I had beautiful legs. That statement aroused Loy’s curiosity.

The following Wednesday we sang together again and talked about our marriages and why they broke up. I wrote about that. In that piece I disguised Loy as Oscar. For the first time I said he was the most honorable man I had ever met. Mainly because of that I began to fall in love with him.

But Loy had not been feeling physically well for a long time. He had been to doctors, had had executive check-ups that always gave him a clean bill of health. Nevertheless he felt cold around his back and would neither feel good nor bad most times. He developed his own analysis of his situation. He thought he was lonely and bored. He felt he needed a companion. There were tons of candidates because — let me tell you — Loy is very handsome. But to him no one really made the grade. He couldn’t talk intelligently to them. He didn’t like their pets or where they lived. Most of all he hadn’t met anyone he felt he could be intimate with.

He felt he could talk very well with me but what about the other things? We were very good friends but could he handle what he calls complications and take the leap?

On Monday, Dec. 4, I went to visit him because he wasn’t feeling well again. That day used to be the feast day of St. Barbara, once rumored to be the patron saint of people who handled explosives, once celebrated by my mother by buying a little gift for me. He asked me if he might invite me to his room. I gave him an inquisitive look. He said out loud so his household help would hear, “I want to show you my books.” So I went with him like a good girl and there he hugged me very tightly then, looking at me with big eyes, he said, “Omigod, I feel I can be very close to you. Do you think we can. . .?”

“Do you have a robe?” I asked.

“I love you,” he said. “Will you marry me?”

And I, the woman who has been saying she will never marry again for a million years, simply said, “Yes.”

That was God’s gift to me on my feastday.

The rest — as they say — is history. And you know what?

History is surprisingly delicious.



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