My two moms hug at the airport

t the airport, several members of Emelda's extended family joined us to see us off. Our last moments with them were not filled with sadness and tearful good-byes. There was the sense that we would all be together again someday soon, so everyone's mood was light. My dad gave Emelda's father his Fedora hat which made him look like the Filipino Marlboro man. Mark ran around looking cute (as usual). Marilyn made jokes about crying when we left (she had taken a particular liking to my family). I was sad to be separating from them, but I was looking forward to being alone with Emelda on our impending honeymoon.

Before we knew it, it was boarding time. We all waved good-bye as we walked slowly across the tarmac toward the small airplane. Emelda's family had moved and was standing behind the chain link fence next to the terminal so that they could get a good view of the take-off. From our seats in the plane, Emelda and I could see them clearly as the plane began rolling toward the lone runway (by the way, when there was no plane in sight, local villagers walked across the runway and small children rode their bikes around on it).
Two titas at the airport

As the plane ascended skyward, Emelda's family got smaller and smaller until they were distant dots. As we headed out across the ocean, Ozamiz drifted out of sight. I hated to leave, but I knew that Emelda and I would cherish our time alone together before I had to return to America without her.

In Cebu, our flight to Manila was delayed for about two hours, so we had some additional time to spend with my family. Back at the airport in Ozamiz, I had thought that I'd seen the doctor who treated me at the hospital, but I wasn't sure. There in the Cebu airport, she appeared. It turned out that she had been on the plane with us. She was surprised to see me and asked how I was feeling. She and Emelda talked for a bit in Visayan. The doctor said that when I was in the emergency room, she was really worried about me. She said that I was almost cyanotic. I nodded, pretending to understand what she meant (I'd heard the term on television medical shows before, but I was clueless). Later, I learned that cyanotic is a condition in which there is so little oxygen in the blood that you start turning blue. I was glad that she was able to get me back on my feet before that happened.

After finding a snack shop where we purchased dinner, the six of us sat in the terminal talking and eating while we waited for boarding to begin. At one point, I asked my parents if they could believe that such a beautiful woman had married me. We shared a laugh, but I was serious! Emelda is so beautiful and I'm just average-looking. I truly am blessed to have her in my life.

Eventually, we were airborne again on our way to Manila. My parents would have very little time to catch their connecting flight to Los Angeles. When we found them in the Manila terminal, we only had a moment to say good-bye. They hugged Emelda and me and then headed for the international terminal while Emelda and I waited for my suitcase. For the first time since Cebu, we were on our own.

We stayed in a beautiful inn that night before flying on to Baguio city in the morning. Baguio city is north of Manila and is the favorite honeymoon destination in The Philippines. The city is located high in the mountains and as a result, the weather is quite cool there. As we exited the plane there, I could immediately tell the difference in the temperature and I was happy to get a break from the usual heat and humidity of the rest of the country.

In Baguio, we stayed at Club John Hay, a former American army base which has been turned into a resort. It's like a small town within the city. On the grounds, there are restaurants and shops and even a roller rink. We enjoyed our time there, but we enjoyed our sightseeing trips even more. We saw the sights, bought a few souvenirs and we even saw an American movie in a theatre for the bargain basement price of twenty pesos per person (77 cents each to see a movie ain't bad)! The film was Jerry Maguire. Emelda and I both cried during the emotional parts near the end. We went to a store where silver and gold jewelry were hand made and after being followed around the store by a salivating clerk (she wanted my money; not me), I bought a beautiful necklace and bracelet for my beautiful wife. They looked fabulous on her.

Back in Manila, we visited a few of my internet friends as well as Emelda's brother Alex. Alex works at an ice cream plant run by the Nestle Corporation. He showed us around the plant a bit and we had a bite to eat in the employee lounge (much to the employees' surprise). We later visited his apartment and met his beautiful girlfriend.

We saw another movie (Star Trek: First Contact), saw a few sights and did the things couples do on their honeymoons. The fun of the experience didn't stem from the activities we engaged in, but from just being together. As the date we would be forced to separate loomed closer, we did experience some depression and there were a few moments of tension, but what I remember most is just spending time with Emelda laughing and holding her in my arms.

Eventually, the day I had to leave was upon us. We left for the airport at 6 a.m. Originally, Emelda was set to leave on the 9 a.m. flight to Cebu and I was booked on the 10 p.m. flight to Los Angeles. Since this arrangement would mean that I would be sitting in the airport for approximately thirteen hours, I had changed my booking the night before so that I would be on the 8 a.m. flight home. Since the international terminal is a few kilometers from the domestic terminal, the taxi would drop me off and then take Emelda on to her destination.

As we rode toward the airport, Emelda's mood was subdued. She seemed almost catatonic. It was tearing both of us apart to be forced to separate, but I was trying to put forth a cheerful facade. Emelda seemed to be trying to hold herself together with all of her might. I told her that our relationship only had one more trial to undergo and that I needed her to be strong. She nodded sadly and I kissed her as I exited the taxi. As the car sped away, I felt completely alone. I watched the taxi drive out of sight, trying to make sense of the governmental regulations which had forced this moment to come.

After checking in and paying the Ninoy Aquino International Airport's exit fee (500 pesos), I got my passport stamped and headed for the proper gate where I would read magazines and do crossword puzzles so that I wouldn't have to think about being separated from Emelda. I didn't want to weep in front of strangers, so I sucked my pain inside until I couldn't anymore and had to head for the restroom to have a private cry.

This time, on the plane, I got the seating assignment that I had asked for and I was seated next to a window and directly behind an emergency exit. On my previous trip from Manila to Los Angeles, there was no one sitting next to me, so I got to stretch out across the empty seats. I was hoping that this would happen again, but I soon learned that the flight was fully booked. An Australian man in his fifties sat next to me and an American man in his forties sat on the aisle. I sighed at what I perceived as misfortune, but resigned myself to my fate.

The drawback to taking the earlier flight to L.A. was that this flight would not be direct. We would be stopping in Seoul, South Korea. I slept through most of the first leg of the trip while the men next to me talked. Eventually, I joined their conversations and I soon discovered that these two guys had been almost everywhere on the planet. They each had a few stories for every city in every country that they had been to (they had been to dozens). When they mentioned the few European countries I had been to, I jumped at the chance to tell the few stories that I had at the ready.

It turned out that the man on the aisle was the author of four or five books and had even done some screenwriting. We ended up having a lot in common. When he told me about living in Atlantic City while his wife and children lived in Morocco, I couldn't understand this concept. He saw his wife and kids once every three or so years. I had only been without Emelda for a few hours and I was ready to tear my hair out! Regardless, we shared some interesting conversations and I was almost sad when the flight was over.

Back in America, I got my suitcase quickly and made my way slowly through customs. The guy in front of me had stayed out of the country for more than a year. As a resident alien, this made him lose his green card. He was in a heap of trouble and had to go to a side room. I was happy to sail right through. I exchanged my extra pesos for dollars and headed for the taxi stand.

As the taxi driver took the longest route possible to my apartment (no joke), I felt numb. The greatest experience of my life was over. My wife was thousands of miles away from me. I was back in the rat race of Los Angeles. It was not a banner moment. I felt defeated and alone. I wanted to be back in Ozamiz.

A few weeks later, I don't feel much better. I'm trying to forge ahead with my daily routine, but part of me never returned from Ozamiz. Part of me is still back there. That part of me is named Emelda. I'm just not whole without her.

Life here in Los Angeles just isn't the same anymore. I don't like the fast pace here as much as I used to. Since I've been back, my car's been towed ($140.00 plus $60.00 for the ticket), I've been given the middle finger numerous times while driving and there's nobody here like the people in Ozamiz. I long for the quiet times that I experienced with Emelda and her wonderful family. Things just aren't the same without my wife by my side. The times I spend at the end of the day alone in my bed are filled with deafening silence. It's hard to sleep. It's hard to concentrate on my work. It's just plain hard.

As Emelda and I now try to navigate the maze of red tape which is generated by the governments of both of our countries in our efforts to get Emelda to America, we can just do our best to comply with the requirements and hope for the best. This process usually takes seven to nine months. I can't bear to think of being apart from Emelda for so long, but I don't really have a choice. We have to settle for a few phone calls per month and occasional letters. It is a terrible feeling to be so helpless.

At the jeweler where our rings were purchased, the Filipina working there told us that she could help me get Emelda to America in three months (possibly less time). She gave me the phone number of a friend of hers in Manila. She said that this lady had gotten fifteen people to America under similar circumstances and that it would be no problem for her to help me and Emelda. I got my hopes up. When I told Emelda about our 'connection,' I got Emelda's hopes up. When I called the lady in Manila, she turned out to be a clueless moron who couldn't help us in any way, shape or form. This news was devastating for us. It angers me beyond words just thinking about the whole thing.

For now, I soothe my nerves by remembering the wonderful adventure I was fortunate enough to embark upon. I calm myself by looking at photos of Emelda, rereading her letters and looking toward the future; a future that Emelda and I will live in together. Until then, I will live on the precious memories of my second home, my new family and the greatest wife a man could ask for.

The End


Update!

1-9-98:

Emelda arrived in Los Angeles on January 9th, 1998!

If you haven't yet seen Emelda's page, please click here.

If you'd like to read about the 9-month struggle to get Emelda's visa approved, please click here.