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.