Amore, big and small

Yesterday, many friends, from Edna Aquino in HK,  Maya Butalid in  NL to  Chato Basa in IT  wrote on my Facebook wall that they will join me in writing stories of friends who kept us alive and safe during those years of turmoil. I suggested we blog in WordPress to start the writeshop and storytelling. I also asked Ed to help out jog our memories of life and  friends in Europe.

Tonite, Ed is telling me about Clare Booth Luce’s advise to use a sentence to describe a life. That got me going back to my computer to write this blog. What sentence will I choose to begin our story of  life in Rome ?

Will it be freedom is the most important goal of our life ? After five years in political detention and  many solidarity campaigns all over the world for his freedom, Marcos agreed to release  Ed in April 1980  on the condition that he be exiled to Rome. Ed flew to Rome accompanied by Inay and  he stayed with the SVDs until September 1980. Then the  Italians agreed to host a  Permanent People’ s Tribunal for the Philippines so cases against the Marcos dictatorship could be filed and heard. Ed was asked to help prepare the cases and he wrote me to join him in Rome. Visas for Europe were easy  then and all I needed was a reason to enter Rome. I packed my bags in October and said goodbye to my teaching job at Miriam. Wearing a furry coat and hat, I arrived at Da Vinci airport early in the morning. I  already smelled  the aroma of capuccino and  saw many people lining up to pass the immigration control.  The passport control officers were  tall and  macho.  I chose the line towards a handsome officer, dressed in sartorial elegance . He asked me ” Why are you here ?”  I  smiled and looked up in his eyes, then slowly  enunciated my reply  as a  woman  in the throes of love      “A M O R E “. The officer laughed and with a gesture, repeated the word “Amore”.  I went straight to Ed’s welcoming  hug and boarded the bus to Rome  where I noticed couples were already kissing passionately.

“Amore” became my lens  to the work  of the  Italians in the tribunal.  Ed introduced me to the Italians who   started  a solidarity campaign to restore democracy to our country during the martial law period. I met Francesco Alessi and  Gigi Ricciarelli, two ex-priests who worked in ZOTO before they were deported by Marcos. Ed was staying with the Alessis in Eur and Ed brought me to stay with them. The next morning, Ed left for Belgium and Francesco and Dixie, his wife, took care of me. Eur city , I learned from Francesco, was the suburb for fascists.

Francesco became my mentor in Italian language and culture.Every morning, Francesco would cook and simmer tomatoes for the sauces . His sauces smelled of fresh basil. After breakfast,  he  would accompany me to Rome and while driving, he would curse other drivers who swerve and cut him out with ” Cretino, salametto!” wagging a dirty finger. Sometimes, Francesco would shout ” Salamacho” at other drivers and raise his fist. I asked him what all the cursing meant. ‘Salametto means small dick and salamacho is a big one.”  Images of small and big became part of my education in Rome. For the Italians, Francesco and Gigi, big is the norm and they did everything in a big way especially  in holding the tribunal. I have never been to a tribunal, much less participated in an international court. The Permanent People’s Tribunal was held in Antwerp, Belgium and was a successful event for both the Filipino  national democrats and the Bangsa Moro warriors. The event introduced me to many nationalities from various countries, from Europe to North America, and opened many doors of friendship. It was a solidarity platform that  got Ed and me started on a long journey of amore.

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