Islander in the City:


At 72 and even at my younger age, I was never fond of Valentine’s Day.

Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto officiates civil wedding of love birds in time of pandemic

But there is something fluttering in my heart when i see this picture of Mayor Vico Sotto officiating civil wedding in time of the pandemic.


Five seconds are all they have

To remove masks

And seal their vows

With a kiss.

When my thoughts turn to my hometown, memories of Cupid’s follies come back, and I thought those island episodes were the pure expression of Valentine’s Day I could imagine. Those were days of the old-fashioned love letters oozing with pure passion.

From Grade 6 and on to first year high school in the island (Catanduanes), my classmates already had eyes for their special someone.

That early, my classmates knew I excel in composition and easily, I became Cupid’s ghost writer.

A classmate said he could do my bookcase project in exchange for writing a love letter to her loved one. She lived in coastal barrio some three kilometers away.

We would hike three kilometers to that barrio and with him waiting before the barrio proper for my delivery job.

I suppose I was a good actor at the time because I would pretend to borrow notes for a missed assignment and then later after small talk, I would discreetly hand to her Romeo’s letter to his Juliet.

This Juliet would pretend she wasn’t interested but as we left to hike back to the town proper, I thought I saw her put the letter on her breast with eyes full of longing.

My classmate asked me how she reacted upon receiving letter and I would embellish my answer with, “Oh she looked like she was in heaven.”

In high school, I had a seatmate who couldn’t take his eyes off a beautiful classmate from Batangas. She happened to be the niece of our Mathematics teacher. He would stare at her with such passion he forgot he was in a Math class.

Months later, a four-month pregnant classmate showed up in our class and we took it as part of life. They ended up as husband and wife and I imagined they’d have a dozen children at the rate my amorous classmate was seized by desire.

In the late 50s, we lived in a house by the sea just near the house occupied by a woman who was a church singer. We presumed she was a widow because we never got to see her husband. But once a year, a daughter — who looked like Marilyn Monroe — would visit her for a short vacation. My then 9-year mind presumed she had a good-looking foreigner for a husband.

But one early morning before sunrise, the neighborhood was awakened by the voice of an angry woman shouting by the window of the church singer’s house. “Come here you Mary Magdalen you,” she roared with her lips trembling with anger. “You sing in the church everyday and then you have the gall to sleep with my husband! How dare you!” This was followed by endless island expletives.

The poor lover, a police officer in our town, came out of the house and sheepishly escorted his wife out of the place.

But my Uncle Joel’s (not his real name) escapade takes the cake. It was a love affair straight from the blockbuster Maryo J. de los Reyes film, The Other Woman.

My late Uncle narrated that story when I was of age and even shared her lover’s love letters with me.

The incident has since then long been forgotten and my late Aunt Charing (not her real name) has long since forgiven my late Uncle.

But the irony of it was that her husband’s lover was a co-teacher.

The early 60s letter – which went back to the sender for lack of anti-TB stamp — in its original (unedited) passionate form in island provincial English:

“Joel dear,


“Through this letter may I greet you once more with warm kisses and caresses as we once had during our first meeting.


“My dear, I still have happy lingering memories of that meeting with its happiness that often ends up in loneliness for we are apart. You once asked when we will be together again. Well. I knew not when. I’m too waiting for that time to come.


“But I am afraid it may not come for there are persons who will be frustrating its coming. Well Nonoy, I received your letter with a romantic piece of poetry. Sorry I was not able to write right away for I was too busy attending to the request of your wife.




The same letter expressed apprehension for my aunt’s coming baby who she feared would end their relationship.

The letter came with a dolorous poem which read thus: “My heart in your hand, to fool it beware/ For till death you’ll always have it dear/ To nourish you with love forever and ever.”


As I recall this island episode, Shakespeare’s Juliet entreaty came to mind –

“My bounty is as deep as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.

In my ripe old age, acceptance comes easy as I realize some love affairs are more passionate — and real — than others.


A piano teacher told me about a beautiful wife who ran off with a military man.

Later in my adult age in Manila, I realized that the husband — abandoned by the wife — frequented our boarding house in Quiapo in the early 70s to pick up our good-looking fellow student boarder who was married and had a daughter.

I met my Quiapo co-boarder many years later by accident at CCP. He said he now lives in Alabang and with grown up children.

Another friend told me a story of how a married actress stayed every night in the wake of a happily married lover who was matinee idol of the 60s.

FB is full of stories of Juliets abandoning their Romeos because of arranged marriage gone foul.

I also like the story of this legendary beauty in the South whose first marriage is the talk of Manila. When they parted, the talk magnified and reinforced her legendary. if, cinematic life.

Memories of these people’s past loves were enough for me to remember Shakespeare and his timeless entreaty —


“Love is blind and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit.”


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