A Love(ly) Story

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez -

‘Nothing as much flatters a man as the happiness of his wife.’

- Samuel Johnson

Actions speak louder than words, but what a gift words are to those in love, for each word is like a petal that when gathered together transforms into a beautiful bloom.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Bert Romulo’s ode to his wife Lovely during their 46th wedding anniversary last week, was all abloom with expressions of love, you could imagine them being teased, a la John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo in the pizza commercial. Each of Bert’s words, delivered before hundreds at the Manila Polo Club, was like a shower of rose petals over Lovely.

Bert and Lovely were married 46 years ago at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, and the still lovestruck swain can’t wait for their 50th anniversary to proclaim his appreciation for his wife. He does walked her down the aisle again at the Santuario de San Antonio Church in Forbes Park.

Mons Romulo-Tantoco, the couple’s third child, says her mom was the enabler in her dad’s life, sometimes taking on the role of father, mother and breadwinner so that her dad could concentrate on his career.

That is perhaps why Bert Romulo has such an untarnished reputation as a public servant –– he never felt he had to earn more than his public servant’s salary in order to give his family a good life.

Mons says that after her dad’s term at the Senate ended in 1998, he bought himself a car and proudly showed it off to Mons and her husband Sander –– it was a second hand Toyota Crown that he bought for P140,000. Lovely occasionally uses that Toyota to this day.

Mons says that during official trips abroad as foreign affairs secretary and Lovely cannot accompany Bert, the latter would not even think of bringing along any of his children to take her place. “Only the spouse is allowed,” he would insist.

Before I share with you further what an exceptional man and public official Bert Romulo is, let me share with you his other asset: He is a virtuoso with words, especially when he is crafting them for the woman he calls his “inspiration, weathervane, consigliere and partner...”

It took Bert Romulo two nights to compose in longhand this bouquet of words for his wife, entitled “Two Roads in the Woods.” It left virtually all women in the room envious, and most men, insecure (a lot were seeking a copy of the tribute to rephrase during their own wedding anniversaries). Excerpts:

Seems like only yesterday when we were in Madrid, when we were young.

To quote Winston Churchill, “Glorious in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven”.

Yes we were then all young and gay and without a care in the world.

We laughed and sang and danced Spanish and Filipino songs in the Colegio Mayor de Guadalupe and along the bars and cafés of Gran Via and Calle Princesa.

And, it was in Madrid –– at the Colegio Mayor de Guadalupe in Ciudad Universitaria –– where I first saw and met a radiant and ravishing beauty.

I was smitten –– absolutely and totally. From the beginning it was love at first sight. It can truly be said that I have not set eyes on another woman since.

Through all the years –– 46 good years –– Lovely has been my inspiration, my weathervane, my consigliere and my partner.

Come to think of it, I still do not know why she took the gamble and said yes, I do in those long ago, balmy, carefree and magical years of Madrid.

To start with, I was a provinciano from a small town in Central Luzon called Camiling –– you know the saying, “you can take the boy out of the country but not the country out of the boy”.

I was not tall, dark and handsome.

Neither did I own or drive flashy cars, let alone any car.

On the dance floor with my two left feet I was an embarrassment to my dancing partner.

Definitely, I had none of Prince Charming’s attributes.

And yet in Madrid she said yes, I do ––

I can only say the good Lord must have been in my corner all along.

And since then He continues to watch over our family and bless us with what matters most in life: A clear conscience; years of fairly good health and mental vigor; good neighbors, and steadfast friends who have kept faith and friendship with us through the years and a President whose guidance and trust brought us to public service, and in my case to the most sensitive posts in her cabinet –– finance, executive secretary and foreign affairs.

And to me in particular the good Lord has been trusting –– gifting me with a kind, loving, loyal and understanding wife and life partner.

Lovely has given me five wonderful sons and daughters who in turn have blessed us with six amazing grandchildren.

Almost singlehandedly, Lovely took care and reared our two sons and three daughters ––literally from the womb, as they were growing up, during their schooling here and abroad, helping their early professional careers, to their own emerging in public life and service.

I ask, what more can a boy from Camiling aspire for?

One would think that is enough.

Yet Lovely continues –– now that our sons and daughters are on their own –– to give of herself to others as selflessly as ever.

As chair of the National Council on Disability Affairs, she is at the forefront for equal rights, for those with disabilities and impaired faculties.

To her these special children of God should be accorded all the access and opportunities to develop and to make productive their many talents and abilities.

She is tireless in her work with the DFA Ladies’ Foundation (DFALF), the International Bazaar Foundation (IBF), Spouses of Heads of Mission (SHOM) and the ASEAN Ladies’ Foundation –– their fundraising efforts being to provide education and livelihood opportunities to those in need, and to undertake projects with deep and positive impact in the lives of families, and communities.

Indeed, through these organizations and activities, Lovely and her volunteer partners have rekindled hope and love in the hearts of many, gently transforming their lives for the better.

And through these Good Samaritans, I have come to know and appreciate their labor of love for people, the small people, the deprived, the unappreciated.

It is on such friends and people that Lovely now finds fulfillment and purpose in life.

Samuel Johnson wrote, “Nothing as much flatters a man as the happiness of his wife.”

This evening as I see joy and happiness in the eyes of my radiant bride, not only am I flattered but I know I am immensely blessed beyond words and dreams.

I found that road and path 46 years ago in Madrid. I found my bride and wife, Lovely. And it has made all the difference in my life.

Through thick and thin, through stormy weather and tempestuous times we, Lovely and I, have always emerged full and fulfilled.

In the words of Dante: Equindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle... and so we emerge again to see the stars.

* * *

I asked Lovely to describe her husband of 46 years, whom she met while she was taking post-graduate courses and dancing with the Bayanihan in Madrid. She is almost at a loss for words to describe Bert. Then with conviction, she sighs... “To my children and I, Bert is and will always be a hero.”

* * *

(You may e-mail me at [email protected])

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