“I was walking past the Department of Health building along Avenida one day when I noticed a hiring advisory pasted conspicuously on the wall. I walked in and presented myself not knowing any Tom, Dick or Harry in the agency. By sheer luck or grace, I was hired.”

Herman had no idea that his first stint for the government would be to combat the scourge of Anopheles minimus flavirostris mosquito that carried malaria in various parts of the country. His quest began in 1957 in the rural town of Palauig in Zambales.

In the middle of the malaria outbreak, another thing that he had no idea of is a relationship that would start to flourish in this quaint town.

“I met a special lady by the name of Adoring, a 17-year old church organ player in a local chapel run by Irish monks. She was not really my type of girl. She was pale and almost skinny. Adoring was not the mestiza I usually fall for. In fact, she was a little darker but unlike an Aeta native. Ye there was something angelic in her eyes that I could not help but fall in love with her.

I became a regular visitor of her house and was treated as a family member by her parents. Our relationship was accepted by the family. As a token of my love, I gave Adoring a music box – a reminder of the beauty of her love and music.

By some stroke of misfortune, I was recalled to report to Isabela province. I would stay there with the local malaria project group for six months, leaving Adoring behind and our dreams for the future.”

The separation deeply affected Adoring as her congenital heart disease worsened. Days and months passed, her condition only deteriorated. When he returned, she was already dying.

“The attending priest who administered her last rites beckoned me to hold Adoring who appeared to be calling me. I obliged. Reding her lips, I understood her parting message, ‘Will you remember me?’

I can’t remember if I even replied. Perhaps, I was too caught up in shock of the situation.

Adoring died in my arms that day. The music box I gifted her when she accepted me stood there, silent and motionless.

She taught me a love that defies human conventions and logic. A love so spiritual and platonic it was far more intense and more painful when intimate companionship ends with the passing of another.”

Will he ever find love again? Turned out he would, and with this one true and great love comes forth tales of faith, triumph and… joy.

This is one of the stories chronicled in The Living Episodes, a memoir of octogenarian Herman M. Cruz presented in an accurate Philippine historical backdrop. In the book, Tatay Herman takes back his family and readers to the colorful scenes of his youth and the seemingly movie plot of his adult life, all in vivid clarity and details.

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