This week, I head back out to the Philippines to be reunited with my wife, Jennylyn, after more than a year apart. We got married in August 2015 and have been laboring through the spousal visa process ever since. She finally has her interview at the embassy.
As I prepare for this reunion trip, I’m beset by a range of emotions: excitement about seeing my wife and in-laws again; anxiety about the interview; some insecurities about myself. But perhaps above all, a heart-hunger that defies easy description to just be with Jen and truly begin our life together.
In honor of my upcoming trip, I want to share a reflection I wrote after the last one:
My Philippine wedding trip was one of of extreme highs and lows:
– The heat, especially in a tux.
– Being exhausted at times.
– Having a very bad day on the eve of my wedding and thinking for a moment, “What have I gottten myself into?”
– Being an introvert at a wedding. At MY wedding. In the Philippines. Where of necessity I (and Jen) were the center of attention in a culture where dancing, pictures, and honoring numerous family members and sponsors was a central part.
– Hurting my feet. Open sores are no fun.
– Adjusting at times to Jen’s quiet demeaner.
– All the unexpected and scary beaurocratic hurdles to getting married as a foreigner in the Philippines.
– The hours and hours of rough roads and switchbacks heading up to Sagada. Those mountain roads are the most rugged I’ve yet experienced. At one point, it was storming and they were flooded out in places.
– Getting really sick two days into our honeymoon.
– Getting caught in a traffic deadlock running late for my return flight.
– Being mentally “done” with an activity hours before anyone else is.
– At times not understanding extended conversations or social norms and feeling out of control.
– That morning my life flashed before my eyes. Pretty scary.
– Laughing, eating, singing, chatting, and bonding with family and friends.
– The amazing generosity of Jen’s family, church, and Barangay.
– Being able to have my my mom there for the wedding and being able to show her many of the people and places I love.
– Driving to Manila while listening to Pink Floyd, with my baby sleeping on my shoulder.
– The afternoon of my wedding, after the celebration, just walking with Jen and Ester and some children by the trees and fields. The weather was perfect and we had a breathtaking view of the landscape and mountains in the background. We were taking pictures both beautiful and funny. It was well nigh a spiritual experience. It was perhaps my favorite part of the trip and the best afternoon I can remember since childhood.
– Intimate moments that will remain just between Jen and me.
– After that bad day before my wedding, after thinking that Jen was unhappy with me, being honest and vulnerable with her about that and crying together and holding each other as we reasured one another of our happiness and love for the other.
– In general, at the end of each day, being able to hold Jen close and express my deep affection for her. God I’ll miss that!
– Seeing how beautiful my bride was on our wedding day.
– Sweet poses, including ones of special significance to us, at our pictorial. (The nose-to-nose one is my favorite.)
– Playing with the children.
– Hearing my mom sing and give her testimony at Jen’s church.
– Seeing Mission Impossible with Jen. Something about its familiar form was refreshing in a sea of foreignness. Also, Jen swears she thinks I look like Tom Cruise. Ah, the blindness of love.
– Looking into Jen’s beautiful eyes and seeing her love, trust, and playfulness.
– The many stolen pics…
– My ring, with Jen’s name engraved inside it. She later engraved my name inside hers – which also happens to be a family heirloom given us by my mom.
– Pictures with the tigers. The dazzling 3D ones at Art In Island and the real one named Nicole at Pugad Adventure.
– My baby doctoring my back to health. At one point she said, “give it to me. Give it all to me;” by which she meant my sickness. It was a comment both joking and completely serious.
– Seeing my baby get silent and cry as my departure time drew near. There’s a kind of love and caring that’s hard to fake.
– The day we stayed at Tita Julie’s. Having a renewed sense of assurance, peace, and mission in life and before God. Also cuddling, joking, and TALKING (!) with Jen.
– The breathtaking view around Baguio and Sagada.
– Eating an amazing meal at an American style pub in a mountain town (Sagada) that reminded me of nothing so much as Frakes, Kentucky.
– Food memories: green mango with vinegar; hito (catfish); lapu-lapu (“the fish that killed Magellan”); halo-halo (like a slushee, but 10 times better); balut (a duck embryo, not for the faint of heart); American style pizza, pasta, chicken, and burgers.
– Being reminded of what authentic, organic community is really like.
– Learning from a community and culture where children truly are everything…without any less honor being there for older people, or really anyone for that matter.
– Funny and sweet Filipino shows. Especially “Pangako Sa ‘Yo” and “On the Wings of Love.”
– My baby waiting and watching me head into the airport for as long as she possibly could, even moving locations at one point for a final glimpse. So noble, sweet, and beautiful!