Dating “Mr. Darcy”

Let me preface this with a disclaimer. This entry has nothing to do with women stereotypes of reading too much romance novels although I would say there’s nothing wrong with that especially now that I’m in love.  I, however, prefer to indulge into a wide variety of genres when reading as I feel it educates me more. But for this entry, I would have to make a Pride and Prejudice reference. I remember back when I was working as a nurse in Manila, I belonged to this wonderful group of ladies who called themselves Cambridge Girls. No, we never went to Cambridge University as we were all educated in different nursing schools in the Philippines. I was 23 going on 24 and housemates with some girlfriends who were of the same age bracket as mine. We lived in Cambridge Tower, Forbeswood Heights Condominium  right at the heart of Bonifacio Global City, Taguig (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Bonifacio), now a bustling residential-commercial hub and the most sought after address in Metro Manila.

Our nest was a 7-minute walk to our workplace, St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City (http://www.stlukesmedicalcenter.com.ph/), a 15-minute walk to the neighborhood supermarket and mall, and an elevator ride down to the gym, the hippest clubs, bars and restaurants. We were young and single and on the cusp of achieving our dreams. In between trying to start good careers, surviving each of our respective life dramas, endless boyfriend gossip, dancing, drinking, partying until the wee hours of the morning, and balancing our finances in relation to the kind of lifestyle we live, I felt like we were living the life.

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Cambridge Girls
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Jade, Me, Caroline
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Me and Caroline
Sunday poolside lounging at Forbeswood Heights

Sorry. I got lost in memory lane. Back on track, right, Pride and Prejudice. The girls in my condo were voracious readers like me. We each had our favorite authors. Caroline was crazy about James Patterson (Michael Bennett series, Alex Cross series, Women’s Murder club series) and Jade loved the fantasy world of Neil Gaiman (Stardust, American Gods, Coraline). Meanwhile, as an aspiring lawyer, legal thrillers are my favorite. I have adored John Grisham since I was a kid. I have read 23 of his published novels.

While I wasn’t much into Patterson and tolerated Gaiman only for Jade, the three of us had a mutual appreciation for classics or for books set during the olden times. We liked talking about the plight of women before us: their joys, their pain and suffering, their fight for suffrage and equality in a man’s world, the thrill of finding a husband, their domesticated lives, their sexual suppression and the affairs that came with it. The Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance had been a much-talked about book in our place, discussing it until 2am while we were each lying on our respective bunks. We read and watched Pride and Prejudice many times and almost always referenced to Mr. Darcy when talking about “the dream man”.  Ugh. I never really liked him until one day Caroline said something that really struck me. Something like: “A real man should be able to express his feelings with writing”.   Yes. That’s what Mr. Darcy did. When everything seemed to be hopeless between him and Elizabeth Bennett, he poured his feelings into a love letter and BAM! The rest is literature history. If I were Elizabeth, I would have totally gone for Darcy too despite him seeming to be an obnoxious snob.

 I guess I will always be partial to writers. I mean, while Beyonce could sell thousands of records singing ‘If you like it then you should put a ring on it”, I say “If you really like me, say it through poetry”. Maybe I am just old-fashioned but what girl doesn’t like being wooed vintage-style?

Besides the fact that Ian is really cute and sweet and intelligent (and ah! the list goes on), he, too, is a very good writer, and that’s how he charmed his way into my heart suavely.

He has written me poems filled with both tenderness and passion, some unpublishable;-P.  I really admire him for being so and in a way, I feel like I have a piece of Mr. Darcy save that my Ian isn’t as fashionable and probably wouldn’t wear those pompous looking suits anyway.  Also, Ian is far from being a snob. He’s the most compassionate person I have ever known. He definitely isn’t perfect but I think that his only significant flaw is that he gets clingy sometimes (He is so gonna kill me!!!) so I tease him: “You are such a girl. I wonder if we are on the same cycle yet”.  He reasons that it’s just part of him being in love. Awwww! He is every girl’s dream come true. A lover and a BFF too! Maybe I should take him with me to my next salon appointment 😉

Okay. Kidding aside, I guess he really is just sensitive and it has nothing to do with being girly. In fact, a girl once coined a nickname for him: “Em” or “E.M.” (From his middle name Emanuel) meaning Everything Man.  Hot, right? And the best part is he is my man now. 😉 My romantic, love-letter writing rockstar therapist. My contemporary Mr. Darcy!

 As a supplement to this entry and as a follow-up to my Wind-up Girl entry previously, I am sharing to you Ian’s dedication to me at the back of my Wind-up Girl copy. It’s really sweet and moving; I think some boyfriends and husbands out there can learn a thing or two about how to treat a lady properly. Cheesy alert, everyone!!! XOXO

Click image to view and enlarge!

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Dated: 7 December 2012

By the way, that’s just a preview of Ian’s writing skills. Yes, that’s right. In the next few days or so, Ian’s writing will make its formal debut as part of his occasional appearances in my blog. I have asked him to write a “supplement” to my blog…anything and everything from his point of view (POV) to balance the hormones my entries are inducing, lest we all swim in estrogen. That way, men who come across my blog whether deliberate, by accident or by force majeure (read: forced by girlfriends, fiancées or wives) would have something worth their while too.

IAN.Y.S.M.

Coming soon!!!

REWINDING TO THE WINDUP GIRL EPIPHANY

In July, Ian and I had just met. He started talking to me about a book he had read the previous year. Being the sci-fi fan that he is, he thought it was very interesting since it was set about two hundred years into the future in a world where bioengineering companies run the planet and calories are currency. The book, Windup Girl, is bio-punk fiction filled with social criticism and political parables. But it is also a love story between what seemed to be two different beings who found love at an unexpected place, time and circumstance. (Please read my book review at the end of this blog). The novel is set in Bangkok, and in the context of our relationship, Ian thought it was amazing to meet a girl living in Thailand. He admitted that before he knew me, he didn’t know a lot about the Land of Smiles. He has only read about it in Paolo Bacigalupi’s award-winning book, which in fact was his most recent favorite. Naturally, he was curious about what I would think of it so he encouraged me to read it. I said: “Okay, I will try to look for it over here”. A week later, he asked me whether I’ve read it and I told him that I was having difficulty finding the book. So he decided to send me a copy, and the book took only 12 days to arrive. You could imagine how I felt when I held the parcel in my hand: I have been talking to this mystery man from the other side of the world and despite the fact that I would see his face and hear his voice, something used to tell me that the online world is almost like a fantasy world, very enchanting –it almost felt like “Skype Ian” and “Skype Cecille” existed in a dream state.

“You sign your name here”. Snap! Back to reality!

I was called to attention by the voice of the lady from behind the counter. She was pointing the tip of her pen towards the line beside the word “Received”. I noticed she was getting impatient at me giving her that dazed expression. She repeated her instructions to me in accented broken English, offering the pen this time. That was P’ Na, the condominium staff who takes care of mail and bills.

So there, I tightened my grip around the parcel, hurriedly signed my name where P’ Na indicated it and ran as fast as I could to the elevator. I excitedly pressed my floor button and fumbled for my keys as I got to my door.

I can’t wait to tell Ian I got it.

I checked on my Skype and saw Ian wasn’t back yet from walking the dogs. I had been talking to him earlier before he took his 30-minute break to take the dogs out, and I had just returned from buying yogurt from the store.

I set the parcel on the bed, looking intently at it. Tempted as I was, I didn’t wanna open it yet because I wanted to do so in front of him as if we were performing a ritual. Lub-dub lub-dub. My heart was beating loudly out of excitement and curiosity. I checked the time. He should be back in a couple of minutes.

“Hi”. I’m back”,  Ian Weinstein wrote, just in time.

I clicked video call as quickly as I could. “Oh my God! You are real! You are real!” There:  I blurted out hysterically as soon as he answered my call.  That’s what I’ve been thinking the whole time.  Just returning from outside, he looked confused. I was trying to tell him how unbelievable it seemed to me that I got a package from him.

He still looked like he didn’t understand what I was saying so I said “Hey, guess what I got in the mail today.” Before he could utter a word I took the book out from behind my back and said “Ta-daa! It’s in my hands. I’m holding it right now. This came from YOU.”  He nodded in agreement. Being polite, I kept saying my thank yous. He told me to read it first, and If I like it, that’s when I should say Thank You. I wanted to devour the book immediately after I opened the parcel.

The cover art was captivating, the details incredibly eye-catching: a mammoth elephant looking like it was being pulled by tiny men, an aircraft that resembled a flying submarine, towering structures, etc. Oh! My eyes glistened in child-like wonder upon seeing a new toy. I have always been an avid reader and getting books as presents has always brought me joy.  Getting a new book, especially coming from this person I was sure I was already crushing on felt like a combo of two powerful emotions.

But more importantly, it was in that moment when I first thought that if there was any possibility that these constant Skype sessions could ever lead to anything, the Universe just gave me the first sign.

An Epiphany.

In this instant I truly realized that I, Cecille C. and him, Ian W. were real people existing in this world. It was in that time when I first knew that while we were separated by seas and divided by continents, we were not really alienated; we could reach each other. We were capable of connecting if we willed it. What appeared to be a simple gesture at that time had a power in itself but we weren’t yet fully aware of it.

A few days before I got my mail, Ian went online to buy me a book. Little did he know, a   few months after that blessed day, he would go online again and buy a plane ticket to see his own Emiko in a country he never thought he would set foot in. He thought of sending me a book and when I got it, for me Ian became someone real and tangible, proof that I wasn’t just dreaming of this man that had only existed on my computer screen.  Little did I know that a few months later, I would actually get to experience the touch of his hand, the feel of his skin against mine, the warmth of his arms around me, and the head-spinning feeling he is all-so-capable of giving me: like an explosion of emotions, a blast of sensations, an orgasm of the soul. Because just like what Emiko found in Anderson Lake, my soul has found the one she has been looking for. ♥

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msglobalfilipina’s review (August 2012)
The Wind-up Girl is a ruthless rendering of a horrid possible future wherein man struggles to cling to his humanity amidst hunger, despair and societal collapse in an era plagued with treachery, abuse, corruption, selfish manipulations and power play.
Politically-charged, heart-wrenching, evocative (characters), (TWG is) a real cliff-hanger, a definite page-turner. You hurry to the end and realize you never want to leave the compelling Dystopian world Paolo Bacigalupi has so intricately created.

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Plot summary by Amazon:
‘Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution?’

PAUNANG SALITA (Foreword)

We often hear our fellow Pinoys say things like “Uy, alam mo ba ang balita? Ang kumare nati’ng si Shirley ay American citizen na” (Hey, did you hear about our friend, Shirley? She’s already an American citizen!)” Most often, this news is either squealed in delight or excitement as if it’s that huge a deal or disclosed in hushed tones as if there’s intrigue attached to it.  Sometimes, depending on the tone of voice of the news source, you could tell whether she’s genuinely happy for the person or jealous of her new status. I say sometimes, because people are not really transparent all of the time. They could say one thing but mean another. I don’t have a problem with that. That’s their opinion. What would not escape my scrutiny though is the usual end-phrase “Buti pa siya” (Oh, she’s better off!) as if being a citizen of another country (in this case, let’s say, the United States of America) is an upgrade for a Filipino citizen. I find it heartbreaking how some of our kababayans can take more pride in carrying the name of another country than our own Motherland. Sure, there are so many ways that we can complain about Pilipinas, but is that reason enough for one to actually write “American, Canadian, British, etc.” in the space provided for Nationality in their information sheets? A Filipino can acquire citizenship from various countries (and hell he can write whatever he wants in the citizenship section) but can never change his nationality. Is it then a sheer ignorance in identifying the difference between Nationality and Citizenship? Well, one can Wiki everything these days!

Maybe I am being too emotional. Maybe my patriotism is frivolous and getting in the way of logical reasoning. Maybe I have to be more forgiving to people who have less than excellent vocabulary.  I can’t help it. It has been deeply ingrained in me since I was a developing fetus. I floated in my mother’s womb to the tune of 70’s and 80’s socio-political tracks  from Asin, Noel Cabangon and Freddie Aguilar. The first full-length song I learned at the age of three (3) is Ako ay Pilipino by Kuh Ledesma.

Ako ay Pilipino
Ang dugo’y maharlika
Likas sa aking puso
Adhikaing kay ganda
Sa Pilipinas na aking bayan
Lantay na Perlas ng Silanganan
Wari’y natipon ang kayamanan ng Maykapal

Bigay sa ‘king talino
Sa mabuti lang laan
Sa aki’y katutubo
Ang maging mapagmahal

CHORUS:
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Isang bansa isang diwa
Ang minimithi ko
Sa Bayan ko’t Bandila
Laan Buhay ko’t Diwa
Ako ay Pilipino,
Pilipinong totoo
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Taas noo kahit kanino
Ang Pilipino ay Ako!

The first stanza alone is enough to stir waves of emotions in me. So yes, maybe I don’t have an unbiased perspective on this. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against other countries. I’m not even saying that I don’t want to go and live outside of the Philippines. I love travelling and I certainly dream of a European vacation one day. Besides, right now I am working abroad. I will continue living abroad if and when I have to. Six months ago, I had to leave the Philippines. I had my heart broken, and instead of bringing it with me and attempting to mend it, I left it there. No use in carrying extra baggage. What would I need it for anyway? I was determined to set aside matters of the heart. I would focus on myself and get my ducks in a row: Job, career, graduate school. True, the recent events have caused some setbacks in my timeline but I promised I would get it back in order very soon.

A few days before my flight, my friend Myrell told me over lunch: “Don’t worry. There are so many fishes in the sea. And in a very lively city like Bangkok, who knows? You might even meet a foreign guy and marry him some day!”  I remember laughing it off with her but at the back of my mind I really just dismissed it: “I will not go looking for love in Thailand. But if love finds me there, I will welcome it with open arms”, I replied with conviction. Back then, I honestly paid her no mind. With hindsight, wow, was she prophetic!

I met my now fiancé Ian exactly one month after I arrived in Thailand. Six months later, Ian petitioned his government so that he can marry me and be with me forever. Six months from now, I would hopefully be on my way to my future new home-The Land of Milk and Honey, The Land of the Free-The United States of America!

Wow! Younger Cecille would definitely be kicking me in the butt now. A heated confrontation would ensue:

13C (13-year old Cecille): Whoa dude, hold up! What about the things you said in your 9/11 editorial? What about your conspiracy theory?

AC (Adult Cecille): Sure! I still believe that.

18C (Placard-donning, sun-baked, street protesting 18-year old Cecille):  “Itigil ang pagtataksil sa sambayanang Pilipino at pagkapapet sa imperyalistang Amerikano!  (End the betrayal of the Filipino people and the country’s puppet days from the American imperialist!)

AC: Hmmm…maybe we should leave the politics out of this?!

3C (3-year old tiny songstress Cecille):  Ako ay Pilipino, Ako ay Pilipino, Ako Ay Pilipino, Taas-noo kahit kanino, Ang Pilipino ay Ako!  (I am a Filipino, I am a Filipino, I am a Filipino. Head held up high for everyone to see. The Filipino is me)

AC: Of course, I’m a Filipino through and through!

I am tormented by my nationalist conscience. My British colleague Joanna’s voice is ringing loudly in my ears. “How can you say you’re patriotic when you are marrying an American—he who hails from the land of your colonizer!”

And in what could have been my speechless, most shameful moment, I found my voice and managed a reply: “That’s exactly what Ian and I talked about. We don’t see each other as foreigners.  I don’t see him as American and he doesn’t see me mainly as Filipina. Those are just names, labels to promulgate division among the human race. We both wish that there weren’t any countries.  Right now, this BS bureaucracy is what’s stopping me and Ian from being together.  Without it, we would all be free to love whoever we want to love”.

I’m sure I did not say it as eloquently as that. But you see my point and I just want to stress it again: Leaving for the US doesn’t mean I am betraying my country. I promised myself that wherever I may be, I will never lose my identity and strive hard to raise my country’s banner.

Besides, at this point, it doesn’t seem like I have a choice. As I said earlier, when I left for Thailand, I left my heart in the Philippines. Then, Ian came to Thailand to give his heart to me. Now we share one heart. So, I have to be where he is and he has to be where I am.  For just as Siamese twins live with one heart, neither of us can survive without the other.

Let me tell you now: This blog is really a chronicle of love. But, it also tells the story of the Filipina woman—her passion, her hunger, her strengths, her weaknesses, her dreams and her heart. Each entry will be filled with her adventures and adversities, her travels and trials, her journey to conquer the world. We will watch her stand up after every fall, and recover from each little stumble: for she is of the noble blood of her ancestors. Dugong Maharlika. She is the Global Filipina. And she is You and Me.