FIRST PERSON | Remembering a pamanhikan in 1979


It was a time when Marcos (Hitler, Diktador, Tuta) was riding high — plundering the country and committing widespread and grave human rights violations and killings — and I was working full-time for the anti-martial law movement.

But whatever the times, romance had to have a place in our lives. To make a long story short, we went to the home of my sweetheart for the traditional pamanhikan. It went well for the first several minutes, the getting to know your families part. Then my future mother-in-law inquired how I would support my family considering that i had no means of livelihood and was not earning anything from my electrical engineering. It was a very legitimate concern that required an answer that everybody could grasp without a full-blown discussion of the national and international situation at that time.

I was still carefully formulating a reply in my mind when my future father-in-law — a Methodist pastor from Pangasinan, who, with nine children to feed, did missionary work in Mindanao for years — he patiently explained in just a few words the methodology: “Mamang, do not worry. God will provide.” Thus, ended the final Q&A part of the traditional pamanhikan and the merienda y cena followed. And we have lived happily ever after, even with a second detention in Fort Bonifacio more than a decade later.

The author and his wife Divina on their wedding day
A few months earlier, I had written a poem for my girl friend who was to become my ex-girl friend via the process of pamanhikan and the rites of marriage in a UCCP chapel in historic Kawit, Cavite on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.


I know the beauty of
a woman’s love.

It is in her soft cry
of pain when too hard
I pressed her hand.

It is in the gingerly way
she skipped over a pool
of rainwater
as we walked to the park.

It is in the manner
she came into my life —
soothing as a gentle breeze.
refreshing as mild rain.

But we are amidst a struggle
to bring forth a new world
out of the womb of the old.

Only here can the beauty
of a woman’s love bloom
and grow.

The soft cry fades away into
the core of a clenched fist
to shout out as
a cry of protest,
a cry for freedom.

The gingerly skip slips into
the darkness to reappear
as a skillful maneuver
to outwit the enemy.

The gentle breeze grows into
a storm-wind to blow
changes over the land.

And mild rain transforms itself
into the heavy monsoon rain
to drench the land and wash away
the iniquities of centuries.

– 1978
Happy Valentine’s Day!

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