In the summer of 1949, 17-year-old Sally Lopez was a perky high school graduate anticipating college and her future career.
She lived on Constancia Street in Sampaloc, Manila, a stone's throw from Economia, where Manila Council president Vicente G. Cruz and his brood resided.
Propinquity fed romance: Sally's eldest brother wooed and won the Councilor's youngest daughter, and the clans formed a friendly connection.
When the eldest Cruz boy, Viling, passed the bar, and the Economia household announced a fete, Sally was among the inner circle recruited for kitchen duty.
She came to the Cruz abode in a sensible but fashionable frock, with the cinched waist of the era that so became her.
Ascending the stairs, she found Isagani, the second son, and his best friend Nonoy, lounging in the ante-sala.
Being seven years their junior and altogether of a different world, she paid them no mind.
Though handsome enough, Isagani was a lean, rather aloof young man, a too-serious law student whose head was perpetually caught in some book; Nonoy was amiable, but she had little in common with him.
As she walked past them, Isagani, as usual, ignored her, but Nonoy hastened after her with an unexpected and intriguing request: Would she allow Isagani to walk her home from the party?
Flattered, she agreed.
That inaugural stroll, however, was peculiar, to say the least.
The only sounds besides their steps were a few tongue-clicks and mumblings from her squire that Sally took to be ragged starts at conversation.
Isagani was an accomplished writer-indeed, by that time an awarded poet-yet on that warm April night this beautiful, curly-haired young mestiza muted him.
He dutifully delivered her to her doorstep and hied himself home.
She saw nothing of him until June, when one day at church she spotted Nonoy, and believed-was certain!-that she espied Isagani hiding behind a pillar.
She puzzled about his strange behavior all the way home, where the answer was waiting in the mail: Isagani had written to formally ask if he could court her.
In the ensuing flurry of missives and visits, Sally succumbed to Isagani's elegant pursuit.
(Years later, she would describe his courtship style as "matinik.")
When he called on her at home, Isagani was attended not only by the winsome Sally, but also her inscrutable Lola Loleng, the embodiment and enforcer of propriety.
With Lola Loleng monitoring proceedings, they might as well have been in Loreto church.