WE had a rocky start. You called it off when we've barely even begun. I was too stunned to do anything at first, but decided to call you later and ask you to reconsider, which you thankfully did. My folks were doubtful about you and your background. You didn't want your dad to know about us. Six months later, I would be in the hospital after being stabbed coming from your place. I thought it would be over, but we just held on.

One year passed, then two, then three. We had many good moments -- sharing a pizza, seeing a movie, chatting for hours in your house, or in your car in our school parking lot on Sunday afternoons, me getting to know your friends and you getting to know mine, and your dad finally knowing that I was not just another male friend. We had some bad moments too -- the silent treatment, the occasional spat and misunderstanding that go with any relationship.

And then it was graduation time for me, and I left you in Manila to become a teacher back here in Davao. We spent four years in a long distance relationship without cellphones or Facebook. I kept a photo of you on my desk in the faculty room so that you were always smiling at me as I worked. We met only once or twice a year except for that time when you surprised me with an unannounced visit, or when I did the same to you.

Then we tied the knot and settled in Davao (or so we thought). We tried our hand at network marketing which I (the one who hated selling) ironically dragged you into, even though you swore not to touch it after your friend invited you to the same. We relocated to Manila just a few months after "settling" in Davao when our business took off there, and we would stay there for the next 10 years doing this and that, trying to forge our own path. I went back to teaching while you, ever the entrepreneur, was always trying out this or that business idea -- ice candies, siomai, theater-show buying, developing and selling a discount card, bus advertising, website development, and even organizing a wedding fair. I also tried my hand at a little quail-egg farming. We made money, we borrowed money, and we also lost money.

Amidst all these, our babies were born -- our little bundles of joy, who are not quite bundles right now. Raising them was an experience of going to heaven and descending to hell in the space of a few moments. I cannot forget the screams they made when putting them to sleep, or the struggle of waking up in the middle of the night to change their diapers. It was especially hard when they got feverish and you had to constantly cool them down with sponge baths. The struggle we had loading the stroller, the car seat and all the baby stuff in the car or in the plane whenever we traveled to visit Davao.

But I also cannot forget their first time talking and walking, or how Faith hugged and thanked me after bringing her to see the quails and spending time with her. I remember coming home late and seeing Aidan, our little stressbuster, in the crib and all worries would just melt away. I remember Drei with her toy guitar and shades singing “I’m a rock star.” Then all three would gang up on us on the bed and jump around and there would be pandemonium, albeit a happy one.

You journeyed with me as I searched for truth, as my concept of church, God and spirituality constantly evolved until I eventually let go of all of them. But you did not let go of me.

When I finally decided to move our family back to Davao, you respected that decision though you had tremendous fears, and they came true but you endured and even thrived. I can only marvel at your strength, I who thought of giving up once before when everything seemed so bleak and hopeless.

Twenty-six years seems like a long time, but they have gone by like episodes of Game of Thrones. We are both a bit fatter than we were before. Your hair has started turning grey while my head has long been deforested. The kids have grown but they still like to gang up on our bed. I am still in love with your voice, except when it is nagging me to go to sleep when I am still playing Watchdogs.

Happy 26th!


Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.