Mariel My Wife

I fell for Mariel even before we actually “met”. Call it what you want, but I knew she was the ONE even before that fateful Friday at the Gourmet Cafe. The “affinity” we felt for each other was so strong that in spite of the short time we’ve known each other then, we had already shared many of our “well- guarded secrets”. For even Mariel who was normally cautious and deliberate surprised herself with this leap of faith. We had friends calling us soul mates and our relationship “karmic”. To me however Mariel was simply a gift to me from heaven. Because the more I think about it, why else will God want to match Mariel’s beauty with my unattractiveness, Mariel’s class with my crudity, Mariel’s selflessness with my self-absorption. God must have loved me somehow because I know I had not deserved such charity. But it was a gift too that I had not come to see in its totality save for now.

One of Mariel’s many outstanding traits was her great capacity to listen. She could make you feel you were in conversation even when you were the only one doing all the talking. In my case, she would always seem genuinely interested even with my obviously boring narrations. She made me believe I was smart when deep down I had secretly acknowledged that she was intellectually my superior. And she had made me look like the “genius” in the family, especially with my friends.

She can come across as “left-brained” but she was really also very intuitive. She could instantly sense if I was feeling low or if had something on my mind. She would not however pester me with “wanting to know”. Not until I was ready to share. She usually just hugged me and comforted me without saying a word. I miss those hugs today. So I just try to close my eyes now and get an awareness that she is still there for me.

Mariel never liked to talk about money. Or let me re-phrase that, never talked about my utter lack of it. We did not have a single argument about it in all our married life. She had just accepted what we have and did her best to make us live luxuriously comfortable within our means. This may have meant that she had to probably sacrifice the usually desirable “signature” girl stuff. But Mariel was creative as she was practical. While everybody thought she had those brand-name- of- the- stars wardrobe, she had actually just made up for it with great neatness and poise.

Mariel was also the most thoughtful and caring person I’ve ever known. She had maybe considered me as her “other baby” (next to Sam). Almost every day she’d bring home “something” for Sammy and me. Whether it was my favorite sweet food or DVD movie, she’s just basically telling me that she’s thinking about me all the time. She took care of me so much that I was “lost” when I had to buy a shirt for the first time after she’d been gone. I had not done that in a very, very long time. I also missed her packing my bag for me, when I had to go on those trips overseas. She did it lovingly, even making sure I had fresh “supplies” in my toiletries kit. She was constantly looking after me, and most of that I’ve only come to realize on hindsight.

Mariel was super-efficient in running our home. She had kept impeccable records of everything (she’s not a CPA for nothing). She kept track of bills, filed all the necessary statements etc. In fact, I was primarily its beneficiary when I had to produce all those arcane documents for the “system” after she left us for God’s garden. Then also, there’s our house which had become Mariel’s “canvas” for her love of home decoration. Mariel was happiest making our little place fit for “Better Homes and Gardens”. My only problem now is that I don’t think I have the heart to re-arrange her “masterpiece” and to tell you the truth, I don’t think I can really do a better job. (But I have to try because I know that’s what she wants).

Mariel also had a great sense of adventure. You could ask her to go on an impromptu hunt for some new restaurant or make an unplanned out-of-town trip (if we can afford it) to some exotic destination. She was always ready to support my short attention span and plainly go out on a limb for something untried or untested, especially if it would make me happy. As I’ve said before she was my fairy godmother, genie in a the bottle, full-time nanny, lover and best friend, who would follow me to the ends of the earth if she had to. For love? Oh, you bet.

So now while I admit that before I had cringed at the use of the “w” word, thinking its a bit “old-school”. I now advertise it so proudly. Mariel was my wife. For wife meant loving partner and greatest cheerleader. Wife meant the mother of my beloved daughter Sam. Wife meant the only one I can count on when I’m on my way “down”. Wife meant teacher of unconditional love and selflessness. Wife meant the person I’d like to be the one to meet me at the entrance to the “pearly gates”. So then maybe I should just ignore all the “b” about “till death do us part” and just say that, Mariel is my wife, always will.

Good night, Mommy.

You’ve Got Mail! (The Prequel)

MBA Graduation at PICCMariel’s and my love story started even before the now famous Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie came to the screen. And for the record, this is how it all begun.

It was 12 midnight and I was at our Makati office pounding away on the internet when I got a “page” ( pre-yahoo messenger, this meant an instant message sent by one user to another within the same ISP- Internet Service Provider). And all it said was “Hi Mon, how are you?”. I was surprised since I never liked the idea of paging and did not even know user- “omni”. It turned out that omni or Mariel was actually paging my good friend Mon Ser who at one time used my internet account to page some users on the net probably expecting to lure young, nubile women ( just kidding, Mon). It turned out too that Mariel had just received her computer from repairs that day and was thus offline for quite sometime. She had merely wanted to test the machine. What happened next was probably cooked up in heaven, because we ( Mariel and me) both will not be able to explain to this day why it just happened.

I said to her that “this is not Mon and I am Bong and Mon is away on a business trip to Jakarta. She said why on Earth was I at the office working at past 12 midnight. Well I said I was actually in the office licking my wounds because of a love relationship gone bad that day. Mariel being probably maternal as she can be started to console me. I instantly poured my heart out to a complete stranger and told all. (My daughter Sam will probably shriek in horror and say “eeew” at this confessional but this was the way it really happened). Mariel even then, did not try to preach, she just listened to my heartaches and rants with the patience of Mother Teresa. So that pages or online chats turned into emails that turned into long phone calls. A few months hence, on a lark I took a chance and sent her this email: ” you were once a bleep on the screen, now you’re a bleep in my heart”. I guess that sealed it because after a few more dogged attempts, Mariel agreed to meet me for the very first time.

Mariel of course being aware of internet fiends in the lurk, was also very cautious. At this point, while she had indeed shared with me her interests, hobbies, dreams and other life concepts, she had left out giving me any personal data such as, her last name, address, mobile number etc. And she thought it best for us to meet in full public view at 3 ‘o clock in the afternoon at Gourmet’s Cafe at SM Megamall. But… not until she finishes with her MBA final exams. (You know the recurring theme with Mariel is that she will start on something new only after making sure to complete any pending task. As such, she has learned to stick to important priorities at the expense of hedonistic pursuits. Of course, you can look at the opposite end of that spectrum and find old bohemian me).

On that day in May, having prepped her by asking her to watch out for a Keannu Reeves lookalike (it’s about the hair thing in “Matrix” the movie), I was able to get her to give me her cellphone number just in case I got lost. Fiendishly, I had planned to dial her mobile number from afar, look first and check if I liked what I saw, and make a great escape if I did not. Necessarily, I executed my plan with the precision of Seal Team Six.

I programmed the cellphone number for speed dial, I looked casually at the menu from outside “Gourmet’s Cafe” and secretly dialed the number. From the corner of my eye I saw someone waving at me. I looked and there was my Mariel. She asked if I was Bong. And as I approached sheepishly, she told me that she knew that I was the one calling and that was why, she wasn’t answering. I was floored, surprised, frozen in shame. For I was caught. Mariel was indeed more than a match for me. I had once thought that I was the best at the game. And there was this one person who conquered me “in style”.

And someone with a high sense of style, was also what best described Mariel. Aside from always being impeccably dressed and groomed, Mariel showed class inside and out. For she never once talked to me again about any of any of my online revelations during our married life. Never once did she use any of what I had told her before. Even at the height of our little arguments. She had real style. She was a decent person. But most of all, she had truly loved me very much. She took me warts and all for the frog that I was and turned me into her “prince”.

Mariel, my princess, I miss you now and love you so much. One day we will meet again and will never be apart forever.

One balmy January day in Phuket

 

Our Phuket Wedding

The first seeds of Mariel’s Garden were planted at Promthep Cape in Phuket, Thailand. On a hilltop facing the sunset and the clear blue Andaman Sea, Mariel and I got married some 10 years ago. It was in a garden too beneath a tree on a balmy January afternoon, that we said our vows to a small party of six people, and a thousand blooming flowers on the hill. Mariel looked radiant, as usual, in a purple ( her fave color) Thai princess gown, while I wore a gray suit and a white tie. We had a relaxed but very memorable Roman Catholic wedding ceremony. We heard Holy Mass at a nearby church, then exchanged vows witnessed by my buddies, Kiko as the best man and Albert, as designated driver and photographer. Both Kiko and Albert also were the wedding’s logistic planners. We rode in a teeny- weeny Caribian and Mariel never once commented about the inconvenience nor my “frugality” with the arrangements as we were stacked four- wide.

That’s how much Mariel loved me. She took me for what I was and made me a better person without ever nagging me about it. She leads in the best way possible, by example. After the wedding and raiding the hawker’s stalls in Bangkok, we went home and invited our family and close friends to a reception at Sukhothai Restaurant in Manila, where we showed our wedding home video midst giggles and tears of joy. We had the time of our lives, light and carefree as rainy showers on a December morning. It was almost as memorable as the first time we met at Gourmet’s Cafe, but I will reserve that for another time.

Mariel was the most “prim and proper” person you will ever meet but she took chances on new things. She would just dive into new hobbies like crochet, flower arrangement, paper tole and excel at it. She had the knack for learning something new, then quickly becoming an “expert” in a heartbeat. She was so thorough, very intelligent and did not mind putting in long hours on things she loved or found important.

Of course, she took her biggest chance on me. ( My friends ribbed me then that she should be given a helmet lest she knocks her head and wakes up ) For Mariel gave everything of herself to me and our daughter Sam. She would make daily trips to the mall to buy Sam another dress or book, and for me my beloved DVDs. She seldom bought things for herself anymore since we got married. She constantly looked after us as she found her happiness in making us both happy. Mariel did this in subtle ways. Assuredly but gentle as always. In fact, I never appreciated how much she had taken care of us, till now that she’s gone. She was the best thing that had ever happenned to me and I miss her so badly.

I can only promise her though that I will always take care of Sam and her “garden”. Mariel’s Garden grows here and in heaven. And I can’t wait to be with her, when she gathers some fresh blooms for our new “home” over there. I love you “Mommy”.