Love in the Time of COVID-19

How a Pandemic Stole the Wedding We Prepared for a Year — and Why We’re Still Winners

It’s probably one of the stories I’m going to tell my grandchildren: a pandemic postponed lolo and lola’s wedding.

With only seven days before our big day, Metro Manila was declared on semi-lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Which came as the bittersweet conclusion of nights of lost sleep. We thought, at least now our suppliers won’t charge us for the postponement.

The emotional toll of the postponement also turned out to be more manageable than we had feared. A few tears were shed, but then came the thought that a later date is going to help us execute our wedding plans better, probably gain the guests who couldn’t attend on the original date and, above all, truly keep our guests and family safe. (And with all the wine we already bought for the wedding toast, it now seems we’ve “hoarded” enough “alcohol” to fight this pandemic!)

Seriously, though, this crisis has become the dramatic climax of the series of lessons learned over the course of our engagement. Elsewhere I’ve said going through our engagement period helped us to rediscover the reason of getting married in the first place: to be gifts to one another and to give glory to God through whatever challenge life throws at us. Well, COVID-19 is quite the challenge. And when we overcome it, boy what an honor it will be — like a scar earned in battle.

In the meantime, I will just savor the fact that my loved ones are all safe and healthy. I suppose this pandemic has truly brought us to our knees to thank God for our blessings, feel that that we are all one army fighting one enemy, and cling on to the hope that soon all will be well again. I guess, in a way, that’s how you cancel a pandemic.

The Thrills and Necessary Throes of an Engagement

On this day last year, the love of my life said yes to marrying me.

With only a few weeks left before our wedding day, here are some of the things I learned in our yearlong engagement.

  1. Wedding-planning is the opportunity to have a big, shared project. From the beginning, Kath and I thought of our wedding as a sort of baby we have to plan, take care of, and of course cherish. The task of planning, organizing, documenting, and meeting suppliers tested our mettle, but it also gave us joy to see the event start to become tangible (e.g. souvenirs and invitations). I suppose wedding-prepping is the trial run of our life together as dreamers and doers of big, beautiful things.
  2. Getting engaged is knowing yourself more, and deeply. In the past twelve months, I discovered many things about myself, things which I could not have imagined without the context of ‘forever in marriage’. Sometimes the exercise of self-knowing flew to the theological: I realized that the wedding ceremony has an eschatological dimension. No wonder weddings bring us happy tears : they are the earthly equivalent of meeting God in heaven; every person’s deepest, sometimes-unrecognized desire.
  3. The period of engagement is the most intense time to know your beloved — like, *really* know her! Since we got engaged, Kath and I became keener in spotting our quirks, virtues, and errors. Thus this was also the time for us to exercise forgiveness and correction with greater finesse — an act like counting the strands of a feather — an art and duty that’ll do us well for the rest of our lives together.
  4. Talking to God about your beloved — and talking to Him *with* her — makes the relationship stronger. Adopting a particular “Prayer for Marriage” was our best decision since getting engaged. It’s a prayer we say daily at the same time wherever each of us was. It’s a prayer that reminds us about our decision to get married in the first place: to be gifts to each other and to glorify God. With that prayer and our usual acts of piety, we gain a peace and direction that simplifies our life.

But the greatest lesson for me, of course, is how lucky a man I am. My vanities and frivolities lay in ruin at the unassuming simplicity, wisdom, affection, strength, virtue, and beauty of one Katharine Sta Maria, my future bride.

Anatomy of a Toxic Relationship

VickyDaniel

Phantom Thread (2017) weaves a story of love, revenge, insanity

Phantom Thread is a study on toxic relationships with a proposal on how to live with it — if you’re insane enough.

Three-time Oscar Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis plays the perfectionist fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock. Set in 1950s London, heiresses and royalty come to him for their dresses. To these women, Woodcock is a god who turns them into silken queens in ermine coats.

Woodcock carries an air of silent dukedom and magnetism, a calm flirtatiousness that streams out in choice words. We see this perfectly when he retreats to the countryside and meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), the young, coy, and audacious waitress who serves him breakfast. The first time they talk, you’d think they’d known each other for years. Not that they talk profusely; they don’t, they’re British. In fact, a formal customer-waitress transaction ensues, but you know a life-long deal is already being negotiated. You just know one is tailor made for the other. They know it, too.

Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) believes he’ll never get married because of his profession. Photo: Focus Features

So soon Alma finds herself in London, working for Woodcock as assistant and model. But more than that, she is the old man’s muse and sweetheart.

Trouble begins to brew during breakfast when Woodcock demands fuss-free silence over the table. Alma was buttering her toast and tinkling some china and disturbing Woodcock from his dress-sketching reverie. The man stormed out of the room, enraged.

Woodcock then maintains a manipulative and demanding behavior that smothers Alma’s naivety. There’s already a preview to this attitude in the couple’s first after-date date, at Woodcock’s country cottage, when he took Alma’s measurements, with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) noting the numbers. “You have no breasts,” he said, casually. The startled girl apologized, and Woodcock just said, “no, no, you’re perfect” — to the girl’s baffled relief — “My job to give you some. If I choose to.” When Woodcock went out of the room to get a sample dress, Cyril noted that Alma actually has the ideal shape. The scene was weird, but you’re endeared, like Alma, to the thought that for once, what you thought was a weakness is actually a strength.

Breakfast is time dedicated to silence, at least according to Reynolds Woodcock. Photo: Focus Features

Too bad, Alma is too insecure to leave Woodcock inspite of his genteel douchery; she craves his attention, his esteem. At one crucial point, he tells her he doesn’t need her.

Then the world goes upside down.

Alma takes her revenge. The story goes to a sickening swerve, making you question your previous feelings towards the couple. Is it right to hurt the person you love, who happens to be a prick in tuxedo? Will you tolerate an endless cycle of abuse, knowing that…you can do something similar and reignite that early-stage romance?

According to one writer, the film seems to be the best “food movie” in recent memory. Photo: Focus Features

Phantom Thread — one of the Best Picture nominees at the 2018 Oscars — is a beautiful zooming in to contrasts: Woodcock’s posh lifestyle versus Alma’s rustic upbringing; his exact measurements and demands versus her haphazard outlook in life; his condescension versus her tacit rebellion; his superstitions versus her culinary science; his loving and wounding, and hers.

In the end, one may feel sympathy for the two loonies — for the old man who has not grown up and for the young woman who’s ready to mother him…their niche of Freudian f*ckery. But I bet no one wants that kind of relationship — a prequel to hell.