25. Dakila Castro is Sparkle Plenty

     CHARACTERS from the comic strip Dick Tracy are outlandish people with very descriptive names: Flattop, Mumbles, Mole, Blank, BB Eyes, Pear Shape, the Summer Sisters (May and June), Horseface and Small Dick.
     Of these there is none uglier than the gruesome twosome, BO Plenty (who stinks of body odor) and his wife Gravel Gertie (with skin like gravel).
     BO Plenty and Gravel Gertie, lo and behold, produced a beautiful baby with golden hair called Sparkle Plenty, who grew up to be the beautiful wife of Junior, Dick Tracy's adopted son.
     Also I remember a movie by Ingmar Bergman, Smiles of a Summer Night, which tells the story of a mismatched couple -- a lawyer's reunion with his former mistress, complicated by his young wife's growing affection for his son by a previous marriage -- a contemplation on the inevitable sadness of human relations.
     In an unforgettable ending, as trumpets sounded a note of triumph, the bed of the young man is magically transported via a secret trapdoor to the bedroom of his lady love, and love emerges triumphant.
     I remember Sparkle Plenty and Smiles of a Summer Night because I attended a dance party sponsored by female senior citizens belonging to clubs called Sparklers and Smiles. And never have I seen such sparkles and smiles aplenty from those who ordinarily suffer loneliness, lovelessness, depression, and the aches and pains of old age.
     I saw Ginny Licuanan, writer and widow in her 70s, dancing like Cinderella on her first ball (rated 6 on the scale of 10 as a dancer). I wonder if her children Tattie, vice-president of Ateneo, and Frankie, president of Ayala Land, realize that mamma has discovered the fountain of youth?
     I saw Eliza Gamboa, 91, my father's contemporary in Bacolod, in much better health than her daughter Sonia Santos of Prudential Bank.
     I saw Julie Rufino, widow of Vicente, mother of My Pal Joey, the unforgettable crybaby on TV during the Edsa Revolt.
     Other widows: Chiching Tuason, wife of Celso, mother of Chuchay, Bachoy and Bolo of Squires Bingham; Nitang Lopez, mother of Geny, Oscar and Manolo of Meralco; Inang Paras Gonzales, 77, mother of couturier Roy of Paris; Pacita Panganiban, 89, mother-in-law of Alex Melchor; and Cion Bacani, mother of Bishop Ted Bacani.
     Also Josie Vergel de Dios (rated 9, dancing better than when we were kids in Pasay); Leonie Limjuco, widow of Johnny, my dancing partner during our Jaycee days; my cousin Macaria Madrigal de Leon, happy as a lark as she never was before, and full of memories of her “loving, devoted and faithful husband Johnny.” Hahaha, Sparklers is indeed magic.
     There are those with couch potatoes for husbands, who need a social life of their own, like Thelma Villongco (rated 8 out of 10) whose Romy stays home watching TV; Rosie Osmeña Valencia of Elpidio (rated 7); Nory Villanueva Ongsiako of Oscar (rated a perfect 10!); Sonia Santos (also rated 10!); Armida Siguion Reyna (rated 6); and Charing Quiazon of Troadio (rated 5).
     There are those who brought their husbands along (By God, Larry, I have never been with my husband as often as when we got into dancing): young Lulu Tesoro Castañeda (rated 9) and her husband (rated 3); Amparo Castro (rated 6) and her husband Dakila (rated 8).
     The Smiles Club (dancing every Thursday) and the Sparklers Club (every Monday) have interlocking memberships, and differ only in that men such as Dakila Castro are admitted as members into the Sparklers.
     Club members have been subject to criticism, gossip and derision among those who find fault with old ladies having fun with young dancing instructors, and neglected wives having their last fling.
     As I came in with my publisher, a little old lady asked, in her eyes a plea for charity and understanding, “Larry, are you here to make fun of us?”
     I answered ever so gently, “No, no, because if I had sent my mother here, she would still be alive today, happier and less lonely in her old age. And still as lovely as you are.”
     Because if at an advanced age a woman suffers a weak heart, arthritic joints and the aches of menopause, when she loses her husband to God or other women and suffers the trauma of loneliness, helplessness and uselessness, when she feels the onslaught of senility and is alienated from her children -- or just want to socialize, young or old -- there is no better way to make new friends, to expand her mind and her interests, to exercise as her doctors prescribe, than to join the Sparklers and Smiles.
     Amparing: “What's the idea comparing my husband Dakila with Small Dick and Stan Schrager? He is much better looking.”
     I agree, Dakila is the male version of Sparkle Plenty, that is, before he was marinated in tabasco sauce.
     Just kidding.

     (April 30, 1990)