Inday Sally and Toto Sim: BFFs
Those who came of age during World War II are known as the “Greatest Generation.” Most have passed on. Of the four governors produced by UPIC (UP Iloilo City) Batch 1954, just one — Salvacion “Inday Sally” Zaldivar-Perez — could be at their 65th Jubilee. Jovito Plameras Jr., Inday Sally’s own Manong Eque, Enrique Zaldivar of Antique, and my late mother’s brother, Simplicio Griño of Iloilo, are no longer with us.
But the special friendship between the Zaldivar and Griño families remains. Supreme Court Justice Calixto O. Zaldivar and my grandfather Atty. Juan Gustilo Griño were poker buddies. When the youngest Zaldivar daughter, Inday Sally, and the youngest Griño son, Toto Sim, became an item while college freshmen at UPIC, both families were elated. However, like most budding romances, this match did not flower. Sally married Jose Gaston Perez of Silay, while Sim married Lina Lopez of Bacolod. Both women are now widows.
From the ashes of Toto Sim and Inday Sally’s youthful love, there rose the phoenix of a mature friendship. They were both devoted spouses and parents. As my mother, the late Supreme Court Justice Carolina C. Griño-Aquino, said: Selfish passions and desires must give way to personal probity and family honor. It was never right to build individual happiness upon another’s heartbreak. Toto Sim and Inday Sally always heeded the wise words of their Manang Beb (as my mother was known).
In 1986, Inday Sally and the martyred Evelio Javier were regional coordinators of the Cory Aquino for President Movement. Toto Sim was among the Iloilo campaign managers. When Cory became president, she met with Inday Sally and Judy Araneta-Roxas about Panay’s political leadership during the transition. Toto Sim was appointed to the Iloilo Provincial Board. Soon after, the position of vice governor became vacant, so Inday Sally and Tita Judy approached Local Government Secretary Jaime Ferrer about appointing Toto Sim to this post. Ferrer asked “Who is Sim Griño?” Tita Judy naughtily replied, “Ka Jaime, siya po ang first love ni Sally.” Ferrer chuckled, “In that case, we will appoint him because he has good taste.”
For the next two years, Toto Sim was the vice governor, then when Corging Tirador ran for Congress, the OIC-governor of Iloilo. In 1988, Sim Griño ran and won as governor of Iloilo. He was known as “Mr. Clean,” but lost his bid for reelection in 1992. However, Inday Sally points out that during his brief term, he put up two Iloilo landmarks: the Hall of Justice and the Sports Center.
Inday Sally was always more of a political animal than my uncle, and served three terms (2001-2010) as Antique governor. Most recently, she was a prime mover behind former senator Loren Legarda’s successful congressional bid, and is now a consultant in Legarda’s office.
Reaching the Biblical three-score-years-and-ten, the widowed Inday Sally rekindled her friendship with my octogenarian aunt Marie Griño-Caseñas, a no-nonsense pediatrician. En route to Antique, she would spend a day in Iloilo that they might lunch, then while away the afternoon at the Amigo Terraces casino. Toto Sim would tag along with his Manang Marie. Recently, two cousins, one a Bible-thumping Baptist and the other, a member of the ultra-conservative Pius X congregation, came along for the fun, food and good conversation.
For in the end, sharing these innocent pleasures with family and friends is surely one of the best ways we grow old together.
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Carmen Aquino Sarmiento, 62, is an award-winning writer and a social concerns advocate.
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