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Sunday Lifestyle

When Rizal women lunch

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez Ventura - The Philippine Star
When Rizal women lunch
Cecile Navarro, Bee Tan, Mandy Torres, Esther Azurin, author Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura and Marlene Jacinto
STAR/ File

Thank you everyone who tried to keep me from losing my mind. So far I am still sane. Hope to stay sane somehow for the rest of my life.

 Last Wednesday, a cousin called, asked if I was free for lunch. Of course, I was. These days I only go out on Sundays to go to the supermarket and drugstore. Would I like to join her, her sister, a few other cousins for lunch? I dropped everything, put on makeup and waited for her husband to come pick me up.

 Mandy Consunji, married to Ruben Torres, is a third cousin of mine. She is a descendant of Narcisa, one of the sisters of Jose Rizal. I am a descendant of Maria, another Rizal sister. We have known each other all our lives but did not see much of each other during the years we were busy getting married, having and raising children and finally growing old. Almost four years ago we ran into each other at the chapel in Wack-Wack, which I discovered a bit late, but where I liked to go to Mass. They also went to Mass there. I guess you can say church brought us together.

 There I introduced them to Loy. We developed this ritual of seeing each other at Mass then going out to lunch. We became close friends. They even offered Loy and me their house when we were planning our wedding. They have a beautiful garden and we accepted. We got married there, continued our Sunday lunches until COVID hit, and then we were all under quarantine. That was two years ago. We hadn’t seen each other since then.

 Since Ruben picked me up I was the first one there. I saw Mandy with her new haircut, her hair almost all white except for the back where black hair was growing and when she made me check out her roots, I saw black hair growing, too. “Maybe your hair is turning black,” I said, and we both giggled. 

“I color my hair myself,” I said. “Look for the spots that are blue, that’s my hair turning white.” I feel it turning white with the complications in my life now.

 Mandy has a daughter, Rona, who is an architect. She has built a small swimming pool in their large garden. There in the pool Mandy goes for early morning walks to strengthen her legs. She has a difficult time walking, uses two canes. She also has trouble eating because of some nerve problems but she doesn’t allow these minor inconveniences to get in the way of her enjoyment of life. I must learn from her.

 We sit with Cecile, her younger sister, sampling delicious hummus, made by Cecile’s son. Soon the rest arrive. Bee and Ric Tan, also Narcisa descendants. Marlene Jacinto and Esther Azurin, Paciano descendants.  They are all close relatives because Paciano’s only daughter, Millie, married the son of Narcisa. I am the only descendant of Maria, but that’s because we’ve all become intimate friends and I live only five minutes away.

 All seven of us are Rizal women who occasionally sit down for lunch — spaghetti with an interesting sauce that reminds me of puttanesca, fish baked with onions and capers, a roast chicken and Ceasar’s salad. Is this a typical Rizal menu? It is what the menu has become among us who have inadvertently carried on Rizal’s European taste.

 We are as fun and silly as all modern women are. We gossiped. “Did you hear about...?” “No, that’s not the way it happened. He was actually... and she was…” “But wasn’t she involved with... but he didn’t leave his wife...” “But it happened because she always asked her husband to take her home after they finished their game...” 

This made me tell Ruben, who had picked me up, “Better not take me home. I don’t want them gossiping about us.”

Fortunately for me lunch is my one big meal of the day. It was so good to eat food cooked by other people. And the dessert! Key lime pie made by the daughter of my old (that’s literally and figuratively) doctor, Clipper Lorenzo, whose son Gary I used to feed when I lived in the United States with my daughter Panjee. Gary, while he was in medical school, was part of Panjee’s coterie of friends that included Bobby and Mitch. Gary also became my friend before I got married. I wonder how they all are now?

This is what it feels like to get old. You have memories, true, but you are still silly, though your children don’t believe so. You still enjoy each other’s company and you can embroider relationships like lace and not take them very seriously. That’s life, you say, and we still all very much enjoy it.

 Merry Christmas to all! Have a wonderful time!

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