The pandemic cannot stop the worldwide celebration of an event that originated from a religious tribute to an early Christian martyr, Saint Valentine. This feast day for Saint Valentine was celebrated annually on February 14. Over the years this tradition developed into a cultural, religious and later on a commercial celebration of romance and love.
The Australian Filipina is thrilled to share the wonderful love stories of three special couples for our Valentine's Day offerings. Cupid's arrows struck their hearts well and truly, and they are glad to share their stories!
These special couples comprised of Obet and Espie Dionisio of Blacktown in Sydney's west, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary; Filipina transgender woman Gwen Barcenas marrying Kiwi heritage Vic Henley firstly in Sydney and a year later in a fairytale wedding in Cebu, Philippines and OFW Myrna Pusay finding love the second time around with Ray Leslie, an Aboriginal elder she met in an online dating website.
These are their love stories as told by them. [Left to Right: Espie & Obet Dionisio, Vic & Gwen Hensley and Myyrna Punay & Ray Leslie]
50 Years is Not Enough
My full name is Roberto Dy Tioco Dionisio and I was born in Hagonoy, Bulacan, in April 1942. I took Two-Year Secretarial Course at Phil. College of Commerce (PCC). and started working at age of 18 years, then continued my studies of BSC-Accounting Major. I also took up Master in Business Administration at Ateneo de Manila. In the Philippines, I had two jobs, working as Credit & Collection Manager during day time and Accounting Instructor in the evening at PCC, and Seminar Lecturer at UP-ISSI. Here in Australia, I also became a Credit Controller.
My wife, is Maria Esperanza Camara Dionisio who is the third of nine siblings and born in Gubat, Sorsogon in May 1944. She also took up two-year Secretarial Course at PCC. She continued her BSC-Accounting Major as a working student and when she passed the CPA Examination, was accepted at Asian Development Bank.
We got married on Jan. 9, 1971 and was blessed with five daughters and five grandchildren.
Espie and I first met in May 25, 1964, when I was interviewing her for the position of Secretary at Manila Appliance Center. It was not Love at First Sight for me as I was then having relationships with other girls. But according to her, when she met me during that interview, she had that inner feelings I would be her future husband. She only told me about this when we were already married.
Even long before I met Espie, I had dreamed that the girl I would end up marrying has a long hair with a fair complexion and rounded face. And she had long hair then, with fair complexion and rounded face. I was first attracted to her because of her wonderful singing voice. She was always singing “Wishing It Was You”, by Connie Francis, while we were working overtime. My feelings for her is just like a “Kodak Film”, iyong bang, “nade-develop”, hahah. That song became our theme song, because this awakened and touched my feelings for her when I heard her singing this song. And she told me afterwards that she was singing that song intentionally for me.
It was only some in June 1965 that I realized I was in love with her. What I did was I wrote a Love Letter in deep Tagalog and put it under the glass of her table, and cover itwith her picture on display. It was more than six months before she discovered the secret love letter. It was only when had a mutual understanding that I told her of the secret.
Actually, it took me more than a year to court her. I paid her a visit at their home on Feb. 13, 1967. It was Sunday then and the following day is Monday, Valentine’s Day. I told her to pity me already because tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I still have no Valentine Girl. Then, she said “Sige Na Nga”. This coming Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, we would be celebrating our "54th Sige Na Nga” Day. In Importance, we celebrate this day, next to our wedding day. In fact, more important than our birthdays.
We had a celebration for our 50th wedding anniversary where I presented Espie a poster frame with these words: FIFTY YEARS IS NOT ENOUGH TO LOVE YOU" which was my surprise tribute to her. Of course, in addition to my usual Tagalog Poem.
The secret of our marriage is that we follow these Rules. Rule No. 1 – The wife is always right. Rule No. 2 – If the husband thinks he is right, go back to Rule No. 1. Simple. Problem Solved. Actually, I also practise the Accountancy Rule of Consistency. If my wife is right and I am wrong, I apologise to her. If my wife is wrong and I am right, I apologise to her. Consistent, isn’t it?
Seriously, the secret of our successful marriage of now more fifty years is having God on our side. While I was a “gallivant” during my single days, I dedicated my life to my family when we settled down and got married. I involved myself in serving God, serving his Holy church, and serving the community. This I followed and I observed while still living in the Philippines and up to our new lives here in Australia. With God living within you and with your family, nothing could go wrong.
Love is Love
My name is Gwen Barcenas, a Transgender woman, born and raised in the Philippines. I am an experienced and qualified registered nurse having worked many years as a Critical Care Nurse in a tertiary hospital in Cebu City. My husband and I currently live in Pyrmont, New South Wales.
I married a handsome Kiwi named Vic Hensley in 2017. Vic comes from the far north of New Zealand and is of Ngati Kahu (Maori tribe) descent. Vic and I actually celebrated our marriage twice, we married legally here in Sydney in 2017 witnessed by close friends and 3 members of my family from Adelaide. Then a year after, we exchanged vows again in Cebu City, Philippines with our families. Vic's family came from New Zealand and a number of my family came from the United States to celebrate with us.
We had a simple garden wedding held in one of the popular hotels in the heart of Cebu. It was organised by my close friend, Carlo Abaquita who is a well-known wedding planner in the Philippines. It was a special time that allowed our families to mix and mingle at our home on the outskirts of Cebu City.
Our relationship was not love at first site. We endured the challenges of long distance relationship considering Vic was in Australia and I was in the Philippines. I met Vic in one of his business trips in the Philippines. Initially, I was apprehensive of having a foreign boyfriend, I had trust issues and a bit of insecurity, but after a few visits and meet ups here and there, Vic and I slowly learned to embrace our differences and acknowledge the values we share, love started to flourish.
Of course, Vic knew I was a transgender woman not long after we met. It was important that we were open and honest with each other from the beginning. The fact that I am a Transwoman has never once been an issue with Vic. We were also quick to reveal to Vic's family that I was a Transwoman once we knew that our relationship was going to be forever. Vic's family have been very welcoming and supportive.
We are now blessed with three grandchidren and a fourth on the way (children of Vic's daughters from first marriage). I am thrilled that they recognize me as their Lola (I honestly love being the trendy- fashionista grandmother, that is an honour and a privilege).
The secrets of the success of our relationship is based on trust and mutual respect... AND THAT I AM ALWAYS RIGHT. LOL, We both share very strong family values based on Vic's Maori heritage and my faith. It has been a great advantage that both our families have got on very well, Vic is treated as one of the family when we are back in the Philippines and I am treated the same when we are with Vic's family either here in Australia or New Zealand.
This coming Valentine's day, we are having a romantic lunch at a nice restaurant in the city. As for gifts, then everyday is Valentine's day for both of us.... something money can't buy.
Love Faces Odds
Myrna in Taiwan as a Caregiver.
I am Myrna Punay and I originally hail from Dumaguete. I was an OFW who worked for continuous three years from 1999 as a caregiver in Taiwan to support my family and to send my children to college. I separated from my husband in 2003 when I found out that the money I earned the hard way was being spent on gambling at cockfights, drinking and having good times with his friends.
On the positive side, I am proud that my children were able to go to college. My eldest son, now 41 years old finished Computer Science degree; second daughter, 38 years now completed Commerce degree; son 35 years also did Computer Science; although my youngest daughter, 32 years got married before she finished Nursing, she was able to use that to get some employment.
In May 2018, I met Ray Leslie, a widow Aboriginal elder through an online dating website. Through our daily chats, I felt we had same values and thinking so I accepted Ray's invitation to visit Australia for three months in latter part of the year to get to know him. At this visit we formed a relationship. At my second visit in 2020, I returned to Australia convinced this was my second chance to happiness. However, for unknown reasons, I became blind in two eyes.
Being on a Tourist Visa, I did not have Medicare and did not get a travel insurance as I did not have money for it. Ray shouldered the cost of my visa and fares, and he is only on a small pension.
I was taken to Westmead Hospital and was blessed to have my right eye operated on as a charity case by Doctor Professor Andrew White in response to their plea for help. I have started a GoFundMe to appeal for help and raise the $7000 quoted for the operation of my left eye.
I would appreciate any amount that the readers can extend towards my eye operation. Donations can be made through this link:
Fundraiser by MYRNA PUNAY : MYRNA PUNAY NEED EYE SURGERY (gofundme.com)
I hope that our application for me to stay permanently would be approved to enjoy my second chance for love with Ray who may not have money but who is loving and kind. He sold his scooter to finance my visit. But for now, we are anxious to regain fully my sight to be able to look after him better as he has a number of health issues.
The Australian Filipina wishes you all a lovely Valentine's Day with your loved ones.