I don’t think I enjoy anything more than spending time with family. They say: “Cousins are usually the first friends we have as children. No one will ever understand your crazy family like your cousins do, even if you haven’t talked too much lately. ”
Through the years, you discover that you have so much in common and that it goes beyond sharing a last name. There are unmistakable similarities not just in your physical features, but in the way you speak and laugh, what you enjoy. Very often you even think alike.
We are a huge family on the Corrales side, descendants of a Tabacalera executive. We are clannish to the extreme, funny, a tad dysfunctional perhaps, but warm and loving, a bit gullible and prone to picking up strays, both animals and people.
Monday I had lunch with cousins. It was a long trek to Parañaque, a bumper-to-bumper crawl at noon. But I have learned to relax in traffic. I allow more time for travel, settle back and enjoy the scenery.
I had not been on Presidents Avenue in ages and was shocked by the proliferation of shops and restaurants on that long street. I also noticed there are as many banks as there are pawnshops. I wonder why.
I was excited to get to my destination. It isn’t every day that one gets to break bread with Asia’s Queen of Song. Her husband Carlos was our in-house chef.
Lunch was delicious: homemade pizza, fabada with authentic chorizo de Bilbao, tortilla de patatas and a citrusy slab of tuna. The fresh sweet pineapple juice was icy cold.
Our conversation was varied, with topics ranging from love and marriage, our children and grandchildren, the state of show business, the decadence of what passes for music these days, and why the F word seems indispensable in today’s hit songs and in every “cool” conversation with our young people.
We also touched on politics and the dismal and dismaying candidates here and in the US. We agreed on our “no way” picks for both elections.
The Academy Awards were on TV. I don’t go to the movies much, if at all, and was therefore asking many questions that made me look like the most uninformed individual on the planet who knows zero about the latest motion pictures. At least I knew Leonardo Di Carpio from “Titanic” and rejoiced with millions of fans when he finally got an Oscar after 22 years of great acting.
I promised myself to try to be more current. I stopped going because I could not get used to the swearing and the explicit sex. But I may walk out. Again. No, I am not a prude.
We also talked about the rave reviews of Madonna’s concerts in Manila. I don’t know about you, but I am offended when someone calls me names. It seems like people today will pay exorbitant ticket prices just to be insulted.
We had high praises for Carlos. His pizza was the best I’ve had since New York. I am surprised that in this day of take out and free delivery, anyone even bothers to make anything from scratch.
I passed on a glass of highly rated Australian wine, apparently a gift from an old friend who owns a huge ranch and vineyards outside Sydney.
As in every family gathering, there was nonstop eating, chatter and laughter. Fun!
When I arrived, I saw a very old Corrales family photograph taken probably in the early or mid 1920s. No one was sure who the children in the picture were. I was proud (and surprised) that I recognized and remembered them all.
We reminisced about countless afternoons and late nights spent at the old ABS-CBN studios on Roxas Boulevard where we taped “An Evening With Pilita.” I wrote scripts for her. The late Mitos Villarreal directed. TV musicals were for prime viewing back then. Those were very interesting times.
Pilita needs to tell her story. I remember discussing this with her brother Rafael many years ago. He died before it could happen. Many of her memoirs were lost in the floods of “Ondoy.” But she has promised to write down everything she remembers. We may yet have a bestseller!
Not just ‘the wife of’
That night, I went to a fundraiser in Makati.
I detest political gatherings and was reluctant to go. But this one was different. Unlike most political gatherings where people are paid to attend (read: “hakot”), that night’s guests actually paid to be there, to listen and to learn.
Dinner was simple. No frills.
And then Leni spoke.
I had heard that she was simple, unassuming, humble, down to earth and sincere. My heart asked, don’t they all start the same way?
That she was a revelation is a huge understatement. When she told her story, I saw no trace of phony. Because she is not well-known she told us about herself. She spoke about her life. No drama, no violins; just the facts.
She is housewife, mother, lawyer and lawmaker; she has braved the jungles to lend a hand. We discovered that the lady on stage that night was more than just “the wife of.” I believe that what we saw and felt was the heart of a real public servant.
Will this be enough to place her “a heartbeat away”? Abangan!