It’s Valentine season once again, the season of romantic love. I don’t know if this is the reason why my parents decided to get married in the month of February. This month my parents’ marriage turns 55 years old! It’s gold plus 5. Way back in 1956 they got married at dawn, as in 4:30 in the morning in the beautiful San Guillermo Cathedral in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. I remember my mom saying they decided to get married at the start of a new day because they were starting a new life together. But if you ask me, that’s way too early and for most people (this one included) it may not exactly be the start of a new day but might still be the end of the previous day.
Anyway, since 1956, my parents have been married five times already – the first one, their silver anniversary, ruby, golden and the last one this month was actually a mock renewal of vows. While the first four were serious with priests, gowns and all held in church, the last one was a cute fun celebration concocted by my sister Jane with just my parents, the children and grandchildren in attendance. We all wore this shirt which says “I Love My Family” on the front side and “I Am Fres” on the back side. Of course there was a modification for the sons-in-law “I married a Fres.” (Fres is our Family Name). Then we did the bridal march inspired by Glee’s “Marry You” song. We all marched with our own choreographed kenkoy steps. Yup including the lola bride and lolo groom! The renewal of vows was “officiated” by the oldest and youngest grandsons. And the vows were mostly private jokes like “Lolo do you promise to wake up earlier so you can eat your meals with lola? Lola, do you promise to attend only the wakes of those whose names you know so you can spend more time with lolo?”
Amidst all the fun and laughter of this celebration, I was able to reflect on one important thing about my parents’ 55 year old marriage – its stability. While I was growing up, never in my mind did I doubt that their marriage would last forever! It was probably something I took for granted when I was young because it was the norm. Back then it was normal for children to have both parents living together.
But what’s more important is while growing up I never saw my parents quarrel. The most I saw were mini tampuhans shown by heaving a sigh, or my dad going out for a walk. But I never ever heard them raise their voice in an argument. Never! In fact, it was only recently that I would observe their disagreements. Back then, they seemed to be always in agreement, sharing a common stand. It’s either of two things: They were more careful in concealing their disagreements to their young children then and are more open now because anyway we’re all adults; or their growing old is making them more irritable now. Or maybe both. But just the same, I still don’t hear them raise their voice when discussing their differences. They also share a lot of light moments because my dad always cracks corny jokes and always teases my mom about getting romantic, much to our disgust when we were younger.
And what did this do to me and my siblings? We always felt we had a home to run to for comfort and safety. No matter how much we fought with each other (all five siblings), my parents always reminded us that it was normal to have disagreements and at the end of the day we were still a family whose members love each other no matter what. When we became teenagers and young adults and sometimes felt we were carrying the most important concerns in the world, our parents were there to provide comfort. Our home was intact and stable and we felt safe expressing both our happiness and frustrations. It was and still is a precious anchor in our lives even up to now that we re all grown up with our own families.
Today I realize how important a stable home is for our children. A good marriage in a stable home is one of the best gifts we can give our children. Unfortunately, today this is almost a luxury. We see a lot of incomplete families. Some may be complete but not necessarily peaceful. Children have to shuttle from dad’s house to mom’s house and sometimes even to grandparents’ house and rules are not necessarily the same. Parents in these challenging situations just try to make the most to provide a peaceful and stable home for their children given their circumstances.
There is one lesson I learned from my mom about keeping your marriage which I want to share with you in this season of romantic love. It’s about respect. When I was still single, she used to tell me that the most important ingredient in a marriage is RESPECT. My young mind argued, “Of course not, it’s LUV!” Then my mom explained, “No matter how much you love your spouse, if you lose respect for each other, it will be impossible to live together harmoniously.” These words just went over my head then because I was young and marriage was still far from my mind.
Now that I’ve been married to Marvin for over two decades, I totally see the wisdom of my mom’s words. Respect is indeed an essential ingredient in a lasting and harmonious marriage. Check out the separations happening around you. The couples who give up on their union usually do so not because the love is gone but because the respect is gone. When your spouse cheats on you, how can you respect this person who can’t even respect the vows he made? When your spouse becomes a bum and shows no effort to work for your family, you lose respect and you just don’t want to live with him/her day in and day out, right? When he beats you up or your children or even himself up by abusing drugs or alcohol, you totally lose respect and you just want to save what’s left of your own dignity, so you want out.
Given the importance of respect in keeping a good marriage, let’s strive to keep it in our relationship with our life partner. Let’s not succumb to the temptation of taking our spouse for granted expecting he/she will always understand. Let’s continue to make our partner feel really special the way we used to during the courtship period. Let’s make our spouse feel that he/she still is our Valentine!
Happy V-day to all!