Sorting through some papers after my grandmother died, my mom found her parents’ marriage certificate. But there were a few strange details about it. First of all, it had been torn down the middle and then taped back together. And the date of the marriage was November 29, 1952: two years and a day before the date the family had always celebrated as my grandparents’ wedding anniversary. It had always been easy to remember, because that day, November 30, was also my grandmother’s birthday.
Understandably, Mom proceeded to have a small crisis. What did this certificate mean? When did her parents actually get married? If the wedding date was wrong, did that mean her birthdate was wrong, too???
Only one person knew the answer. When confronted with the certificate, my grandfather smiled. “I was wondering when you’d find that.” Then he sat my mother down and told her the whole story – a story that he and my grandmother had kept secret for more than fifty years. Here it is now, in his own words.
“Your Lola and I spent the summer of 1951 apart, she in Cabanatuan with her Father’s relatives, and I in Daet, Camarines Norte where my Father sent me and my brother Pocholo to work in our Uncle’s law office. He was the lawyer of the gold mines of Larap. We had no cell phones then, and so we practically did not hear from each other all summer. Which made being reunited once more at the end of the term that much more desirable. We were always together when we were not in school. She did not like my not seeing her at her house after school, and on weekends. I really practically lived in her house. Those were the happiest times for us, being together.
“In the summer of 1952, we almost broke up because I asked her if I could accept the invitation of Tito Hector to spend a couple of weeks in his hometown, Silay, in Negros, an idea she did not like, knowing that my ex-girlfriend [also lived in that town]. But she let me go, making me promise to behave and to be faithful to her. I guess it was her way of testing me, eh?
“Anyway, Silay was fun, and the ex-girlfriend was there. But somehow, I really did not notice her presence the whole time I was there, even at the three parties we attended. She had ceased to exist, as far as I was concerned. I was always thinking of your Lola, missing her terribly, and regretting not being with her. I counted the days when I would be back at her side. Even Tito Hector seemed to notice that I wasn’t really having as good a time as he would have wanted me to have while his guest.
“It was around September 1952 that we began thinking of ensuring that nothing and nobody would ever keep us apart. She was being closely watched by Lolo Conrado, who was not a very easy man to get along with. He had imposed very strict rules and was clearly bent on splitting us up. I discussed our problem with my teacher and friend, Fr. Lino Banayad, S.J., who did not see anything wrong in our getting married secretly until we were both graduated in 1953. So, we took the plunge. I got my Uncle Victor to stand as witness for me, and your Lola had [one of her closest friends] to stand for her. Fr. Banayad secured the civil marriage license through the help of his friend in the Pasay City Hall. And so, on November 29, 1952, at 1:40 PM we were joined in holy wedlock in the Mandaluyong Parish Church by the Rev. Fr. Lino Banayad, S.J. What a glorious afternoon that was! Although there were only five people in that bare big church that afternoon, it felt like Heaven and God’s angels were there with us.
“We had a little merienda at the, yes, Aristocrat where I had proposed to her, ‘on the rebound’ as you call it. And we parted that night, as usual, only this time feeling very secure and safe that nothing now stood between us and the life that we had fashioned for us that afternoon to be lived with each other and only with each other for the rest of our life.
“…nope, we did not consummate our marriage then. That had to wait another two years and be done properly.
“As you all know, your Lola and I graduated from college in the school year of 1953-54, I from the Ateneo with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and your Lola with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Santo Tomas. We remained secretly married. Shortly after gradation, I was diagnosed as suffering from tuberculosis, a sickness I must have gotten from my Father. Anyway, I was confined at the Quezon Institute. I spent the whole summer of 1953 as a patient in QI. Your Lola would visit me every afternoon, staying for as long as she would be allowed. When I recovered, I was hired by Air France. I owed this opportunity to my Uncle Victor, who was then working for Swissair, and who knew somebody in Philippine Airlines, who knew the man in the firm that was acting as the Air France representative in Manila.
“After almost 6 months with Air France, we decided we could now come out and be officially and publicly married. We decided on November 30, her birthday, and so, we made everything official by being engaged formally. I asked my parents to ask for her hand in marriage, and they went one night to do so. Much to our surprise, Lolo Conrado did not object. In fact, he was very receptive. To this day I am asking myself, as your Lola and I did ever so often after our public marriage ceremony, whether or not he was on to us.”