Recently, I attended the birthday get-together for Grace, a former landlady, who has also become a good friend. Because my former apartment (owned by Grace’s family) is just a short walk from my current one, it’s always easy for me to connect with her especially that she would always make it a point to invite me every time there’s a get-together in their home – including birthdays of her Mom and Dad whom I’ve also learned to love like my second parents.
I thought that after the usual “pigging-out” and conversations with Grace (I joked around with Grace that I stayed in the gym for two hours before going there so I can eat like an elephant), I’d just quietly go home and read a book. However, that night, a good friend from way back my Ricky Lee workshop days, was also there and he invited me to join their set of friends who are out there in the front patio.
At first, I was hesitant to join because I didn’t know anyone in the group except him and another woman whom I was briefly introduced before. However, something pulled me in so I found a seat and tried to join in the conversations. Most people who know me would say that I’d usually be the one to start conversations when thrown by circumstances to strangers. However, that night, I guess there was no need for me to try to break the ice because it seemed that everyone was already in the middle of conversations. Not wanting to just sit there and listen, I began to chat up with the woman beside me whom I will name Cristy. Cristy, by the way, is about to leave for the US—this, I gathered from the moment I joined the group.
So that’s where my first question to her came from. I asked, “So…I heard that you’re leaving…maybe you’d like tell me the story behind it?” I didn’t want her to feel that I am trying to be nosy over what could be a very personal thing but it seemed that she was warm and open enough. Amazingly, I think this was also the needed question that would set the ball rolling…because immediately after that, all ears were on us.
It became apparent that the group was also raring to hear more about the story behind this decision. It turns out that Cristy was leaving “to follow her heart.” She met a US-based Filipino guy in Baguio sometime last April. They fell in love, went steady and eventually got married after one month. Yes, one month. Of course, to the hopeless romantics in the group, this was a love “made in heaven.” However, to some, they felt it was too short a time to get to know someone, much more, get married. The guy is now in the US and waiting for her to follow. When Cristy was narrating all these, she really looked so happy and in love! I prodded her more and more and she gamely answered all my questions. Before long, the others were also throwing their questions in. Things like, “Why so fast naman?”, “Are you in love?”, “Where will you be staying?” I guess Cristy didn’t mind answering all of our questions . She blushed. She laughed. Her eyes twinkled. She expressed her concerns, too, but she is a picture of joy and hope. I knew then that I was touched again by another love story.
Because the mood of the night began to encourage heart-to-heart talks about love, life, relationships and sex (yes, this is always a favorite topic), it didn’t take long for the group to start passing on the questioning (interrogation?!) to another female in the group. Let’s call her Janet. I can say that Janet is all fire and passion. Her sense of humor is contagious, too. She started by saying that she married her husband just after one week from the time she met her. I almost fell off my chair. I can imagine having sex with a man on the first date but surely, getting married only after one week…wow.
That beats me. Janet said she was engaged to be married to someone else already but when she met her husband, she instantly fell “magic.” This word later on became one of the favorite words of the night. It was Cristy who said it first but Janet, maybe after trying to find a better word, just blurted it out for the second time that night. She said her whole family found her insane. But she didn’t care. She knew she will follow her heart and she did. She is still happily married now. She admits there are problems and that there was even a time that she wanted to call it quits. But now, she gamely said, “You single women there (pointing to me and another female guest beside me), marriage is a gamble and a commitment. You don’t know what you will get. There is no guarantee. But you have to give it your best shot. It is a continuing work. You committed yourself to it and that’s what you will do – make it work. That’s what I learned.”
I know I have been hearing and reading these words before. But it’s different when they are uttered by someone right across me. Nothing can get as real as that. I can hear her every word, each one coming from her soul. Janet’s decision touched me as very courageous. It was insane, yes. But how can one doubt her feelings when it is as strong as that? Could I trust my feelings in the same way, too?
As I mull over the questions in my mind, Lilia, still another strong woman, shared her story. However, before that, she said something like this…”Do all women here agree that each woman has a depth so deep that it is only herself alone who knows its reach and what it holds?” Everyone was quiet for a few seconds…and then one by one, every person there nodded or said “Yes, I agree.” And then Lilia shared her story.
Lilia has an ongoing 4-year relationship prior to her marriage. She considered him the love of her life…he was also her best friend. Unfortunately, they broke up and went their separate ways. Lilia eventually started going out and met a new guy who eventually became her boyfriend. He later asked Lilia to marry him. Lilia, who wasn’t sure how she would decide, asked God for a sign. She said that if her ex-boyfriend didn’t visit or see her for one month, she would say “yes” to her boyfriend. During the weeks that followed, she was somehow hoping that her ex-boyfriend will visit her (she lives in Laguna while her ex-boyfriend lives and works in Manila) but after the “deadline” and still, there was no word or visit from him, she eventually agreed to marry her new boyfriend.
However, a strange thing happened after she already accepted the proposal of her boyfriend. Just after two days from the day she gave her “yes”, her ex-boyfriend visited her in Laguna! He said that he still loves her. He wanted to come earlier but that he just joined a new company and he couldn’t file a leave yet. Lilia couldn’t believe what she’s hearing. She wanted to tell him that she still loves him but that she knew she couldn’t have the heart nor the courage to take her word back from her future groom. When her ex-boyfriend left, she was so distraught that she cried for days on end. The day of her wedding came. She was on her way to the church in her bridal car when she saw…her ex-boyfriend, standing alone in a street corner near her house, as if waiting for her…she said she almost opened the car’s door and gone out to run to him…but she couldn’t…she went to the Church and married her boyfriend.
Looking back, she said that she couldn’t even remember most parts of the wedding. It was a blur. She was smiling outside but she was torn apart inside. Everyone thought she was so deliriously happy. We asked if she still loves her ex-boyfriend until now. And she said…”Yes.” But that she chose her husband and she has a good life now with 4 children. We asked, “Why didn’t you marry the person you really loved?” She said it was more important for her to keep her word and admittedly, her growing-up years made her promise to herself that she won’t allow her children to grow up in a world similar to what she experienced. She said that her father was so irresponsible that he was often jobless and left all the burdens to her mother. He would also often hurt her.
They eventually separated. And so, during those crucial days when she was thinking of what’s the best decision for her, she chose her boyfriend. She was sure that he would give her and her children a good life. And she was right. There were no flowers and no sweet-nothings with this man who became her husband but he is a very good provider and shows his love with the way he takes care of her and her children. She says she couldn’t ask for anything anymore. She admits that she misses the flowers, the sweet nothings and the “kilig”gestures, but ultimately, she is content.
Would I decide in the same way, too? I asked myself. I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Knowing myself, I think wouldn’t marry for any other reason. I would marry only for love and passion. But would this be the right decision? I don’t know. I only hope that I would have someone to grow old with and if it is God’s will that I remain single for the rest of my life, I pray for spiritual strength, contentment and bliss.
But let us not digress…let’s move on to another woman’s story. Let’s call her Pia. She married someone 10 years her senior. But truth be told, her decision to marry this man wasn’t really based on love. She married primarily for security. Of course, she cared for the guy and have strong admiration and respect for him. But you see, she came from a poor family and when she met this successful man and proposed marriage to her, she immediately accepted it, believing in her heart that she will be a good wife and build a happy family with him. It was a good and comfortable life. Her husband seems to be getting richer everyday.
Pia was happy…until one day, she found out that her husband was having an affair. She didn’t know when it started but looking back, it was clear that the more the husband became richer, the more attractive he must have been becoming to the opposite sex. There were fights and accusations until it got to a breaking point. Her husband left her for the other woman. She went through a long healing period and must still be trying to heal up to now. But she has finally come to terms that in this life, there is no guarantee. We just do our best and if things don’t work out, then we just simply move on. Now, she says she is still hoping and praying for another chance at love.
The stories of Cristy, Janet, Lilia, and Pia are stories that somehow connect to our lives, too. We may have different circumstances but we all share the same questions. We may have different paths to take but we all share a common journey – that of trying to find ourselves in a world that is full of uncertainties and eventually making peace with every decision that we make.
That night gave me valuable lessons that I now carry in my heart, grateful that their stories will continue to guide me as I continue my journey towards wholeness.
[Re-post of a blog dated June 4, 2006 (from my previous site).]
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