THIS is a column I have hesitated to write because it is very personal. Nonetheless, I am writing it now.
Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and the 62nd anniversary of my wedding to the love of my life. I call her Palang-ga, which means “beloved” in Visayan.
It was in Cotabato City (the province of Cotabato at that time was not yet divided) that I met her, in 1950. My friend Rudy Tupas and I volunteered to help the Oblates missionaries in their weekly publication “The Mindanao Cross” which was circulated throughout Mindanao, especially all Notre Dame schools in Cotabato, Zamboanga and Sulu.
I used to go to church daily. And almost every day, I noticed someone pass the middle aisle—an angel in disguise, I then thought.
When I asked who she was, I learned she was Trinidad Kapunan Capistrano, the only daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Vicente Capistrano. It turned out she was on vacation from the Philippine Women’s University.
A good friend intimated to me that she was “unreachable” because she never associated with any local male. To me, that was a challenge.
One day I gathered enough nerve to follow her, hoping I could find a way to get to know her.
My first line: “May I walk with you?” She said: “This is a free country, suit yourself.” And I walked with her the way to her house.
Soon after, I started visiting her mostly in the drug store of her mother where I brought her, through a friend, a bunch of sampaguitas almost daily.
I was in love. “Nining,” as she was called, was only 18 years old, a freshman at PWU and home for a vacation. I was so impressed with her maturity and spirituality that I lent my books by a Trappist monk named Tomas Morton. These became part of our conversation. How I loved talking with her!
I told myself, here’s a woman I would like to marry. I could engage her in conversation about anything!
There was one occasion when I thought I could see her more intimately. She was some kind of a manager of a city’s annual cotillion with both young men and women participating.
She called me up by telephone and said: I am the head of his cotillion, but we need one college man. Would you honor us with your presence? She said it was a black-and-white event, meaning I had to dress up in formal attire. I told her I did not have one.
“What, an Atenean without a black-and-white formal wear?” she asked.
Determined to be her partner in that affair, I told her a while lie that I would have it sent from Manila, and that I would call her soon.
Immediately I sent a wire to my mother back home that I needed a black-and-white attire. My mother replied: “What are you doing there, attending formal affairs? But yes, I will have one tailored for you.”
After a few days, I received my outfit, including shoes, in a big box.
Right away, I called Nining Capistrano, and asked her if I could still be qualified, and she said yes. When I found out that she was not my partner, I was very disappointed. In any case, I continued my courtship of her, until she left for school when vacation was over. I did not see her, or talk to her, for a long time since then. We just did not have time nor opportunity.
When I returned to Manila to finish my law studies, I was a working student. I taught, half day, at Ateneo High School at Loyola Heights.
But, fortune (that’s why I believe God is behind my marriage to her) had it that one of my co-teachers, Rene Licamco, was a graduate of the University of the Philippines Engineering School. One time he said there was a very popular girl among UP alumni and students named Miss Trinidad Capistrano from Mindanao and that many engineering students were courting her. I told Rene I knew her and sent her a note; I said I wanted to see her.
Santa Banana, that triggered a courtship that lasted almost five years until I proposed to her and married her in 1955 in Cotabato.
I said our marriage was made in heaven because at one time she became my blind date. Well, not exactly “blind,” because it was somehow pre-arranged when her roommate at UP South Dorm wanted to go on a date with my best friend, the late Rody Olivarez.
She convinced Miss Capistrano to double date. Thus, when both Rody and I went to pick them up at the dorm, upon seeing me, Miss Capistrano exclaimed: “So it’s you!”
That started my visits to her whenever the occasion demanded. At times, there would be some three or four others visiting her— some of them known to belong to rich families.
I was perhaps the poorest among her suitors. But I was never discouraged, being an Atenean. I was then finishing my law studies. And when she finished her pharmacy studies and passed the board, I wrote to her every day. She always responded to my letters.
But, one day, she sent me a “Dear John” letter telling me not to write her anymore. She said she wanted to consider a lot of things first. That was devastating—to me, she could never compare to the others girls I had met and known.
And then I got a note from her good friend, Miss Emeline Santaniel from Kidapawan, Cotabato, that Miss Capistrano was regretting sending me that “Dear John” letter.
That emboldened me, so I started writing her again, although she did not respond. I knew she wanted time to think.
She had to come to Manila to take the oath as a pharmacist. At that time I was already a junior partner of the Salonga & Ordoñez Law Office on Escolta. I met up with Emeline, who told me that Miss Capistrano was in town, staying at a ladies’ dorm beside Far Eastern University on Morayta Street.
I then rushed to the place, but she was not expecting me. Thus, when she asked the dorm receptionist who it was, the girl simply said: “It is somebody in a suit and tie.”
When she met me, she was surprised but excited. And knowing that her birthday was on Jan. 8, I invited her to have dinner at the old Skyroom along Taft Avenue.
To make the long story short, to Serafin Payawal’s 21-man orchestra playing “Autumn Leaves,” “Mona Lisa” and “Love Letters,” I proposed to her. And she said yes. That was sweetest moment of my life and wanted to marry her immediately, but she pleaded that she would ask her parents for the date.
Thus, it was set on May 14 that year, 1955, in Cotabato City where almost everybody known to the Capistranos and all our relatives were invited.
My father was sick at that time. Thus, only my mother, my brother Willie and brother-in-law, Atty. Fred Ferrares came. We were married at the city Cathedral Church with the late Bishop Gerard Mongue officiating.
I’m now 89 years old, going 90, and my wife is already 85. With God’s grace and blessing, we are still comparatively healthy except for the usual aches and pains that go with old age.