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May 21st
Home Columns A Cup O' Kapeng Barako A Thirtieth Wedding Anniversary: Echoes from "The Little Prince"
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Columns - A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
Monday, 06 June 2011 09:58


By Jesse Jose

A Cup O' Kapeng Barako



AND HE WENT back to the Fox. "Good-bye," he said.


"Good-bye," said the Fox. "Here is my secret.  It's quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart.  Anything essential is invisible to the eyes."


"Anything essential is invisible to the eyes," the Little Prince repeated, in order to remember.


"It's the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important."


"It's the time I spent on my rose ..," the Little Price repeated, in order to remember.


"People have forgotten this truth," the Fox said.  "But you mustn't forget it.  You become responsible forever for what you've tamed.  You're responsible for your rose ..."


"I'm responsible for my rose .., the Little Prince repeated, in order to remember.


T hose quotes were taken from the book, "The Little Prince" by Antoine De Saint-Exupery.  It's a children book meant to be read by grown-ups who understand and remember that they were children once. And yes, just like what the Little Prince said, I, too, remember. Because, that's how it all began for me. It began as a secret.


I MARRIED the same woman three times. That's right, three times.


And last week we celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary, the first wedding, that is. Way back in 1981. On May 25th, to be exact.  It was a secret wedding, if there's such a thing. Well, nobody knew, except Maribel's best friend, Corazon ... and the judge, of course, who married us. But I am going ahead of my story.  


I've just retired from the Navy then. I've fulfilled my 20 years. Got tired of traveling and doing all sorts of crazy things, you know, what sailors are famous for. A girl in every port, ya'll know what I mean?  So, finally, I hanged up my U.S. Navy Chief's hat and said to myself: "Okay, that's it.  I am gonna settle down now."


I went back "home" to the Philippines.  But I didn't have any plan at all of what to do with the rest of my life.  I took the room I used to have at my parents' house.  I felt free, no more Navy, no more sailing around.  So I went out and hanged out in disco places like the, "Where Else," at the InterCon Hotel in Makati, or at that cave-like discotheque at the Philippine Plaza in Manila, known as "The Lost Horizon."  More girls came into my life.


After a few months of this life, I realized I was again leading the sailor's life in a foreign port "on liberty."  (For you landlocked homies of mine, liberty means, being wild and free in a foreign exotic town or city, after several months at sea). 


So, once again, I said to myself: "Enough, of this fooling around, wasting my life away in hotel bars and disco places.  I must do something more challenging."


I like Literature.  So, I thought about taking a summer course at my old Alma Mater, the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.  The course, "Philippine Literature in English" sounded interesting, so I signed up for that.  I noticed I was the oldest guy in that class.  I supposed in the Philippines, "old people" like me don't sign up for summer college courses.  Heck, at forty, I didn't consider myself old at that time.  I was in the prime of my life.  At poging-pogi pa. 


So, it was the first day of class and I was sitting there, musing, what da heck am I doing here sitting among kids half my age?  Then she walked in, the teacher of the class.  A kid herself.  I looked at her. Then I looked more closely to check her out.  Hmmmm.  I liked what I saw.  She wore her hair in the latest style of those years na may patalsik pa sa harap.  A single curl at the side of her smooth forehead. 


And kissable, luscious, pinkish, full lips, too. 


My eyes searched for her legs. But she was sitting down at her desk, and the way the desk was constructed, obscured my view of her legs. Damn.


Then she stood up and wrote something on the blackboard for the class.  I don't remember what she wrote.  I only remember how great her legs were.  It was said that there's great diversity in what men find arousing.  Not me.  I am primarily a leg man.  I was aroused ... and in love.  Yes, I think there's such a thing as "love at first sight."  Those legs and those lips.  I wanted her. 


A week later, I finally found the courage to ask her if she would like to go for a "cup of coffee" on the pretext to talk about Nick Joaquin, a  Filipino writer whose essays I've found to be intriguing.  She accepted.  We talked for hours about writers, books and authors.


A few days later, she lent me a book to read.  It was "The Little Prince."  It took me a day and a half to read the book, then I gave it back to her, with a note inside: "Come down to earth, my Little Princess, let me tame you.  What is essential is invisible to the eyes.  Let me discover those essential things in you...."


Soon after that, those summer days swiftly flew.  Happily, blissfully, hotly ... magically.  I met her April 3rd.  We got married weeks later, on May 25th, in front of a Quezon City judge, with her friend, Corazon as the required witness. Then we three went to the restaurant of the old Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) in Timog, Quezon City to celebrate the occasion. Then that weekend, we ran off to Baquio City and stayed in one of the cottages at Camp John Hay for our intense, frantic-like honeymoon. She told her parents she was going to attend a UST summer "seminar." 


But secrets never remain a secret for long. We soon confessed the secret to her parents. 


So a year later, we got married again in a church.  It was a wedding that was so grand that it took four priests and a bishop to marry us.  Then we had a honeymoon, once again, a little less frantic this time, but intense no less, at the very exclusive and secluded Puerto Azul resort, in Ternate, Cavite, our stay there a gift from Maribel's late brother, Sonny Boy.  


A year later, Jonathan was born.  Then I left for the United States.  When my Maribel and Jonathan joined me in West Palm Beach, Florida ... we got married again.  So that makes it three times!  Soon after, Christopher was born.  It wasn't a perfect marriage.  There were many ups and downs.  Bad times and good times.  I am not a perfect man.  I am flawed.  I couldn't be "tamed."


Tamed or not, thirty years later, this past May, Maribel and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding (the secret one) anniversary at the Emerald Downs here in Auburn, Washington.  We invited special friends from our Holy Family Catholic Church, and Maribel's friends from work, and her relatives from VancouverCanada.  They all came bearing gifts: expensive champagnes and flutes ... bottles of wine, house decors and art collections, a framed poster of the Divine Mercy and the Blessed Mother, kitchen gadgets, money, and of course, the inevitable tie.


During the cocktail hour, Gerry and Jun, two good friends from church, serenaded us with "oldies but goodies."  I especially liked their rendition of "Crazy."  They said, they especially sang that old song for me.  Then dinner ... then we danced all night to the music of Edgar Mesina and his four-man band.  There were impromptu speeches, impromptu karaoke-like singing, and an impromptu song and dance performance by our son, Chris and his beautiful blonde wife, Jaclyn.  They sang one of their fun songs, "I Want It That Way."  It was a hit.    


It was a blast of a party.  And of course, I got drunk from drinking several glasses of red wine ... and from happiness at being surrounded by special people that have touched our lives.  Lolet and Caloy, Tina and Carol, Cherry Ann, Kuya Manny and Ate Baby, Vilma, Gerry and Tara, Fred, Jun and Jo, Rochelle and George, Bea and Sal and many others.... 


The wordings on their cards that accompanied their gifts were touching.  A friend of Maribel e-mailed this, and I think this best summed up how this celebration turned out:


"Thanks so much for inviting us.  The event setting was so beautiful.  The food delicious!  The band was great!  Everything was well planned.  Of course, you and Jesse made the evening.  You were having so much fun that your guests couldn't help but have a fantastic time.  Good to see that Christopher and Jaclyn are enjoying one another and doing well.  I am going to have you and Jesse over soon.  Luv. Rochelle."


N ext to the Dom Perignon champagne that Chris and Jaclyn gave us, I think the most personal gift of all were the things that our good friend, Dawn Kuhlman, gave us.  So I wrote this to her:


Hello Dawn,


Finally got to open all the gifts the other day.  Yours was the most thoughtful of all, and as Maribel said, the "most personal."  Yes, The Little Prince was the best of all, I think!  And the video cassette, "Casablanca."  And the two red coffee cups.  And the two bags of pop corn.  I am sipping my coffee now from one of the cups that you gave us as I write this email to you.


I read again with eagerness THE book where it all began. Savored the feelings once again that I felt when I first met Maribel and she gave me that book to read ... some 30 years ago. Time is so swift indeed. Of course, those feelings and my interpretation of those feelings, invoked by that book are different now.


It's more meaningful now. And more profound.


But the "child" in me is still the same though.  The loveliest portion of this book is the conversation between the Little Prince and the Fox.  It's the essence of the book, I think.  It's the essence of how my life with Maribel began.


You have to be a child to be be able to truly understand and appreciate and love this beautiful book. Thank you so much for your gifts, Dawn. One of these evenings, Maribel and I will watch Casablanca, too, with the bags of sweet pop corn.



PS: BTW, we also enjoyed your company last Sunday at Applebee's. Take care now and see you in church.  You're a blessing to us as a friend.  Thank you so much for that, too.


And thank you so much, too, Dear Readers, for reading the celebration of my thirtieth wedding. And, these echoes from my heart: "One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes."  I'll always remember those words, from "The Little Prince" of long ago.  For that's how it all began for Maribel and me.  It began as a secret.  JJ 


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