was 1957. The acacia trees lining the avenues at the University of the
Philippines campus in Diliman were not as tall and leafy as they are
now. He saw her walking to class one day. She walked with a certain
spring in her step, clutching her books. "Magarput" is his word. It's
an Ilocano word that's hard to translate, but it connotes a certain kind
of vivacious girliness. He kept an eye out for this "magarput" little
Chinese girl from the sugar lands of the South, who mostly spoke English
because she didn't know much Tagalog, the lingua franca of Manila. She
graduated class salutatorian from Negros Occidental High School. In
those days being an honors graduate automatically granted young students
admission to UP Diliman.
She had no idea he was interested, until
much later. He was a good-looking Northern boy from the summer
capital, Baguio City, and he was in UP to study mining engineering.
With other Ilocano boys he roomed at Narra Residence Hall and spent some
of his free time with his fraternity brothers, or riding around in his
friend's Volkswagen Beetle serenading young ladies at the nearby
dormitories. She stayed at the YWCA dormitory across the street, where,
every Sunday, they served the best fried chicken on campus. All the
Narra boys dreamed of being invited to dine at the YWCA on Sundays!
dad learned she was secretary of the youth organization at the UP
Protestant Chapel, the Church of the Risen Lord. Naturally he joined,
too. She had two other suitors, one of which became a top volcanologist,
and the other, a prominent judge. But she only had eyes for my dad.
fateful day he was returning to Narra Residence Hall from one of their
dates, and came upon two fraternities fighting violently nearby. In the
ensuing melee one boy stabbed him in the side! My mother brought him
to the hospital, where she met my paternal grandmother for the very
first time. When the boy who stabbed him found out that it was a case
of mistaken identity, he was mortified. He apologized, and they later
decided not to file charges against him. Oddly, a few years later, when
my parents got married, he sent them a nice set of placemats.
dad later joined an equipment firm, while my mom taught high school
Biology at UP. They continued to see each other. On Valentine's Day in
1967 he went over to her faculty room and said, "Let's get married!" So
off they went to Quezon City Hall. The two witnesses were my dad's
best friend and the judge's secretary. They didn't have much money, so
they went to Little Quiapo nearby and had a crushed ice dessert,
halo-halo, to celebrate. It was many years later that my mother was
finally able to introduce my father to her mother. My maternal grandma
was fond of saying, "You know, I never met your father until after they
got married, but he turned out to be my favorite son-in-law!"
years later they renewed their vows in church. They've been together
46 years now, best friends and lovers and parents. They are in their
seventies. My dad jokes that their marriage has survived this long
because he is deaf in one ear. My mom says it's because they each
maintain their individual interests and yet support each other's
But I think it's the romance, which is still quite
strong. My friend Ana called me on the phone one night. The phone
reception was very clear and she could hear everything going on in the
living room, and even heard the doorbell ring. She heard the clattering
of my mom's shoes on the marble. "Who's that? " she said. "It's my
mom," I explained. "My dad just arrived." Suddenly it was quiet.
"What's happening? Why is it quiet?" I laughed and said, "They're
There are pink tulips in a little pot on the table
tonight. It reminds me of the time he first gave her tulips many years
ago. They were the exotic and fashionable imported flowers to give on
Valentine's Day back then. We were all stuck in traffic on our way to
their wedding anniversary dinner. After sniffing the tulips, she said
with surprise, "But they don't smell of anything!" So he jumped out of
the car and ran after a vendor selling sampaguita (jasmine) leis, and
ran back. "Here!" he said, panting, giving my mother a lei. "Here's
"The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on: nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it." -- Omar Khayyam. Primary version of this blog on Wordpress.