Friday, July 6, 2007

Courtship JRI Style Circa 1960's

My niece’s engagement to a high school classmate had me thinking about the manner of courtship in high school in the early 60’s. The following is from my personal observation only and is, therefore, totally subjective and extremely limited. Feel free to share your own observation or refute mine. Opinions, contrary or otherwise are invited. (Comments in blue are by Eddie.)

In the early 60’s, a boy in JRI Orion might initiate teenage courtship by way of a shy, furtive glance at the object of his infatuation and curiosity (from hereon referred to as the Girl), or a self-conscious, tentative smile that would silently invite an encouraging response, beamed across the shed, the school grounds, a classroom, through a window, a door, the school gate.

He might send a painstakingly handwritten love letter either copied verbatim from an ancient book of love letters with Tagalog words so long disused they could trouble even Francisco Balagtas, or composed with so much agonised longing for and exaggerated praise of the girl.

He might attempt to impress the Girl with personally crafted love cards and original verses that passed for love poems or he might employ other means such as palipad hangin, pahatid sabi through barkadas or relatives, biro, paramdam, gifts.

Others went to some unusual lengths to satisfy the cravings of their young hearts.

Some made a ritual of walking past the Girl’s home, becoming almost giddy with delight at the sight of her rooftop. (What was it about rooftops that could trigger this strange sentiment?) (It’s not the rooftop, silly. It’s the open window on the second floor.)

One even regularly risked life and limb by climbing up belfries or church steeple for a glimpse of the Girl (talk about being hopelessly love stricken). (Ouch! Bullseye!)

Others surreptitiously followed the Girl to or from school to clamp their eyes on the Girl’s legs and commit her sway and gait to memory. (What they did later with the memory of it one dares not speculate on.) (Yeah, let’s not go there.)

Others shared with their barkadas their exasperation at what seemed to be unrequited love and sought comfort in their commiserations.

Some boy, neutralised by lack of nerve, could only watch from a distance and fantasize having a mutual understanding with his Girl, only able to emerge out of this phantom relationship when a new Girl caught his fresh fancy. (Or Girls from each section?)

Some drilled imaginary but perceptible holes in the back of the Girl with his eyes as he sat directly behind her in the classroom.

Dropped under the desks or left between the pages of the Girl’s books and notebooks were unsigned notes, cryptic notes, notes written with candles or invisible inks, notes that needed mirrors to be reverse-image read - (the incredible trouble they went to just to say what could have been more easily said in person)- even threatening notes and occasionally, suicide notes. (None had followed through with it, thankfully.)

Some were so brazen as to commit naughty acts such as peeping through holes in the walls, gaps between floor boards or half-open windows of the Girl’s home and such other resourceful trickeries for a glimpse of the Girl. (Hit me again! I am a glutton for punishment. And how about that daredevil that will speed up behind the wheels of a jeep “owner” for a microsecond glimpse of the object of his affection? One can only imagine what might have happened if our town had a law enforcement officer for underage speeders.)

Some even mobilised mothers or aunts as conveyors of their fond intentions, armed with baskets of fruit, or bumbong of freshly made ginaok or homemade tsoklate.

Some just kept their juvenile feelings to themselves but talked about it with ease and humour decades later when it was safe to do so. (Talk about an immense load in one’s heart for a long time.)

The boys had, of course, many more tricks up their sleeves as their resourcefulness, daring and inventiveness were limited only by their youthful imagination, (the boys may wish to enlighten the rest of us on this). But there was something vital missing here. There was hardly any one on one, face to face dialogue, no opportunities to explore minds and hearts to see if they would click together. Without this interaction, it was next to impossible to engage emotionally and grow a sustainable relationship.

Take the case of a boy we all knew and fondly referred to as Bokbok. He wore his smitten heart not only on his sleeves but all over him. He walked with his Girl’s aura around him. He couldn’t care less about the books he was supposed to study because she was the only book he was interested in. She was his school, his entire world and being. He was totally besotted with her, wanted no one but her and pursued her with obstinate single mindedness that dared and defied all odds. He cared not one whit who knew about it. And we all knew about it, didn’t we? What an awesome courtship it was!

It had been asked why not many ‘63 batchmates and schoolmates paired off as husbands and wives. Some of the girls tried to come up with an answer and offered a rather light-hearted lob at the boys: the term “TORPE” which might have bruised the boys’ sensitivity.

Many of the girls recognised the exceptionally fine qualities of our young men and would have been quite pleased to pair off with them but there wasn’t much they could do. It was a different era, a different time. A different cultural ethos ruled. In that particular environment the “good and proper” girls had to wait for the boys to make the right moves that, sadly, in many cases never came.

It would seem then that this shortage of pairings might in part be because in JRI at that time there were not many like Bokbok who handled courtship like a man possessed, knew exactly what and who he wanted and went for her with all his guns blazing!

Not many girls could have withstood the power of such openly intense, determined and surefooted courtship but most of them missed out on this kind of heady experience probably because none of the boys ever felt the same degree of overwhelming attraction and emotional fervour for any of the female batchmates that Bokbok felt for his Girl. (I know, girls, comparison with Bokbok’s Girl would have been so unfair to us.). The boys were not torpe, just not interested enough to want to put in the hard work. Thus the scarcity of batchmates pairings. (Or the zero degree of separation reduces the degree of aspiration. Because the boy sees the girl on a daily basis, his hormone is simply saturated with her mere existence. Over time her mundane presence becomes the catalyst for sisterly love rather than romantic desires.)

But all things considered, the conclusion of the matter is that after enduring all that teenage angst, most of us are in a pretty good place now and will not have it any other way. Things are as they were meant to be although occasionally the past is a fun and curious place to revisit. Our Batch 63 tapestry is the more colourful for it.

With my niece’s engagement to her batchmate/classmate, I feel like we’ve come full circle.


Pilar Villegas Cuevas said...

This is a nice write-up for each one of us batch '63 has to read. "Ligaw in Highschool" during our time is very much different from today. I still value our time especially with regards to courtship. Girls are simple and reserved and boys respect girls and not rude.

Mike said...

Well I was really true na matanaw
mo lang not only the rooftop but the whole house, you feel happy kasi it was happened to me and Pareng Anselmo hindi ba't may kanta
riyan; "Sa tapat ng iyong tahanan
ay lagi ng nagdaraan, ang bahay ay matanaw ko lang ang puso ko'y nasisiyahan,etc."Nag-try ako sa kanya because I REALLY LOVE HER but unfortunately mali ang aking
deskarte sinasabi nga kung hindi
ukol hindi bubukol.

josie javier-macalua said...

paano naman natin maibibigay ang matamis nating OO noon, di natin sure kung sino talaga ang nagpapadala sa atin ng love letters or cards. ang karaniwang nakapirma ay "LONESOME BUTTERFLY" / "SECRET ADMIRER" / "LIHIM NA UMIIBIG"/ ETC.

kadalasan pa ay kinokopya lang nila sa "Book of Love Letters" ang sulat nila, or done cooperatively nilang mga boys.

di nila alam, meron din tayong copy ng book na pinagkokopyahan nila! hehehe!

lucille said...

Cora,this is a very refreshing write up,nakakakilig will transform us again to those days we are "gigly teenagers".I remember Bokbok and the 7 day lacey undergarments he gave to that girl,we even opened the gift at the girls CR in JRI.At that time parang it is so weird recieving that kind of gift.We indeed had a grand time then in JRI in every aspects.Ang saya talaga.
I have been missing the blog ,I was all over Luzon last week,no chance to even go to the internet cafe.
kumusta sa lahat!

C C ramirez said...

Luz, it's surprising that you used the word "nakakakilig". It was actually that word that intrigued me and triggered that post. I heard a pamangkin use it when discussing a young person to whom she is attracted. In our time, di natin kayang sabihin yon, at siyempre nakakahiyang aminin, di ba? Ano na lang ang iisipin at sasabihin ng iba about us if they heard us say that? That is how much our social customs and conventions have changed. The young people are now much freer to express themselves and to go for what they want without fear of social censure. I wonder kung paano na ang Batch 63 ngayon if we had that same freedom.

ErnestoDR said...

Cora, I was so amazed by your depiction of an almost all-encompassing courtship pattern of our yesteryears. I suppose it is borne out of your keen observations and not from your experiences with the bashful boys.
My thinking about the matter is that our rustic upbringing, and the relentless admonition of our parents not to engage in such “affaire de coeur” during our teenage years resulted to a certain level of restraint and lacking in temerity even to engage the opposite sex in an intimate conversation. This, plus the fear of rejection aggravated by constant teasing by classmates and friends and our being greenhorn in courtship is something to really ponder upon.
I, for one, coming from a poor family, had those fears that I was relegated to just glance, peep, admire, and fantasize with the object of my infatuation. The most I did was to collaborate with those who were more audacious or adventurous in terms of their flirtations. I strove quite hard to get myself a decent education and a stable source of livelihood in the hope that I would be more equipped for the romantic encounter. And when I felt I had what it takes to initiate a relationship, I took all the courage I got, and had my guns a-blazing. In the end it was a love found and lost. No regrets though because as they say, “It’s better to love and lost than not to love at all.”
In retrospect, I surmise we were all meant to be batch mates and classmates.
It feels good to refresh our memories! Thanks!

C C ramirez said...


One witless girl missed out on an excellent opportunity to catch a good man. She probably failed to recognise the value of what she was presented and did away with when you found then lost her. You had a lucky escape.

lucille said...

Yeah, I agree with you,Cora, we are not free to tell how we feel then for fear that we will be tagged as "malandi".But now that I am exposed to the new generation, where our main clients are young people,(TESDA caters to Out of School Youth,)I need to speak their language too.I believe however that one indicator why Batch '63 graduates are successful is our old fashioned ways in courtship.Perhaps ,if we fast forward the time ,there will no seven Cinderella in our batch.What do you think?

C C ramirez said...

I was merely surprised at the timing and coincidence of you mentioning that "kilig" word and my posting. I have nothing against that picturesque word at all. In fact I think it is rather spot-on, and expressively descriptive of that natural sentiment. It gave a cheerful name to what we might have felt but were unable to publicly own up to in our youth. Just mention "kilig" and wow, it happily conveys just that. Anyway, if we had that sort of freedom then, the Batch 63 social landscape would have been very different. There might not be 7 Cinderellas, but I am not sure that is a good thing.

lucille said...

Oh dear it's nothing...I am not offended! In fact am proud we have evolved from the very conservative ways then to a bit modern perspective.
Keep on blogging nice articles.They keep us more excited opening the blogspot.