By Joe Espiritu
In this crass and materialistic world, social mores had taken a beating. Methods in courting and trying to win a ladies heart had changed. Instead of declaring one's love after asking permission from the parents to visit, the declaration is delivered by texted message through cell phones. Love is going high tech. This of course is a cowards' way used by amateur swains. Sometimes to bolster ones courage, the chap takes a few drinks before attempting his declaration. The danger is that he might take one too many that he slurs his words. Results would be unpredictable.
There as a quaint custom in Central Luzon, in the Tagalog regions. Maidens value their chastity so much that touching them is forbidden. A man is only allowed to touch his lady if he is intending to marry her. Once a woman is caressed, fondled or even touched in public, she has the right to demand marriage. Queer things resulted from that custom.
We noted that our grand uncle had a beautiful wife. Her looks are still evident despite her age. We wondered how the old rogue was able to catch a beauty. He was moderately well off, tall, well built, with guts of a Nippon hetai and an unfailing sense of humor Sir Charlie Chaplin but was horribly disfigured by small pox. And she was a town beauty queen.
The story was that he courted her, formally visiting her to declare his honorable intention. However, she refused to come out of her room despite the urging of her parents. This went after month and our grand uncle realizing the futility of his mission; decided to change tactics. Kong di makuha sa santong dasalan, kunin sa santong paspasan.
When she was coming home from washing clothes in the stream with other girls he ambushed her while she was steadying with both hands the batya carried on her head. He embraced her. A struggle followed with laundered clothes, batya and palopalo flying in all directions. Her companions joined the fight and our hero fled but not after accomplishing his mission. Her reputation supposedly shattered, she complained to her parents and a shotgun wedding followed. We forgot who was holding the shotgun.
Last week we were one of the sponsors to a wedding. The story behind this wedding is diametrically opposite to that of our great grand uncle. The principals were childhood sweethearts. One, Renato, was a son of a marginal fisherman while the other, Liway, was a daughter of a calamadera. Their ways parted after graduation, each had to seek their own fortune. We thought they decided to part permanently. Their paths were not rosy; he studied to be a seaman while she went abroad after her studies. Then after more than a decade, they announced that they will marry.
He is now a crew member of a ship plying an international route. She is now working in Alberta the province of Canada. Meantime the fisherman had retired while the calamadera is now managing a thriving business producing quality calamay well known in local and foreign markets. They and their parents had accomplished these by themselves. Needless to say, their future is well planned.
What stood out prominently like a cockroach on a wedding cake was when Merlino, the Master of Ceremonies asked us, a confirmed cynic, to speak a few words in the reception. In the memory of his father, a dear friend and namesake, we could not refuse. The admonition given? Emulate the gabaseros. When one pulls the other pushes. We forgot to add that if there must be a fight, who ever wins cannot recover the belt before one year or longer.