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tthe air was hot and humid but didn’t have the heart to say no to an invitation by a very close friend of mine from way back twenty years ago. He said to meet him and his pretty wife from France over dinner at Avida Towers Ayala Mall . I met Emma once a few years ago when they visited. She was a beautiful and elegant lady in direct contrast to my full blooded Ilocano friend. I sometimes wonder how couples with seemingly opposite physical traits manage to come together and love it too. Once I asked Ben quietly, “Pre, ano ba ginawa mo, pag magkatabi kayo, para kang driver niya?” “Pare,” he answered, “kahit sugo ka pa, hindi mo matutuklasan ang sikreto ko.” By the way, he’s also an INC member but not so active these days. “Mga P***ina Nila! ginagago nila Iglesia, namatay lang ang tatay, nagkanya-kanya na silang kurakot!” he would blurt out when the subject turned to religion. So as expected, INC religion was not one of the  topics we discussed when we finally met at Ayala Mall, Avida Towers. A very impressive place with free parking, not so big crowds, a very cozy place … for now anyway.

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First time to visit the place so as usual I got lost. Asked some tambays here and there and finally reached my destination. Parking was a breeze and walked a short distance to the mall which was actually sandwiched between two condos.  I looked around enjoying the view. Security was not too tight as I noticed regular folks from the neighborhood frequenting the place too.  But the boutiques were rather pricy. Rubber shoes selling for P8,000.00 and swimsuits P5,000.00 each! You’ll never be able to convince people from the past to spend that much for a pair of shoes, and rubber shoes at that! Or swimsuits for that matter.  Elpo rubbers kontento na kami. Tatakan mo ng Speedo, the price goes P5,000.00! Same material, tatakan mo ng DV, price goes down to P295.00!

Well, that’s what we call mind conditioning. Get a macho or sexy endorser with a lean body or a six pack and put that profile everywhere people could see and you’ve got it made. But never forget, ang tunay na lalake may tiyan, hindi nagpupulbos, hindi gumagamit ng skin conditioner, at lalong hindi gumagamit ng feminine wash. Pinapagpag lang yan. At malimit hina-highblood at ina arthritis sa kakakain ng chicharong bulaklak at crispy pata. Sakit ng ulo ng mga asawa at mga GF nila pero hindi kayang iwanan dahil mahal sila 🙂 Yon ang lalake! (according to William smith anyway 🙂 )

Almost forgot why I was there when I noticed a hand waving outside a restaurant entrance. There he was, my good friend Ben. A few more grey hairs, a little plump then I remembered. Otherwise he was OK. We hugged each other as Europeans commonly do. He’s based there now, in France. We entered the resto and proceeded to the table where Emma was looking over the menu. Elegant and beautiful still. She hadn’t aged a bit. When she saw me, she smiled so radiantly with bright blue eyes that could melt any man’s heart, her flowing blond hair compensating a perfect curvature of a model’s body.

“Pare, asawa ko tinititigan mo,” Ben said smiling at me. Emma laughed too. She understood tagalog being with Ben and meeting with other filipino friends. We did a beso-beso and I declared to Emma, “How I wish we were living in an alternate universe right now where Ben would be non-existent.”  That kicked the ice, and we started talking of life, Duterte, De Lima (she’s quite popular in Europe you know). Then Holy Week. The three of us suddenly laughed out loud.

Ben said, “I’ll never forget that experience.”Me neither,” Emma added.  So, to our readers, I will explain how Emma and Ben met and ultimately tied the knot. The impact will not be the same in english so I’ll narrate the story in tagalog as Ben have done before … in countless dinner dates.

images“Alam mo pare, noon bata-bata ako, nagtataka ako sa mga nagpepenitensya sa Mahal na Araw. Masakit kaya yon magpapako sa krus o kaya magbuhat ng krus hanggang doon sa may bundok sa Pamapanga? Yon ang tanong ko eh. So ginawa ko pumunta ako sa Pamapanga at nagparehistro ako sa isa sa mga magpepenitensiya sa Mahal na Araw. Tinanong ako kung ano ang gusto kong maranasan. Sabi ko yong magbubuhat ng krus at yon nakadipa sa krus. Tinanong ako kung gusto kong magpapako sa krus. Inisip ko masakit kaya tinanong ko uli kung pwede wag na isama ang pagpapapako kungdi itali na lang kamay at ilagay ako sa krus na lang. Pwede naman daw yon. So ayon, nagparehistro na ako.

Sa araw ng penitensya, pumunta ako at namili ako ng krus. P***ina, mabigat lahat. No choice na ako so kinuha ko ang pinakamagaang. Yan bit-bit ko na at lakad-lakad ako. Pucha mamayamaya uminit ng husto ang araw, Abril ba naman!  Napagiwanan ako ng mga nauna sa akin. Buti may jeep na dumaan, pinara ko, pinasok ko ang krus sa loob at sabi ko sa driver, ‘Doon tayo sa malapit sa bundok!” Tulala lang mga nakakita sa akin. Non pumara ang jeep, P****ina, layo pa ang pagtayuan ng krus. Bitbit ko nanaman. May naawa sa akin isang dayuhan at pinunasan ang pawis ko at inabot sa akin ang isang boteng tubig. “Bless you, my daughter” sabi ko sa dayuhan. Yon si Emma ngayon. Kung hindi ako nagpenitensya hindi ko mapapangasawa si Emma.

Lakad ako bitbit ang p***inang krus, ang bigat. May mga aso pang nakawala sa daan kaya ang krus ang ginamit ko sa pagwasiwas sa mga aso! Sa wakas dumating rin ako sa pagtayuan ng krus.

20130329.144902_crucifixionNapaupo ako sa tabi ng krus sa pagod at may lumapit sa akin mga babaeng maghahanda sa akin para itali ako sa krus. Nagulat ako dahil hindi ko akalain may mga itsura pa ang mga babaeng nagtali sa akin sa krus. Ayon, nakadipa ako sa krus, at tinali ang dalawang kamay ko. Hinubad ang suot kong T-shirt. Ok lang pero nagulat ako ng simulan nilang tanggalin ang pantalon ko. Teka, sabi ko. Ang paliwanag sa akin, ‘Kelangan palitan sir ng telan pamalot o bahag.’

Wala akong nagawa. Nakatali at nakadipa ako sa krus. Tinanggal ang pantalon ko at inayos ayos ang bahag na isusuot ko. Ang problema habang inaayos nakikita ko ang cleavage ng mga kababaihan na suot ang maluluwag nilang kamison. P****ina, nag react si Junior. Kahit anong pigil ko tuloy-tuloy siya sa pagtayo hanggang sa nag-ngitian ang mga babae. Sa aktong yon napasigaw ako ng –

“DIYOS KO, DIYOS KO BAKIT MO AKO PINABAYAAN!” 

That’s my good friend Ben. Never a dull moment 🙂 . A very nice couple too. Who knows, she may look better with me but come to think of it, no one matches your wit and humor, me included. So that must be your secret. You know how to make ladies smile. Warmest regards to you and Emma. Have a safe trip back  🙂 .

Happy Easter everyone. Enjoy the quiet, the serenity, no traffic in Metro. That in itself is a blessing that comes once a year.