One of the most frequently asked questions the media addressed to Noy was, “Kumusta na ang love life mo?”
Other than updates on important matters of the State, somehow the media also closely monitored matters relating to the former Chief Executive’s heart. When asked for an update on his love life in one of his press conferences, Noy casually remarked, “Ah parang Coca Cola…noong araw regular, naging light, ngayon zero.”
The search for Noy’s lifetime partner was also a concern among family and friends. There was no dearth of matchmakers and prospects. At some point, I did not have enough fingers and toes to count the number of girlfriends and dates he had had.
If I venture a guess why none of his relationships blossomed to a lifetime union, it would probably revolve around two reasons:
Firstly, Noy was very exacting and demanding. He required perfection in everything he got into. I think his Cabinet secretaries will attest to the fact that if you did not come prepared to your meetings with him, he would not hide his disappointment and disgust. While his co-workers in government could and must bear this side of Noy, his ex-girlfriends and dates may have had a different view about this if he somehow brought this in his quest for a romantic life.
Secondly, Noy could be very stubborn and pretty set in his ways. For instance, it was no secret how many people tried to convince him to minimize his smoking and his consumption of Regular Coke when his health challenges demanded it. He would not hide his irritation each time anyone reminded him to quit what to him were his stress relievers. As far as food was concerned, he had his favorites and he would keep eating the same food when he got fixated on it. He could also be very particular about the consistency of the preparation of his comfort food. In this regard, I think only Yoly Yebes, his yaya and kasambahay of 30 years, could handle this department.
But as I think more about his love life, I also begin to realize that behind these lifetime partnership deal-breakers lies a deeper reason why Noy never found his better half.
‘The only valuable asset I can bequeath to you now is the name you carry’
At a very young age his father already introduced him to the idea of loving his country and his people. Allow me to quote some excerpts from Uncle Ninoy’s letter to Noy,
“You are my only son. You carry my name and the name of my father. I have no material wealth to leave you. I never had time to make money while I was in the hire of our people… The only valuable asset I can bequeath to you now is the name you carry. I have tried my best during my years of public service to keep that name untarnished and respected, unmarked by sorry compromises for expediency. I now pass it on to you, as good, I pray, as when my father, your grandfather, passed it on to me.
There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength.
Son, the ball is now in your hands. Lovingly, Dad”
Of course, this invitation to love his country is over and above Uncle Ninoy entrusting the whole family to him. In the same letter Uncle Ninoy wrote
“Forgive me for passing unto your young shoulders the great responsibility for our family. I trust you will love your mother and your sisters and lavish them with the care and protection I would have given them… Look after your two younger sisters with understanding and affection. Viel and Krissy will need your umbrella of protection for a long time. Krissy is still very young and fate has been most unkind to both of us. Our parting came too soon. Please make up for me. Take care of her as I would have taken care of her with patience and warm affection. Finally, stand by your mother as she stood beside me through the buffeting winds of crisis and uncertainties, firm and resolute and uncowed. I pray to God, you inherit her indomitable spirit and her rare brand of silent courage…”
This is probably where Noy started to become very demanding of himself and consequently of others. Growing up and experiencing first-hand the kind of sacrifice his dad and mom had to go through as a consequence of their decision to fight for a cause much larger than themselves, Noy already knew early on that there was no room for mediocrity. He knew that he needed to be the best of himself so he could give the best of himself for others.
This penchant for comfort habits, hobbies and food was his retreat
We all know that authentic sacrifice can be very draining and tiring. It is a constant emptying of the totality of ourselves. And when we run on empty, there will be nothing more to give. I can only speculate then that this is probably why Noy sought things to help him rest, relax, and re-energize to help him move on. This penchant for comfort habits, hobbies and food was his retreat.
So if my guess is right about the deal breakers in his search for a lifetime partner, it was probably because unknown, even to himself, is the fact that he was already taken. He was already committed to give of himself to his family and his country. There was no more time and space for another one.
Then again, when I ponder on his love life even deeper, it appears there was still space for just one more.
When he was confronted with the hard decision on whether or not he should seek the presidency in 2010, Noy had to choose between what was best for the two loves of his life. It was a choice between shielding and protecting his four sisters from another round of sacrifices and persecution, or the opportunity to really take the ball of public service which his dad passed on to him. This really tore his heart apart.
When I accompanied him to Zamboanga to make his day-long recollection, I had the chance to chat with him when he took a break for lunch and a smoke in between his time of prayer and consultations with his spiritual director, the late Sr. Agnes Guillen. In our conversation I asked him, “Kamusta na?” And his reply was, “Pare parang ang hirap atrasan. Mahirap tanggihan” (referring to the public clamor for him to run for office).
I remember telling him, “Sige, basta alam mo naman kung anong desisyon mo nandiyan na rin kami.” But I also remember cautioning him about the reality of fair weather friends. I told him then, “Pare okay tayo ngayon, but there will come a time that these people who are expressing all out support and love for you, will have their share of disappointments and will leave us behind. And unfortunately more often than not, you will be alone to carry this pain.”
After extended hours of prayer, Noy emerged from the cloistered monastery of Carmel Zamboanga and declared, “Sige, game na!”
Looking back, I believe what happened in Carmel Zamboanga was he actually finally found his one and only love. While his decision then looked like a decision to put his country and the Filipino people first before his sisters, what happened there was he actually met the One who has been actually seeking and courting him all this time. The One who has chosen to love him first.
Noy’s eyes were definitely wide open to the realities of betrayal and abandonment when he would no longer be in power
Noy’s Zamboanga Carmel Monastery was the equivalent of Uncle Ninoy’s and Auntie Cory’s Laur. It was there where he found the reason why he needed to give the best of himself for his country and his people because it was also there where he found Someone who actually already gave of Himself totally and unconditionally for others.
Noy’s eyes were definitely wide open to the realities of possible betrayal and abandonment when he would no longer be in power. Towards the end of his term he kept telling us to get this Aiza Seguerra album and he singled out this song , Minsan and Minahal ay Ako. Listening to this original Ryan Cayabyab composition then, I could feel the inner struggle of Noy as he anticipated the impending reality of desertion and loneliness.
True enough, that was what happened. Except for his most loyal supporters, friends, relatives and family, the majority of our people to whom he gave himself totally and uncompromisingly virtually abandoned him and broke his heart. Of course, this was also fueled by political enemies who proactively spewed lies and deception about him and made it their life’s mission to seek vengeance against him who stood up against their wrongdoings.
Yes this world may have broken Noy’s heart. But I believe all that does not matter anymore. He is now with his One and only Love. The One who, in Carmel Zamboanga, invited him to love even if it hurt. The One whom he humbly imitated in his 61 years here on earth.
The ultimate goal then was a kidney transplant. But at that time he was still not sold to the idea only because it meant someone else would have to give away a kidney
During our last face-to-face meet-up sometime in November of last year, his doctors were still grappling with how to manage the next critical steps to get him back in shape. I already noticed then the fistula embedded under his skin, which was already in preparation for dialysis. Typical, Noy, he was explaining to me and my brother Jim the very detailed game plan which he again demanded from his doctors. Pretty much like how he decided on the most difficult governance issues, Noy wanted to have a thorough knowledge of his options and the implications of his choices not only to himself but also the other people who would be affected. The ultimate goal then was a kidney transplant. But at that time he was still not sold to the idea only because it meant someone else would have to give away a kidney. He knew that the path towards recovery was still going to be rough.
But as we discussed his options in the context of the current state of our country today, he suddenly paused and asked my brother and me, “Hanggang dito na lang kaya ito? Ano pa kaya ang gustong pagawa sa akin ng Diyos?”
Such was Noy’s love life. It was all about how much more he could give of himself to the Love of his life, even if it meant loving those who are difficult to love; those who hurt him, those who have betrayed him; those who have abandoned him.
In the lens of the world, his was a tragic, unrequited love story. But in the eyes of his Beloved it was a love story that needed to end here on earth so that it will flourish forever in eternity.
Just today, my sister Christina showed me a letter which Noy sent us sometime in early ‘80s when they were still in Boston. There were no sms and email then so we settled for hard-copy letters sent via snail mail. In that letter he referred to my updates about my then girlfriend, Didi (now my wife of 30 years). As you can see, checking on our love lives really goes way back in time.
As I end this story and my take on Noy’s love life, somehow I cannot help but hear his voice asking me,
“Ikaw, Kumusta na ang love life mo?”