By MANUEL L. MORATÓ
Armida Ponce Enrile Siguion-Reyna †
I am sad to hear that Armida passed away. May she rest in peace. ‘Yong nangyari sa amin noon, hindi naman tunay na awayan ‘yon. Nagpapaliwanag siya at nagpapaliwanag din ako sa taongbayan. Yes, Armida and I had differences with you in the interpretation of the law guiding the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board or MTRCB for short. We never hated each other. Showbiz ‘yong nangyari sa amin; and she knew it. For one, we kept the movie industry alive sa aming sagutan; and Armida knew that na pag kami nagkikita, mabait naman siya sa akin; at mabait din naman din ako sa kanya. When Armida and her husband celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, she sent me an invitation to her big party. In the invitation, I was mentioned. It said that I was the one to give the Inspirational message. When my time came to speak, this is what I said: “Armida and Sig, marriage is not only between two people. Marriage is also a marriage between two families. So Sig (the nickname of Armida’s husband), love your wife and love her family. Then I turned towards Armida and I said, “Armida, love your husband Sig and love his family. Congratulations on your 40th wedding anniversary. Thank you.”
I gave a very short speech, but I meant every word I said. “Armida, thank you for your kind understanding which we arrived at; and thank you to the film industry which did so well during those days we were seemingly “quarrelling.” I Know deep in my heart that there was so much goodness in your heart; and you also saw in me that I was not angry with you. Medyo pilya ka lang, pero deep inside of you, you too had a big heart.”
Looking back, ang ating alitan served a purpose. It kept the public aware of what was wrong in the movie industry at that time. At least, I was able to put across to the Concerned Artists of the Philippines who disliked me for telling them that there was no total absolute freedom they were fighting for; that they could not invoke freedom of expression absolutely for freedom in anything in life calls for responsibility, meaning to say a movie/film cannot go beyond the bounds of decency for the moment a film causes harm on other people, especially the minors, freedom of expression can no longer be invoked. That’s already abuse of freedom.
In a way, I have to give credit to Armida for debating with me for it called the attention of the people, nationwide and made them participate in the debate. But what sank in their minds is a very important lesson that the parents became aware to tell their children na huwag silang manonood ng mga malalaswang pelikula at bawal sa batas.
I know Armida would not mind if I relate a story on what her husband, Atty. Siguion-Reyna told me after their 40th wedding celebration that evening in their house in Dasmarinas Village (if I recall correctly) that her husband saw me off to my car. And as we were going down the steps from the house to my car, he accompanied me and he was laughing about my celebrated debate with Armida on television and print media.
Atty. Sig told me when I shook his hand to say goodbye: “Manoling, awayin mo si Armida kasi tama ka naman.” Nagtawanan kaming dalawa sa sinabi ni Atty. Sig sa akin.
But in Armida’s lifetime, I already mentioned to her what her husband told me. Sabi ko: “O Armida, kampi pala sa akin ang asawa mo. Awayin daw kita. Pero pabiro lang naman sinabi sa akin.” Tumawa na lang siya. It seems that her husband Sig was more conservative than her.
When I studied music at the University of Santo Tomas when I was a teenager in the UST Conservatory of Music, my professor in piano was Julio Esteban Anguita, a Spaniard, who was pirated by Peabody Conservatory of Music in Philadelphia. I was then a grade school student at Ateneo de Manila in Padre Faura.
The piano course I was taking required a vocal course as well and Irma Ponce Enrile Potenciano (kapatid ni Armida) became my teacher. She was such a good teacher and a very friendly lady. That was in 1948/49 before I left for Spain to continue my grade school in a Jesuit school in Barcelona, on to Georgetown Prep School in Maryland for my high school, on to Loyola University of Los Angeles in 1953.
Goodbye Armida. May you be with Almighty God forever. With a promise of prayers, Manoling Morato.
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