By Alex P. Vidal
Ella (not her real name) of Alimodian, Iloilo was 16 years old in 1995 when her 48-year-old mother, a fish vendor, entrusted her daughter’s “spiritual needs” to Benigno (not his real name), a 27-year-old Tagalong-speaking priest now assigned somewhere in Northern Luzon.
Wallowing in abject poverty, mother gave Benigno tacit “blanket of authority” to help shore up her daughter’s moral and spiritual values as she needed a “father figure” in her adolescence having lost (cause of “disappearance” unknown) her biological father when the daughter was infant.
Year 2001 when 22-year-old Ella, now a computer engineering graduate, confessed to Jejomar (not his real name), her 36-year-old balikbayan suitor, she and her chapel-based guardian had been secretly locked in a romantic liaison since she was teenager.
For the credulous Ella, a look-a-like of Burmese political icon Aung San Suu Kyi, the relationship seemed to be “made in heaven” albeit smeared by mysteries and Benigno’s uncanny behavior in public while they were together.
The sweethearts’ sexual tryst began when, as a minor, Ella accompanied her foster parent cum lover in out-of-town “meetings” that mostly concluded with side trips and rendezvous in motels and resorts.
Whispers from worried but excited enterprising neighborhood lips buzzed about mama’s myopia and incredible innocence of the torrid bacchanalia.
Ella’s confession initially didn’t sit well with Jejomar, who felt his manhood had been breached even as he realized he was “morally obliged” to settle the score in favor of the “damsel in distress”.
Alas, Ella’s story was only the tip of the iceberg. The bizarre romance that blossomed when a parent goofed and forfeited her fundamental role and obligation to a child in favor of ecclesiastical interference had bore a skeleton in the closet.
Ella had abortion when she was 17 – performed by a quack doctor in Cebu.
To compound the matter, Ella and Benigno, now 43, had been communicating with each other from time to time. The love birds’ private “extra-curricular activities” seemed to have remained alive and active all throughout the years.
Ella’s confession finale was a slammer. But Jejomar, smitten by Ella’s warmth and candidness, was determined to snatch the equally love-struck Ella from the jaws of defeat.
Ella has found the older but effervescent Jejomar to be more reliable and lovable thus she decided to junk the pulpit’s mysterious sermon giver who she felt couldn’t give her the kind of future she had dreamed of since child.
Benigno, however, refused to call it a day. He wouldn’t yield even an inch of the primary source of his private “joy and happiness” and openly resisted Ella’s demand for autonomy with clinched fists.
Ella and Benigno, talking over the phone like one of them is about to be executed by lethal injection for treason in a Chinese detention cell, agreed to iron out whatever kinks that threaten to severe their union’s umbilical cord, which for several years, appeared to be indestructible.
An emergency “peace process” had been set in a hotel room in Iloilo City. At the back of Benigno’s mind, Ella would capitulate from his charm and palabra de amor as he did in the past.
At the back of Ella’s mind was blood compact and total declaration of independence — and a scenario seen only in Tagalog action movies starring Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) and Lito Lapid.
Unknown to Bengino, who entered the hotel room 15 minutes earlier, Ella adopted Homer’s Trojan Horse-like invasion tactic in the Iliad and Odyssey: as she entered the room, she left the door knob unlocked thus allowing Jejomar, who impersonated Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) and Lito Lapid, to follow suit.
Shaken and rattled, Benigno was caught by the blitzkrieg literally with his pants down as pandemonium broke loose.
While FPJ was busy doing his script and swarming into Benigno like a harpooned baracuda, Ella screamed and scampered away like a peacock. She couldn’t restrain King Kong from wrecking havoc on the human punching bag.
When the smoke was cleared, crestfallen Benigno borrowed Antonio Margarito’s face: reduced to a crimson mask after being zapped by Manny Pacquiao’s sledgehammer-like fists.
Turncoat Ella, apparently feeling a tremendous remorse and embarrassment for aping Japanese Imperial Army thug Makapili, disappeared from the ambush scene like a highway thief.
After tasting Jejomar’s ferocious assault, Benigno accepted his fate: there was no love lost between him and Ella anymore and that there was nothing he could do about it. Benigno didn’t file a police report; he didn’t press charges against his tormentors.
Bruised and broken-hearted, Benigno hurriedly left the scene and boarded the plane back to Luzon.
Ella and Jejomar lived happily ever after, or so it seemed!