Forty-six years ago, located along the highway in front of the city college, was a Mabolo tree. The students who studied at the college made this tree the meeting place for their spare periods. A single concrete bench served as a seat for them. The high school students spent their free time there too.
Under this tree, I found the way to a circuitous, challenging life. It was the first step in a relationship that would become central in my life. That Mabolo tree helped pave the way to eternity.
I wasn’t used to a group or a company to be with. I was a loner. I was too selective in choosing my friends. I always stayed by myself. At the age of 17, I wanted to have some good friends. But because of such attitude, I didn’t have a permanent friend.
Our improvised music class in the open study hall was done and I was the only one left when the rain started to fall. A young girl with a long hair came to take shelter in the study hall. I caught the serious, mysterious smile on her face and the magazine in her right hand. I turned my back for a moment to muster some courage to approach her. When I got back to her, she was gone. I couldn’t find her, wherever she was headed.
It seemed I had forgotten that trivial moment I with a female co-student in the high school. But I was surprised, for I later found her again lining up with her classmates in their history class. I spotted the same magazine she had before in her hand. I bravely came to approach her and, what a blessing, Mila my neighbor was her classmate!
I greeted Mila, who asked me what I was doing there. I told here that I wanted to borrow a magazine, pointing to her classmate in front of her. The girl wouldn’t lend it to me. But Mila assured her that I would handle it and return as it is. So finally, the girl agreed to lend it to me. I took the magazine and went inside to my math class in the nearby building.
“Nakita Ko Na!”
While studying my notes at home that night, I stopped for awhile and started reading the magazine. I had read one or two featured articles when my curiosity led me to search for the name of a mysterious girl. I felt surely it should be written somewhere on the pages.
I started skimming the pages started to look for a name. I did it over and over again until I got tired, but I didn’t find it. I threw the magazine on the top of my studying table, which failed to catch it. I picked it up while the centerfold opened wide. “Nakita ko na!”
I had found it! Her name was written horizontally in small printed letters, close to the fold of the page.
No wonder that girl was too mysterious, for her name Rebecca means the enchantress. She enchanted my heart. She gave me many sleepless nights to prove the mysterious hold she had on me. Without much time, I wrote a letter to her and placed it inside the education magazine. I went to return it to her the following Monday. Sadly, she was absent. I gave it to her male classmate on my behalf.
Under the Mabolo Tree
Rebecca and I later became fast friends. We used to wait for each other after class hours in the afternoon at the Mabolo tree. Rebecca travelled 9 kilometers from her place in La Granja to the school each day. I used to accompany her to the bus terminal when she left for home at the end of the day.
One day I saw her sitting on the bench ahead of me. I had come late, for I was one of the cleaners in our homeroom. We had enough time to spend before her scheduled departure time. We conversed, evaluated our lessons for the day. And then a strong feeling prompted me to express myself to her. It was a timely instinct, for it was February – and we know what lovers are doing!
I was nervous. I hardly opened my mouth. But I overcame my fears and said, “I love you.” She remained silent for a moment, looking straight into my eyes. Then she said, “I love you, too”. With a big smile on my face and in my heart, I took her left hand and led her to the bus terminal without saying anything. I was tongued-tied but my happiness was overwhelming. It was my first love and last love, for we have been married now for 44 years.