Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Almost silver, part 8

(I'm picking up from where I left off in part 6)

In three years…

That was what we said when people asked when we were planning to get married. My mother thought three years was too long. We were already in our mid-20s. Other people said the same. My mother, especially, thought that women should get married and start having children before 30. They had to think of their biological clock.

In the days and weeks that followed our Los Banos commitment on July 7, Fiance and I spent much of our free time together. Our romance developed faster than our newsletter, which up to that time was still in the process of coming out with the first issue! We eventually realized that we didn't want to wait that long. We said we'd get married "next year" .

But even this started to feel like forever. We were sure of ourselves anyway. So on August 17, we decided to get married in December of that year. We had four months to prepare.

The first thing we did was to inform both sets of parents and schedule the pamamanhikan, we called Summit Meeting. This was when the guy's parents formally asked the girl's parents for their approval of the marriage. It may include more than just the couple's parents. Uncles and aunties might participate (which I asked not to happen in my case).

During the pamamanhikan, the guy's parents were in effect courting the girl's parents on his behalf. Sometimes it did not go smoothly. There might even be tears. The girl's side might give the guy a hard time or make whatever demands. I had seen this happen when my parents were occasionally asked to join and give moral support in a pamamanhikan, especially in sensitive cases (e.g. the couple had eloped). I tagged along at least three times as a child.

In my case, my parents had no qualms at all concerning my marriage or choice of spouse. "Ikaw naman ang makikisama (you will be the one going to live with him)," as my mother often said. Besides, I had already graduated from the university. I was free to date and get married.

My future in-laws' pamamanhikan was just a matter of formality. It was also their first time to meet my parents. I remember them bringing a kaing (big basket) of sweet lanzones to our house. We served them a dish that my best friend helped prepare. The talks went well. The four parents got along from the start. It helped that they all loved to talk. There was no uneasy silence.

Lanzones fruit
(image from

In the end, the only thing my father asked was to have our wedding on December 14 during the new moon. Fiance and I believed any moon was like another, but we gave him that. We agreed to move our date one week earlier. The earlier the better.

My 1985 planner says "THE BIG DAY" on two dates. Dec 21 was our first choice, "God-willing".

So there, our marriage had our parents' blessings. Meanwhile, we had already started taking care of other things like applying for a marriage license at Quezon City hall (I believe applicants' names were posted publicly in case one was already married) and making to-do lists and schedules. I also started attending cooking lessons at my friend's house. I was eager to learn to cook more than tinola.

We also attended the required family planning seminar also at the city hall (ahh, I can't forget this one because the middle-aged female instructor couldn't stop giggling while talking about the condom. We are all getting married here, come on.), consulted with a doctor for natural family planning options and possible fertility tests (which she did not approve for us), went for marriage counseling with our wedding sponsors, met with the officiating minister, etc… We also went through an engagement handbook together which was a big help in the planning process.

We had four months to prepare and a shoestring budget. We wanted a garden wedding. Could we pull it off?

(To be concluded)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Almost silver, part 7

(Hubby obliged to write this post in this series. Thanks a lot - tweet.)

Who's That Girl?

The first time I ever laid eyes on That Girl was back in '78 at the Campus Crusade tambayan (hangout) at the College of Arts & Sciences building, UP Diliman Campus. It must have been lunchtime. I was sitting near the entrance to the tambayan making up my schedule for the week. I looked up and there she was.

She looked like she was looking for somebody but couldn't find her. She glanced at me and smiled. I smiled back. She turned to go and as she did, I noticed her hair, it was braided into one long, thick black rope behind her, down to her waist. Not many girls sported that length then. Hence the vivid recollection years later.

The next time I spied that long black braid of hair and that toothsome smile she flashed at me, it was at The Lord's Church in Cubao. I knew it was her. That hair, that smile.

My sister Beck pointed her out to me sometime later. She said she liked her; she was unpretentious and down-to-earth. I guess they'd talked before. At that point we hadn't. Beck didn't always play matchmaker but this time, she was quite excited about That Girl. So I made a mental note to be open to the Lord's leading. I wrote a short prayer in my journal: "If she's The One, please preserve her for me." It was three years later that I would finally decide celibacy wasn't for me.

Yes, I'd been seriously considering celibacy. I wanted to take the apostle Paul's admonition to young men who were single to remain unmarried to better serve the Lord without the distractions of domestic life. I was heading towards that direction. But after getting to know That Girl better, I felt right about at least considering a relationship.

There were other girls, some I'd really gotten close with enough to also consider. I don't know, she seemed the right fit. So I started bracing myself for The Proposal.

Having had no experience with serious dating, I proposed marriage the first time I ever talked to her about us. The first and last girlfriend I had then was in high school. I didn't know that proposing marriage should have come later after we'd dated. But what the heck.

I remember that night vividly. I took a public jeepney from Katipunan to UP campus, (I didn't even make a call to tell her I was coming over) walked over to her front door, nervously knocked and waited till she opened the door. I blurted out something like, "Can we take a walk?" She sweetly obliged and we headed for the DiliMall which at that time was already closed. So we sat down near the closed doors of the mall, not the most romantic spot for making a serious proposal. No diamond ring, no speech prepared, I was going to wing it.

I told her a bit about my history and how I've been praying for the past three years, on and off, about her, and if she was willing to take a risk with me, if she'd pray about it. She said she'd pray about it and tell me when she's ready. I felt relieved to get it off my chest and now, in the meantime, we'd go out and get to know each other better--you know the drill.

The story is pretty much the same as she recounted it already in her previous posts. Me getting off in the wrong town (even then I had a terrible sense of direction) and getting soaked in the rain with single rose stem in hand looking really pathetic; walking around UP Los BaƱos and finally receiving that sweet Yes on a rock in the middle of a bubbling stream.

It would be another Rock that would keep us afloat through the many turbulent waters we were to go through in our 24 years of marriage. It's been one heck of an adventure that I would not exchange this for anything. What a great partner God has given me to ride this whitewater raft with! And even now as she waits for me to reach my full potential--after 24 years of wishing, hoping and praying--she waits with the patience of a Job. Who knew that That Girl with toothsome smile and braided hair would turn out to be the love of my life? Who knew?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Almost silver, part 6

Nestled at the foot of Mt. Makiling is the UP Los Banos campus, a premier institution in agriculture and forestry. I loved its rustic charm. I spent many vacations in the area where my parents had a house outside the campus and my grandfather tended a homestead on the slopes of the mountain.

At the entrance of UP Los Banos campus
(photo taken from flickr\misha1976)

My plan was to take This Guy on a stroll under thick forest canopy while enjoying the breeze that Glade could only hope to match. The sounds of birds in the trees... The crackle of dead leaves and twigs on the ground you walk on... perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll. Never mind if we got stranded by the rain for a while, and later encountered an angry dog on the road. Goodness, stop barking like mad! And please don't chase me. I'm gonna lose my poise!

College of Forestry. We got stranded by the rain somewhere here.
(photo from

Coming down from the College of Forestry, we crossed what is known as the "never ending bridge". (According to folklore, if one were to cross it at the stroke of midnight, one would never reach the end of it and just keep walking until he turned his shirt inside out.) I had passed this bridge several times but never knew what was at one end of it--until that Sunday.

The "never ending bridge". That's the jeepney, the public transport
that goes around the campus and neighbouring areas.
(photo from flickr\archieaustria)

Turning left at the end of the bridge, we saw a sign that said Hortorium. I read on the Internet that this hortorium has "a collection of approximately 20,000 species of herbarium specimens" and thousands of ferns, ficus, palms... I love nature!!!

We followed a path amidst dense flora until we reached a creek which I think is called Molawin. It runs under the "never ending bridge" and traverses the campus. We hopped on rocks and boulders to cross and explore more of the lush greenery on the other side. So this is what's under that bridge!

Inside the Hortorium, the Molawin Creek
(photo from

Settling down after the excitement of this discovery, we sat on a boulder and talked. We kept our voices low because although the place was secluded we were not alone. A mother and child playing by the creek kept glancing at us and were probably eavesdropping.

Notwithstanding the presence of other people, we finally verbalized what was already getting obvious. There was no need to prolong This Guy's anticipation or agony. We were engaged!

We sat on a boulder that looked very much like this one.
It could even be it. I wish we had a camera with us.
(photo from

Our engagement would become official with the subsequent traditional pamamanhikan when Fiance and his parents formally meet Fiancee's parents and ask for her hand in marriage. Fiance and I weren't born at the turn of the 20th century, and pamamanhikan was probably passe in the '80s, but that was how we wanted it. It would also be appreciated by both sets of parents.

Fiance and I called it The Summit Meeting.

The Summit Meeting would be happening sooner than later. Why??

(To be continued)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Almost silver, part 5

When This Guy and I started seriously getting to know each other, I lent him my past diary to fast-track the process. I wanted to make sure he was not under the impression that I was a typical church-going choir-singing conservative girl who walked around with a halo. NOT! I wanted him to know early that I did not have it all together, I had screwed up here and there, had made poor choices and bad decisions, could be selfish and immature, among others. Can you accept that?

He risked being transparent and vulnerable too. He laid down his cards. Life had dealt him a mix of good and really bad ones. I was relieved to discover that this was one authentic person.

Now we could close the books of our past and concern ourselves with the present to see if we could have a future together. I had a growing sense that this was it. He felt like home. This was one relationship I felt I could enter into without having one eye on the exit.

Towards the second month since The Proposal, I was sent by my office to conduct fieldwork in various towns of Laguna for at least a week. This is a good time to be apart, test myself and mull things over. He saw me off at the BLTB bus terminal with a package of letters, cards and a compilation of music on audiocassette. He said I was to read each one on the day and time of day indicated on the envelope, with accompanying music to boot. I had enough reading to do for the whole week of separation. Then he'd visit me in Los Banos where I'd be staying at my aunt's house.

My fieldwork was exhausting. I traveled alone by public transport to different towns in rainy weather everyday. But his letters cheered me up. I could not wait till the next installment but managed to resist peeking.

You can tell he loved to write.

Finally, the day of his visit came. I was waiting outside at my aunt's little sari-sari store by the side of the road waiting for his arrival. Finally, at around 8pm, I saw him approaching. It turned out that he had gotten off at the wrong Crossing--the one in Calamba--where he went asking around for someone with my aunt's name. Realizing this was the wrong town, he took another ride to the next town of Los Banos. Poor guy! He got rained on. The rose stem he brought for me got rained on too. I tell you, I was so tempted to give him my Yes! at that instant.

But I would wait till the next day. I had a better plan…

To be continued…

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Almost silver, part 4

How do you know if you've found the RightGuy?

In my case, I had entertained a number of WrongOnes to know what wasn't working. Wrong timing. Wrong motive. Wrong status. Wrong priorities. Wrong whatever...

But what about what's Right?

Fortunately, This Guy came at a time when things were back on track in my life, when I was open to God's leading. Surrendered would be a better description. I was done telling God what or who was best for me. It was time for Him to reveal it.

It was only after This Guy told me about his intentions that things started to make sense. The visits, the calls, the books, audio cassettes and vinyl records (no DVDs yet) he lent me, the side glances, the friendliness... they were more than friendly!

So now we were dating. More visits and calls. I started getting cards and notes (no emails yet). I discovered he was not only a talented artist. He was an excellent writer, he deserved to be our newsletter editor.

At first, I wanted to keep this development low key to give me time and space to process my thoughts and feelings. I kept a few people in the loop, my closest friends and family. But being in a small church, it was only a matter of time before it became obvious that This Guy and Girl were dating.

We went on cheap dates to Red Ribbon and Dunkin' Donuts.
Sweeeet! Literally :-)

"I am going to tell you a shocker," a close friend, who was also his friend, said after I confided in her. "I started praying for the two of you last year." Really? She knew about it earlier than I did. I believe a few others had known too but kept quiet.

On another occasion, the spouse of one of my closest friends outside the church told me, "Mas gusto ko 'to. Kalimutan mo na yung isa. Kundi, hindi ako a-attend ng wedding mo, 100%." (I like this one better. Forget the other one. If not, I will not attend your wedding, 100%) He said it in jest, but he was not 100% joking. For some reason, This Guy struck him as my better match.

Sometimes it helps to listen to the feedback of people who love you and care about you because you can be blindsided by our own feelings and biases. But I preferred to listen to those who shared my core values.

My parents approved of him too. For me, my parents' blessings were paramount when it came to my choice of life partner if I were to get married. I needed that covering.

I was getting drawn to This Guy and things were falling into place. Oh God, I am REALLY falling in love!

But was this God's will? I prayed and prayed.

I had the answer in two months...

(to be continued)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Almost silver, part 3

Rewind, 1981...

"Hey, you might know this guy who's now attending this church. Younger brother of Ate Becky. You went to the same university. Fine Arts graduate," a girlfriend excitedly told me. A welcome addition to the single churchgoing male minority?

"No, I don't know him," I replied. But I knew Ate Becky.

One Sunday morning, this same friend pulled me aside as I was preparing for choir behind the sanctuary. "He's here!" she whispered and we both peeked through a slightly opened door. "That's him," she said trying not to be obvious. He was talking with some people before the service.

"No, he's not familiar," I said again and turned around, wondering what was so exciting about him.

On the contrary, I looked familiar to This Guy. He told me years later that he once saw me in the University circa '78. The image of a girl in long braids apparently stuck in his mind.

So here we were, attending the same church. Without my knowledge, Ate Becky started playing matchmaker and "promoting" me to her brother. He began to give it serious thought, serious enough to start praying about it.

Meanwhile, I was clueless...

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. I felt relaxed around him whenever we bumped into each other. No awkwardness on my part. He turned out to be very friendly and easygoing.

He was one of the reasons why I was encouraged to join a small group of Young Professionals on a trip to Banaue Rice Terraces. I was not an active part of the group, but at least he was there to talk to if ever I felt left out.

The trip was fun and so was the company. But I was more absorbed with the beauty of the place and its chilly weather. It didn't occur to me that destiny was unfolding and my destiny was right there in that small group.

Having lunch in one of the roadside souvenir shops in Banaue.
I can't remember why we were eating in a souvenir shop.
There was probably no eatery nearby or we were being cheap.

We actually did not have a lot of one-on-one conversations on this trip but we briefly tried out a borrowed pedal-less wooden bike together. Kids rode this downhill and dragged it uphill.

Fast forward: So what happened after the surprising proposal?

(to be continued)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Almost silver, part 2

The morning church service was over and the sanctuary was almost empty. I was sitting at the back pew waiting for someone or something.

"If I were to marry someone from this church, it could only be him," I thought to myself as I watched This Guy walk across the front aisle.

What a strange thought. First, This Guy and I were not close friends even though we had known each other at church for three years. We had few opportunities to get to know each other better. I was involved in the choir. He was involved in many things BUT choir.

Second, I felt I wasn't ready for a commitment because my emotional state was conflicted at that time. As young people would say on their Facebook relationship status: "It's complicated". In my case, however, I was singly complicating matters. The only person losing sleep was me. Don't ask me to explain. It's a girl thing. It's complicated.

Third, that was only a thought, not a feeling. No sparks or butterflies in the stomach because of Fourth, I thought he might be considering other girls.

I left the thought at that.

In the weeks or months that followed, I found myself in the same church newsletter editorial team with This Guy. We both took the exam in mid-January of 1985 and in February, we were given our assignments. He landed the role of editor, and I, the associate.

In preparation for the first issue, we had team meetings, and then just-editor-and-associate-editor meetings. The latter became more frequent. This increasingly turned into getting to know you rather than getting the work done, and went on for about three months. I didn't read much into this developing friendship because I had several platonic relationships with the opposite sex. Male friends confided in me, shared very personal matters or asked for advice. This could be just one of those.

Then one night, This Guy suddenly proposed. I was totally caught by surprise. I thought he'd be merely seeking some wise relationship counsel. He admitted that he had been praying for me for quite some time. And I never had an inkling? He must have been really, really discrete. Or I was really, really dense.

God, I need Your wise counsel!!

That's me in one of our choir concerts.

That's him leading at a Young Pro fellowship.

(To be continued...)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Almost silver

"Lord, I want to get married this year," I remember uttering New Year's Eve 1985.

It was more a sigh, a wishful thought, a fleeting feeling I threw in with other more pressing prayers as I spent the last minutes of '84 locked in my room while waiting for the countdown. Those days, I liked to spend the strike of 12 with God, thanking Him for the past year and praying for the new one. I'd be in my room until I was called down for the traditional fireworks, greetings, exchange gifts and media noche (midnight dinner).

That prayer was a long shot. I was not engaged. I did not even have a boyfriend. But I felt ready to settle down. I was tired of the single life. I had been saving and investing my savings and had enough to start a married life. I was tired of wrong suitors coming in and and out of my life. And I could already cook tinola (as shown in photo below).

I'm so ready!!

As the New Year unfolded, I got busy with work and grad school and got involved in a newsletter project in our church. I brushed off this prayer and soon forgot about it.

Apparently, God did not.

(to be continued...)

Chicken tinola (image from My friend taught me how to cook this when I was in university.