My fa­ther taught me wait­ing for 21 years was worth it

Manila Bulletin - - Views • Features - By ANNA MAE YU LAMENTILLO

FOR 21 years, Manuel wanted to marry El­nora but it wasn’t un­til he was 47 years old that they were fi­nally able to walk down the aisle.

Manuel and El­nora first met in 1964. To him, it was love at first sight. At 79, he could still re­call how she looked and the clothes she was wear­ing when they first met – the same day he de­cided she was the wo­man he was go­ing to marry. My dad would of­ten tell us that it only took him a lit­tle over ten min­utes to fall in love with my mom.

How­ever, the cir­cum­stances were not easy. His friends of­ten joked that the ro­mance seemed im­pos­si­ble – “The Great Wall of China was too dif­fi­cult to climb.” They would re­mind him that they were born 18 years apart and that she was of Chi­nese de­scent. But Manuel could not be stopped. None of th­ese could douse his re­solve to win the heart of the wo­man he loved.

Dis­tance, age, and even cul­ture were in­signif­i­cant. He only needed to hear that she loved him too. Ev­ery­thing af­ter that did not mat­ter. It was sur­mount­able.

Sev­eral months in the re­la­tion­ship, Manuel pro­posed mar­riage. He did not want to wait any longer. Af­ter all, he had al­ready been wait­ing for 21 years. The fact that none of my mother’s fam­ily knew she even had a boyfriend did not in­tim­i­date him. Get­ting their ap­proval was work he was will­ing to take.

Af­ter 32 years, their life has been far from per­fect, if you be­lieve in fairy tales. My dad is no prince charm­ing, and my mom is no damsel in dis­tress.

They quar­rel over the sim­plest things, from crispy le­chon to main­te­nance medicines, mak­ing us re­al­ize that love is not al­ways mushy and sweet.

But what struck me the most about this seem­ingly odd cou­ple was the way they rec­on­cile day af­ter day, with­out any need for apolo­gies. (We’d know there was a big fight when he brings green man­goes home. Dad knew it was a bet­ter peace of­fer­ing than red roses or tulips.)

Grow­ing up, they would of­ten re­mind us – love is never meant to be easy. There will be mo­ments when you’d have to learn to live far from each other, when you have to fight over who switches the light off, when you don’t just see eye to eye, and when you have to en­dure the sight of the other suf­fer­ing in a hospi­tal.

Love is choos­ing some­one ev­ery­day, even when you are dis­en­chanted and dis­ap­pointed, even when the rest of the world of­fers brief, short-lived, and un­com­pli­cated ro­mances, even when the eas­ier op­tion is to sim­ply let go.

When Manuel and El­nora mar­ried 32 years ago, no one thought they would stay to­gether. But they did. My mom stood by my dad’s side when­ever he was at the hospi­tal, even when he could no longer feed him­self, or re­mem­ber most part of his life.

They would have cel­e­brated their 33rd an­niver­sary this Novem­ber but my dad passed away. But even with Alzheimer’s, his last words were true – “I love you, Ma.”

* * * (Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo is the chair­per­son of the Build Build Build Com­mit­tee of the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works and High­ways (DPWH). She had pre­vi­ously worked with the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme and the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion in their Haiyan Emer­gency Re­sponse and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Pro­gramme. She grad­u­ated cum laude at the Univer­sity of the Philip­pines Los Baños with a de­gree of De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, she is now pur­su­ing her Juris Doc­tor pro­gram at the UP Col­lege of Law and her Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­u­ca­tion in Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment in Har­vard Kennedy School. She has been awarded Natatang­ing Isko­lar Para sa Bayan, Obla­tion Statute for the Virtues of In­dus­try and Mag­na­nim­ity, and Ten Out­stand­ing Stu­dents of the Philip­pines.)

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