It is so twisted how people can easily tell you that you are undeserving of love. Since when did love become exclusive? Since when did people become undeserving of love?
“Uyab mo? Dapat nangita sad kag imong katimbang oy.” (You’re in a relationship with him? You should’ve chosen someone in the same level as you.)
“Dapat nanguyab ka’g taga syudad.” (You should’ve chosen someone from the city.)
“Ikaw humana ka’g college, pero diba siya kay bag-o paman na hingbalik og eskwela?” (You already graduated from college while he’s still starting, right?)
Those were the words I received from other people way back 2014, when Anton and I just started. When I heard those words, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t believe how this toxic mindset and culture are deemed right and just. I froze there, silent and devastated. Those were the very words my man had to endure in silence. People thought he did not deserve me just because he’s underprivileged. I was hurt, but I know that he was the one who was hurt the most.
Today is a story we are so used to seeing in the movies. However this time, you will read real struggles of two people who never believed that there are lesser or better people when it comes to love.
He Thought He was Undeserving
Let me take you back to April of 2014 in Leyte. I was fresh from my college graduation and I was 20 by then.
I entered the Basketball court, bringing a drink for my tatay who was watching the game. A voice sounded in the microphone calling my name. I looked up and saw him, my childhood friend who smiled shyly at me. It’s been years since we last saw each other. I smiled quickly at him, hiding my admiration of how physically fine of a man he grew up into at 21. The following days went by, and I saw him several times as he played his basketball games and as he single-handedly organized a handful fiesta activities. It was then that I found out that he was the incumbent President of their Sitio’s youth organization. That peaked my interest of him, and I was sure that I kinda liked him. As a Filipina woman, who was brought up in a Maria Clara concept, I didn’t engage by then. I never courted a man before, and I sure didn’t have a plan to court one. *laughs* I just waited. To discourage me, my close friends told me that he only manages a small Sari-sari store for a living. That didn’t work and I appreciated him more for it. Not everyone makes the most of whatever they have, and I laud him for that. The day of their fiesta came. I was given the chance to spend the whole day with him, organizing that day’s disco party. We were able to talk about a lot of things. He told me he’s enrolled for college and will start to study in Cebu starting June that year. He told me he’s sad to leave his youth organization and his small sari-sari store, but he’s also happy to have finally been given the chance on a college education after stopping for 4 years because of finance issues. He told me all sorts of things, and I listened intently speaking out my thoughts every now and then. His journey and his struggles inspired me, and my admiration for him grew. I was sure of my feelings for him by then. I waited the whole day and night for him to pop out the very important question. After all, he already courted me once before in high school. I turned him down back then. The whole night passed and he never asked the question I wanted him to ask. I watched as he gazed at me and I was sure there was something in there, but he just didn’t. I left for Cebu the day after that.
One night in June 2014, I received a text message from him. He told me that he got my number from my sister, and he asked if I didn’t mind. Of course, I didn’t mind! I was, in fact, glad he found his way to me. He told me that his classes already started and he was also in Cebu. He joked that maybe I can tour him around. I took my chance and I said, “Of course!” I took him on a Cebu City tour 3 times. Those days were very fun. He was very polite at me and I could feel his constant effort to put a space between us. Of course, in those days I waited for him to ask me the important question, but again, he didn’t. On the 3rd day, I couldn’t care less anymore so courted him. He was surprised and he couldn’t speak when I asked him that question. It was then that I found out why he didn’t make any move at all. He looked down and said;
“Urag taas raman kaayo ka para nako. Ubos man kaayo ko. Di man siguro ko deserving nimo, Dan.” (You’re very much out of my league. I don’t think I deserve you.)
I was in disbelief after hearing that. I didn’t know what to say. I was feeling all sorts of emotions. How can this person look at himself this way? How can he push himself down? As if he has gathered his courage, I was still speechless when he added; “Pero kung imo kong dawaton, Dan, nganu dili man? Pwede ba ka naho panguyaban?” (But if you’ll accept me, why not? Can I court you?) I let out a huge sigh of relief and I smiled a huge smile. That’s how he found his courage, and that’s how our story started.
Our Relationship has been about Healing
Finding his courage was just the start of our rocky journey. When the people of our village found out about us, they were very quick to put him down. Why I didn’t choose someone better, why I didn’t choose someone from the city, why I didn’t choose someone at my level, all those unreasonably insensitive words from people who I respected. I was angry. My man was belittled and I knew that it hurt him a lot. When he heard of the criticisms, he just bowed his head and said; “Tinuod mansad.” (Well, it’s true.) During those moments, I understood that this issue was his weak spot, his insecurity. It is heartbreaking how this toxic Filipino culture makes people feel that being underprivileged is a sin. It is sad that this culture makes people feel that they deserved being looked down upon just because they’re poor.
Since then, our relationship has been about healing. Piece by piece, I made sure to help him peel off his insecurities. Step by step, I made him feel that he’s a man he should be proud of.
I taught him that there’s no wrong if I pay the bill during expensive dinner dates.
I made sure he feels safe asking me academic questions for school, when he needs it the most.
I made sure to ask permission before dragging him to do things he is sensitive about.
I made sure that he knows that he doesn’t need to buy me expensive things or bring me to expensive dates.
I made sure that he knows that there is no shame when I buy him gifts that I like.
In our first year, I respected him when he told me that he was not ready yet to publicly display his affection whenever we went home to our village.
I taught him that he should not feel shame everytime he pays only a quarter of the expenses when we travel.
I respected him when he said that he will only see some of my elite friends when he’s ready.
Overall, I made sure that he knows and feels that I am his safe space. I made sure to never miss a chance of telling and reminding him that it is never wrong to be underprivileged, and that he is as valid and as deserving as I am. In return, he did his very best to make me the happiest girlfriend in the world.
He never got tired of progress and of continuous growth, and it manifests in the way he looks and the way he moves.
He gave me overflowing time and attention.
When we were still both living in Cebu, he would usually brave Carbon at 1am just to buy me fresh flowers to surprise me every monthsary.
Even if I made sure that he knows he doesn’t need to, he saves some pennies to buy me cute gifts during my birthdays.
He proudly introduces me to his friends, and brings me to their parties like he wants me to be part of everything in his world.
He makes me proud by overcoming his fears and his insecurities one step at a time.
He gives me endless support in whatever it is I choose to do, may it be initiatives for my advocacies or my career.
Despite the academic disparity, he tries his hardest to listen to all my ramblings and my weird theoritical ideas.
He made sure to always accompany me in all stages and moments of my life, may it be personally or virtually.
He provided me with all the hugs that I craved for, the assurances that I required, and the safety that I unknowingly needed.
Today is a story of a man who did not only successfully proved his naysayers wrong, but he also triumphantly overcame his insecurities and self-doubts. Today, I am telling the world how proud I am of him, for all the things he has endured and for all the things he stood for.
This 13th of July ends my 6th year with him. Never in the past 6 years did I feel discouraged by this man. He showed us that being open to continuous improvements is one of the keys to personal acceptance. This man showed us that weakness can be a source of strength. Lastly, this man taught us that nobody should be undeserving of love just because of being underprivileged. I couldn’t be any prouder.
I hope our story taught you the importance of respecting people by giving them the chance to heal and prove themselves. I hope this echoed the message that there are no better or lesser people in love, that we all deserve a chance at it no matter who we offer it to. Lastly, I hope this story amplified the importance of the role of romantic relationships to a person’s life and growth.
I want to dedicate the last part of this article to my man, Anton. You have been very brave and I will always always be proud of you. Happy 6th anniversary. In all of the love stories in the world, ours will always be my favorite. I love you.