#MayForever: 3 Couples and How They Make It Happen

February 12, 2017 by Razel Estrella

#WalangForever is a fun joke to throw around until it becomes real — until the break-up stories you hear are no longer about Hollywood celebrities but your own friends and relatives. Or maybe you yourself are constantly nursing a broken heart. So begins the doubt: Is lasting love a thing of the past, now left for romance novels? Three couples from Taguig prove it isn’t so. This Valentine season, let the stories of Lourdes and Nestor Aragon, Iladya and Virgilio Lopena, and Elsie and Dionisio Garcia convince you that, no, #MayForever.

DANCE AND ROMANCE
Lourdes and Nestor Aragon, Bgy. South Daang Hari

Nestor Aragon was a cigarette agent and one of his clients was Lourdes’ aunt. It was at the latter’s accessories store that the two first met. “Humanga ako sa haba ng buhok niya. At seksi pa siya [I admired her long hair. And she was also sexy],” recalls Nestor with a nostalgic grin. The admiration, however, wasn’t mutual. “Ayaw ko siya noong una kasi parang ang yabang niya [I didn’t like him at first because he seemed arrogant],” shares Lourdes.

Just to be near her, Nestor would buy little things from her aunt’s store, while at night he’d disturb her peace with phone calls (which she won’t always answer). Over time, and with Nestor’s persistence, they eventually developed feelings for each other. “Nagpakita siya ng maganda sa akin [He showed me that he is a good person],” continues Lourdes. Eventually, Nestor mustered the courage (with the help of alcohol) to ask Lourdes’ strict father, who was a military officer, for her hand. On March 6, 1960, they got married.

But things weren’t always rosy. Nestor was jobless when their third child got sick. He had to drive a friend’s jeepney from six in the morning to ten in the evening each day to make ends meet. “Sais pesos lang ang kikitain ko noon. Pagdating ko sa bahay, hihiga na ako, hindi na ako maghahapunan sa pagod. Hanggang maka-isip ka ng masama dahil walang-wala ka [I only earned 6 pesos during that time. Once I got home, I wouldn’t eat anymore -- I would just lie down from exhaustion. It was hard to avoid negative thoughts because I felt desperate],” he confesses. “Pero hindi ko nakalimutan ang Diyos [But I never forgot the Lord].” Again, it was patience and perseverance that brought him success. He adds proudly, “Hindi man ako yumaman, naitaguyod ko ang aking pamilya [Even if I didn’t become rich, I was able to establish my family].”

Nestor and Lourdes, both 85 now, have been married for 57 years, with 6 children and 10 grandchildren. They live a quiet life — enriched with the occasional game of Mahjong and ballroom dancing — in Taguig. The secret to their longevity is simple: Pag-uunawaan [Understanding]. “At kaunting karinyo [And a bit of romance],” according to Nestor. “Magbigayan kayo, dahil kayo rin ang makikinabang [Learn how to give and take because it can only benefit you],” he explains. “Sabi nga ng simbahan, magsasama kayo sa hirap at ginhawa [As the church says, to have and to hold for better and for worse].”

LET LOOSE
Iladya and Virgilio Lopena, Bgy. Bagumbayan

Whoever says old people don’t get kilig anymore has to meet 74-year-old Iladya and 76-year-old Virgilio “Viyo” Lopena. The couple readily admit to falling in love with each other at first sight, and being each other’s first love.

Their story starts way back in their elementary years. Aside from being childhood neighbors, the regular teasing from friends helped bring Viyo and Iladya closer to each other. “Tuwing Biyernes ng gabi, dumarating ang barkada niya, at pupunta ako sa kanila [Every Friday night, her friends would go over to her house and I would go there]…” shares Viyo. “Magpapa-charming [To charm the ladies],” Iladya finishes her husband’s sentence.

Tinanan niya ako [She eloped with me],” continues Viyo, cutting the long story short. Love wasn’t enough to keep them alive, though. They barely had food on the table, which led to Viyo leaving to work abroad for seven years. He became an engineer then a driver. Slowly he was able to make enough money to return and build their dream home in Taguig.

Their marriage was also tested by affairs. “Nang-chicks ‘yan, katakot-takot ang chicks [He fooled around],” says Iladya candidly. But she swears that the secret to a lasting relationship is total acceptance: “’Pag minahal mo ang isang tao, mamahalin mo lahat ang kamalian niya [If you love someone, you should love them, flaws and all].” As for Viyo, he advises never going to bed mad.

Viyo and Iladya have been married for 54 years now. Their entire family — which includes four children and five grandchildren — live under the same roof. On top of the Lopena house is a special kubo. “May sarili kaming yapusan [We have our own love nest],” shares a giggling Ilodya. There they spend time together after a day of strolling outside. “Mayroon kaming theme song, ‘Warm’ (Johnny Mathis). Kapag kinakanta niya iyon, yayapos na ako [We have a theme song – ‘Warm’ (Johnny Mathis). Once he starts to sing it, I move in for a hug],” she says as she embraces Viyo.

KEEP THE FAITH
Elsie and Dionisio Garcia, Bgy. Ususan

Elsie’s and Dionisio’s is a tale of two religions. The former is a Protestant, the latter, a Catholic. “Pero hindi namin prinoblema iyon, kasi naniniwala kami na kapag tunay at wagas ang inyong pagmamahalan, walang balakid iyan [It was never a problem because we believe that if you truly love each other, there is no obstacle that can stop it],” says Dioni.

The two were classmates at Taguig Institute, and while they showed interest towards each other, nothing happened until they graduated from high school. As officers in a class reunion, they had the chance to reunite. Dioni was attracted to Elsie’s kindness while Elsie was impressed by Dioni’s athletic and active nature. Both went to FEU for college and have been inseparable since then.

On May 9, 1965, they got married at a Protestant church, following the request of Elsie’s father. Other than their family’s disapproval of the other’s religious background, the couple didn’t go through rocky patches in their marriage. Their secret? Faith and hard work.

At 78 and 77, Elsie and Dioni Garcia can’t seem to ask for anything more. Their 3 children and 8 grandchildren are their pride and joy — they eagerly enumerate their names and achievements. Dioni wears a Stanford sweater given by his grandson, who’s taking up medicine there. He also shares that his dream of becoming a doctor is fulfilled by his other grandson, Earl, who is currently a resident doctor at Detroit Medical Center. “Iyon ang magandang nangyari sa buhay namin, although kami’y mahirap, binigay ni Lord ang magiging yaman namin [That’s the beautiful thing that happened in our life, although we don’t have a lot of money, the Lord gave us our real treasure],” says Elsie.

Right now they serve as district communicators at the Good Shepherd Marriage Encounter Community, where they help others build a strong marriage. To the newlyweds, here’s their advice: make sacrifices and put God at the center of your relationship. “Hindi naman sinasabi sa Bibliya na maliligtas ka dahil sa relihiyon, maliligtas ka with your relationship with God [It doesn’t say in the Bible that you will be saved because of your religion, you will be saved because of your relationship with God],” says Elsie. “May forever ba? Pagka talaga ang mag-asawa ay nagsama at ang Lord ang nasa gitna nila, may forever [Is there a forever? If a couple puts the Lord at the center of their marriage, then maybe there is a forever].”

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