THIS true story was made into a movie, Gaano Kita Kamahal (How Much Do I Love You), a Viva Films production, starring Christopher de Leon as Rolly Suclad (his real name) and Lorna Tolentino as Maribel (not her real name). This is the story of how hatred consumes and forgiveness heals.
Rolly was a basketball star at the University of Baguio, good-looking, idolized by women, envied by men. He was a working student, a part-time security guard at Mines View Park.
He was courting an extremely beautiful girl, Jessica. Many were running after her, but Rolly was way ahead as a basketball star. He was on first base in two weeks, while his rival, Arnie, who had been courting Jessica for a year, never got to first base. He was extremely jealous.
One early morning, as Rolly dozed off while on duty at the park, Arnie sneaked quietly and seeing a pot of live embers that Rolly used to get warm in the cold, poured the contents on his face.
Rolly had more than 20 operations and was in the hospital for two years. They could no longer restore his face. He looked worse than Quasimodo. Jessica vanished. From the heights of stardom, he plunged into deep depression and despair. He had nightmares for many years.
Maribel was a student nurse who changed his bandages every night at the hospital. She became his only comfort. They would talk for long hours at night.
ROLLY: I will find this guy, Arnie, who did this to me, and I will kill him.
MARIBEL: What for? Will it change your face?
ROLLY: But it will satisfy my hatred. He ruined my life.
MARIBEL: Your hatred will only consume you. Just forgive and forget.
ROLLY: That’s easy to say. I can never forgive him. (shouting) Never!!
MARIBEL: It must be hard how extreme hatred consumes you. I have never experienced that. My pain is very different.
ROLLY: What is your pain, anyway?
MARIBEL: Oh, something simpler,
ROLLY: Tell me.
MARIBEL: This is the first time I am away from home. I come from a happy family of 10 children. We never quarrel. Every day is heaven in our home. Now, I sit on my bed at night, unable to sleep, feeling so homesick. I have this deep depression, even as I am busy working. Once, a patient noticed my tears when I was taking her temperature.
ROLLY: Your pain is easier than mine.
MARIBEL: I know, that is why I want to help you. Now that I have told you my pain, it has disappeared. When I see your pain, my pain is too small to bother with. I think you are a very kind and gentle person even in your pain.
ROLLY: When I am with you, I forget about vengeance, at least for a while.
And so, they became each other’s comfort in the darkness of their lives. Gradually, despite Rolly’s horrid face, they fell in love and eventually got married — like Beauty and the Beast.
But Rolly’s obsession to find Arnie never left him. His hatred consumed him totally until it affected his marriage. At times, Maribel could not reach out when he was withdrawn. His marriage was falling apart.
Rolly met Paul Aguas, who convinced him to join a Catholic charismatic group. Rolly found respite from his rocky marriage. He found spiritual comfort in prayer. After a year, he had a dramatic spiritual transformation. His obsession for vengeance vanished into thin air. He poured himself into serving the Lord. For 20 long years, he was an active volunteer in the group.
One evening, he and Maribel were in a restaurant. Rolly suddenly started shaking. He did not see Arnie but felt his presence. Perhaps, hatred gave him psychic powers. He knew his transgressor was close by. All the hatred came back like a tsunami. Maribel held his hand tight in tears.
ROLLY: (Trembling) Lord, I forgive him. Lord, I forgive him. Truly, I do. I forgive, I forgive. Thank you for removing the hatred in my heart.
Rolly slumped on his chair, sobbing shamelessly. Arnie did not even know. It was a feat. In return, God’s gift was a happy marriage, restored instantly when he forgave. He was blessed with three children. He later organized a charismatic group for actors and actresses called Oasis of Love, of which Christopher de Leon was a member. Eventually, he died of brain cancer. Maribel remained in Baguio teaching.
All paths lead to the Lord when we lose our way. He makes us blind so we can see. He sends the storm so we seek his shelter. For decades, the storm raged inside Rolly. But instantly, he was in the windless eye of the storm. Forgiveness healed him.
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