First Date

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Four years ago, July 24, 2012, ang first date namin ni Jelo.

Four years ago, July 24, 2012, ang first date ko, buong buhay ko.

Hindi ko pa no’n alam na hindi lang ako ang dine-date niya. Binibigyan niya ako ng hints – “Ang chicks ko talaga”, “marami akong crush”, pero ewan ko ba. Hindi talaga nagsi-sink in.

Malayo ako sa maharot pero kinilig ako nang ayain niya ako sa Facebook chat, kung san kami una at madalas na mag-usap. “I-date mo ako,” sabi niya. Hindi ko pa no’n alam na kapag sinabing “i-date mo ako” at hindi “date tayo”, ililibre mo ang taong nagsabi.

“Samahan mo ‘kong manood ng Dark Knight rises.”

“Libre mo?” sabi ko.

“I-date mo nga ako, eh. Edi libre mo,” kaya ko nalaman.

Guys, pa-demure naman ako ng very very slight no’n kahit crush na crush ko siya. Ayoko, sabi ko. Pero nangulit ang lolo niyo. Super landi niya no’ng time na ‘yon, kahit tanungin niyo pa siya, aamin ‘yan.

Sabi ko na lang, ililibre ko siya kapag walang news test sa subject namin kinabukasan. Magkaklase kami sa Journ no’n, at sa subject na ‘yon (Advanced Newswriting ‘ata, nakalimutan ko na), walang mintis na may quiz tungkol sa balita every meeting. So sabi niya, “imposible naman ‘yan, eh.”

Eh, ‘yun naman sana ang intensyon ko.

Pero bumagyo kinabukasan. Nasa labas na kaming lahat ng classroom nang i-announce na wala nang pasok. Nakaupo kami ng mga kaibigan ko sa bench sa labas ng classroom at tinabihan niya ako.

Hindi ko na maalala kung nag-usap pa ba kami no’n. Ang naaalala ko na lang, umuwi rin ako agad no’n sa probinsya dahil Sabado.

Pero naaalala kong ka-text ko siya sa bus sa biyahe pauwi. Sabi niya, “Walang news test.” Naaalala kong napag-usapan namin ang pesteng pustahang date.

Naaalala ko pang bumaba ako sa SM Pampanga dahil hinihintay ako ni Mama, Ate Pat at Quiel. Naaalala ko pang inabangan ako ni Ate Pat sa labas ng sinehan dahil nag-umpisa na ang panonoorin naming pelikula – yup, Dark Knight Rises.

Habang nasa sinehan, pumayag akong makipag-date at manlibre, nang Tuesday dahil wala kaming pasok. (Malandi rin naman pala.)

Nilibre ko siya ng Dark Knight Rises at nagpanggap akong hindi ko pa napapanood. Inakbayan niya ako no’n. Simula no’n, inaakbayan niya na ako ‘pag hinahatid pagkatapos naming kumain ng dinner with friends after Wednesday class.

Nagsayang siya ng pera do’n sa stuff toy machine sa Tom’s World. Lagi niyang pinagmamalaki sa ‘kin na magaling siya kumuha ng stuff toy sa mga gano’ng makina, pero hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin niya napapatunayan.

Nilibre niya ako sa Lydia’s Lechon at lagi niya akong inaasar (hanggang ngayon) na no’ng tanungin niya ako kung anong gusto ko, sumagot ako ng “kahit ano.”

Mas madaldal pa ako no’n ‘pag kausap siya sa chat o text kaya mostly, siya ang nagkwento habang kumakain kami. Ang kwento na no’n, tungkol sa kabataan niya sa Novaliches. Nakangiti lang akong nakikinig.

Sinilip ko pa no’n ang resibo para makita kung nalagpasan niya ang binayad ko sa sinehan. Gusto ko sigurong patunayan na hindi ako ang nakalamang ng libre sa first date ko ever all my life. Lumagpas naman ng three pesos. Isa rin sa mga sinilip ko ang screen ng cellphone niya. Nakita kong may ka-text siyang girlie.

Pero hindi ko na binanggit.

Hinatid niya ako sa dorm. Sabi niya may kikitain pa raw siya. Hindi ko na tinanong kung sino.

Naitago ko ang lahat ng movie tickets sa bawat date namin buong “landian” taon. May isang natapon, no’ng siya ang nag-bulsa – “The Reunion”.

No’ng kami-na-may-label-na-officially-wala-nang-girlie-sa-wakas-thank-you-Lord, dinidikit ko naman ang mga movie ticket at resibo ng date sa planner ko.

Kung tatanungin ako kung bakit hindi ako bumitiw, isasagot ko ang gasgas nang ‘hindi ka naman nagmamahal para mahalin pabalik’. Pero isa lang ‘yon sa mga dahilan. Siguro, mas matimbang na rason – alam kong hindi ako magsasawang makinig sa mga kwento niya, at siya, sa mga kwento ko.

Four years na rin pala. Sinong mag-aakala na ngayon, resibo na ng vaccine, diaper at gatas ang itatago ko.

Buti na lang, hindi natuloy ang news test.

(24 July 2016)

 

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Sa akin ka pinakamasaya

Sa tuwing nag-aalala ako dahil pakiramdam ko, mahal mo pa siya, lagi mong sinasabing sa akin ka pinakamasaya.

Ako, na pumulot sa lahat ng basag na piraso mo nang magpakawasak ka para sa kanya. Ako, na nagkasugat-sugat habang sinubukan kang buuin ulit. Ako, na napagod at napapagod na yakapin ka para manatiling dikit-dikit ang basag-basag mong piraso.

Sa akin ka pinakamasaya, sabi mo.

Pero kahit kailan, hindi mo gagawin sa akin ang lahat ng ginawa at kaya mong gawin para sa kanya. Hindi natin aalalahanin at paghahandaan ang mga mahahalagang araw. Hindi mo ipagsisigawang mahal mo ako. Hindi ka luluhod sa harap ko kung dumating man ang araw na iiwan kita, dahil hindi. Dahil sabi mo, sino mang umalis ay hinding-hindi mo na babalikan. Kaya hindi ka babalik sa akin kapag umalis ako, kahit sinabi mo rin sa akin na kapag siya ang bumalik, kakainin mo ang lahat ng sinabi mo.

May anino ng alaala niya kahit saan tayo lumingon. May bakas ng mapait pero gustong gusto mong kahapon. Sa kanta, pagkain, libro, lugar, palabas at pelikula, lahat, kaya mong ikonekta sa kanya. Kahit ilang beses mong ipilit na kinalimutan mo na ang nakaraan dahil sa akin, sa ngayon, ka pinakamasaya, ramdam ko ang pagpigil mong gumawa ng bagong alaala dahil matatabunan ang mga alaala niyang hanggang ngayon baon mo, araw araw.

Hindi ko kayang angkinin ang mga bagay na matagal mo nang isinuko sa kanya. Paano ko ipagsisiksikan ang sarili ko sa espasyong nakuha na ng iba. Sa kanya ang isip mo pagmulat ng mata pagkagising at bago pumikit pagtulog, sa mga panaginip, sa rurok ng kalasingan. Kahit paulit-ulit kong pulutin ang basag-basag mong piraso, hindi ka mabubuo. Hindi mabubuo ang isang taong may nawawalang puso.

Sa akin ka pinakamasaya, alam ko, at gagawin ko ang lahat para sa ‘yo. Ako ang sasalo ng lahat ng lungkot mo. Kahit na bawat lilingon tayo, siya ang maaalala mo. Kahit pilit mong itago, nakikita ko. Kahit gusto ko nang maging bulag para maniwala akong ako na talaga ang mahal mo, alam kong kahit sa pinakamadilim, siya at siya pa rin.

Sa akin ka nga pinakamasaya.

Pero iba ang pinakamasaya sa pinakaminahal. Pwede kang maging pinakamasaya dahil pinakamasaya ka sa pagpili mong hindi na ibigay ang lahat.

Para hindi ka na maging pinakamalungkot.

Dahil Love ang Pinakamagandang Cliché

Aaminin kong isa ako sa mga taong masyadong idealistic ang tingin sa pag-ibig.

Love? To me, the most beautiful cliché. Hindi nakapagtataka na some people spend their lives searching for love. Hindi na rin bago na pag-ibig ang tema ng mga sikat na pelikula, kanta, palabas sa TV at libro. Ang sarap kasi, to fall in love.

‘Di na bago sa mga nakakakilala sa ‘kin na mahilig ako sa cheesy eklat. Gusto ko ng sweet, bongga, obvious, nagsusumigaw na pag-ibig. ‘Yun yata ang goal ko in life dati, ang magkaro’n ng gano’ng klaseng love, Siguro, sa mga na-absorb ko din dahil mahilig ako sa teleserye, love stories na pelikula, at romance novels.

Sa totoo lang, kung hindi pa ako na-inlove at nagka-boyfriend, ‘di ako magigising sa katotohanang may mas makabuluhang klase pa pala ng pag-ibig kaysa sa head-over-heels-sweep-me-off-my-feet type of love. May mas masayang pakiramdam pa pala kaysa sa kilig. May mas sweet na mga salita pa pala kaysa sa I love you. May hihigit pa pala sa sarap ng falling in love. And no, hindi ito bastos.

Mas masarap pala, to be in love.

Being in love. Ang phase ng pag-ibig matapos ibaba ng telon, matapos ang paglabas ng The End sa screen, matapos rumolyo ng credits, matapos ang huling nota ng bawat love song.

Ang phase matapos ang ligawan stage. Ang stage ng pagsuyo at pambobola. Ang stage ng – aminin – pagsisinungaling. Or sige na nga, pagha-hype ng personal traits para mas appealing. Pwede ring pagyayabang. Here-are-my-positive-attributes-so-love-me stage. In other words, tapos na ang pagbebenta ng sarili.

Lumipas na rin ang honeymoon stage. ‘Yung panahong ang bawat text message niyo, umaaabot ng three pages (or more). “Good morning, baby. I love you. I miss you so much. Ingat ka today. Can’t wait to see you. Mwah!” “Good night, honey. I love you. Mwah! I miss you so much. Dream happy dreams of me. Can’t wait to see you again tomorrow. Text mo ako paggising, ha.” Pare-pareho lang ang laman. Iba-iba lang ang placement ng I love you, I miss you at Mwah.

Ang stage na hatid-sundo si gurla, at matagal bago makapaghiwalay pagkatapos ng buong araw na magkasama. Hug hug muna kasi mami-miss niyo agad ang isa’t-isa. Magastos na stage para kay boylaloo, dahil usually siya pa ang nagbabayad sa date. (And ito ang stage na lagi kayong nagde-date.) ‘Eto ‘yung halos magkapalit na kayo ng mukha. Nagseselos na ang mga friends dahil “laging sa kanya ang oras mo.” Sa ibang couple, ito ‘yung maliliit na bagay lang pinag-aawayan na. Mas sweet raw kasi kapag kakabati lang.

May mga dumadaan din sa ang-cold-mo stage. Ito ‘yung unti-unti na kayong nasasanay sa presensya ng bawat isa. It’s either: ‘yung isa, magsasawa na sa kakadikit no’ng isa at magc-crave na ng ibang company. Mararamdaman ‘to ni partner at iisiping “hindi na mahal” o “nanlalamig na” ang significant other.  Or: Pareho lang kayong mabo-bore dahil ang dating extraordinary part of your day ay nagiging ordinary na, and you both become cold kasi monotonous na. Wala ng excitement. Wala na ang kaba na dulot ng questions asked sa first phase ng pag-ibig – “Gusto niya rin ba ako?, “Kailan niya kaya ako sasagutin?”, “Sign ba ‘yung *insert kung anong chorvang ginawa/sinabi niya* na may gusto siya sa ‘kin?”, “Ano kaya ang gagawin niya sa first monthsary namin?”

Dito na minsan nagkakaalaman kung siya ba talaga ang gusto mong makasama until you die. Yes, until death, dahil technically, dalawa lang naman talaga ‘yan. It’s either you break up, or you choose to spend the rest of your lives together. And when your significant other starts to feel normal, then shit gets real. Because the truth is, no matter how extraordinary s/he may seem at first, s/he will always end up as an ordinary part of your life.

To others, it may sound wrong. Pero ngayon ko lang na-realize na ‘yun siguro ang mas makabuluhang pag-ibig. Kapag ordinary o normal ka na sa buhay niya – parang pagtulog, paggising, pagkain, pagtae, pag-ihi. Hindi ka na pwedeng mawala, kasi ‘pag nawala ka, may mali na sa sistema niya. Ordinaryo ka sa buhay niya na parang paghinga. Lagi mo nang ginagawa, hindi dahil gusto mo, kun’di dahil kailangan. Kun’di dahil parte ka ng sistema.

And maybe at first, gusto ko ng sweep-me-off-my-feet-head-over-heels type of love. Pero ngayon, kuntento na ako sa normal. If being normal means being part of someone’s whole, at pagkakaroon ng isang taong bumubuo rin sa ‘kin.

Hindi man conventional ang simula ng love story ko at marami mang nagsasabi na ako ang nanligaw, dumaan din naman ako sa ligawan stage na mainly kilig. Sa maniwala man kayo’t sa hindi, nagse-send din naman dati ng super cheesy texts ang boypren. Nangulit din naman siya. (Please, don’t deny.) Kahit ga’no pa kami kagulo no’ng umpisa, umabot din kami sa honeymoon stage, ge, na nag-a-I love you 20 times a day, nagde-date every day at hindi nagsasawa sa mukha ng isa’t isa.

Pinagdudahan ko rin (actually, praning ako by nature, so) kung mahal niya pa ba ako. Lagi ko ‘yang tinatanong (given the unconventional beginning plus tingin ng mga tao na ako nga ang nanligaw at malabo ang mata niya shit blah), at hirap akong maniwala. May mga kung anek-anek na issue pa na dumaan pero, hi, hello, everyone, kami pa rin. (In your face(s)! Joke.) Bottom line is, akala ko itong mga phases/stages of love ang pinakaimportanteng parte ng relasyon namin at ng love in general pero well, hindi pala.

Mas masaya ako ngayon na, hindi lang siya ang may mahal sa ‘kin, pati pamilya niya. Mas nakakahaba pala ng buhok kaysa sa kahit anong regalo o surprise ang ipakilala sa magulang, sa pamilya, at maramdamang tanggap ka.

Na ang dating “Good morning baby blah blah blah blah, *undending declaration of love” ay “Morning bubu” na lang at “Mownin” na lang minsan.

Na sa tuwing makakakita kami ng couples of the earlier stage, pagtatawanan na lang namin sila. “Magiging normal din kayo.”

Na nakakautot ako freely sa harap niya, at siya sa harap ko. Hindi ko na kailangang mag-make-up dahil duh, alam naman niya ang bruhang itsura ko pagkagising. Ang pagsasabi ng “may kulangot/muta/tinga ka” ay hindi na awkward. Pati “natatae ako” at “hindi pa ako naliligo.” Alam kong kahit ga’no ako kadugyot, mahal niya pa rin ako. (At beh, mahal pa rin kita kahit minsan umaabot ka ng tatlong araw na walang ligo.) Yes, the more kadiri, the more meaningful love is.

Na nahilig na ako sa panonood ng stand-up ni Kevin Hart, o ng kahit anong nakakatawang video ng black guys o thugs. At lately, ng babies. Na may mga joke kami na kami lang ang tatawa. Na may mga hilig kami na kami lang ang nakakaintindi.

Na kasama ako sa mga future plans, at kasama akong nagpaplano.

Na hindi ko na kailangang magpaganda o magpasexy. Dahil mas masaya tumaba ng sabay.

Na hindi na niya kailangang sabihing mahal niya ako ulit-ulit, kasi alam ko na.

Na hindi lang ako basta girlfriend, kun’di pamilya.

Ito ang being in love ko. Iba-iba tayo sigurado. Pero lahat tayo, balang araw, magiging ordinaryo sa taong mahal natin. And that should be the goal.

Aaminin kong isa ako sa mga taong masyadong idealistic ang tingin sa pag-ibig. Pero may kanya-kanya naman tayong ideal pagdating sa love. Ngayon, para sa ‘kin, ideal ang pag-ibig ng buhay ko. Because my ideal love is love that is just normal.

And my love today is beautiful, because it is as normal as breathing.

(www.sba.ph)

Star

The stars in the sky suddenly disappeared as she felt drops of rain falling on her forehead. She looked down, searched for an umbrella in her huge bag. The rain stopped, or it didn’t.
Beside her, he stood, umbrella in hand, a smile on his face. At that moment she knew, the stars in the sky disappeared but she was lucky enough to have the brightest by her side.
Days and months and years had passed and his shine brought light to her dull world. All the butterflies in the world flew to the pit of her stomach every second they were together, and if it were possible to explode from feeling so much happiness out of simple, mundane experiences they shared, she would have, a long time ago.
Who is she? She is the average type, at times nerdy and at times stubborn. She smiles when she is happy and cries, otherwise. But when he entered the doors of her life, he lived in her heart from that very night, and she became the girl who loved him with every cell of her entire being, and would love him for the rest of her life.
One night, after thousands they spent together, he told her that he could not love her. She cried buckets and buckets of tears to no avail. There are chances that would never come, dreams that would never come true, and stars that would never fall.
Days and months and years had passed, and nothing has changed. If friendship could be written on a book, theirs would have filled hundreds and hundreds of chapters. She loved him, she did. And he loved her, too, but never in the way she wanted him to.
They ask her, “Why?” More often than not, they tell her to stop and throw all her pointless feelings away. She simply shakes her tiny head with a sad smile etched on the corners of her mouth.
The stars in the sky suddenly disappeared as I felt drops of rain falling on my forehead. The rain stopped, and I looked up. Beside me, stood the star that shines the brightest. And I knew, that he would be by my side – always, forever… until he finally tells me that he loves me, too.
(I know it’s ugly; I don’t even know if it makes sense. But it’s still one of my favorite pieces.
Written last March 2012)

Panukat

Kung ang pag-ibig ay nasusukat,

kailan ito matatawag na sapat?

Masusukat ba ng ruler, o ng meter stick

ang haba ng pasensya,

ang tagal ng paghihintay

o kung hanggang saan kinaya

ang pagtitiis;

Kakayanin ba ng measuring tape

ang distansya

ng mga pusong malayo sa isa’t isa?

Ng weighing scale

ang mga timba ng luha,

o ang bigat ng damdaming

pinuno ng saya

o ‘di kaya’y sama ng loob,

o kaya naman ang pag-gaan

ng pag-ibig na unti-unting nauubos

Eh, ang thermometer

ang init ng pagsisimula

at lamig ng pagtatapos,

o kaya ng stopwatch

ang oras bago ito kinapos;

ang bilis bago mo nasabing

“oo, mahal kita,”

at ang mga minutong lumipas bago ang “ayoko na,”

Pilit nating sinusukat,

inilalagay sa kalendaryo,

na para bang nag-aabang –

ilang buwan, ilang taon, bago huminto?

 

Kung ang pag-ibig ay nasusukat,

siguro may batayan,

kung kailan ito sapat.

Siguro hindi lalabis,

at hindi magkukulang.

 

Kung ang pag-ibig ay nasusukat,

laging may higit, laging may ‘mas’

kaya siguro,

hindi.

 

Kung ang pag-ibig ay nasusukat,

kaso –

hindi. 

Absence

Every step I take as I walk on the hard, concrete path is mechanic. I know this place by heart; I go here at every waking moment.

I hear a mixture of sounds that could only be of happiness – the shouts of children playing (and of their mothers calling them), the chirps of the birds, the whistle of the wind, the barks of the dogs, the footsteps of people… some swift, some gentle… and the buzz of their conversations.

This place is my sanctuary, I think, as I breathe the fresh scent of the early morning breeze, that reminded me so much of her sweet breath when she used to plant soft kisses on my cheeks and lips.

As I feel the cool wind touch my arms, I remember the feeling of her skin when she used to tap my arm and tell me, “I’m still here;” or when she would hug me when I cried at night when the darkness became monotonous, it was too much; or the feel of her hand as she held mine when we walked through this very same park.

Everything feels the same, but something is wrong.

Maybe I miss the sound of her voice as sweet as honey, telling me stories that for a moment, gave me sight.

I take a few more careful steps and I trip on something – a cat, a rock, a dog, a person’s foot – I don’t even know. I used to be able to tell but now I can’t.

She’s gone and the darkness became what it was – just darkness.

Captured

In a room that smelled of lemon and cigarettes,

he wraps his arms around my waist, and we dance.

The heart always remembers what the mind forgets;

my heart fell from my chest to my feet in a glance.

His eyes bore into mine, to the depths of my soul;

I feel how I do when I watch the setting sun

I inhale his scent and I just desire his all —

the smell of an innocent child, how could I run?

My hands on his neck, I pull him closer to me,

and his body matches mine in every angle

His lips form a smile and I see eternity;

Could I ever let go of this fallen angel?

How he is in my eyes, words can’t simply suffice.

He is mine — my forever more, my only pure bliss.

Blumentritt

Dumaan na ang apat na jeep.

Pa-blumentritt. 

Apat na jeep at walang masikip.

Pero nakakapit pa din ang girlfriend mong maliit.

Nakatayo sa ‘yong harap at nakabungisngis,

Puro pa-cute.

Bulong niya, agad ka niyang ma-mimiss

Wag ka lang mapa-alis, ang daming pautot. 

Mabigat na ang talukap ng mga mata.

Pagod, inaantok.

Pero kulang na lang, i-mighty bond ang ‘yong paa

Matindi talaga ang katok.

Nakasampung “ba-bye” na simula kanina,

Ngingiti pang nakakaloko.

“Ba-bye,” pero ‘di magawang iwan ka,

Kamot-ulo.

At sa wakas aalis, dahil oras na.

Kiss sa pisngi.

Ngingiti siya ulit at tatalikod na,

Hahawakan mo siya sa braso, “Sandali.” 

Hihilahin, yayakapin, mahigpit, matagal at ika’y ngingiti.

Bago ka sumakay pa-Blumentritt.

Gabi na, pagod ka at uwing-uwi,

Pero yakap mo pa ang girlfriend mong maliit.

Giving up a great love, for the greatest love

Image

Diana Jean Gonzalez

Giving up a great love, for the greatest love

Sitting across her, separated only by a large mahogany table, one cannot help but feel slightly intimidated by her strong personality, balanced by an equally welcoming charisma. As she rises and strides gracefully in a brightly-painted green kitchen, her confidence in every step leaves no trace of the happiness and tragedies of the past fifty-two years.

She hangs up her mobile phone with a smile, to end a fifteen-minute frustrated call to the customer service department of a bank. The representative on the other end of the line could barely utter a word against her endless shower of complaints about: first, a broken airpot – supposedly a reward received after availing of the bank’s promo and second, the slow postal service of her billing statements every month. But as the conversation came to a close, she was calling the representative by her first name in a very kind tone, and they were sharing laughs, as if they were best friends, as if the shower of complaints was not what it was, after all.

A single mother for almost 11 years, Diana Jean Gonzalez never demands respect, but she gets it. People who barely know her would say that she emits an overwhelming aura, making her difficult to approach. But to those close to her, she is a kind-hearted person who would do anything to protect and guide the people she loves, the reason she appears strong and intimidating to others.

This protectiveness stems from being raised by a very strict father. As a child, she was not allowed to leave the house to play with other children on the streets, she could watch television only on Fridays and Saturdays, she could not go on field trips, she was taught household chores though their family had a housemaid, and whenever a boy visited her at home, her father would bring out his gun and clean it. Though at times she felt that she could not do what she wanted out of fear of her father, she later realized that it was for her own good. “[The way I was raised] helped me, because I learned to focus on my studies. Even if my father never said a word, I felt that he wanted us to study hard so that we could all finish our education.”

Because of this, “Dianne,” as she is fondly called by her friends, claims that she has always set her goals on building a successful career. For 18 years, she worked for different branches of College Assurance Plan (CAP) Family of Companies, until she decided to resign in 2004, to become a full-time mother to her children. “All I did was work. I was working and working that time, and then, I resigned, and I realized how fulfilling it was to be a mother, a mother who fully takes care of her children.”

This, however, was not the only thing that she had to sacrifice.

In 2001, in a small apartment in Lopez Village, Parañaque, Dianne, pregnant with her youngest son, watched as her husband, Sel, packed his clothes into two luggage bags while whispering words of comfort to two small girls who were scared to see their father go. But no amount of cries could stop him from wanting to provide for his family. Soon after, Dianne and her children returned to Lubao, Pampanga, their hometown, because her husband felt more secure with his family closer to their relatives, while he was away. Dianne held on to the hope that one day, the family she loves so much will be together again.

Years passed, and her one great love left her.

Dianne and her husband practically grew up together, because they were neighbors, who took up their elementary and secondary studies in the same school, Sacred Heart Academy in Guagua, Pampanga, a twenty-minute jeepney ride away from their small barangay, Sta Lucia. They were two strangers who never imagined that one day, they would fall in love. Strangers, who funnily enough, thought they were cousins.

In a small rural town like Lubao, it has always been a tradition to visit neighbors on occasions such as Christmas and New Year. On the Christmas of 1990, Dianne, who was then turning 29, and who already ruled out the possibility of falling in love and getting married, suddenly felt the urge to hug Sel and wish him a merry Christmas. “If it is your destiny, it will really just happen instantly. That’s it. It just happened.” And so it did.  That was where it all started.

It was not a long engagement. He proposed to her on February 14, 1991, and a rainbow-themed wedding was set on the 7th of April. “He is patient. He never got mad, he never raised his voice. If he could give something within his means, he would. He was very kind, very giving, very generous. That’s why I was able to love him that much,” she says.

A love, no matter how great, can end, at a time you least expect it to.

In 2005, Dianne went to Los Angeles, California. As ironic as it may seem, she flew to be by her husband’s side but on that trip, the marriage ended. She had two options: to stay with him, and they would work together abroad, or to leave and return to her three children. She chose the latter, and as a consequence to this choice, she signed divorce papers, because the only way to quicken the legalization of the papers of her husband without her by his side, was for him to marry an American citizen. When her husband found a woman he could marry, it was either he fell in love with this woman, or he just could not leave her.

This shattered Dianne’s heart into a thousand little fragments, and for quite some time, she could not mend it. In the middle of the night, when she thought all her children were fast asleep, Sel would call and they would fight, screaming at each other, wondering where everything had gone wrong, hanging up the phone in tears. Days and weeks and months passed, and they no longer called each other “love” when they talked, and then the talking stopped altogether, but the sleepless nights didn’t. But for her children – her greatest loves, she eventually became friends with the person who hurt her the most, and she had no choice but to accept what has happened, and live with the pain every day.

But, despite the suffering it has caused her she considers this choice the greatest she had ever made. “I was able to experience being a mother to my children. I chose to stay here in the Philippines and take care of them, because I felt that it was for the best. Eventually, now that I see the outcome of my choice to stay behind, I know that it has been the greatest decision of my life. I never regretted that.”

“I always bear in mind that when I chose to stay, I had to be a mother and a father to my three children, no matter what. The only reason I have, to go on, is I love my children very, very much,” she stresses. The happiness of being with her children, watching them grow, and guiding them through the years, has been her refuge from the pain of losing the person she loves.

Slowly, her love for her children stitched the pieces of her broken heart. “This is my greatest achievement, that I fulfilled my role as a mother to my three children, that I have raised them to be who they are right now.”

She admits, however, that somehow, she fears facing the years to come. “I am not looking for someone to be with. But everybody says that it is hard to grow old alone. Time will come, my children will have their own lives, and eventually I’ll be alone. That’s the saddest reality on my part. It would be wonderful to grow old with somebody by my side.”

But there remains hope.

After everything she has been through, she draws strength from the hope that she has nurtured in her heart, the hope that will forever be the source of her strength, the hope that one day, perhaps, every sacrifice would be worth it.

“Whatever God still wants to happen to my family, it remains to be seen… God is so good, that I know, whatever will happen, He has something good stored for me. I know I can be happier. For now, I am happy, I have no regrets, I am very happy that I have my children with me.”

Written

Write it down.

As the ink leaves its mark on paper,

So does the warmth in my heart.

Write it down.

For fear of growth and of familiarity,

For assurance of safety from a grave danger,

In a few minutes, for a calm heart.

Write it down.

For the insane thoughts to leave my mind,

For the quick-paced beat to stop.

For the butterflies to flee from the pit of my stomach,

Write it down.

A week is not enough to justify this.

Write it down.

To be judged, I won’t.

Neither to assume nor to expect.

This should end, and it should now.

And so, write it down.

From this day forward,

Until no end.

I will never think, speak, or even consider

The indescribable happiness of it,

Of the possibility of you and me.

Write it down.

In the hope that as the ink leaves its mark on paper,

So does the warmth in my heart.

(March 17, 2012)