Thirty-two love letters between our Lolo Elpidio Quirino and Lola Alicia Syquia are preserved in their original envelopes, perfectly folded; legible brown ink on musty parchment paper.
I came upon these letters one day when I had asked my brother Louie if he had any papers on Lolo Elpidio, and he immediately blurted out – “Of course, I have their love letters!” I was stunned. I could hardly wait to get my hands on them! There they were, under his bed; these century old letters were in perfect condition, as if waiting to be discovered, appreciated and shared by their family.
I beg forgiveness from them for publishing these letters. Somehow I feel that sharing these with all of you, will help us all see Elpidio and Alicia, as they were, once upon a time: two people in love.
Elpidio, bright young lawyer and aspiring politician, was a frequent guest at the Syquia Mansion in Vigan, where Alicia, the scion of the wealthy Ilocano-Chinese clan, lived.
One night, as the story goes, the power went off, and when the lights came on again, the young lady, not yet 16, was in the arms of Elpidio! Propriety dictated an early marriage for Alicia, much to the delight of her suitor.
The wedding took place on 16 January 1921, after which the young groom went back to Manila to work, while the bride stayed with her parents in Vigan. In time, the married couple began a “proper courtship” through letters. The letters painted a most intimate portrait of my grandparents. They were written in fluent Spanish, which must have been their first language.
At a time where the art of letter writing communicated longings of the heart, I felt nostalgia as I witnessed the romantic Elpidio and the youthful, impatient, and headstrong Alicia, profess their love for each other through the love letters. While the letters hinted at the disparity in their age, status, and even love language, these highlighted their shared dreams, pain, and joy, that led Elpidio to his destiny. The emotion in these letters was almost tangible. I felt Elpidio’s angst as he waited for Alicia’s response. I could hear Alicia ‘s heart imploding with loneliness and frustration over their constant separation. Their ardent love for each other seared through ink and paper.
Their exchanges from December 1922 to January 1933 touched on events happening in the country as well. Their letters alluded to political upheavals happening at the time, national affairs and even talked about Women’s suffrage! Clearly, Elpidio yearned to live a life of service to his family and his country, and Alicia supported his every dream.
While Alicia did not live long enough to witness her husband’s election to the highest office in the land, she inspired her children Tommy and Vicky, to faithfully stand by President Quirino in Malacañan and all the days after.
Our family is proud to share Elpidio and Alicia: The Love Letters as a fitting tribute to the time and life of a great statesman and his lady.