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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Love stories / Romance
- Subject: Heartbreak / Grief
- Published: 07/16/2010
A Lost StarBorn 1968, F, from Valenzuela City, Philippines
The chilly November wind did not seem to disturb her at all. Dressed only in a long-sleeved plain white cotton shirt and faded denim jeans, Rosary remained motionless on a bench in the park she had never ever dreamed of going to during the many years that she was coming back and forth to America to visit. For almost an hour, her head remained bent and her eyes kept pouring out copious tears that never seemed to run out. She was clutching a small piece of a newspaper cutout in her right hand that she put inside the pocket on her right breast, saving it from further soaking. It was drenched with her tears, not like the innumerable articles she had read over the years she was in show business that were filled with glowing descriptions of her.
As she looked up at her surroundings she was greeted with the sight of a beautiful Oriental couple in their 30’s playing ball with their two heavily bundled-up preschool-aged sons. The scene proved to be an even worse punishment for her. To her, it was what she should have been enjoying at this point in her life, if she had only had the courage to fight for her first love. Suddenly, memories, long past and gone and buried in what she thought was oblivion, began haunting her again, as if only a year had passed and not the twenty years or so that had separated them from each other. Everything seemed to become alive again in her mind, but not her. Never her, she thought. She was as good as dead – now, and probably forever.
When she was 15, Rosary was a slender, lovely girl around five feet one inch in height, with a smooth, fair complexion and a sweet face that had a ready smile to everyone who came her way. She was adored by all the young men in her place, even the poor who were always eagerly awaiting even just a trace of recognition from her. A very gifted young woman, she had an angelic soprano singing voice as well as an equally admirable skill with the piano, brought about by years of training under a well-known music teacher. She was also good at academics, a consistent honor student who was the pet of her teachers in school. It was the combination of her intelligence, her giftedness, and her charming shyness that had endeared her to them. She belonged to a group of seven privileged and intelligent friends whom the teachers called “good beauties.” In the neighborhood, she had some few close friends as well. One of them, Anita, she counted like a sister already. Anita was her long-time childhood friend, the daughter of a former maid of many years who lived in the adjacent slums right outside their exclusive village. Rosary secretly prided herself with her friendship with Anita as she saw it as a proof of her “levelheadedness,” a word the teachers often used to describe her in school.
It was a day during their Christmas vacation when Anita invited Rosary to her grandparents’ golden anniversary in their house, which was a cycle ride away from Anita’s house. The affair was supposed to start with a mass in their home, celebrated by a priest from the nearby parish. Rosary came in the usual ordinary old t-shirt and denim jeans that she often wore when with Anita. There she met Marco, the sacristan who happened to be Anita’s schoolmate in the public high school for the area, and who initially mistook Rosary as a relative of Anita’s. Marco was a brown-skinned lad of medium height, good looking in his own quiet way. She liked him the very first time she saw him, secretly wishing that he felt the same way too. Actually, Rosary would only know later on that what she felt for him was nothing compared to what he felt for her. For the first time in his life, he felt tremendous fascination for a girl. He was truly enchanted by her. Not just by her beauty, but the way she carried herself and the way she talked with Anita, as if every word Anita said to her was important, as if Anita was the beauty and she was the “fat friend”, as the movies often had it.
Then Rosary vividly remembered the time that Anita dutifully introduced them to each other. They both felt their faces flush, each wondering if the other one felt the warmth too. Marco could not even stay long then, feeling uncomfortable with his sudden stomach upset, probably a result of his excitement for the moment, he would later confide in her. He very warmly excused himself saying something about his mother expecting him back early so he could run an errand. But the day after in school he lost no time asking Anita about Rosary, where she lived, where she studied, and how he could reach her. He was very disappointed to find out she was rich. His mother warned him about being friends with rich people, because he might be unable to cope with them due to his own families poverty. He thought then that was wise. But now that he was in love it didn’t matter anymore. He called Rosary on the telephone first and asked if he could visit her. She said yes, thanking God and fate because her parents were then abroad and the maids would be out the weekend that he was to visit, so it was the most opportune time for them to be starting a friendship.
He came with a bunch of bananas he had gotten from the small farm in Batangas that his father was taking care of. They talked about many things, especially music. She was amazed with his intelligence, which she thought was extraordinary for his station in life, as well as his deep baritone singing voice. He was smitten with her beauty and her charm and her sweet singing voice. They sang many songs together, with her playing the piano or him playing the guitar. He told her about his disappointment at learning she was rich. She warned him about their gossipy maids and her condescending parents who would be back from the US by the following week. They arranged to meet at the church where he was serving every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. after the usual novena and mass. They did it for three Wednesdays more, before they finally became sweethearts. For six more months they met at the same church around the same time. They knew they had only one hope of being together in the open and eventually getting Rosary’s parents to gradually accept him as their daughter’s boyfriend someday, and that was by studying at the same school in college. The University of the Philippines was their only hope. Her parents would permit her to study at UP. His parents always dreamt of him studying there because he was on a COCOFED scholarship. He only needed to pass the entrance exams. When the summer after their high school graduation came, the two were both jubilant to find out that they passed the admission test. They both were admitted to Music, the course of their first choice. Surely, God was on their side, both agreed.
At UP, the two were inseparable. They made close friends who understood their situation and agreed to play-act as Rosary’s “orgmates” in an imaginary school organization that supposedly taught poor kids to sing and performed for free in institutions for the less privileged, and as constant groupmates in different “school projects,” just so Marco could visit her at their house, even with her parents around. They were so successful in carrying out the pretense, that sometimes Marco would visit her only with a trusted neighborhood friend who was likewise privy to their situation. They were always careful not to say anything that would arouse suspicion from her parents or from the maids.
Everything went well until Rosary’s parents learned about the relationship from Anita’s mother, who in turn accidentally learned about it from Anita. Both mothers agreed to keep it a secret. Rosary’s mother then cooked up a plan that made Marco and his neighborhood friend look like thieves, or at least, suspicious characters that Rosary should not associate herself with. It involved the “framed” loss of Rosary’s and her mother’s favorite jewelry, which was a ring that had a ruby heart in the middle with small diamond stones around it. Rosary did not believe Marco could have stolen it, but his friend probably did. Marco probably had suspicious characters around him that he did not know about, or whose characters he was blind to. Rosary then thought about how she had changed ever since he came into her life, and now that her mother made her aware of it she decided she did not like what she had become. For one, she had become much friendlier with people she would have treated with apprehension before. It had made her open to being victimized, she thought, as she felt now. It was time she realized it, she rationalized, that “West is West and East is East, and never the twain should meet.” She should be with her kind now, she told herself, something Marco would never ever be. Hence, she agreed to go to America to continue her studies, as her parents had planned.
The day before Rosary left she passed by the old church where she and Marco had met innumerable times. She saw him inside the church once again, alone and looking enormously forlorn and brokenhearted, with head bent toward the floor and seemingly as immovable as the statues in front of him. She wanted to go near him and comfort him and assure him she would always be there for him, but she felt she had to be strong for herself. It was all for the best, for her best at least. Marco’s best was probably getting her millions someday when she would inherit them from her parents. But she would get nothing but romantic love from him, and who could not give her that? With Marco, she would be wasting her gifts, probably be contented with teaching their own children to sing and to play the piano and to study. She would also know poverty, even just by being introduced to his poor relatives, something her grandparents apparently never wanted her mother to experience, which was why they worked themselves to death just to give her a life worthy of an hacendero’s daughter. Rosary now felt there were countless things in life that she would miss if he were to be her husband. So, it was not to be.
At 22, Rosary came back to the Philippines with a Music degree and a much more powerful and more beautiful voice. She had had six boyfriends during her almost five years’ stay in the United States, but the relationships never lasted. She always felt something was lacking in the men she had relationships with. She realized it was the “down-to-earth simplicity” that Marco displayed very naturally. A few days after her arrival home she met a prominent record producer, a friend of her former piano teacher, who promised to give her a bright recording career. She thought that would be something different but welcome in her lonely life, so she agreed. Her voice became admired all over the country. Her records sold well, and her songs were unceasingly played on the air. She became a covergirl on many a glamorous magazine, and newspapers, for a time, were always full of articles that lavished praises on her. She became famous as the ‘poor little rich girl with a traumatic first love who found the strength to carry on in life alone.” An experience that had made her what she had become now. Rosary thus became a symbol of Filipino womanhood, “from weakness to strength to excellence,” as she was described in one article. She did not even know who first gave the public the information about her first love being “traumatic,” as she often dismissed questions about it saying that, “it was all past now and best left forgotten,” and that he simply didn’t turn out the way he made her believe he was, and it broke her heart so much that she could not talk about it anymore.
For fifteen years, she dominated the Philippine entertainment industry as the “billion dollar star,” as she was fondly called. The title started being attached to her when, as an upcoming star, she was asked during an interview why she chose to return to the Philippines when she could have a lucrative career in the US as a teacher or a singer or a musician or marry someone rich or famous. She readily answered, “I wouldn’t exchange the Philippines even for a billion dollars.”
Now, turning 38 and still single, she already felt hopeless about finding herself a partner for life. There seemed to be no cure for her loneliness, she thought, but to be more and more alone. Being with people only made her aware of how different she was inside, and nobody shared that part of her. She could not even bear to talk about Marco, the only man who shared what she really was inside. It took a long time before she was able to make herself admit that even just to herself.
Soon, the death of her mother came, which was four years after her father’s. Her mother’s death made her just want to 'give up living or existing, if there was any difference', she uncharacteristically revealed during an interview. She locked herself up inside her room for some time, probably three to four weeks after the burial. Soon after, being the dutiful person that she always had been, she gathered up all her strength to face life anew, even meeting with their lawyer about her huge inheritance. As weeks went by into months, and with her recovery from melancholy only starting to come into fruition, she came across a small picture of Marco in a priest’s habit on the front page of the local papers. He was to be the youngest bishop of the country at the age of 39, known for his unsullied reputation and his many years of invaluable help to the poor people of Mindanao.
It shook all of Rosary’s being so much that she was left speechless for some days. She could not even talk about it with anyone, not even a professional. No, she could not bear the scandal, the price of fame she told herself. But more than that, she could not force herself to bring out something she had kept inside of her for a very long time. It was something she had always wanted to forget, yes, but it was also something she secretly feared was “sacred,” if only because it was a “true and pure love” on both sides, at least until her mind was poisoned by her mother. Her mother and her diamond ring. They were now almost synonymous to her, she thought, shining on the outside, but meaningless in the inside. She resolved to sell some of her mother’s jewelry and donate the proceeds to the poor, to make retribution for her and her mother’s sins and to give meaning to her mother’s death, if not her life. Conscientiously going through her mother’s things, she saw hidden in a small jewelry box the much-loved diamond ring that caused her change of heart with Marco and her eventual separation from him. The sight of the ring did not shake her as much anymore as the earlier revelation had. It was something she was already expecting somehow, with a different story perhaps, she thought. Also, looking back, she knew her mother was the kind who was capable of committing something hypocritically evil in the name of love for her only daughter. Why did she not see through her then?
Even then, it left her empty, much much lonelier and more and more inconsolable. She decided to leave her life in the Philippines altogether and run to America to forget and live the rest of her life there. She was “a lost star,” as the papers described her during the burial of her mother. But it was really she who lost a true star, she thought. It was ironic how one could be a star to everybody else, but trash to herself. It was ironic that the man she loved the most was somewhere around a place she could fly to anytime, with all her money, but could not do so. Even nature would probably revolt against it if she tried to, she reasoned, because of the humongousness of her and her mother’s sins. Maybe she deserved death. But even death would be sweeter than this, she felt.
The church was the first place she went to upon arriving in the States, remembering how much she had drifted away from God ever since she left Marco, which was now more than twenty years ago. She wept inside the church for hours, partly relieved of the privacy she was now enjoying. But then, she contradicted herself, privacy was something she could have had her whole life, if she had only used her heart when it still mattered. Thinking about it, she never really enjoyed stardom. Not as much as most people would, at least, she surmised. She was even happier when, as lovers in college, she was planning on how to make Marco a proud and happy husband someday. It was a “someday” that never came.
By and by, Rosary walked out of the church, going toward the nearest park. She sat on the wooden bench, holding the newspaper cutout that had Marco’s picture and article on it. She stayed there for more than an hour, reliving what she used to think was her forgotten past with Marco more than two decades ago. Running out of memories, she never stopped crying, only remembering. She felt more dead now that she had become aware of the reality around her. The wind never stopped blowing. The leaves never stopped falling. The children never stopped playing. If God was telling her anything at all at these moments, she felt it was that she just had to go on pretending to be alive when she was really dead inside. Maybe, it was the best punishment for someone like her. Maybe, life was about punishment for someone who had rejected love, like she had. God was love, so she rejected God by rejecting love. Someday, she hoped to see it as an offering to God, and not as punishment for her sins. She could not imagine when that someday would be. But it would come, surely, she thought, as Easter came after Good Friday. Maybe, then, she would breathe again.