The previous installment of this two-part series covered the veritable shitshow that was my dating experiences over the course of six months in the Philippines and how I fortuitously chanced upon Chichay and her family whilst hanging out at Bogart’s Dive Bar. (If you missed that, simply click HERE to be teleported to part 1.)
So with that, let’s get back into it.
It didn’t take me long to realize that Chichay was something special. Good looking, nice, smart, sweet, compassionate, talented, quirky, educated, funny, hardworking – the list of her redeeming qualities went on and on…. Now, in a perfect world, this would seem ideal: I was single and she was single. Unfortunately, there was one simple problem: She wasn’t interested in a relationship. So, there was that little monkey wrench. There were two reasons Chi wasn’t feeling the whole relationship thing. First off, her older sister had just lost her longtime boyfriend to cancer and was deeply mourning. The two sisters are very close, so Chichay had to rightfully focus her time and energy on her. The second reason had to do with trust issues. For some unfathomable reason, Chichay’s last (and first) boyfriend had somehow decided that he wanted to sleep around. On multiple occasions. Or, as she so succinctly put it, “He had a diamond but he wanted coal.” They had been together for six years, so this betrayal had punched a pretty deep hole in her heart.
Still, despite this, I wasn’t even close to giving up. At this point, I had the sneaking suspicion that I just might have stumbled across a unicorn, and realizing that good things sometimes come to those who wait, I decided to try to spend as much time as I could with her. Or, in this case and since she was a “dalagang Pilipina” (the classical demure Filipina maiden), spend as much time as I could with her and her sister, as being alone with Chichay wouldn’t be proper. So, over the following weeks the three of us tooled around the area, visiting Pulangbato Falls, Tejero waterpark, Forest Camp, Twin Lakes, singing karaoke (singing our first duet with a 100% score – woot!), snorking with da fishes at Dauin marine sanctuary and hitting up local restaurants, – basically going anywhere and doing anything that would allow me to spend time with Chichay. Over that time, we communicated every day, with me continuing to let her know that I was really – and sincerely – interested in her. These subtle overtures were met with her continuing to politely place me in the ‘friend zone.’ Even so, I could tell that she sort of liked me. As as I let her know early on, I am sort of like mildew – I tend to grow on people over time. Finally, I asked her if she would like to go up to Lake Balinsayao by ourselves – just the two of us. She considered for a bit and acquiesced. Stopping by the lovely overlook at Azalea restaurant, I reiterated my interest, but was once placed yet again in the friend zone.
But the mildew effect was working.
Finally, a few days later, Chichay told me, “If you really want to court me, you will have to talk to my parents.”
I didn’t even hesitate. The portal opened, and I hurled myself through it. “Of course I will talk to your parents.”
The meeting with Chichay’s parents was approached with no little trepidation – and a few thoughts on milking cats. This was, after all, the first time I had to ask someone’s parents for permission to court their daughter. Chichay set a time to meet at their house, and after making myself as presentable as possible (I think I actually wore shoes), I gathered up my courage and motored over to Sibulan to prostate myself in front of the progenitors of a most remarkable daughter.
Once there, I was sat down and was grilled a bit by Chichay’s mother. Her English wasn’t perfect, so a bit of translatory back and forth was going on throughout the conversation. Basically, mom wanted to make sure that I was sincere about her daughter (the baby of the family) and that I wasn’t going to be one of those foreigner chickboys that she had heard about. I assured her I was sincere, and I hoped that I was proving myself – and would continue to – through my actions. Mom also told me that they were not one of those Filipino families looking to turn a foreign boyfriend or spouse into a walking ATM. They worked, had holdings and were doing just fine thank you very much. Finally, mom appeared to sniff a grudging approval and called her husband in. A few exchanges in Illongo occurred and from what I could gather, her dad seemed OK with the whole thing. Finally, her mom gave her formal permission to court her daughter, which was music to my ears. Chichay, for her part, also seemed (somewhat) pleased. Like I said, that whole “growing on someone like mildew” actually seemed to be working.
Then, the next day, catastrophe struck.
NED IS A CHICKBOY!
My heady conveyance upon Cloud Nine was interrupted the very next day by a video call from Chichay. She sounded upset and upon closer look, I could see that she was crying. “You probably should come over,” she suggested. Upon arriving, Chichay explained that a mutual friend of ours had told Chichay’s mother that she should not allow me to court her daughter. As reasons, the mutual friend related some things that were true, some that were not and some that were simple exaggerations. I won’t get into each and every one, but the main issue seemed to be that our mutual friend considered me to be a chickboy/butterfly and didn’t think I was looking for a serious relationship. Faced with these accusations, I remained calm and broke them all down, acknowleding the ones that were true and the ones that were not (or exaggerated). Now, the mutual friend thinking I was a chickboy was somewhat understandable, for she had seen me with numerous different women over the course of my six-month dating period. Basically though, these were just simple, one-time meet ups at the boulevard for coffee and/or ice cream. (And a perfunctory goodbye.) Still, perception can sometimes trump reality. Ultimately, I simply asked her family to once again judge me by my actions and not by someone else’s words. This answer seemed sufficient at first. But then I found out that Chichay’s three brothers were coming down from Bacolod and wanted to meet me.
Chichay’s brothers were all in their 40’s and arrived in Dumaguete a few days later. (Again, Chichay is literally the baby of the family and her older siblings are very protective of her.) All three of them work in the Suzuki multicab business in Bacolod and had for some time. Which, to me, probably meant they were mafia. One of the brother’s wives was also there, and so we all sat down one evening to discuss the details of my courtship of their sweet little sister. The questioning followed the same line of inquiry that Mom had laid out, and once again they noted that they were working and not going to be pestering the foreigner for money.
The meeting was then broken up by dinner and general talk. Having apparently gained their grudging acceptance, I lit into some fried squid and a few drinks.
As many are aware, family is extremely important in the families. (And even though the average Filipino would never admit, I have a sneaking suspicion that family may even trump God and country.) Having successfully negotiated the family piece, I felt a bit of sense of accomplishment. Moreso, I felt honored to have been a part of the traditional Filipino courtship arc.
Chichay and I took things slow. We messaged constantly, saw each other every day and seemed genuinely comfortable in each other’s company. There was no hanky panky, not even a single, simple kiss. We watched movies, held hands, explored the city (street photography) and shared dinners. It was simple and it was satisfying. One time, I had to go to Dipolog and asked Chichay if she would like to go. She acquiesced and asked her mother for permission. When I fetched her from their house, her mom pulled me aside with a pleading look. “Don’t worry,” I assured here, “You can trust me. Nothing is going to happen.”
And nothing did.
Valentine’s Day rolled around. By then, I knew for certain that I wanted Chichay to be my uyab (girlfriend). I also knew that she seemed to like me. With these two thoughts in mind, I figured that I would ask her to be my steady gal on Valentines night. With plan in hand, I picked her up that night and we headed out for dinner. Afterwards, we went down to the boulevard and parked at Bogart’s, the scene of our first encounter. Walking across the street, we then sat down on the boulevard’s seawall and took in the slightly stinky, moonlit waters. Finally, I turned towards her and asked her to be my uyab. After a bit of thought (a lifetime, it seemed), she agreed, and at that moment, I became the happiest porenyer in the Philippines. Having now experienced some measure of success, my well-intentioned self then leaned in for our first kiss. I was just looking for a peck, a simple smooch if you will. Instead of soft, moon-dappled lips, however, her palm came up to push off my feeble attempt. Still caught up in the rapture of this amazing woman agreeing to be my girlfriend, we just both just laughed it off. The awkward kiss attempt was already just a memory. (Funny enough, a friend of Chichay’s was watching us from across the street and later scolded her for facepalming my first kiss attempt.)
THE PRESENT (THE GIFT)
After 10 months, things literally couldn’t be better. Our relationship has been a No Drama zone, and we are keeping it as simple as can be. I trust her and she trusts me. Our lives seem to be better for the other being in it, and every day is (literally) filled with music and song. Now, I realize that we are going to hit some bumps along the way – it’s inevitable. But for now, each day begins of thoughts of her and how grateful I am to have been in the wrong place at the right time.
I am going to marry this woman. If she’ll have me. I usually don’t talk about my personal life, but that is one thing I can go forth publically with. To grow old(er) with someone like her would be the best gift possible.
So that’s the where and why of how Chichay and I met. If nothing else, this should instill hope in any half-besotted foreigner lolling dizzily about in a Philippine dive bar – You never know who is going to pull up a chair beside you.
Until next time, puppies, unicorns and rainbows, ya’all.