Love and an adobo sandwich

It was about the middle of 1951, in my junior year at the Ateneo, that my Visayan girlfriend and I parted ways. We were at a party and just before it ended, she told me that she no longer was my girlfriend. Just like that! Of course I was hurt, since I wasn’t expecting it. There was no previous quarrel that usually would herald such an end to a relationship. Just like a whim on her part, I ceased to be her flavor for the month! I bore my loss as bravely as I could, keeping it to myself for a whole week.

Then I attended a jam session given by my friend Lito Fernandez, a chum from Pagsanjan, who was then an up-and-coming crooner along with Diomedes Maturan, both Perry Como wannabes.

Your Lola [Alice] was at that party, too. As we were wont at these sessions, she and I would be dancing almost all the boogies and paso-dobles being played. It was while dancing a slow dance that I asked her if she would like to come with me to the Aristocrat on Dewey Blvd. for a snack. We enjoyed the adobo sandwich the place was known for. She accepted and off we went. I was already driving my own car, a Chevy, which my Father had as one of his perks as a junior partner of the law firm Petkins, Ponce Enrile, Contreras & Gomez.

Dewey Boulevard in the 40s
Dewey Boulevard in the 40s

And there, in between bites of that heavenly adobe sandwich, I found myself pouring out my heart to your Lola. I think I may have even been crying as I told her that my Visayan girlfriend was history. She sat there listening closely, not saying anything. Then, I don’t recall how, I found myself asking her to be my girlfriend! She did not say anything, just sat there looking at me with a look I never saw before. I cannot describe it to this day. She did not say a word until we left the place and I took her home. Not a word the whole time, until I stopped at her gate. I thought to myself that I lad a big egg that night! Then as I opened the door of the car, she looked at me nd softly murmured the sweetest YES I ever heard. It was like hearing an Angel whispering to me, YES!

And with that we kissed, she (as she told me later) for the very first time ever on the lips by a boy! As for me, that kiss made me forget the times I had been kissing others—mainly my ex-girlfriend, of course. And to this day, whenever I am sad, I just reflect on that night and I feel right again.

The Aristocrat restaurant, c. 1960
The Aristocrat, c. 1960

And that is how your Lola became my sweetheart….

It was only after [Alice] had left us, while I was in Manila with her gang, that one of her best friends told me that long before I even knew her officially, Alice told her after seeing a picture of me being passed around by Tita Chita in class, that one day I would be hers!! And I thought I was leading in the dance, eh? She liked me from the first moment she laid her eyes on me, not even in the flesh! And somehow, even though I did not know it myself, I always felt drawn to her whenever she was around.

The Gomez family, late 1950s
The Gomez family, late 1950s. From left to right, back row of adults: Pocholo (my grandfather’s 2nd brother) and his wife Lita; my great-grandmother Lola Carina; my grandfather’s sister Chita; Lolo “Judge”; my grandmother Alice and behind her, my grandfather. On the floor, Ricky (my grandfather’s 3rd brother who was born in the mountains during the war) is the 2nd from the right with his feet crossed. To his right is Hector, Chita’s husband. And my mom is the child sitting 2nd from the left.

Next: Once they had a secret love

Post-war: The dancing years

My salad days at the Ateneo really put the war years behind me. I got to wear shoes again, even if my first pair of the shoes after the war were combat boots. Although I wouldn’t  call it a uniform, our regular wear consisted of khaki pants, long or short, depending on how hot it was, and a white shirt, with a “Trubenized” collar, long or short sleeved – again, depending on the temperature of the day.

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A 1949 Life Magazine ad for Trubenized shirts

Lolo

Weekends were always “jam session” days. Every Saturday afternoon, from 6 PM to 10 PM, we would be at somebody’s house for a jam session. That’s what we would call our dance parties. Girls from schools like Sta. Scholastica, Mary Knoll, Assumption, Holy Ghost, Sta. Teresa, La Concordia, and Sta. Isabel, to name the more popular ones, would meet at somebody’s house to meet boys from the Ateneo, La Salle, San Beda, Letran for some dancing and merienda. Ah, yes, those were the days, when girls were girls, and men were men.

Lola

It was in one of these sessions that I met your Lola. I always preferred her as a dancing partner, especially for the boogie. But other than that, there were others who were more appealing, so to speak. I wasn’t feeling anything special for her. I found her to be well-mannered and unusually reserved. But, oh, she could dance the boogie like no other in the room. I liked the way she would sway. There was nothing vulgar in the way she would execute the intricate steps of that very demanding dance. But I didn’t hear bells ringing and didn’t see comets flashing in the heavens when we were not dancing.

It’s fun to imagine my grandparents young, laughing and dancing the boogie!

But there was this girl, a Visayan belle, who took my breath away when we met, and who became my first official girlfriend. She affectionately always called me her palangga [dear]. We went steady for about a year. She was from the Assumption Convent in Herran, just on the other side of the wall that separated it from the Ateneo. I even visited this girl in her hometown in Silay, Negros, one summer vacation.

And in between, there were other girls who had crushes on me, which flattered me, of course, but which I did not return as I was never a two-timer. I was the boyfriend of my Visayan girl and she was my only girlfriend. But when it came to dancing the boogie and the paso-doble, ah, those were always with your Lola. What can I say? I guess this was her hold on me. But more on this later.

Next: Love and an adobo sandwich