Hinigugma (Beloved), do you remember how we first met?
It was during a faculty outing of the Ateneo de Manila college to Baguio. We weren’t supposed to go. You attended at the last minute. I was hesitant to attend because I would be the only one from my department but I decided to add my name to the list a few days before the trip.
When I saw you during our first morning in Baguio, sunlight glinted off your golden brown hair. At first, I thought it was a trick of the light but when you moved into the shade, your hair still shone like spun gold. A smile bloomed on your fair face. Your golden hair and radiant smile reminded me of the Everlasting flowers Baguio is famous for. Dried and arranged in garlands, Everlasting flowers retain their lush colors seemingly forever, hence the name.
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I knew then, seeing your Everlasting beauty for the first time, that I needed to get to know you before our group returned to Manila. The opportunity arrived at dinner that night. Fate placed us right across each other at the same table in the restaurant. It was announced that after dinner we would be free to go around on our own before retiring for the night at Mirador Residence, the Jesuit retreat house where our group was staying.
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I immediately asked you if you wanted to walk around Session Road, Baguio’s central thoroughfare, which was near our restaurant. I extended the invitation to others around us so that I wouldn’t appear too obvious. You said yes. Hope and joy bloomed in my heart.
I made sure to walk beside you as our motley group headed for Oh My Gulay, an arthouse-and-restaurant-in-one owned by the famous Baguio artist Kidlat Tahimik. The sidewalks were filled with mosaic artworks made from broken tiles. We exchanged stories based on the images we saw: a lizard, a mountain and many more.
Oh My Gulay was located at the top floor of a four-storey building. There was no elevator. To reach it, you had to climb several flights of stairs. The restaurant was closed when we reached the top. Disappointment showed on everyone’s faces. Hoping to salvage our night jaunt, I suggested another place, Kaffeeklatsch, a coffee place I was sure to be open at that late hour.
Looking back, I feel it was fortuitous that we changed venues for it meant I could talk with you longer. To reach the coffee shop, we walked along Session Road. Walking also meant more time to get to know you better.
In Kaffeeklatsch, there was a live band playing music. We talked between songs and during set breaks. While the band was playing, we shared smiles and swayed our heads to the rhythm.
Kaffeeklatsch, the name of the coffee shop, combines the German words for coffee, “kaffee,” and for gossip, “klatsch.” Despite the negative undertones of “gossip” as one of its root words, Kaffeeklatsch’s sign quickly points out that the combined term also refers to “an informal gathering, as of friends to drink coffee and chat.”
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Were we friends then? Perhaps not yet since we were strangers that morning. Our time spent in Kaffeeklatsch became a touchstone for our future dates back in Manila and elsewhere. We became two friends who loved to talk to each other, a union of opposites that resulted in a romance as deep, dark and delicious as hot coffee.
Alas, time spent enjoying yourself seems to pass by too fast. Eventually, we had to return to Mirador Residence, our home while in Baguio.
Mirador Residence is located at the top of a hill. Below it on the same hill is Lourdes Grotto. It has become a tradition for visitors to Baguio to ascend the steps of Lourdes Grotto and pray when you reach the shrine. It is said that if you count the steps until you reach the shrine, your wish will be granted.
Whenever I think of Baguio, about how we first met, the images that always fill my mind are these: your golden hair resplendent in the morning light; the vibrant colors of the Everlasting flower of Baguio; the Lourdes Grotto where garlands of Everlasting Flowers are sold along its steps; and Mirador Residence, atop the same hill as Lourdes Grotto, overlooking Baguio and overlooking our life together first as friends, next as a couple and then finally as husband and wife.
The last time I went to Baguio was when we first met, Hinigugma (Beloved). I climbed the stairs to the Marian shrine but I never counted the steps. God, the eternal matchmaker, granted the wish that was in my heart.
The wish took seed when I first saw you. Over the years, that seed has grown into a family with us, husband and wife and parents to our two sons.
When we return to Baguio, I will tell our children of how their parents met. We will tell them that the Everlasting flower of Baguio is the symbol of our romance: Let our love never fade no matter how much time passes. After all, true love is everlasting.
This is an entry to Claire Delfin Media’s ‘Spread The Love Blog’ Promo. The entry with the most number of views will win a roundtrip ticket for two to Cebu via Philippine Airlines, and a two-night stay with free breakfast at Marco Polo Plaza.
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Cesar Miguel “Miggy” Escaño lives with his wife and two sons in Tacloban City, Leyte. They are Yolanda survivors. He taught college English at the Ateneo de Manila for 10 years. He was also a reporter for BusinessWorld newspaper and a freelance writer for several publications. He contributes feature articles to newspapers such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Manila Bulletin, and magazines such as Mabuhay Magazine. He was a fellow for fiction at the 56th Silliman University National Writers Workshop in May 2017.