Wednesday, August 23, 2006
A premier hotel in the Philippines since 1910, it is a grand hotel where many American governors-general and Philippine presidents entertained their foreign guests — from kings and queens to prime ministers. General MacArthur called it home for many years while the Manila Rotary Club hold its meetings there from the very beginning. A world class hotel, though understated, it has become a venue of collective memories for many Filipinos who had attended one of the many business or social functions held there.
A few fond memories I have of this hotel; foremost was my cousin’s debutant ball in which two older brothers were part of a group of eighteen pairs of young men and women who danced the traditional cotillion. I was barely a teenager then, but remembered having a wonderful time dancing with my cousins and friends during that entire night.
But the most special of all was my memories of Manila Hotel when much younger — the Saturday evenings when my father and mother would go there for a formal dinner/dance, or to enjoy a live concert performance by local big bands or foreign music artists. My father, in a black tuxedo, seemed like a black velvet jewel box casing a precious gem — my mother; all dressed up in a flowing evening gown that seemed to sway ever so gently with her every move.
From the second floor window of our house, I would watch them as they stepped into my uncle’s car. And even at a very young age, influenced by the glamorous Hollywood movies I had seen with my father, I knew I would want to experience that same romantic scene with a girlfriend someday when I got older.
It was peacetime, as they would say, when my mother met my father for the first time. She was still a student/resident of La Consolacion College (not St. Rita’s as I had erroneously written on a previous entry; it was my sister a year older who went to St. Rita’s College). My mother’s aunt, a nun, held an important teaching post in that school. Grandmother had already passed away so raising my mother and her only sister was my grandfather’s most important priority then (he would later marry a second time and produce a number of step-sisters and brothers for my mother and aunt).
My father, already a successful businessman was tiring of living a life as a bachelor; done with his running around, so to speak, and now ready to settle down. When he attended one of La Consolacion’s fundraising events, he met my mother and fell literally head over heels for her.
Right after this initial meeting, my father aggressively sought out and charmed my grandfather; convincing him that he would make the perfect husband for his daughter. Immediately after my mother’s graduation, grandfather advised my mother she was to marry my father. She became distraught. She hated the idea of marrying a man eighteen years her senior; someone she knew nothing about nor loved. However, she had no other choice but concede to my grandfather’s wishes; letting go of her dreams to pursue college and someday marry a man she could truly love.
My mother was grief-stricken by this arrangement, but the wedding went ahead as planned by my grandfather and father. My father knew my mother wasn’t in love with him and made it his quest to make her fall in love with him even if took him a lifetime to achieve it. So, right after the wedding, the courtship for my mother’s love began; it was to last until death do them apart.
Fortunately, for my father, it didn’t take long for my mother to finally acknowledge, appreciate and reciprocate the true love my father had for her. However, despite his victory, my father continued this courtship much to my mother’s delight. He was that much in love with her.
On those Saturdays when I went with my father to his office, usually before going home, he would also buy something for my mother however simple or mundane the item may be. What was more important was he had something to give her when he got home that Saturday evening.
However, with all due respect, as much as my parents celebrated such offerings as romantic and symbolic of his love for her, there came a point in time when such gesture on his part bordered on absurdity and embarrassment, mind you.
Searching fo gold trinkets at Ongpin was fine, but dragging me over to Berg’s at Escolta on a late Saturday afternoon to look for the latest bras or girdles for my mother was just too much. And this was when I was already in high school. And whenever I alluded that perhaps, it was a bit too intimate or personal an item for the two of us to be buying instead of allowing my mother to shop for those things herself, my father would just give me his trademark if-looks-could-kill kind of stare.
So, I would just shrug my shoulders and roll my eyes whenever I heard him say to the saleslady, “I’ll take three and please have them gift wrapped.”
A couple of years after my father’s demise, my mother, to assuage her loneliness, began to entertain suitors. However, in the end, she opted not to remarry. She had learned to love my father as much as he loved her, and was very much content with that. Apparently, he filled her heart with enough love to last until the time comes when they meet again in the afterlife.
posted by Señor Enrique at 9:45 AM
- niceheart said...
That's a sweet love story. I've never really known anybody personally who had an arranged marriage and I find it weird that your father married her first and then courted her. I guess the important thing is that in the end, she loved him back.
You and your father buying underwear for your mother, now that's funny. I would like to buy mine on my own, thank you very much. :)
- melo.villareal said...
great blog.... wish you can share it to in LakbayPilipinas Blogs... http://lakbaypilipinas.com/blog/
- ladybug said...
That was so touching. I was teary-eyed after reading your post. While I have never approved of fixed marriages, I'm happy to learn that your parents' marriage turned out fine. On a different note, if you still plan to watch the MAP tournament, it's a 2 day event. If you're tired on Saturday, you can watch on Sunday. The more competitive games are scheduled on Sunday afternoon.
- kyels said...
It was a sweet story and it touched my heart. Great to see that a fixed marriage could turn out so well at the end of day. Definitely blissful.
- ipanema said...
Touching story. I always like men who go out of their way to please their loved one, just like what your father did. And seldom you'll find guys buying ladies personal things. One way I can identify with your mom in terms of marrying someone way older and ballroom dancing. :)
I love it when my husband gives me underwears (except for bra)as present. :)
Sometimes we know the value and meaning of love when the person in gone.
- Major Tom said...
Your parent's love story is really one that is unique enough that I thought it could only happen in movies, one that makes you sigh from great joy at the end of it. With Manila Hotel and pre-war era at the backdraft, I have "Casablanca" as the movie in my mind. Although I don't exactly know or remember too well now if Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman had a happy ending in that movie that I have repeatedly seen before but somehow the storyline escapes me. It's like as if Bogart had been chasing his love for so long that until, he continues to pursue it even just in my mind.
My grandmother had a sort of an arranged marriage too and thank GOd it also worked BUT there were still moments that she wondered about the dreams that she was not able to fulfill (i saw them from her eyes and from her sighs, di naman palagi)i guess you can't really prevent such thought from occuring from time to time...
Ako, kanina pa I've been wondering what I would have done had I been in your mom's place. Iba-iba pumapasok sa isip ko kaya sabi ko sa mind ko STOP na! There are so many things I don't know to think what would have happened. I'm just glad that their romance worked out especially since you turn out okay and here to tell their story :-)
- Sidney said...
Eric, you really have sweet stories to tell! It almost look like fairy tales!
- Rey said...
eric you had a childhood that people like me only see in televisions and movies. :)
I guess only a few people can tell their parents' lovestory in a personal yet non subjective kind of way. You are one of those blessed.
An intimate, yet a very rewarding read.
- Senor Enrique said...
Well, Niceheart, hold on to your hat because there are other other family peculiarities you'll soon read about ... hahaha!
I think the main factor that made their marriage work was that one person, at least, truly loved the other; half the batlle won, if you will.
You cannot imagine the embarrassment; however, in New York, it became quite fashionable for men by the late '80s to shop for intimate apparel for their significant other -- thanks to Victoria's Secret. Does that make my father a pioneer then? hehehe!
Sure, Melo, will do!
Neither do I Ladybug, because most arrangements I heard didn't turn out to be healthy for either party.
That's good to know; I was thinking just yesterday how I no longer enjoy nighttime driving. Early pm on Sunday is a more ideal day/time for me to watch the tournament!
Thank you Kyels! My parents really developed a healthy and supportive relationship. I would say that my father's continued success later on in life had a lot to do with my mother's undivided attention, support, and encouragement.
I told you, Ipanema, that my father was also much older than my mother. He really made good on his promise to my mother's father that he would "watch over her." :)
Incidentally, Major Tom, my mother's sister's husband (I should just say my uncle, right?) played the clarinet for Tirso Cruz Orchestra. So, whenever the were booked at Manila Hotel, my parents were surely there on a Saturday night dancing the night away. As for foreign artists they had gone to see at Manila Hotel, my mother only remembers Xavier Cougat and Gene Kruppa.
That was a classic film, Casablanca with the classic line, "Here's looking at you, kid." I think, in the end, Bergman did board the plane and left Bogey behind.
The music playing inside my head while I was composing this entry was "Moonlight Serenade" by Benny Goodman.
I think I know what your grandmother was thinking, Beth -- the "What if..." question. Thank God, my mother adjusted rather well into her role as my father's wife. But their marriage became an act quite tough to follow (will blog on this later). For example, we never (not even once) saw them engaged in any argument or in some sort of fight. They really worked as team to create a loving household.
Hahaha ... I can imagine the thoughts racing through your mind, Beth. However, my mother has a sweet disposition to begin with so, she probably focused on the good about the situation she was in, and developed a fulfilling life from there. :)
Thanks, Sidney. However, I'm just starting. There are tragedies and sadness as well.
BTW, I'm all set up and ready for this Saturday :)
If anyone truly had a charmed life, Rey, it was my father, which he shared with my mother and then with us, their children. There were lots of downs as well as ups which I will relate later on.
It was indeed an admirable love story that they shared, in which all of us (the children) wished for ourselves. Amazing partnership they had.
- noemi said...
I love reading love stories of older generations. In this day and age courtship is not practiced as much since some girls can do the courting too. Oh well. Times do change but we can learn a lesson or two about true love.
- PhilippinesPhil said...
Sorry Senior E, but once again I'm going to be a contrarian...Your story made me uneasy and I failed to "feel" much of the romance described in it because of my uneasiness. I suppose I betray my Western / American background. I am not enamored at all with the idea of a man who is approaching middle age forcing himself on a teenage girl at the insistence of her father. Even with the intention that he would eventually teach her to love him, the idea of it makes me cringe. I put myself in her shoes and I feel so much resentment that my dad would force me into such a thing -- in a word, betrayal.
Part of what bothers me is that there is no divorce here. Women have few options and no protections, other than their own family. I've seen women abandoned with a home full of kids when the husband decided that he's either had enough of her, or if he found himself some newer younger morsel. The real tragedies are the very poor women who cannot afford lawyers and so cannot get the law to force men to pay child support or maintenance. Most cannot even remarry legally because the cost of a "religious dissolution" is prohibitive, for most impossible. This is a "man's world," absolutely.
The fact that your dad won over your mom is nice, but I certainly hope this practise has fallen out of acceptance, especially in a place where women already have so few options or protections as it is.
- Senor Enrique said...
Point well taken, Phil; however, my intention is to share with my readers a part of our family history as the way it happened -- based on oral accounts directly from my mother, aunts and uncles, and siblings (all alive, a couple recently died). Last thing I wanted to become a revisionist and change things to create a more acceptable and appealing a story in today's current societal standard. Besides, I have a smart readership who can smell a fiction from non-fiction a mile away, and by the way, I have been (and will be) meeting in person. As a writer, though unpaid, one thing I take very good care of is my "integrity."
With that said, if it is for the May/December wedding you are uneasy with due to your Western / American background -- how about Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis who bedded young girls and only married them when of legal age? And there was also my best friend in New York whose French / Hungarian father who married his mother from Peoria, Illinois; he was 55, she was only 17 then.
As for divorce -- there may not be one in the Philippines, but a woman can separate from her, say, abusive husband, if she wanted to, which my sister had done (her husband was an alcoholic and womanizer). She raised their three kids on her own. There's also annulment for the monied.
As for Filipino men running off with a houseful of kids behind, come on ... I've seen similar cases in the States as well, especially down south. Only difference is, America has a welfare system and food stamps, the Philippines doesn't.
To your eyes Phil, my father may have seemed that he "forced" himself to my mother, however, throughout their marriage and the entire time they shared a life together, not once did he ever cause her to cry (physically or verbally) -- except the time when he dropped dead on us. Now, how many many men can claim the same record?
BTW, am still working on the paranormal story :) Haven't forgoten my promise.
- Senor Enrique said...
Our norms, Noemi, has drastically changed compared to the time of my youth -- girls can be just as aggressive as the boys if they so choose (which I think is only fair). However, I just hope that our today's youth doesn't totally forego on the romance bit. The physical / sexual aspect may come and go with relationships, but "romance" has a longer shelf life, so to speak :)
- myepinoy said...
According to Lorelle VanFossen, it is imperative for bloggers to write an ABOUT page -- "I want to know who is the person behind the words, what are their qualifications, why are they bothering to waste their time and mine, and why should I trust anything they have to say."
Unfortunately, this one does not apply to you. Each poignant post slowly reveals the true person behind the words inside the stories written in this blog.
I love the way you write your About page. It is (in those posts) written in progression slowly revealing your depths.
In this case, who cares about what she says?
PS. Is it Dr. Wayne Dyer? Can't find in my dbase (Amzn and B&N) the author named Dwayne Dyer about wealth consciousness. T.Y.
- Senor Enrique said...
Sorry, I keep saying Dwayne Dyer often, instead of Wayne Dyer.
The book is "Real Magic," and the exact page where the passage I was talking about is on page 177, item #1, second paragraph. It reminds me of what your professor shared with you.
BTW, I had posted an entry about this book. The URL on my site is:
Also, many thanks for your kind words. I just hope I don't bore you guys with my reminiscing ... hehehe.
- Toe said...
Wow, that was a beautiful love story. It's like one of those LVN or Sampaguita films with Jaime dela Rosa and.... ah... I don't know the leading ladies. :)
I also recall attending debuts at the Maynila of the Manila Hotel. Truly a wonderful setting. But watching big bands live there and dancing to their music like your parents did must have been really amazing.
I like eating bibingka and tsokolate at the Manila Hotel. :)
- Senor Enrique said...
My mother said, Rosa Rosal! That was the love team, Toe.
Cool! So you went there for a debut ball as well. Wasn't it grand?
To this day they feature dinner and live performances by foreign artists, though mostly oldies stars lately -- from the '60s and '70s.
- Senorito<- Ako said...
"grandfather advised my mother she was to marry my father"
Do you have chinese lineage ?
Great blog again !!
- Senor Enrique said...
I think we do, S.A., but then again, that goes with most Filipinos.
Grandfather from mother side is more of Spanish (that was why we kids enjoyed his storytelling because he infused them with Sapnish words for our wonderment). On my father's side, I suspect may be more of Chinese blood, but not really sure.
If still breathing someday, I may take up the task of tracing our family tree; arduous, indeed.
BTW, Sidney and I will be meeting your friend, Ivan tomorrow for the Big Wok Binondo Tour! Wish you were here ... to join us :)
Have you any message for Ivan???
- aurea said...
I am glad that your mother eventually fell in love with your father. Despite the rocky start, your parents' story is very sweet.
I used to frequently bring home small pasalubong to my husband... maybe I should reinstate that tradition.
- Senor Enrique said...
That would be sweet, Aurea. Even simple stuff; as said it's the thought that matters most :)
It was my father who taught me not to wait for Valentine's Day :)