Our First Wedding Anniversary as Parents

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Dear Papa Bear,

It’s been six years since we tied the knot. But this year, it’s different… because we now have a child that will turn into a toddler next month.
As exciting as the past year has been, it has also been rough for us as we went through drastic changes – no more traveling, no more crazy spending, no more proper sleep. I wouldn’t have made it without you.

I want to thank you for setting a good example for our son. As sad as it is, there are still nonsensical stereotypes that stem from outdated patriarchal thinking and you break each and every one of them. You help care for our son, you help cook and clean and do the laundry. Most importantly, you support me working and push me to be my best both at work and at home.

I appreciate all the sacrifices you make for our family. Thank you for being there for me and Niko on our darkest and brightest days. We love you so much!!!

Happy 6th Anniversary, my love!

Yours forever, lol I hope that’s alright,

Mama Bear

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How I Married Your Father 5 Years Ago

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Your father and I had 90 days to get married from the moment I entered this country. You see, I came here on a fiancée visa and we were in a long distance relationship for 7 years before he proposed to me.

The Proposal

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We have already finished and passed the interview for visa approval at US Embassy in Manila. To celebrate, your Father took me to a bed & breakfast in Tagaytay called The Boutique, which I had been raving about. We walked in and asked for a room. To my surprise and immediate suspicion, the best room had already been booked under your father’s name.
That night, we had dinner at this fancy place with a view of Taal lake called Firelake Grill. There I was, waiting for him to pop the question. But he didn’t.
We went back to The Boutique and your father requested champagne for our room. I gleefully checked my flute, hoping to spot an engagement ring sitting in the bottom. But there was nothing.
My heart sank. Having been a drama queen my whole life, even if I knew better not to expect a formal proposal (since we had already agreed to get married so that I could migrate and be with him) – I still wanted it. With the night as good as over and me tipsy from the bubbly, I lost hope in getting engaged and started crying.
That was the point your father nervously asked me what’s wrong and told me that all he wanted was to make me happy (he said other things too although I forget due to my drunken bawling). He was comforting me by the bed and next thing I know, he was grabbing a tiny box from the side table drawer, kneeling with a diamond ring and asking me to marry him. Of course, I wept even harder and of course, I said “Yes.”

The Wedding

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Our wedding was beautiful. The ceremony happened outdoors in the gardens of a park in Tenafly. Until the last few days, the forecast warned of rain. But on that day 5 years ago, the sun was up and it was a tad warmer than usual for October.
I think what made our wedding so beautiful was how so many people pitched in to make it happen. Your father and I didn’t have anything saved up for our dream wedding so, your father’s family and family friends offset most of the wedding expenses by contributing time and/or money.
We didn’t have to pay for the reception venue and food, our clothes, my hair and make-up, the flowers and decor, the video/photographer/s, the DJ and giveaways.

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We were truly blessed with love and friendship that day. My only wish was that my sisters (your aunts) were there. Their visa application was denied so they couldn’t make it. The younger one, Denise (whom you will be meeting soon) made a video for me. I cried and ached for my family to be complete that day.
What helped eased the sadness was this: I had not only gained a husband that day, I had also gained his friends and family.

Son,

Your father and I have been married for 5 years. The first year was the toughest especially because our relationship took a gigantic leap from long distance to close quarters. From being his only priority during his trips to the Philippines, I had to start sharing his time with his work, his folks, his buddies and his hobbies. The next years offered different challenges but as your father and I got more comfortable communicating with each other, I think we found each year of marriage a little bit easier.

Now, here we are. I am 35 weeks pregnant with you, on our 5-year mark. There is a lesson (I’m afraid there will almost always be a lesson) from all this:
There will always be disappointment in life. Every expectation comes with risk and more than once, the results or lack thereof could upset you. But Son, if you give life a chance, if you wait a little bit, if you keep your heart and mind open, only then can life surprise you with something even better.

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An Evolving American Dream

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Five years ago, I entered a foreign country for the first time. Of all the foreign countries I could have gone to for my first time outside the Philippines, it had to be the United States. Plus I wasn’t just visiting, I was uprooting myself and migrating.

When I arrived, it was at night and your father – who was then my fiancé, was wondering if I noticed the smoothness of the ride, referring to the better quality of the roads. I never would have noticed if he hadn’t pointed it out. I did find it odd that I wasn’t dying from heat on a summer night. I was even wearing the same sweater I wore during the flight.

Many yearn to move to the United States to live the American Dream. Many Filipinos still do without knowing how tough it really is to make it here. I graduated with honors and was a licensed Chemical Engineer in the Philippines but when I came here, I had to start from scratch. Before I joined the multi-national company types I’m accustomed to, at some point, I became a gelato girl. And after I got burned out from roles in supply chain for some global brands, I’ve become a marketing analyst. The job is fun and occasionally challenging but it is in no way, shape or form an application of my college degree.

Money is not easy to come by and it is certainly not easy to keep. I never had a credit card in the Philippines. I didn’t need one. I never owned a car. I didn’t need one. I never had debt and I was able to save a good amount of money even with a pretty lavish lifestyle. Yes, your father and I still have our share of travels and food excursions, but not without adding more to an ever-growing mountain of debt.

It has been a rough five years and up to now, there are still things I’m getting used to. However, if I didn’t take a leap of faith, if I didn’t choose to leave my life in the Philippines, your father and I wouldn’t have been able to get married like we did. We wouldn’t have been able to walk this path which is now leading us to you.

I used to think that living the American Dream meant achieving a life of comfort and financial stability. But then, I realized that the American Dream can be anything I want it to be. Thus, for me, hard as life can be, the American Dream is this gift of being with the one I love, so that he and I can start this family and continue to grow old together.

To me, a Happy 5th Anniversary in the United States!

Love and the Rain

On rainy nights like this one, I remember being younger…

You see, your father and I didn’t use to live together. We weren’t even in the same country or continent. During his summer vacations from school, he flew to the Philippines to visit me. Summer in the United States meant the rainiest months in the Philippines. Having only a couple of months in a year to spend together, we didn’t mind the rain.

We went on dates, with umbrellas that were pretty much useless with the downpour we experienced almost everyday. After my classes in college, and years later, after my work hours, we ate dinner at nice places, watched movies and played at arcades. If we had enough money and time, we went on trips.

We felt the need to compress a year’s worth of romance into his limited time in the country. The days always went by too quickly. And on the night before his flight out, all the fun and happiness would turn back into the misery of separating and resetting the cycle of waiting.

Eventually, we got tired of the distance. We found a way to finally be together but we don’t recommend long distance relationships to anybody. It takes a lot more than going out on rainy nights for two months in a year. There are those 10 other months or more to deal with… that can make or break you.

Your father and I now detest leaving the house when it rains. Still, as I’ve told some of my friends, the rain makes me nostalgic. I like to smell the rain and imagine our younger selves barely fitting under one puny umbrella. How we’d laugh ourselves silly as we got drenched to make the most of our time together.

The rain reminds me of how your father and I started, and how long we’ve loved each other. I look forward to the years to come.