G Spot

Armi

By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo

IT is not clear to me how I first met Armi Bangsal. I had this impression that she was introduced by Enoch Tan, but I could be wrong. Maybe she was introduced to me by another friend, Josefina (Josie) Lolarga. I have a clearer memory of how I met another friend, Fe Mangahas, from a timeline she remembers, which became the basis of my recall of the occasion. However, the clarity of our memory recedes over time, and with it, modifications of the stories, and so I think there may be an earlier event where we had met, which escaped her memory.

Armi and I stayed close friends up to this day, seeing each other occasionally, sometimes only during Christmas and her birthday, and mourning the passing of other friends. I saw her more often during the last few years, because of the meetings scheduled by the Pangasinan Historical and Cultural Commission in Lingayen, where she resides. After these meetings, she would prepare for me baklang alimango (gay crab) and fresh shrimps, in servings that ensured I can bring home enough for another meal.

When she was still managing Bangsal Restaurant in Binmaley, at a time when she was Acting Vice-Mayor, I would feast on lechon (roasted suckling pig), paksiw a bunor (a kind of fish cooked in vinegar) and the lokan (clam) soup, the big ones, as big as the fresh oysters on a half-shell at Via Mare, and sleep overnight in their house, sharing our many encounters with life challenges and the transitions in our lives.

I had the impression that it was the prodding of Josie and Tessie de Venecia that convinced her to marry, out of concern that if she postponed marrying, she would miss her child-bearing age. She told them, “Okay, I will marry, if I am given the kind of wedding that I deserve, considering my stature.” My friends gasped, they were not sure if the intended groom would agree to such a condition, but he did. And that was how I marched with Gonzalo Duque to the altar, as cord sponsors to a couple who waited decades to tie the knot.

Armi’s marriage with Elmer Lorica lasts to this day, a relationship of respect and friendship, and love. They share this love with an adopted daughter and a grandchild. I remember how she came to me crying, asking me to find her daughter, several times. I would advise her to let go, but she would hold on, hanging by a thread she imagined to be an umbilical cord attached to her womb, even when her daughter was already of legal age, and have the sole responsibility for the consequences of her own decisions, no matter how grave the outcomes.

It is still vivid in my mind, the moments she stood by my side, how she reasoned and took steps to stop and mitigate attacks, both personal and professional, during our common fight to save the environment. She took a stand contrary to the position of some of her close friends, who imagined they had something to lose and shielded me from those who want to inflict harm for personal reasons. That is Armi Bangsal, an army of a friend.

Armi

Armi, the only.
a delicate lotus bloom
growing pure on the muddy waters
of a sacred spring
a sanctuary.

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