That’s Amore

King and Boots Rodrigo (Photo by Cathy S. Babao)

King and Boots Rodrigo (Photo by Cathy S. Babao)

They never planned on falling in love and, in fact, there were several hits and misses before he realized that she was the woman he wanted to marry. But when he did, he pursued her relentlessly.

“I never looked for it but when it stared me in the eye, I did not run away from it. Ganoon I think is the way to do it. If you look for it, dahil hinahanap mo, maski hindi tama sasabihin mo ‘ito na’ (because you're looking for it, even if it's not the right person, you will just say, yes this is it) because you want it to be so. Pag hindi mo hinahanap, dadating kung talagang dadating (If you're not looking for it, [love] will come if it's destined),” Francisco “King” Rodrigo recalls.

It’s a union that is filled to the brim with laughter and conversation. Endless conversations that sometimes go deep into the night, even one year after. “We do a lot of talking all day and night, sometimes at 2 a.m. and we always say, this is almost too good to be true. We must have done something good in our younger days. This is probably a bonus or a reward,” shares Boots Anson, formerly Roa.

To which King quickly adds, “Ako naman I tell her it’s scary kasi it’s too perfect. If you lose it, the hurt will be more di ba?”

Both admit that having found a second spring quite late in the game, time is no longer on their side. Boots is quick to recognize this and says, “I think you know it’s an unwritten agreement that no matter how many or how few years are given to us, we don’t know that, what’s important is (that) whatever number of years we have, we’ll put life into those years.”

Their first date was on Pete’s (Roa, Boots' late husband) birthday, January 16th.

“Do you know the saying, ‘Mama knows best?’ My mother, before I met Boots, whenever she would see me with another woman, would directly tell [the woman], 'King is mine alone.' But she accepted Boots right away. They [mothers] seem to know if she's the right woman or not.” And King, who is very close to his mother, wisely heeded her advice.

Seeking Permission

King says that from the very start, everyone approved of their relationship, including their deceased spouses. After their first lunch date, they headed to Pete's crypt and King asked for his permission to court Boots. “We talked to Pete's urn at hindi naman umusok (it didn't go up in smoke). And then we asked Olga, ganun din naman (it was the same).”

Everyone gets along, which is part of what made the first year go smoothly. “Our kids get along very well. Even my Roa in-laws, they get along well with him,” Boots shares. “I also get along with Olga's siblings and cousins.”

“Sometimes we say, this is too perfect that it’s scary, something’s gotta give,” she adds.

It is a slow Saturday evening when I meet the two, who are still very much in love and seemingly on a perpetual honeymoon. The room is thick with the caring and devotion that they have for each other. Although now considered super seniors, they lead very active lives, which both believe contribute to the harmony and spontaneity of their union.

“Both of us still work. We are active in our respective professions. And I think that’s why we enjoy times like these – lazy Saturdays. So I told her, you know we enjoy this because we work from Monday to Friday. If we do this every day, it might not be as good,” King explains.

Although they both work, they now have the flexibility to say no to projects that they don’t feel very strongly about. “Fortunately I’m at that stage when I don’t have to accept every offer that comes. As for King, he heads his office so he owns his hours. Like the other day, I was at the Mowelfund for a meeting, then about an hour later, he sends me an SMS ‘How would you like to have a romantic lunch with your was-swit (husband)?’ So that was the end of the meeting,” Boots laughs.

Boots and King Rodrigo (Photo by Cathy S. Babao)

Boots and King Rodrigo (Photo by Cathy S. Babao)

Showers and New Discoveries

They like to finish each other’s sentences and the banter between them is light, funny and breezy. When I ask them about the new things they’ve taught each other, Boots, the actress is quick to say, “He’s not into concerts or movies, which I love…”

To which King, the lawyer quickly explains, “I don’t go to movies, but sometimes she forces me to go. So we watched 'Captain Phillips' and when we left the movie house, she asked me, ‘King, what was the last movie you watched? I said, ‘Gandhi’ 35 years ago. Then she brought me to a Martin Nievera concert, ang gulo, ang ingay (so chaotic, so noisy)! So she asked me, ‘What was your last concert?’ and I said Joni James (in the 1960s). So ang daming first sa buhay ko (There are so many firsts in my life)!”

Even in the manner of dressing, Boots has, in a way, taught the lawyer to relax more. “I’ve never worn jeans in my life, so one day she said she'll buy me a pair. We were in Subic and we went to Wrangler and she told me to sit down. The sales lady brings out several, and I ask her, “Hija, bakit naman puro kupas kupas iyang binibigay mo (why are you giving me only faded jeans)?” He laughs at the recollection.

Now he wears loafers without socks, which is also a first for him.

King, who is a stickler for showers, has influenced Boots to be the same. “For me, taking a shower is panacea. When I feel a headache coming on, I take a shower. If I’m so tired, I take a shower, and the rule is I never go to bed without taking a shower because I don’t like the sheets to get dirty. So I take a minimum of two showers a day but she doesn't,” he ribs her.

To which Boot replies, “I don't. I only take one shower a day in the morning when I wake up, before I leave for work. In the evening, sometimes I'm already so tired. Si King no matter what time he gets home, he will shower. So ever since we got married, now I have to take two showers a day! Like today, I got home at 3:30 a.m. from taping, if I weren’t married to him, I would’ve just washed up and that’s it, sleep. Pero hindi nahiya ako eh, so naligo ako (But I felt embarrassed so I took a shower.)

Chivalry is Not Dead

One of the things Boots, the independent woman, had to adjust to was King’s heightened sense of chivalry. “He is Mr. Chivalry to an impractical extent. When we were courting, he was living in Alabang and I lived here in Quezon City. Whenever we had an appointment or a date in Alabang, or in Makati, or Tagaytay, I would tell him, ‘King, I have a driver, I can just meet you there. Imagine, no he will insist, he will come here, with his driver and his car and he will pick me up and then bring me back after.”

She says further: “And because I’m so used to being independent, I don’t even wait for my driver to open the car door, I just go out. With him, because he likes it, I have to wait for him to open my car door, and while I’m waiting, I sit there thinking ‘Sayang ang oras (time is being wasted)…” She smiles but one can feel her heart smile in delight at the recollection.

King then explains: “It gives me extreme pleasure to be able to do it for you. Otherwise, I will not do it if I don’t enjoy it. So for you to say no, you’re depriving me of happiness. Like when you cook for me, you don’t do it to give yourself pleasure di ba? You do it to make me happy. If I tell you don’t cook, I’m depriving you. That's how chivalry works. Chivalry gives the man pleasure.”

Not only is he gallant, but he is terribly generous as well. Boots relates how King would not even let her use her own money to buy him a present. “There’s an occasion and I want to buy him a gift. When he finds out that I’m going to use my own money, he would say no. But it's strange, isn't it, that I would buy him a gift using his money. Sometimes I don't tell him and would get money from my own account, and if he finds out, he'll say, ‘You cheated on me!’ Akala mo naman kung anong cheat!”

“He’s so big on gift-giving. Me, I’m kuripot (tightwad) with myself. I don’t buy expensive shoes. Like this one, he forced me to buy these Ferragamo shoes. I’ve only owned one pair of Ferragamo’s and I had them for 20 years.”

King's daughter works for Chanel, and one time, he asked her to buy Boots a bag. “So she comes home with this beautiful bag and I ask Boots to go buy a new pair of shoes to match with the bag. And guess where she goes? Payless! So I said, ‘Boots, my daughter might get back the bag. Please don't pair it with Payless shoes.”

Boots: “So against my will, if it's just me, Payless [shoes] is what I buy. For me, shoes are just for stepping on. So now, I’m wearing signature shoes. All my expensive bags and shoes, they're all gifts to me. The only thing I invest in is jewelry.”

And King loves to indulge her. “Jewelry doesn’t depreciate. And from my experience, when we fled the country in 1979, that's what we brought with us, the jewelry of my wife that I bought her. It’s easy to carry. So in the lean years, when we needed money, we would sell a piece.”

Both of them were political asylees. “It was my ticket to the United States,” King shares. “It was the same circumstance for her, only reverse. I sought asylum during Marcos' time. She, on the other hand, sought asylum after Marcos was gone.” Similar paths, but on the other side of the political fence.

He loves to write her poetry. “Until now. For example, yesterday, in the middle of my taping and he was at work, I had a message on my cell phone from him. ‘Iniirog kita (I love you) Boots.’ In the afternoon, ‘Sinasamba kita (I worship you), Boots.’ I would respond, ‘Hay kiliig!’”

King says that from the very start, everyone approved of their relationship, including their deceased spouses.

Wisdom for a Second Spring

King: “Give and give, the taking will take care of itself. I won’t even say give and take. The taking will take care of itself. And look at all of this now.

“This is a blessing, in my old age, the Lord gave me Boots. Everything stems from a wholesome relationship. It's right in the eyes of people, it's right in the eyes of God. This is easy for us because [we're] Christ-centered. Without the blessing of the sacrament, I don’t think it will be this easy. The starting point for me is marriage, make it right, and everything else will follow.”

A question that's often asked of them, since both were financially independent, is if there was a pre-nup. King said, “I didn't even think of that. As far as I'm concerned, we melded what we both have and that's that.”

He quickly added, “I could never imagine asking her, ‘Boots, will you marry me? Please sign this pre-nup.' I cannot picture myself doing that. If the spouses are fair to each another, there is no need for a pre-nup.”

Money has never been and will never be an issue between the two of them. Boots shares, “King wants to provide, so I let him. He wants to spend for everything. But I told him that I have some extended family and personal advocacies that I help from time to time, so I should spend for those myself. But he said, ‘When I married you, I married into your family, into your obligations.'”

And King stresses his commitment. “It's not right to say I married you to the exclusion of the other members of your family. It doesn’t happen that way. It shouldn’t. I marry you, and the entirety of you.”

A Gentle Touch

In addition to being chivalrous, King loves to serve too. According to Boots, he likes to massage her feet. It is a loving practice that began when they were engaged and continues to this day. “He loves to massage my feet. And he has a very light touch. At bedtime, he reads me Biblical passages, in five minutes I'm asleep. “

Boots says that King has taught her a lot too, especially in the area of being expressive with one’s love. “I believe that I express my love best through actions. I'm not the type to be saying ‘I love you.’ One time, I ended my phone conversation with Leah (her eldest daughter) with ‘I love you, Leah’ and she said, ‘Ma, wait, I might fall off my chair.” Hindi talaga. Si King, with his children, his grandchildren ma-I love you sila. And that’s something I’m learning from him.”

They are at a wonderful stage in their lives where everything is light, and they give thanks for each day they are given together. “Boots is God’s blessing to me in my old age,” he tells her lovingly. To which Boots adds, “We have no needs anymore, only wants. Pareho kaming mababaw ang kaligayahan, we’re both very easy to please. That’s a blessing.”

And then he turns to her and says with a twinkle in his eye, “Isa na lang ang kulang natin… sana magka-anak tayo (There's just one thing we lack – I hope we will still have a child).” And they both break out in laughter.

Cathy S. Babao

Cathy S. Babao

Cathy S. Babao, mother, author, columnist, grief educator and counselor works as a communications consultant for various multinational companies, and teaches grief education at the Ateneo de Manila University.

She writes "Roots and Wings", a weekly column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She has written two books, Heaven's Butterfly, a children's book on grief, and Between Loss and Forever: Filipina Mothers on the Grief Journey, a finalist for the 2011 National Book Awards.

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