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Three Golds

Fr. Carmelo O. Diola
Spaces of Hope

 

I WAS waiting inside a tourist bus when it fluttered in unannounced and unobtrusive, finally perching precariously on the window pane immediately to my left. I took a closer look—the butterfly had golden wings! More precisely, its wingtips were black, followed by a layer of white, then a generous swathe of gold.

The symbol was not lost on me. That weekend I had invitations to celebrate three golden-wedding anniversaries. To be invited to one is a special treat for priests since such celebrations are hard to come by these days. It also has to do with time-tested love.
Pope Francis writes in Amoris Laetitia 23:

“A word should also be said about those whose love, like a fine wine, has come into its own. Just as a good wine begins to ‘breathe’ with time, so too the daily experience of fidelity gives married life richness and ‘body’. Fidelity has to do with patience and expectation. Its joys and sacrifices bear fruit as the years go by and the couple rejoices to see their children’s children. The love present from the beginning becomes more conscious, settled and mature as the couple discover each other anew day after day, year after year. Saint John of the Cross tells us that ‘old lovers are tried and true’. They ‘are outwardly no longer afire with powerful emotions and impulses, but now taste the sweetness of the wine of love, well-aged and stored deep within their hearts’. Such couples have successfully overcome crises and hardships without fleeing from challenges or concealing problems.”

Two of the three celebrations coincided with each other. I chose the first couple who sent their invitation.

Each couple had gems of wisdom to share. The first struck me with their simplicity. Mano Paquito and Mana Gomer even considered foregoing any celebration and just give money to charity. Some reassuring words may have changed their minds. Mana Gomer had been in government service concerned with procurement. It had offered her many opportunities to enrich herself and her family. Her steady and quiet resolve inspires.

This golden couple only has one wedding picture. The photo studio had burned down taking with it their pictures. In the single picture that remains, the beautiful bride is looking at the photographer while the dashing husband has his eyes only on her. No wonder Mr. and Mrs. Ceniza have remained together.

***

 

 

The second couple are both professor emeriti of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños. Sadly, I had to miss their celebration. Mano Loloy and Mana Clara have their hearts on the ground. Though Divine Providence did not gift Mr. and Mrs. Davide with any biological children, they have many offspring all over the Philippines, so to speak. Mano Loloy spearheads a national effort, called the Farmer-Scientist Training Program, meant to increase the income of farmers by combining faith, science, and marketing in their work. His program also promotes urban agriculture. His ready smile and wit belie a deep faith and unshakeable hope.

Armand and Ruth dela Cruz reside in Mississippi, USA. Armand has a PhD in biology and is a pioneer in advancing environmental issues in the early 1970s in Mindanao. He has written several books and is an expert in marine biology, particularly mangrove life. He and his wife Ruth are active in many volunteer work. At least once a year they visit the Philippines for a volunteer work in Potungan, Zamboanga del Norte.

All three couples are “outwardly no longer afire with powerful emotions and impulses, but now taste the sweetness of the wine of love, well-aged and stored deep within their hearts”. One also sees the complementarity necessary for couples to remain contented and fruitful. Even if publicly one spouse is more in the public eye than the other, the other remains giving and supportive.

All golden couples manifest very deep faith in God and love for country, even if one has since migrated. Interestingly, all have played leadership roles in the construction of houses of worship in the places they live.

Armand and Ruth have an additional story to tell.

***

I first met the dela Cruzes about two decades ago down in the deep south of Starkville, Mississippi, USA. Our friendship has grown through the years as they make it a point to drop by Cebu City to see Armand’s best friend, Abe, on their way to Mindanao for their mission work. Armand and Ruth are members of the Methodist Church.

They first mentioned their forthcoming golden wedding anniversary about two years ago and invited me to join them for the celebration. I said a joyful “yes”. About a year ago, Armand emailed to say they wanted me to renew their vows, give the homily, and say the final blessing!

It was late morning when we arrived at the Evangelical Methodist Mission in Potungan, not far from Dapitan. I was told the area used to be just a small clearing two decades ago, when the mission began. Now it has several buildings and a concrete basketball court, fruits of my friends’ mission work.

Pastor Balbon and I shared the sacred space with a congregation of about 100 people, including about 50 guests from the USA. “Love is patient, love is kind…” came the reading from 1 Corinthians 13.

How golden is love!

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