Jeff & Emelda: A Love Story

ell, long before I had made that diary entry in November of 1995, I had seen an ad in a magazine for penpals. Since my love life was such a disaster, I sent for more information and joined the correspondence club called Sunshine International. As soon as I had sent off my fee (to join the correspondence club), I 'came to my senses' and realized that this was a stupid, moronic idea and I cursed myself for wasting my money on this allegedly lame club. Essentially, the ads in the club magazine were personal ads. From the above journal entry, you can see what I think of personal ads.

When I got the club's materials, I looked at them once and then threw them in the trash. I decided not to participate in the club, but the club had an ace up their sleeve. They had a special deal going at the time which enabled members (like myself) to place an ad for free in an international newspaper listing my vital statistics, etc. My photo appeared in this newspaper along with my ad.

Well, I began getting dozens of letters from women (mostly in The Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia). I would read them and then throw them in the trash without even answering them. I still thought that this whole concept was a foolish idea. I continued to receive dozens of letters for several months that I just tossed in the 'circular file.'

One of the last letters I received, was from Emelda B. Garcines. Something about her letter and photo struck me and I wrote back to her. To make a long story short (too late!), we've been writing to each other (and occasionally talking on the phone) since December of 1995.

The letters had gotten more and more mushy as the months went by and we'd declared our love for each other in mid-1996. Marriage had been discussed and it had been my intention to ask her to marry me when I went to The Philippines in October. I had no doubts that her answer would be a positive one.

Before I knew it, my trip to The Philippines was upon me. The trip was the most interesting experience of my life up to that point. There were flight delays and other assorted problems as well as me getting sick while over there, but I had some great times and met some wonderful people.

I visited Emelda in Ozamiz City (Northern Mindanao). She was beautiful and we shared some fantastic times together. I stayed at her house instead of the hotel I was planning on staying at (her family invited me and I didn't want to insult them).

I had to shower outside by pouring cold water all over myself and lathering up while being denied privacy. Much to my surprise, this was kind of fun. I kept my underwear on, so I wasn't that embarrassed but by the last day, there were several villagers watching the big American bathe. Again, to my surprise, it didn't bother me. I adapted to Emelda and her family's ways quite easily.

Emelda's house (with rice field behind it)
When I arrived at Emelda's house, there were about 60 people waiting to see the American. They marveled at the sight of me. It was weird. At one point, I counted the number of people in the small living room. There were 45 people focusing on me (and several more outside). Emelda clung to me. She actually held my hand so tight that she hurt me. She was beside herself with joy.

Things moved along nicely for awhile. Emelda and I bonded. The family put on a full court press to get their daughter engaged. They put her and I in the same room together. We slept in the same bed (no, we didn't have sex). I thought that I might have confirmed that Emelda was indeed 'the one' (and Emelda was the best kisser I've ever experienced)!

When Emelda and I went into town, I was a major attraction to the locals. As we navigated the bumpy road into Ozamiz proper, everyone who noticed the big American crammed into the tricycle reacted visibly. Some people had looks of utter shock on their faces that I'll never forget. Some of them actually flinched and jumped into the air! When we went to the department store or the meat market, all of the female employees would stare at me and I heard "gwapo" constantly (which means 'handsome'). I must've been called gwapo a thousand times while I was there (no exaggeration).

When I went to Emelda's school (Misamis University), the place just shut down when I walked down the hallways. Everyone stared at me and the 'gwapo's continued. When Emelda and I sat in the school's center square, there must've been 50 or 60 people staring at us and discussing us from every angle. It was like being a movie star. I was compared to Tom Cruise several times. Now, I don't look that much like Tom, but I enjoyed the comparison.

Emelda and I at school with her classmates.
During Emelda's English class, I was invited inside the classroom and the students practiced their English by asking me questions. Many of the students were too awestruck to speak to me, but it was a fun experience. During Emelda's history class, I waited outside of the classroom. By the end of her class, I had about 30 young ladies crowded around me, talking to me and smiling uncontrollably. It was weird and boosted the old ego!

As for my relationship with Emelda, we ran into some trouble. For several days, Emelda refused to look me in the eye. I voiced my dissatisfaction with this and she said that she was too shy to make eye contact. I asked her if she'd look into my eyes before the day was over and she said she would. The day came and went and she never made eye contact.

As the days wore on, I became more and more agitated. I wasn't able to totally connect with her without looking into her eyes. I got angry. She wasn't always paying attention to what I said (because she wasn't looking at me) and our communications broke down occasionally.

Emelda refusing to pose for my camera
Finally, I confronted her about this and told her that I couldn't be with her if she wouldn't look me in the eye. She finally told me the real reason she wasn't looking me in the eye. The truth was not that she was too shy, but that she has an eye defect.) One of her eyes has a slight imperfection and sometimes wanders a bit.) She was ashamed of this and she was worried that I wouldn't like her anymore if I noticed the defect. Well, I had already noticed it and I didn't care. I told her that I thought she was beautiful (she really is) and I implored her to make eye contact. She finally did. Our eyes locked and I felt relieved. We went to bed and spent a wonderful night together (again, no sex).

A momentary digression if you please. Many times when I would wake up in Emelda's little room (the bed barely fit in the room), there would be lizards or beetles climbing the walls. Emelda didn't seem to be surprised and I got used to it. Usually, the lizards were about three to four inches long, but one morning, I woke up with an 18-inch lizard a foot in front of my face. I just rolled over and went back to sleep. I had gone native!

Back to Emelda. The next day, she resumed her habit of not looking me in the eye. It was a frustrating day, but I put on a happy face as we spent a lot of time with Emelda's classmates and friends. That evening, we had another confrontation. This was the night before my departure. We kept getting interrupted while we were trying to have a serious talk about our relationship. Everyone wanted to see me before I left and the music was always blaring (I thought I could escape the damn "Macarena" in Ozamiz, but NO!). I was angry about her unwillingness to make eye contact (after she promised to stop avoiding it) and the communications problems this caused.

Now, having mentioned our problems, let me say how wonderful it was to spend so much time with Emelda. 99 percent of the time, these problems did not rear their ugly heads. She's one of the nicest, most loving, gentle persons I've ever known.

Another digression on a lighter note: if you ever travel to The Philippines, I have one bit of advice for you. Take toilet paper with you! Carry it around with you! It is possible to find dozens of bathrooms (comfort rooms as they call them) with no toilet paper and you will regret it if you don't heed my advice!