“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” — Ray Bradbury
By Alex P. Vidal
GROTON, Connecticut — If the story of her love affair with a fellow Ilonggo that began on board a commercial vessel in 1956 would be told, Aida Castro-Amuan, 80, wanted to compare it to Leo McCarey’s 1957 classic film, An Affair to Remember.
Aboard a Manila-bound ship from Iloilo City one summer in 1957, Aida met Reynaldo Adrias Amuan, 82.
She was 20 and he was 22. Aida was scheduled to enroll in a nursing school in Manila, while Reynaldo was on his way to Cavite for physical examination at the U.S. Base Naval Station in Sangley Point.
“A true friendship was built aboard the ship like in that movie before we hit it off romantically,” recalls Aida, a native of Ajuy, Iloilo, Philippines and now resides here.
While the ultimate romantic tearjerker chick flick starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr ended in a tight embrace atop New York City’s Empire State Building, the love affair between Aida and Reynaldo continues until today, or 60 years after they got married.
“We are still very much in love with each other until now,” Aida exclaims shyly, her eyes flicker while stealing a quick stare at Reynaldo, sitting on her right side in the buffet table in a breakfast.
Aida calls Reynaldo “darling” and credits him for encouraging and accompanying her when she “reports to office” everyday so she won’t get sick and bored at home.
Her “office” is the poker table in the Mohegan Sun, a casino hotel in Uncasville, a village in southeastern Montville, at the mouth of the Oxoboxo River.
“I noticed that if she stayed at home for three days, she became weak. So I goaded her to go to her office so she can move and exercise her body,” Reynaldo volunteers with a timid smile.
When they “report” to Aida’s “office”, they bring only credit and reward cards, a few one dollar bills for tips, and a bag full of maintenance pills. Aida admits she is not a good player and only plays to kill time and keeps her mind busy.
Mohegan Sun gives Aida privileges like free buffet meals, tickets and access to entertainment shows and sports events, use of facilities like swimming pool, and hotel room from points earned in a reward card.
If the points are so high, they invite friends “to share their blessings” especially on buffet.
Unlike Grant, Nickie Ferrante in the film, a well-known playboy and dilettante in the arts, Reynaldo had been “engaged” only with one woman before he met Aida, daughter of an affluent family in Iloilo’s fifth district.
“I wasn’t engaged yet,” sighs Aida, “but I had an insistent suitor who wanted to fetch me in the pier (when the ship arrived in Manila). I tried to avoid him (the suitor) but Rey told me to treat the guy nicely.”
To make the long story short, explains Aida, “I rejected that suitor and married Rey.”
“One thing I like about Rey was his honesty. I was immediately attracted to him because he was frank and honest when he told me he came from a poor family,” narrates Aida. “In all our married life, he never gave me a headache.”
After being crowned as municipal queen of Ajuy in 1952 at age 16, Aida had attracted hordes of suitors, mostly coming from Iloilo’s influential and moneyed families, “but I found my true happiness with Rey because I knew he would never take advantage of me.”
She describes her future husband as “guwapo (handsome), soft-spoken, sincere, and simple.”
Aida considers their two children–Fern Boivin, 55, and Sean, 53, and their six grandchildren–as “our real blessings.”
“Their values and the values of their respective families–the husband, wife and children–are exceptional,” Aida boasts. “I think it has something to do with how we raised them and how they raised their own children. Wala na kami sang ipangayuon pa sa Diyos. (We have nothing more to ask from God).”
Fern, an engineer, is married to Mark Boivin, president of Northeast Wood Products. Sean is a pilot at American Airlines with international routes, and a 1985 graduate in the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. They were both born and raised in the United States.
“Everyday we call each other to say hello. If they can’t call us, we call them vice versa using FaceTime (a video call in Smart phone),” reveals Reynaldo.
Seconds later, Reynaldo dials his iPhone: “Hello, son what do you have for breakfast this morning?” Son Sean replies in video call: “I’m having a bagel (bread) right now, dad.”
Aida takes Reynaldo’s iPhone and intones: “Hi darling, how are you doing today?” Son answers: “I’m fine, mom.” Aida: “Are you going for golf today?” Son: “Yes, mom.” Aida: “Okay, you take care my darling.”
Grandchildren call their grandparents from time to time vice versa to say hi and hello. Grandpa tells a teenage female granddaughter in video call, “No holding hands with your suitor or boyfriend, please.” Granddaughter replies with a smile.
“This is our life. This is how we spend our life here in Connecticut as retirees. This is where we get our simple joy and happiness. And our children and grandchildren are very supportive of what we do and where we are,” Reynaldo hisses, holding Aida’s left hand as they saunter the vast, 34-story casino, hotel and entertainment complex that features Native American-style decor.
Reynaldo, a native of Divinagracia, La Paz, Iloilo City, Philippines, retired from the US Navy in 1976 after 20 years of service. He was detailed in the nuclear submarines.