Editor's Note: Last year for our Valentine's issue, journalist Corito Fiel wrote about her one great love in "True Love Matters". This is the final chapter to her story.
For you loved me and I loved you. So very, very much. But you went. You died. And it isn’t easy to live without you. Because all I have are just the memories. They will never go away. The pain of losing you will never go away.
Last year, for this magazine’s Valentine issue, I wrote about N. How we met and fell in love and the magic that bound us together for close to 35 years. How we were sometimes more than friends but, for the most part, it was an enduring friendship so “light and easy”. Despite his complicated relationships, for he was a complicated man, engaging with him was like being in a long Nora Ephron movie, with crisp, smart, witty dialogue. We were always picking up where we left off and there were the undetermined years between the last and the next encounter. We were like Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”.
I finally came home to join him, to live with him. It was more than playing house. This was the real thing. More than a marriage, we just felt this was it. We just had to be together. And when my mother sometimes raised her Catholic objections—she could not countenance our “living in sin”—I would tell her, “Mom, I’m pushing 60. We’ll get there. In time.”
Oh, how we thought we had time on our side!
At this point, I feel I must divulge who he was and stop keeping him like some delicious secret I alone must carry in my heart. For he had a name—Naldi Castro. And I was—am—so very proud of him. I must share him with the world.
For early baby boomers and colegialas who grew up listening to pop radio, before the advent of MTV or the rise of VJs, Naldi was a radio legend in his own right, his handle cut from Muhammad Ali’s “I am the greatest!” His father was the late Angelo Castro, Sr., Press Deputy Minister during the Marcos era, and Angelo Jr. of “The World Tonight”, also deceased, was his eldest brother. Naldi himself went on to manage several radio stations and the last job he had before he fell ill and died was with IBC-13 as a member of its Board of Directors.
Illness stalked Naldi in the long years I did not see nor hear from him. But he miraculously survived, regained his memory, and learned to walk all by himself. He used to joke, “I have four miracles. I survived two brain strokes and an aneurism attack. That’s three. And the fourth, my wife left me!”
That sharp, sometimes morbid sense of humor, the ability to laugh at himself, despite great odds, never left him. And we had very little when we started out together. Very little money, for he lost everything he had when he was sick and bedridden. But we had laughter. He was always making me laugh—and the rest, we would leave to God.
We looked forward to growing old together. “Still holding hands,” he would say. One time, up in Baguio for a quick visit, we were sitting by the stairs of the old PX Commissary in Camp John Hay, watching lowlanders snapping up goods. The night was full of stars. I held his hand, squeezed it, and said, “Nalds, look at us.” He laughed. We had no money for shopping. We just had us. “We have so many dreams,” I told him. “We can’t even get started off the gate.” Well, he just had enough money to buy each of us a caffe latte.
But God is good. Naldi became busier with projects and so was I, doing some writing. We just had enough to live on and then some, to pay the rent, the power bills, cable TV, WiFi—and a good slab of prime rib steak now and then. We were talking of taking trips, definitely Batanes was in the cards, and maybe Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) or perhaps Hong Kong, which he knew like the palm of his hand (where to shop, where to eat—eeow!—live monkey’s brains, for one).
But he was not the old Naldi. The strong, athletic Naldi who played a mean round of golf with a handicap of 2, who took up skydiving till his mother made him stop. He was growing weaker, panting for breath after a short walk, holding onto my arm to steady himself. Still, he could drive like the devil, with badass steering skills up Kennon Road. But in time, he could not drive at all.
Once again, he was bedridden. He could not breathe without an oxygen tank. He had a debilitating kidney disease that sapped him physically. He had to go for dialysis treatments twice a week.
To watch him deteriorate before my eyes was emotionally wrenching. I was devastated but I had to plod on, doing things for him that had to be done. There were times when I just wanted to be far, far away because I could not bear to see this man I love die. These were the nights of tears, of shattered dreams. I dreaded his going and I was angry because I desperately wanted him to live, to be with me till we are bent and wrinkled and walking on canes—and still holding hands.
There was a night I clearly remember. I was sleeping by his side. He woke me up and said, in a loud, clear voice, “I want to lie down and sleep with you.” Then he lay his head on my shoulder.
Those were the most romantic words he ever told me.
Naldi finally went in the afternoon of January 28. We had one beautiful year together. Friends who are privy to our story say, “If only you could turn back the clock …” I say, my eyes brimming with unshed tears, “One year. It was God’s sweet time.” One year of just this—pure love.
Corito Fiel started her journalism career when she wrote a "Letter to the ConCon Delegates" in 1971, which was published in the front page of The Manila Times. Through the years, she has worked as feature writer and columnist for various Manila newspapers and magazines. She was a Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist and, during long home visits, worked as copy editor for BusinessWorld Magazine (now defunct) and for ABS-CBN Publishing. Corito is now back in Manila to, as she puts it, "test the waters".