Sunday, August 25, 2013

Suddenly last Saturday...

... days before "Maring" caused a sea of devastation, old married couple Fe ("Peng") and Manny Arriola found themselves belatedly feted at a surprise party marking their milestones: her 70th, his 75th birthdays, their 45th year of togetherness.

Their daughters Oya and Ina must be congratulated again for pulling the whole thing off, leaving the couple clueless every step of the way. As late as July, their Tita Gilda (Cordero Fernando) advised Oya to at least give Peng a day's notice--the humane thing because Gilda had witnessed a surprise birthday party that really caught the usually impeccably dressed celebrator by surprise. The birthday gal was without makeup,  wearing her slippers and the Filipino woman's national dress, the daster.

The Arriola sisters kept the secret tight among at least 100 people who turned up at the Corinthian Gardens Clubhouse's east hall Aug. 17. Thanks to the cell phone, the coordinates--where Peng and Manny were at the moment--were telegraphed until the waiters dimmed the lights while the couple climbed down the steps towards the hall, expecting to pick up Ina for a dinner out. A straight-faced son-in-law led the way (later, he said he was tempted to dress down like Manny in tee shirt and shorts just to increase his credibility as bait). By this time, the guests were cackling at the sight of Manny in his get-up, down to his tsinelas. 'Twas like the daster incident, only this time a man was caught off-guard.

To whoops of "Happy birthday!", the couple strode in as the lights came on. The look on their faces was irreplaceable. When the excitement settled down a bit, Ina announced, "Now we can eat!"
Peng Arriola with Oya on her left wearing  a dress crocheted by her mom that fitted her thin frame to a T.
Manny gladly receives one of many kisses from women friends.
Peng hugs back her former classmates from St. Theresa's College.
Journalist Vergel Santos (left) heckles Manny, "Anong ginanaga mo dito?", sounding like a bouncer about to bar an intruder for not following an exclusive club's dress code.
Manny covers his  mouth, aghast at seeing fellow retired adman JJ Calero (in pink stripes). Vergel continues to ask, "Anong ginagawa mo dito?"
Yes, Manny, your words have come back to haunt you. Vergel sketches his pal and the missus.
Peng seen through the eyes of Vergel (those are his fingers showing)
The quick sketches serve as apres-dessert entertainment for those sharing this table: Chito and Mariel Francisco and Edna Zapanta Manlapaz.
Over dinner, there was a chance to read the aphorisms of Manny and the husband-wife exchanges that glued their marriage for 45 years. These were pried from the memory of Manny by Ina in the guise of her needing ice-breakers for a seminar she'd conduct. Here are some of those that decorated each table and put a smile on our faces:

"Nabalitaan mo ba yung may colon cancer na inoperahan para putulan ang colon? Semi colon na sya ngayon."

PENG (to a dinner guest): Some say I can't truly be a feminist because I'm happily married.

MANNY: Hmmm. Baka ako puede.

Habang nagmamaneho si Manny...

PENG: O, kaliwa ka dyan...Dito ka sa may kanan..Naman, ang mga tumatawid!...Tumabi ka...Naku, bakit tayo hinuhuli ng pulis?!

MANNY: Palagay ko backseat driving without a license.

SONNY: Manny, bakit tumataba  ka?

MANNY: Madalas kasi magluto si Peng ngayon, eh.

SONNY: Masarap magluto si Peng!

MANNY: Hindi. Madalas ako ngayon kumain sa labas.
"Old age is hereditary. And terminal."

"Heard about the man who told his wife that, like wine, a man gets better with age? He now lives in his cellar." 
This caricature by Manny Vailoces, reputedly the top graphic artist in the country, according to Adobo (magazine of the advertising industry), captures the chemistry between Peng and Manny. Chemistry? Let's just call it by its true name--love.
Photos by Babeth Lolarga
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