It’s our 16th Valentine’s Day together, 15 of which as a married couple. But our last Valentine’s Day dinner was 16 years ago when we were still dating. Speedy picked me up from a three-day seminar then we went to Dean’s St. in Greenhills for dinner. Afterwards, we went to a bar called Yesterday where I ordered five different kinds of mixed cocktails while he drank his beer. We were married later that year. By Valentine’s Day of 1992, I was pregnant with Sam, and bed-ridden.
But the story started in October of 1990 when one of the legal secretaries in the office, Riza, told me excitedly that she wanted to introduce someone to me. I just ended a disastrous two-year relationship and wasn’t exactly raring to plunge back into the dating circle — especially not on a blind date. She said he drove a red Mercedes Benz and I just laughed. She organized a group outing to Palos Verdes in Antipolo, a venue carefully chosen, I was sure, as a romantic suburban backdrop for our first meeting. I stood them up.
We finally met a month later. Speedy told me that Riza’s sales pitch was that I had “big boobs”. That first meeting would be followed by group outings and group dates. I wasn’t “looking” so I kept everything casual. Friendly, but casual. And kinda flippant.
Meaning? Well… meaning, like the time that Speedy went to Bicol on a three-day swimming outing with his friends. He asked what I wanted him to bring back as “pasalubong”. I told him I wanted a rock from the Cagsawa Church ruins. Another time, he went to Baguio on a business trip. He asked me again what I wanted. I said a shrunken head and a letter from the signage of Hyatt Terraces Baguio which, by that time, lay in ruins after the July 1990 earthquake. See, I never asked him for anything expensive — I just wanted unique “pasalubong.”
When we became a couple, we didn’t do the usual things that couples did. We didn’t go to the hip places. We did go dancing once or twice but what we really enjoyed were the day trips to Tagaytay. We’d bring a picnic basket and wine, rent one of those roadside huts that overlooked Taal lake, and spend the day drinking, eating, chatting and gazing at Taal Volcano.
When I transferred to a new job in Makati, I’d drive to his family’s house in Quezon City in the morning, leave my car there and I would ride with him to Makati in his company-issued car. Not the red Mercedes Benz, which was really his father’s. And it wasn’t a drop dead gorgeous car unlike what our friend Riza conveyed when she was trying to get us together. Think Batman and you’ll get a pretty good picture. Much, much later, when Sam was starting to talk, she would christen that car “Broom-broom” because of the muffler-less noises it made.
When we decided to get married, the tell-the-parents part was hilarious and maddening at the same time. When we told my mother, the first thing she asked Speedy was how much his monthly salary was. When my brother (only sibling) heard, he told Speedy, “Condolence” and, in the next breath, told our mother to hire a live-in cook because I was moving out. How sweet.
When I told my father, he embarked on a verbally-abusive tirade. He said what would happen to my career? I stopped speaking to him for months until the day of the wedding. He referred to Speedy, whom he met only once, as the guy who “looked like Andrew E.” Amazing, when Speedy always insisted he looked like Brad Pitt while many of my relatives said he was a dead ringer for Bongbong Marcos. Of course, that was forty pounds or so ago.
No problem with Speedy’s family. They were thrilled except for the part that they wouldn’t agree on our no-church-wedding plan. What we wanted was to get married in blue jeans right in the living room of his family’s house. I told my mother (this was prior to her retirement as a judge) to get a friend-judge to come over and marry us. But, my future mother-in-law wanted a church wedding. Since we were going to live with them, I decided not to start by getting on the wrong footing with her. A church wedding was a big deal with her. We stood pat on the no-guests decision, however. Only family. We didn’t even have proper wedding sponsors, only our parents. And, of course, we didn’t wear blue jeans.
So, Valentine’s Day in 1991 was really the only Valentine that Speedy and I had alone. I was pregnant with Sam in 1992, a very delicate pregnancy that spelled complete bed rest. From 1993 through 2006, we spent Valentine’s Day with our two daughters — no candlelit dinners, no long-stemmed roses, no motel trysts, no out-of-town trips for two. We always celebrated Valentine’s Day as a family. It’s not going to be any different this year, or next year, or the year after that. See, that’s the way I want it. That’s the way we both want it.
Of course, we both know that in so many years, the girls would have their own plans for Valentine’s Day and there would just be the two of us again. In fact, over dinner sometime last week, Speedy asked the girls if they had dates because, if they had, he and I would make our own plans. It was a joke, of course. Sam is 14 and Alex is 13. And it’s not like he’s going to allow them to start dating right now. Him, of all people.
Speedy is in Subic today on a business trip. He called up to ask if I wanted to eat out tonight — with the kids, of course. I thought about it while I was baking some cookies. I decided, no, not with the Valentine crowd in restaurants. Instead, I asked him to bring home “sangkaterbang lechon, yosi and wine.”
Do I expect to get flowers? No… I like getting surprised with the occasional bouquet of flowers when there is no special occasion. In fact, that makes the gesture even more special — it relays the message that there need not be an occasion for my husband to give me flowers. It also says that the flowers were given because he felt like giving them and he knew I would be pleased. The gesture is not borne out of any sense of obligation nor expectation. It’s like Valentine’s Day can be any day of the year.