Yes, this May 9, I and my wife will cast our votes for our favored candidates of this year’s national elections.
We will be voting for our country’s next leaders. More significantly, we will be voting for each other too – once again for the 37th time – to gratefully celebrate the 37th anniversary of our elopement.
Around this same month last year, I honored our 36th civil wedding or elopement anniversary by writing on this column how our love story suffices as a romantic fairy tale – me being a former nearly-to-be-ordained priest and my wife as an ex-future nun, whom I met as my student during my very first year of college teaching after freshly going out of the seminary.
In the same column piece last year, I also mentioned the fateful romantic incident that triggered our elopement.
Some two months before May 9, 37 years ago, after having a secret fast date with my wife (then my student) one late afternoon on a bay shore – staring at the bay’s horizon and whispering “sweet nothings” – we became oblivious of time, that at around 7 p.m. and having already exceeded the mandated 6 p.m. curfew time set by her strict Lolo to be home, I was forced to get the help of my parish priest along with my colleague college instructor, a lawyer, to accompany me and my sobbing wife back to her Lolo’s residence.
My wife is from Davao, and as she was finishing her last year in college in an Eastern Visayas city where I was teaching, she was then staying or under custody of her strict and disciplinarian Lolo, who was a city councilor.
So, that fateful night, I and wife, my parish priest, and my lawyer colleague, were in front of her fearsome Lolo, who was clad in a night robe (and I suspected that the bulging tuck on his waist was a gun). After all the nerve-wrenching verbal exchange – the berating of her Lolo, my parish priest’s intercessory pleading, my curt apologies while standing behind my parish priest, and my wife’s unabated crying – her Lolo decidedly announced that my wife will be sent back home to Davao.
This chilling apprehension of losing contact or not seeing any more my wife if she leaves for Davao precipitated some disquieting thoughts in me. I knew I wasn’t ready yet to go back to the seminary. I knew also that I wasn’t prepared yet for marriage. But I deeply felt too that I didn’t want to lose my wife – I have fallen in love with her, I swear!
In time, thus, I knew one solution: Elopement! I then tried to hatch our elopement plan, thought out its details, and worked on its preparations and “needed requirements.”
My first concern was to get in touch with my wife – even just secretly. Second, was to get another ascendant relative of her, an aunt perhaps, whom I could conspire with and seek some kind of parental consent. And third, was how to “escape” from her Lolo’s residence. Days and nights, I hurriedly tried to carry out these strategic steps, lest I’d be late in time for her Lolo’s sending her back to Davao.
Thus, I first tried writing a long, long love letter to my wife – not just expressing my “inarguably deepest feelings of love” but also proposing my plan for elopement – and discreetly delivered it to her through her close friend and classmate, who’s my student too.
I asked her, in the letter, if she has another relative, an aunt or uncle, who is residing in the same province, and with whom I could talk with and seriously ask for my wife’s hand in marriage.
After I sent the letter, there ensued some three-to-four weeks of lull, with no answer or any feedback, and I was growing desperate if I would ever see her again. Frenzied thoughts and heartfelt-nagging prayers were just my companions on those intense moments.
Alas, after almost a month of agonizing waiting, I received a word from my wife’s classmate, with whom I sent the letter, that my wife and her aunt, who was living in a far municipality some 140 kilometers away from the city, wanted to see me. Thus, sometime in April, just weeks before our May 9 elopement, in a small and quite inconspicuous “Special Halo-Halo” eatery, I met her aunt – and, for the first time after that fateful night at her Lolo’s residence, I glorified heavens upon seeing my wife. Medyo pumayat siya, but obviously all our eyes were glowing and “I was seeing rainbows all around!”
So, on that special meeting over mugs of “Special Halo-Halo” with her aunt, we crafted the implementation plan of our elopement. My wife, with hand-carried personal belongings, will secretly slip out or flee from her Lolo’s residence. Along with her aunt, they will wait for me at the bus terminal for our elopement journey to her aunt’s place. Her aunt was supposed to arrange for a simple civil wedding for us at the Mayor’s office.
With just a meager budget in my pocket for our elopement – no grand celebration, no wedding rings anyway – we trekked on our 140-kilometer elopement journey on May 8. And finally on the following day, May 9, I and my wife exchanged vows before the town mayor. We got married in Church the following year already in Manila – and know what? – of all places, it was held in the seminary where I spent my theological formation or studies.
Now, fast forward to our 37th voting...errr, wedding anniversary.
Last night, I happened to wake up in bed, with my wife yet soundly sleeping beside me. Her arm across my chest, her soft warm breath on my face. Her hair has not yet turned white unlike mine. I could notice though some few crease lines on her forehead. Her hands, though quite sturdy due to hard work, have remained soft. Oh, I would wistfully remember how those hands had bled when she washed my maong and khaki trousers in the past.
On this special occasion of our 37th elopement and wedding anniversary, I cannot find words to express my deepest love and gratitude to my wife, my true happiness and God’s most precious gift to me.
“Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us; and let us both grow old together in health [and in love].” (Tobit 8:10).
Happy anniversary, my dearest love!