The townsfolk of Magalang, Pampanga still remember the summer of 1950, when Imelda Romualdez--singer, beauty queen, and holder of the title "Rose of Tacloban," came for a vacation. The 21-year-old beauty came with her first cousin, Daniel "Danieling" Romualdez, who was married to Paz "Pacing" Gueco, scion of Chinese-Kapampangan landowners in Magalang. Danieling was a congressman from Leyte (who would become Speaker of the House seven years later), son of Brigida Zialcita of Manila and Miguel Lopez Romualdez, also a Leyte congressman and mayor of Manila during the war. His uncle, Dean Vicente Orestes Romualdez, was Imelda's father.

Paz had a dashing 18-year-old nephew, Ninoy Aquino, recently decorated with the Legion of Honor medal by President Elpidio Quirino for his exploits as a war correspondent in Korea. Ninoy was the son of Benigno Aquino Sr., who had died three years earlier after his trial for collaborating with the Japanese during World War II. Paz Gueco's mother Elena Aquino was the half-sister of Gen. Servillano Aquino, Ninoy's grandfather.

Although Imelda was three years older than Ninoy, Paz thought they would make a handsome couple, so she played matchmaker and invited them to the Gueco farmhouse in barrio Navaling near the banks of the Bamban-Parua (Sacobia) River. The barrio folks I interviewed there remember Imelda and Ninoy swimming together in the river, along with the Guecos.

Ninoy and Imelda met several more times in the course of that summer, once during a party where none of the local boys dared to dance with the very tall Imelda, but Ninoy took her hand and they danced until the wee hours. No one could have known that the destiny of an entire nation depended on where that single dance would lead them that night.

When summer ended, Ninoy and Imelda both returned to Manila where he continued dating her. He would fetch her from her job at Escolta and take her home to Daniel and Paz's residence in a taxicab.

Eventually Ninoy's sisters (all except Lupita) thumbed down the relationship in favor of the daughter of the wealthy and influential politician-businessman Jose Cojuangco of Paniqui, Tarlac--Corazon 'Cory' Cojuangco. Ninoy and Imelda parted ways, and soon got married--Imelda to Ferdinand Marcos (future President) and Ninoy to Cory (also future President)--both in the same year, 1954!

Who'd have thought that the intertwining fates of these two couples would alter the destiny of an entire nation? In 1983, Imelda was implicated in Ninoy's murder, and three years later, Ninoy's widow ousted Imelda's husband from power.

Come to think of it: Had Ninoy and Imelda fallen in love that starry night in Magalang and had they fought for their love in Manila, where would our country be today???

Reference: Nick Joaquin's The Aquinos of Tarlac and personal interviews with residents of Navaling, Magalang