OK, so the story of how I met Chichay is actually pretty interesting, drawing as it does on traditional Philippines courting: Asking the parents for permission to date their daughter, being grilled by a squad of burly older brothers, getting face-palmed on the first kiss attempt, and finally, being brutally friend-zoned not once, but THREE times. Or, as they say in these here parts: Thrice.
After being “uyab” (boyfriend/girlfriend) for almost seven months, I think it’s time to recount the tale. So, if you’ve got nothing better to do and don’t mind being subjected to the minutiae of someone else’s relational story arc (yawwwwn), pull up a seat. This could take a while.
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES….
First up, a bit of background. By the time Chichay and I met, I was completely burned out on the Philippines ‘dating scene.’ Date after date basically ran the same predictable course: Meet up, chat for a bit and slowly realize that this particular lady wasn’t the one I was looking for. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not denigrating any of the gals I met during that time. To quote an awfully convenient cliché, it wasn’t so much them as it was me. I was looking for a unicorn – the perfect gal. Sweet and sassy, smart and spontaneous. A woman who was talented and possessed of a good sense of humor that didn’t spend the sum total of their day taking selfies and posting them on Facebook. At that point, looks were honestly taking a back seat to personality. There are millions of beautiful Filipinas, but finding something of substance beyond yet another pretty face is as difficult as it is anywhere else in the world. So, there I was, hunting for a unicorn, a mythological that many have quested for but never found…..
But I am getting ahead myself. Or behind – not sure.
Anyhoo, as with all things, it is best to start at the beginning. So, without any further ado, let’s jump into the time machine and head back to the night of January 18, 2019…
A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT…..
I met Chichay in Dumaguete’s most notorious dive bar.
Now, when I say “met,” I actually mean, “first talked to.” And when I say “most notorious dive bar,” I am referring, of course, to Bogart’s Bar and Lounge, where one can literally book diving excursions. Well, there’s that and the fact that it is a bit of an actual dive…
With that said.
As was par for course at that time, I had been having a ‘few’ pilsens and chatting with the usual Monday-Wednesday-Friday drinking crowd. In other words, we were telling tales, amusing anecdotes and more than a few boldfaced lies. I was feeling good that evening, hovering pleasantly in in the warm and fuzzy cocoon that San Miguel can so often provide. I hadn’t had too little or too much of the frothy libations, so like Goldilocks (sans the actual locks), I was just right. Somewhere along the line, a group of Filipinas joined us. More specifically, it was the girlfriend and family members of a friend of ours who had passed away just a month before (RIP, Keith).
Now, being in a merry, fuzzy state, I wasn’t paying too much attention to the details. At some point, Chichay had sat down at the head of the table, sitting herself diagonally from me. I had previously seen her on a few occasions (past gatherings of family and friends) but due to her height, baby face (her actual nickname) and loose-fitting clothes, I had always assumed that she was under 18. What I did notice that night was that she had brought her sweet, sweet Canon 70D with her. I had been doing DSLR photography for while then, but her Canon was a lot nicer than my lowly Nikon D5100. Feeling playful and sensing an opportunity for an easy joke, I eyeballed her 70D and asked, “That’s an awfully nice camera. How old are you?” Being inordinately witty (what with my pilsens) I was planning on responding to her answer with “Oh, my – you are MUCH too young for a camera like that! You should let me hold it for you.” Much to my surprise – and that of everyone else at the table – Chichay looked me square in the eye and replied, “I am actually 22.”
Her age surprised more than a few of the people around the table. Looking back, shocked might actually be a bit more apropos, replete with hanging jaws. Not even taking a moment to process the situation, I leaned back in my seat and announced, “Well, that changes everything!”
I then reached into my cargo pocket, pulled out the sad plastic Ziploc bag that servers as my “Philippines wallet” and tried to pass her one of my business cards. At that point, our mutual friend, kuya Peter, sat forward and said, “Ned, if you are going to give your business card, you might as well pass it to her mother who is sitting right next to you.”
Alas, the vagaries of pilsen-induced fuzziness – I hadn’t even noticed. Nonetheless, without skipping a beat, I altered the card’s course and passed it to the distinguished looking woman next to me, saying, “Here is my card, future mother-in-law.”
Which elicited a few laughs from around the table.
Her mom passed the card to Chichay, and the conversation around the table resumed. Again, I don’t remember the details, but I do remember it was a good night with lots of laughs. Over the course of the evening, Chichay recounted her experiences working at a call center in Bacolod and a series of misadventures in customer service. Finally, having quaffed my quota, I proffered my good nights, clambered onto my Honda Click and headed (slowly) home.
Arriving back at Pink House, I was pleased to see that she had sent me a friends request on Facebook. Jabbing Accept, I sent the first of what would be many messages, “It was nice to finally meet you, Chichay.”
She responded a short while later, and we went back and forth for a bit talking a bit about this and that and everything else. Afterwards, I meandered over to her Facebook and was pleasantly surprised to not see an endless supply of duck-lipped selfies. Instead, I found videos of her singing and a whole lot of videos and memes about dogs and cats. After giving her profile feed a thorough review (Hello, stalker!!!!), I kicked back and realized that this woman was definitely a major improvement over the gals that I had been seeing over the past six months.
And probably well out of my league.
OK, that’s enough for now. In the next installment I will recount getting friend-zoned THREE times until finally being allowed to talk to her parents for their permission to court their daughter.
And just so everyone knows, Chichay and I do not live together. She and her sister are renting a house (it’s pink, too!) about five minutes from where I live. Thankfully, I happen to have the better internet (thank you, PLDT fiber optic), so she usually comes over mid-afternoon to teach English online to her Chinese students. Well, that is after we take our overly-spoiled hound down to the local dog park known as Silliman Beach.
This is also the easiest relationship that I have ever been in. No jealousy, no mistrust, similarly introverted personalities and absolutely no drama.
So until the next chapter, puppies, rainbows and unicorns for all!
(When you are ready for friend zones and facepalms, click HERE to be teleported to the final chapter on how Chichay and I met.)