"Unshared joy is an unlighted candle." - Spanish proverb
Few of the questions that I used to ask when it comes to marriage that has lasted for 20, 25 or more years are these: What makes it last? Is it love? Is it doubt and fear that transformed into trust and determination? Is it suspiciousness that evolved into gladness and gratitude that married life after all is not bad at all despite the nags, fights, disagreements and unnecessary arguments? Is it an understanding that marriage is a changing process that each spouse has the option of participating instead of keeping it static by affirming control and by trying to get the relationship just the way you want it and keep it that way? Is it that the couples have learned all through the years to love and respect each other despite their faults, warts, blockheads, wrinkles and all? After all, warts and blockheads can be removed and wrinkles can be smoothened by dermabrasion. No, it should not be just sex, "soft or moderate," to borrow the terms from Pompei. Or, is it?
Marriage has many advantages, and of course, disadvantages too depending on how you look at it. But the most important advantages are emotional security and financial partnership that provide stability to one's life. One thing that is rarely, if ever mentioned, is that marriage provides a great opportunity for us to grow up. Although responsibilities in marriage may irritate us, we actually profit from them. We grow not despite its difficulties and demands, but because of them. We are forced to listen and understand better, share more, compromise fairly and learn about merging participation with forgiveness and caring to achieve balance, as opposed to a single life that can be a veritable playground for foibles, faults, character defects, and acting out of selfishness.
When we are solely on our own with no spouse and children to think of, who is there to stop us or check on us of whatever we do? Marriage provides a boundary within which craziness and stupidities of all kinds get confronted. It makes us at least think of God more often, and from our thoughts, boundaries are set. It would take thoughtlessness and recklessness to go beyond those boundaries.
Think about it. If you've been single, you may have come home already with HIV virus or some other embarrassing and devastating sexually-transmitted disease. I myself probably would if I were single. Or I may have ended up with shotgun pellets in my butt. Not that I would be stupid and thoughtless if I were single. But when you're single, it's often easier to think with your balls than with your brains. Even some married people do. When life has no boundaries, you rarely care about achieving balance and about limiting yourself through consideration of your connection with someone else because there is no someone else. You want to spend all your life now like tomorrow's loneliness will never exist. Life, like money, needs some savings and some kind of budget so that you still have something left for tomorrow.
In any event, once we learn to view marriage as a form of ongoing participation in life with someone we like, it would grow stronger. But like an unstoked fire, if it lacks spousal participation and is ignored too long, it will flicker, fizzle and soon die. You don't need a bucket of water to douse the flames; just the lack of attention and participation will do.
Well, those of us who attended Dodong and Dita's wedding anniversary had a great time - Pompei and Dita Jubay; Maning and Billy Juson, Ed and Vivian Suico, Hector and Olga Vamenta; Del and Delia Quijano; Joseph and Elena Graciosa; Eusebio and Lori Tochip; Tony and Hai-chi Lee; Frax Escario; and Cle Estrera. It was a great pleasure to have shared with the celebration. It's wonderful and encouraging to see Dodong and Dita's relationship that has only grown stronger year after year. It's rather easy to detect the presence of love, trust, respect and understanding between them that must be the forces that maintain balance in their marriage. We all are looking forward to their golden wedding anniversary especially that Dodong has promised two more lechons because Maning complained that one was not enough. I just hope that all of us still have enough teeth left by that time to bite and chew great-tasting food like what we had this past week.
Because some of us had our palms itching to gamble especially those of Frax and Pompei, we spent a couple of afternoons in two big casinos in St. Louis, Missouri. Most of the ladies, Maning and Tochip did not come with us to the casinos. They got hooked watching the Korean Soap Opera show that Maning brought from the Philippines. They even forgot their dinner as they cheered and cried with the story.
When it comes to gambling, it is said that the winner never quits and the quitter never wins. But to me, those who never win and never quit are idiots. So I quit while I still have money left in my wallet. I don't want to use the ATM or my credit card just to feel like I'm still in the game. But Frax, Pompei and Vivian saved and made our day. They won big, Vivian especially. Ed had a good exercise walking back and forth to the cashier to cash out Vivian's winnings. Tony Lee said that after Ed’s few trips to the cashier, the cashier must have wondered: “Oh, it’s you again?”
The winners provided us with great dinners and great wines, breakfast and lunch as well as the gas for the two gas-guzzling vehicles we used for traveling around and for driving to Branson, Missouri where we went to see the shows - The Platters, Jim Stafford Show, Shoji Tabuchi Show, Legends in Stars, and Stuck in the 70's. We wanted to see Andy Williams and Petula Clark but they were out on vacation. Somehow being a loser, I had a great appetite. I guess I was trying to recover my gambling losses by eating more food that I did not have to pay for.
Branson, Missouri which is about 4 hours drive from St. Louis is a great place especially if you love to see musical and comedy shows. Dodong and Dita who did the planning of our activities did a great job. It was an unexpectedly enjoyable trip, like a discovery of something wonderful to at least the few of us since we’ve never heard of Branson before this trip. Branson is the Las Vegas of the Mid-West but without the casinos. It has also theaters for circus and magic like that of David Copperfield. The big difference is that the shows are a lot cheaper. I only paid $138 for the five shows and I had a great time. I enjoyed all the shows. Each show lasts two hours. If you love oldies and country music and your vacation budget is limited, you could make both ends meet and more there in Branson and still come home with money in your wallet enough to buy good meals and drinks on your way home. The hotels are a lot cheaper too, clean and country-home environment with parking places around.
It's unfortunate that it was The Platters that messed up the day for Billy. The Platters announced that everybody could dance with their partner when they gave their rendition that Frax called "Estolinger". It sings like this - "My prayer Estolinger with you." Maning was not there to dance with Billy because he transferred to a vacant seat at the back without telling Billy. The two did not talk to each other for some time. Now you see what the lack of attention or participation can do to married couples.
As they say, "A picture paints a thousand words," and thus for the lack of better words, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. But log back in the next several days because I just had the pictures developed and they should be done by the middle of the week. I'll try to put them in our web site, at least most of them, before the end of the week.
For those of you who attended the CIM Alumni Reunion in Chicago, speaking for myself, I'm sorry that I was not able to come and be with you. My leave allowed me to choose only between Dodong and Dita's wedding anniversary or the reunion, not both because I had to be on duty either one of the weekends involved. I had to choose the best choice and I hate to say this to you, but I'm so glad I did. So I had to be on duty this weekend and thus I could not attend our alumni reunion. But I'll see you all in Las Vegas next year. I was hoping that our alumni reunion would be in Afghanistan next year so I can have the chance to hunt and capture bin Laden to earn the $25 million reward. I believe the odds are better than gambling in the casinos. No kidding.
Finally, Dodong and Dita, thank you so much for the wonderful time, for sharing with us your anniversary celebration - for the opportunity to be together again with friends that create an occasion to remind us to make a toast every now and then - to life, love and laughter.