It was indeed another milestone in my life last week.
Forty years ago, I met my ex-girlfriend Marissa on her very last day of work at the Manila COD Department Store in Cubao, the very same place I started my working career as a salesclerk in 1975, but resigned late 1977 to join the Martel Group as a personnel clerk.
Three years after I met her, we married on January 15, 1983, after I accepted her wedding proposal, while sitting on a stone bench near SM Makati the year before. Yes, she was the one who proposed and I graciously accepted, otherwise I could have lost her as she was being encouraged to seek her fortune in America.
How could I refuse, she was a Sandy Andolong lookalike, while there was no way I looked like Christopher de Leon, but I was a late bloomer, so I finally caught up with her beauty a couple of decades later.
But my competitive edge when I was wooing her was the fact she thought I was an intelligent being, and that I was a budding sportswriter with Sports Weekly Magazine after a stint in Sports World. It was hard for the competition to beat me as I used to bring her to watch PBA games live, seated at the press row of the Araneta Center, where she gushed over the legs of players, never mind their exceptional playing skills.
I impressed her further when I was able to invite then U-Tex Wrangler Fritz Gaston to her house in Antipolo for her birthday, with Fritz becoming my best man in our wedding and godfather to our first born son JM.
And in the same wedding, sports personalities were among the sponsors and guests, like “ninongs” Pete Juachon, skydiver and Alay sa Pangulo Marathon organizer Rudy Ledesma, head coach of St. Bridget’s girls’ high school basketball team, Alex Rosario of COD and father of Olympian swimmer Ral, eventually my kumpare with my youngest daughter Jemi, and Century Park Sheraton Resident Manager and corporate runner like me.
I was then assigned to that 5-star hotel, where I met and ran with Arthur, the man responsible for our wedding reception, held at the Century Park, a place we could not have afforded then (even now).
Other PBA players in the entourage were Tanduay’s Frankie Lim and Toyota’s Ed Cordero, while in attendance were Hector Calma and Bambi Kabigting, son of my boss Ramon Kabigting, who hired me away from COD after I interviewed and featured then Ateneo player Bambi in Sports World. I remember, too, MILO-BEST CENTER couple Nic and Marlyn Jorge, motocross head Joe Rosario and Elpi Dorotheo as among the guests.
Frankie, Ed, Ral, Hector and another ex-PBA player Steve Watson also became my “kumpares,” same with shooter Tac Padilla, even triathlon’s Tom Carrasco.
I left the Martel group in 1988 when windsurfer Archie King, Ral’s first cousin, pirated me for Victoria Court. This after I met him while I was covering COD’s annual sportsfest. So from being an HR Manager for a semi-conductor firm, I shifted to operations, eventually becoming VP-Operations of VC and Hotel La Corona. This earned me my nickname “Mr. Victoria” among the sports media.
Upon my retirement from full time work in 1998, I started doing sports PR work, team-building and management consultancy work, and guess where my clients were from? The world of sports, too.
Up to the present, yes, even at age 52 (for the last 13 years), I still do limited consultancy work with ex-Ginebra player Mike Advani in his apparel company and former run organizer and Filipino-Indian Basketball League founder Dilip Budhrani in a manpower services company.
My involvement in sports as a writer has and will always be a major factor in my life, with my being a sportswriter, never full time though, longer than my married life.
Now, after 38 blissful years of being together, Marissa and I have been blessed with 3 children, responsible and God-fearing adults--JM, Janis and Jemi, plus our first and so far only “apo,” Livi, now 5 years old and who sleeps beside me every night.
A paid up modest home in Taguig, a car for me and the wife, a close family, certainly not rich, but contented with what life has given us through hard work, what could a man ask for?
Simple, more years of being together and more “apos” to enjoy in the coming years. And I intend to continue writing sports for as long as I can.
And this is why every night, I pray and thank the good Lord for yesterday, today and tomorrow.