She let it pass. In the evening he came home a bit tipsy. He had forgotten completely that it was Valentine's Day. When he was changing his clothes she threw her slippers at him. Love and loving we expect even after decades of togetherness. These are stories from my hometown, Victoria in the province of Tarlac Central Luzon. There are many such stories there.
The first has to do with the parents of my closest friend, Ely. His father, Apo Sinti, was taciturn. He knew he could whip a guava branch to pulp on an offending son's butt. During his entire life Ely remembers only one event -- the father made a top for him using only a bolo sword.
He does not remember him talking to him at all.
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In contrast, the mother -- Apo La Paz -- was always talking. They had a huge house on our Calle Real now Rizal St. She inherited quite a large mass of riceland so she was used to ordering people about. Apo Sinti found eating at the family table a bother. Perhaps he could not stand Apo La Paz's incessant yakking which became worse during meals. So, Apo Sinti had his special table in the kitchen.
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A rather small one. He always ate ahead of everybody. Apo La Paz herself, not a maid, would set the table. Then she'd have him called. He'd come, sit down, and eat silently. She'd be bustling in the kitchen -- checking the food a-cooking on the stoves, the setting of their huge family table, the gradual filling up of the dining room with people, food, and the drinks and sweets which were on another table ready for serving.
During all this she would check on Apo Sinti -- saw to his glass of iced water which had to be replenished always, and the banana which was his preferred fruit. They did not speak with each other. He ate all that was served him. She knew exactly how much rice he ate and what viands he preferred and how much of these he consumed. Then as silently as he came in, he'd leave. Apo La Paz would then call one of the maids to clean the table and place it in one corner of the kitchen.
One Sunday morning, Apo Sinti staggered to a traysikad, a bicycle with a side car, even before the mass ended in our one Catholic Church proximate to the town plaza. He didn't make it back to their house. He had a heart attack. Apo La Paz cried, but she didn't wail. She saw to all the funeral arrangements.
She was the overseer of the wake. After the funeral she retired to her room. She had to be called for the family meals. She receded into silence. The second story, has to do with the old couple across our house. I don't remember their names.
They were a very quiet, self-contained husband-and-wife. They married late, it seems. Their only child was a loquacious tall male who since childhood manifested strong signs of effeminateness. The son was away for high school. And then a terribly extended medical schooling. They didn't seem to mind. The old man hardly went out of the house.
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The old woman we hardly saw. All that I remember of them is her standing around as he watered the many plants their son loved. Their yard was a veritable garden. Every few days a young boy would sweep the yard. The old couple would be seated in their veranda.
I have no recollection of their voices. But they did talk with each other. I could see them from our own second-floor veranda. One day the old man fell ill. The young boy called my father, who was a medical doctor. My father said it was serious. After three days he died. The effeminate son came back and made quite a scene in his wailing and flailing about. He returned to his medical school after the funeral. We only got news of the old woman from the young boy who stayed with her.
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He was the son of one of their tenants. He said that she refused to go out of her room. He served her her meals there.
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These two old couples remind me of a Guy de Maupassant short story. A hunter shot a bird. The other bird, its mate obviously, circled around it. It refused to leave. It kept going around the spot where the first bird fell. Gradually it went down, still moving in circles. It was as if it wanted to be shot, too. The hunter aimed at it and killed it. They remind me, too, of an old Indian myth. In the beginning, Man and Woman were one. Somehow they got separated. The Man went to the right. The Woman went to the left.
They had been looking for each other since then. Love or, I suppose, marriage in the myth is the discovery of our other half. The Man and the Woman become one again. We go through life looking for our other half, that which would complete us. If we don't then we go through another cycle of life, another cycle of searching.
Life is a quest for completion by way of finding the Man or Woman who is our lost other half. What does our language tell us about love? There's a range starting with wooing, suyuan , an old fine Tagalog word that indicates a man's declaration of his love by overt action, verbal or otherwise. Usually it's non-verbal -- singing, glancing or stealing glances, services -- and indirect. Ligaw , a more modern term, has directness. Ibig connotes desire, wanting, even an impulse to possess the other.
Its highest statement, though, is love of country -- pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa which carries a hint of self-immolation. Mahal implies valuation, therefore, the other is prized, valued highly. It's root meaning has to do with the monetary cost of goods as in Mahal ang mga bilihin ngayon Goods are costly now. While manuyo from suyo and manligaw are active, they are traditionally a man's action toward a woman.
A one-sided wooing, a pursuit of the woman's heart. Ibig and mahal are feelings. They express the content of the heart that pursues. The words are focused on what the wooer feels for the wooed. There are three words which have become poetic because, I think, they are old expressions.