to The WOMEN we Love
the LaST LETTER
WE DON’T REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME WE WROTE A LETTER TO A WOMAN WE LOVED. It was so long ago we aren’t sure anymore. The only thing we’re certain of was that it was at an age we worried over pimples and BO. But that first love letter was most certainly to someone we hardly knew: they caught our eye at the high school fair, sat in on our poetry class and somehow knew all the answers, was a friend of a friend who wore an incredible smile and who smelled good. We saw them once, maybe twice. No photos to flip through and no footage to freeze. After first contact, loving them was an act of pure memory. That was as good as it got. We had wanted to speak to them, but we found courage only afterward, and thus, and then, only to write.
The letter was how we got to know them—by letting them get to know us first, and gradually. We introduced ourselves by the paper we used and the way it was folded, by our penmanship and our language. We thrilled to the inevitable formality of beginning with “Dear” because to us it meant so much more, and we hoped they knew we knew it. We groped for an opening in the form of a joke or an anecdote, hoping it would call attention to our grasping wit, or a kind of promising wisdom. We fed the body of the letter with a personal narrative that we wished would be pleasing enough without looking desperate.
We learned the art of style: to tease and intrigue, to talk about ourselves without calling attention to ourselves. We learned to close with a cliffhanger that would double as a call to action. When we wrote our own name it was the first time we ever wrote it on something that was not a test paper or an application form. But it was nothing like her name, which may have been as deceivingly plain as Anne or Angel, or as immediately allusive as Tweetie or Zsa Zsa. Written out twice—inside and outside—her name wanted to be written again, and again, practiced on the backs of notebooks and on the tops of school desks, and in the next letter, and the next.
There were times—many—the women never told us at all if they’d read them; the letter was a one-way ticket, a blind missile aimed into the heartland. When we saw her again, she would smile at us as if seeing us for the first time, as if she never knew our agony. There would be another letter, and another, each a model of terrible writing and heroic restraint. Early on, we learned how to keep our desperation tightly held, reserving it for that final moment when the woman we loved finally deigned to reply.
It almost always came folded, tightly as a secret they never ever wanted the world to know, handed over by a designated drone in the form of a disinterested relative or, if we were lucky, a conniving common friend. She had folded that notebook page herself, it was her hand that had pressed it into her homely cousin’s. When we opened it, it was her perfume that exploded from the folds of paper—and her handwriting that graced the page.
That was her handwriting, never mind the fact that it was in the institutional cursive Catholic school nuns taught. And that was her talking to us, telling us things, never mind that it was about a most ordinary day that they had spent with their homely cousin. We spent hours reading it over and over again, reading between the sentences, reading the first words of every line, reading our future with them. We would marry them, grow old with them; they would be still enough for us to paint them and take photographs of them, for us to remember how they sat and how they smiled.
The women we loved, they were supermodels, torch singers, celebrities, movie stars; they were ageless and they belonged to no age. They appeared as representations and would grow into them. They would flesh themselves out, holding our gaze, looking past it.
The women we loved, we would always love them. But for now, and before all of that, there was that letter. They had written our name. It had crossed their mind and spelled itself out long enough, and we had the paper to prove it. We folded the paper back into its shape and opened it again, as if seeing our name for the first time.
In our future, there would be furtive phone calls. There would be conversations, meals, day-long dates. There would be fumbling in the back seat and the couch. There would be a marriage. Kids, conveniences, concessions. The Internet. The world would be instantly familiar and known. There would be video calls and viral posts, footage from hidden cameras, and venting and ranting on forums and threads.
We would grow old and we would forget certain things: When did we write that first letter? When did we write that last one? We would not remember anymore. We would learn to thank the Internet after all, with its connections and its images, with its thumbnails and its memories: of her, of them, of us. For Luis Katigbak, who loved women, and who was loved by them.
The challenge was to show Anne Curtis Smith as she had never been seen before— and it was a challenge, no doubt, because you’d think that you’ve seen every conceivable side of her by now: Anne hosting noontime shows, Anne starring in movies, Anne belting out a song in front of a live audience, and certainly, Anne posing for magazines. She is, after all, likely the biggest of today’s local A-list celebrities, if not only the most-followed on Instagram. You know her. Your parents know her. Every person within a kilometer of where you are right now knows her. Because after twenty consistently successful years in show-business, her name and her likeness have grown to such that you almost can’t go a day in Metro Manila without encountering her in some way.
But it is when you actually meet Anne Curtis-Smith that you are reminded that you don’t really know her—that your idea of her is either incorrect or insufficient. She is taller than you might expect, for instance; and her lips, while full and shapely, are not quite as prominent as her eyes, which will light up several times throughout a conversation, eclipsing even her most famously fetishized features.
Because of the ease with which Anne poses, smiles, and laughs in front of the camera, you’d think that these are rehearsed aspects of her beauty, perfected over years of being in the business. But they are truer to her than you would expect, because the real Anne Curtis-Smith will flash an even brighter beam of a smile, and will let out an even heartier laugh than you’ve seen in pictures or on TV, without the cues and prompts and flashing lights.
She will tell you that she appreciates the little things—that despite being accustomed to the grandiose, Anne Curtis’ love is earned by small gestures. And if you ask her, she will think hard about the craziest thing she’s done for love, but will hesitate to tell you what that is. Instead, she will give you what she says is a safer answer: waiting a month after her engagement to announce it publicly, in deference to her fiance (which is not exactly crazy inasmuch as it is uncharacteristic of her). You will know then that she’s done something crazier, but also that because she is Anne Curtis, you will never know more.
The power of the supermodel lies in her angles—she knows them and knows when and how to show them. Angel Aquino’s angles begin with her eyes and her cheekbones, which respectively gather light and emit it, in an eternal loop that is interrupted only when she breaks her stare and strikes another pose. The angles continue: Her jaw points here and a shoulder points there, the line of a drawn leg inscribes itself as if determined by an immutable formula.
But that is only the beginning. The rest of her, despite her name, and despite every outward appearance, is perfectly human. The inner Angel is survivor and eternal student, celebrity and devoted mother. She’s seen some things and been through things, adopting a Generation-X outlook that paints a broad and blurry line between careful and carefree. One moment she’ll tell you about a childhood spent going to the wet market with her father, and in another she’ll give you unbidden and unrestrained details on a recent relationship. But she’ll be smiling all throughout, which is something supermodels don’t ever do.
The truth is that she has been an actress far longer than she was ever a model. She’s been in more than a few Lav Diaz films and a handful of soaps. She’s played the young mother, the crying lady, the virgin whore, and the contrabida. It’s the way she looks that deceives you: improbably young for her age (which she’ll tell you) and incredibly innocent for all the lives she’s led.
This, perhaps, is Angel’s most powerful angle, inscribed by an almost invisible line that marks the surface but doesn’t break it: the impossible joining of the outer image and the inner self. —SL
Few of a woman’s attributes can be quite as sexy as her selfassuredness; and Agot Isidro is a woman who has it in spades. She will show you as much in the way she carries herself: Agot enters the room and, without needing to make any overt pronouncements or gestures, will immediately make her presence felt. It’s a strength that she exudes, no doubt, but also a sort of grace and graciousness that can only come from a woman who is as accomplished as she is, and as confident in her own view of the world.
The same was especially apparent about her when, almost a year ago, she decided to take a strong and clear political stand on social media (which, let’s face it, can be one of the most difficult things to do in these times, perhaps especially for a celebrity). And despite the foul retaliations that she’s had to face as a result, Agot’s convictions haven’t waned. Even as the trolls continue to bedevil her, she remains as steadfast in her opinions and as decided in exercising her right to express them, because she knows she can.
And the same is apparent today, with Agot in front of the camera: Every pose, every gentle smirk, every glance toward and away from the camera is completely natural, unforced, and as if arising solely from her innate self-possession. There are no traces or shadows of doubt in her projection—just her being herself, looking incredible.