this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on February 15, 2007.
WE USED TO RIDE THE SAME BUS WHEN WE WERE STILL in grade school. She was always neat, prim and prepared for school, while I was always late and drowsy. Her brother was the laughable bully in our community church boys’ group.
It was in college that I came to know her again. I was a sensational kid from the mighty campus of Diliman and she was the loudmouth of that old school along Padre Faura.
We exchanged furtive glances during the anti-Estrada rallies in 1999. The most memorable was the mammoth gathering in Ayala in August. I was with visiting Taiwanese students and she was the head of their school delegation. It could have been the heavy downpour or something else, but it was on that fateful day when I realized that I was smitten with the girl who used to mock me in elementary school.
The formal courtship took place in the picket lines of the Grand Boulevard Hotel. I was a lousy suitor (she has never made me forget that), but in time she had to admit her true feelings for me.
At first we thought we were a mismatched couple. After all, our interests are widely different. To cite a few examples: She prefers the rustic mountains, while I prefer the rugged seas. She adores Selena and TLC, while I appreciate the songs of Andy Williams. She is a talented artist; I’m more of a filingerong artista.
Our theory about our incompatibility would be disproved by our shared passion for the writings of Marx, Lenin, Mao, Stalin and Ed Villegas. The two of us are professional street ralliers, crowd control managers and advocacy experts. We both love pasta, Divisoria and Chinese movies.
But more than our fondness for the same things, one secret of our enduring relationship is our mutual respect or tolerance for our distinct interests. She agrees to watch “Eat Bulaga,” “Mr. Bean,” “Monk” and “Frasier” for as long as I also agree to watch Sarah Geronimo on “ASAP,” “The Buzz” and “Will and Grace.” She seldom complains about not being able to eat shrimp or crab meat because of my skin allergy, but I also have to give up mongo which she finds unpalatable.
I’m not really superstitious, but when we celebrate a special day in our relationship, something ominous or momentous occurs in the political life of the country. When Chavit Singson made his exposé against President Joseph Estrada, we were on vacation in the Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan. When we celebrated our first anniversary, that was the week when Erap was arrested in his San Juan residence. When Magdalo soldiers attempted a coup in 2003, I had just proposed marriage to her. During the Valentine’s Day bombing in 2005, she was in labor at the Philippine General Hospital.
Marriage brings so much pleasant complexities to a relationship. It is the most satisfying, if stressful, relationship in life. No more of those mushy love letters, phone conversations till dawn and text quotes every hour and promises of indescribable happiness if only the woman of your dreams would spend the rest of her life with you. They are replaced by bills from utility firms, phone conversations about getting home before 9 p.m. (or else…), text reminders to buy diapers and vitamins and the realization that you are stuck with this one person for the rest of your mortal life. But I believe, all this is what makes marriage exciting and enjoyable.
In the past week, my wife and I have had arguments and shouting matches about who would baby-sit, who would cook, who would clean the bathroom, how the money was spent, where were the keys, where was the remote control, etc. But at the end of the day, we resolved our petty quarrels. We can’t sleep harboring any bitterness toward each other.
We have our own ways of expressing regret for something offensive said or done. On my part, I always offer a soothing back massage and ginger tea, do the dishes and mop the floor.
While the world continues to be more violent, unforgiving and depressing, I have found my happiness in life. I find comfort in the thought that another soul is dependent on mine in order to survive this wicked land.
Perhaps what inspires me to be a better person is the need to prove that I deserve to be blessed with a wife who tolerates my perverted humor, eccentric behavior and demented beliefs. I deserve a wife who irritates me every day with her complaints, but who is also affectionate, beautiful, intelligent and kind. The prospect of spending the rest of my life with this one person is the source of my contentment, pride and delight.
I tease, argue, fight, reconcile, serve, ridicule, adore, ignore, fear, loathe, respect, venerate and honor my wife every day. Some would say this is a regression to the boring domesticity called marriage. I say it is love. And love has a name: Frances.