Jose Carillo's Forum


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A Prayer to St. Jude
By Angel Casillan

Like the moon in the sky that comes and goes,
Life is on a schedule, much like a city bus,
Experiences and lessons that hitch the ride,
Become the best teachers always by our side!

My story took place during my college days, when a lot of things were happening in my life. That October day, on my way back to Manila from my hometown after a school break, I happened to meet a girl who was a student at the Philippine Women’s University. The train ride then took about four hours, long enough for people to meet and forge friendships. She was seated on the couch across from me, intently reading the book Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal. After a while, she stopped reading and dropped the book by her side. Our eyes met and she gave me a faint smile. It was the right opening that I was waiting for, so I asked her, “Do you know that Leonor Rivera lived in Dagupan for a while and that she also had relatives in Lingayen?” I must have aroused her interest because as it turned out, she was from Dagupan City herself. She introduced herself as Julie. She was reserved and pretty with a little slant in her eyes; when she smiled, her face radiated the morning sunrise.

The previous semester, I had just finished the course on the life and times of Jose Rizal, so my knowledge about his life was still very fresh in my mind. To impress her, which is one way boys try to attract girls, I talked in detail about Rizal. I made it appear that I was a well-informed and a well-read person, but I really wasn’t because the only books I would read at the time were my textbooks. Anyway, our conversation got more animated when we discussed in depth Rizal’s love for Leonor Rivera, who was to become the Maria Clara character in Noli Me Tangere. “Leonor eventually married an Englishman,” I said, “because her mother harbored a deep distrust of Rizal.” I enjoyed the girl’s company so much that at the end of the trip, I suggested that we should see each other again. She agreed to meet me in front of the St. Jude Church the following Thursday, which was novena day in honor of the saint. That, I thought, was good timing for both of us because it was college enrollment week and classes would not start until the Monday of the following week.

I looked forward very keenly to that Thursday. So, after putting on my best, I left home early and made it to the church a full thirty minutes before the agreed-upon time for our date. I went inside the church to say a prayer of thanks for my good luck in having met that girl. At ten minutes before 5:00 P.M., I positioned myself inconspicuously in front of the church; all that time my thoughts were racing, figuring out where he two of us would go after the church novena. I was so excited and nervous as I screened every face that came my way. But fifteen minutes passed and my date was still nowhere around. I thought that maybe she was held up by heavy traffic. I waited for another hour to give her a chance to beat the traffic, but still she was a no-show. I ended up alone in front of the church, standing in a corner like a statue. 

I was so disappointed when I realized that I had been stood up. Feeling like a fool, I decided to go home with my wounded pride. The irony in my situation was that I waited in vain in a church named after St. Jude, the patron saint of the hopeless. On board the bus that I took going home, I thought deeply about my misfortune and it brought to mind the movie An Affair to Remember, which I had seen sometime back. I began to imagine myself as the character played by the actor Cary Grant, stood up by his date at the very top of the Empire State Building. I recalled that the two lovers had promised that if one of them could not make it to the date, it would be for a very good reason. I wondered then if my date had such a good reason, perhaps an afterthought that it was not proper to have a date with a new-found friend who is still very much a stranger. But I decided that she was not worth any further thought and crossed out her name forever from my life. Still, I went home so dejected, never even mentioning to my brother what happened to avoid being teased as the forsaken dashing Romeo.

When the second semester started, I fell back to my study routine. Like many of the students in my school, studying was my total preoccupation during the weekdays, keeping only Saturdays free for unwinding myself and seeking relief from the pressure of my studies. During that time, the Women’s Club of our school was sponsoring once-a-month Saturday dances to create a conducive atmosphere for girls to meet boys. For freshman and sophomore girls enrolled in the Euthenics class, one of the requirements was to attend those monthly socials so they could practice the social graces that they were learning from the class.

I distinctly remember that particular Saturday night in December when I attended the last monthly socials before the school’s Christmas break. On one side of the dance hall were girls lined up like wallflowers, waiting to be invited to dance by the boys. My roving eyes were captivated by one of them—a girl with hair in ponytail and wearing a red-and-white dress. It took me a while to summon enough courage to approach her, but I finally managed to do so and introduced myself. I think meeting her that night was providential, for I soon found out that she spoke the same dialect as mine and came from the same province as mine. In any case, before the socials that night ended, I asked her if it would be all right for me to visit her during the Christmas break and meet her family. She didn’t respond, probably thinking that I was just one of those many crazy young men who would swear by the moon.

I went back to my hometown during the Christmas break, and the day after Christmas, I set out to visit the girl in her own hometown. The trip took about an hour along bumpy and dusty roads. I did not know where she lived so when I reached the town, I asked around. Thankfully, the town barber knew everybody and he directed me to the shortest route to her house. I showed up in the girl’s house in no time at all, surprising her and her family with my determination and with my resourcefulness to come and see her. After that first visit, it dawned in me that she was the girl that I would like to marry someday. Many years still had to pass, though, before both of us were convinced that we were really meant for each other. We eventually decided to get married after getting to know each other much better. I found my soul mate in her and she found her first and only love in me.

Three decades later, my wife and I attended her high school reunion in Chicago. There, we met the barber who had given me the directions to her house in her hometown. And as a fond reminder that he was once a tiny but crucial bridge in our love story, my wife and I had photos taken with him in between the two of us.

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