Attorney Angel Roman, Sr, was a tall and patrician looking gentleman who liked to dress up in a white suit. He was a professor in the College of Law in the Far Eastern University and was considered one of the best sartorialists not only in our neighborhood but in the whole faculty group of the university. Florentina, his wife taught in the high school department of the same university. She, herself, was definitely no slouch when it came to fashion. Wearing a pair of shoes with three and a half inch heels, called platform shoes at that time, she shortened the more than a foot height difference between the two of them. Wearing a fashionable shoulder-padded dress, Florentina was eye-catching. She was well groomed and had make-up which seemed overly done by that time’s conventions.
They were a handsome looking pair, though a hint comical because of the marked tallness of the man who at first glance looked like he was walking with his little daughter astride. They had a car, a Pontiac if I am not mistaken. It was seldom that you would see them walking to and from work but whenever this happened it was a pleasure to see the distinguished looking pair walk down the whole length of the eskinita, Maria Cristina, to their house at the end of the narrow splotchy asphalt stretch. It was a bit incongruous that their house, a well built concrete structure, would be alongside a redolent and almost stagnant open sewer canal, hardly fitting the image of an eskinita nobility.
There were five children the eldest of which was Angel, Jr. Though not a lawyer, nor as fastidious a dresser as his father was. Angel, Jr. inherited the dignified and serious mien of the older Angel. He excelled in his studies and went on to become a bank executive in one of the bigger banks in the city. In contrast, Roger, the second eldest was a regular guy who spent most of his time sitting around the corner of Maria Cristina and Espana to hang around with the other boys. It was as if he was accident spotting or waiting for something interesting to happen, something funny or something tragic together with two or three other boys from the eskinita. When tired of this non-activity they would walk to the end of the eskinita where the makeshift basketball goal was. If the other kids were there they would play “tatluhan”, a three to a team game or if not play “twenty one” a foul shot and layup game. These ball games invariably were played with wagers. They would play for twenty five centavos per player and the losses of the losing team would partly be given back to them because the winners would pay for the ten centavo bottle of soft drinks which they drank at the end of the game.
The prim and proper Mrs. Roman did not look too kindly on Roger’s mingling with what she considered riff raff in the tiny realm. How she wished that he would turn out to be something like his older brother who in her mind had all the politesse that is indicative of their stature in the community, a real blood heir of a Roman. There was no way this could happen. Roger was a stubborn kid who would ignore his parent’s admonitions even under threat of discontinuing his schooling or reducing drastically his daily allowance. He would even flaunt his rebelliousness by rebuking his parent’s in front of any body who was around at the time of the confrontation. This was a scene which I suspect was enjoyed by the neighborhood wags… something similar to what the readers of British tabloids get a kick out of when members of their royalty are in the news for some bourgeoisie indiscretion.
The third child in the family was Carol. She was a pretty looking thing. She had the good looks of what was as a result of the combination of the best features of her parents. She had a creamy porcelain like complexion which complimented her raven black hair. Her finely chiseled nose and slightly pouted crimson lips framed by shimmering black tresses seemed like a portrait masterpiece conjured by a renaissance master. Best of all, she took after her father’s height. Her tallness gave her an awesome regal bearing.
I was among the horde of young lads in the neighborhood who were spellbound by this magnificent creature. But, alas, Florentina guarded her with the ferocity and vigilance of the Beefeaters who guard the Crown Jewels. We were content just to see her perched and framed by the window fronting the basketball goal, looking wistfully beyond us, looking straight ahead the full length of Maria Cristina, all the way to Espana.
I wondered as to what went on in her mind. How could anyone look through a rowdy game of streetball oblivious of the frenetic movements of young plebeian sweaty bodies jostling amidst the noise of the rabble. Was she being held against her will and being held captive in a tower where she has been doomed to wither her life away in hopeless dismay. What dragons were there waiting for my sword to eviscerate to free this lady in distress? Or like in the fairy tale will she ever cast down her tresses (though not blonde) to me so that I can scale the perilous walls that separate us? What fantasies are we given to in our youth!!
The other two children were too young to have made an impression on me and so I am left without any thing to write about them.
The Romans will always be in my mind as a family who stood out with a touch of royalty in their looks and demeanor in a place where you would least expect it. Maria Cristina was not only a place of mixed demographics but also a small fiefdom whose nobility did not really rule but were given a regard befitting the rank.