..they were married
In the Philippines, when it comes to marriage, we are expected to get it right the first time. To have and to hold another, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do them part.
But what if we didn’t get it right? What if we had very valid reasons to break our vows? What if, put simply, we wanted to be with someone else?
Well, the law certainly didn’t stop my father.
My parents met in the 80s, she was in guest relations and he was a frequent guest. She was frigid at the start, but his humor (or maybe it was the ‘stache?) eventually disarmed her. They dated five years; she met his family and he met hers. He proposed one day, got married in the hotel where they met and a year later, they had me.
But that was just the beginning of their story.
Business was booming for my father. His success required him to be away from home for weeks, leaving my pregnant mother behind. The distance probably caused tension but that went away when I was born. There were less trips and late nights; all seemed fine. Until he had to leave again; this time, he was gone for a month.
She started getting suspicious. How could she suddenly know so little about the man she married, someone whom at this point, she had been with for seven years? Was he seeing someone else? What ensued was marital hell that involved a private eye, the miserable truth, therapy sessions and psychological tests that revealed the other to be a pathological liar, and a few years-long trial separation.
How could she suddenly know so little about the man she married, someone whom at this point, she had been with for seven years? Was he seeing someone else?
But family usually plays a decisive role in our relationships (well, not mine) and this couldn’t be truer for my mother. Nevermind if he’s still married. Nevermind the lies. Nevermind he has two other kids. Nevermind the legal implications. The important thing is to keep face among friends and family, and for the child to have a father. So she stayed; out of duty, fear and guilt.
For years, I’d hear my mother sob in her room, asking God: why, how, what do I do? I’d hear her whimper as I snuck back into my room at 5 in the morning. But not once has she cried or shed a tear in my presence. She stayed at his side for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until the day she died.
Being the other woman guilted to stay in a relationship that has no legal bearing nearly destroyed my mother—the names she was called that led me to punch my classmate in third grade, the allegations made, the pain, the hurt, the shame she felt when co-parents at school or colleagues would ask why my father was with another woman.
But this other woman raised a child all on her own. She put up a small business that would later complement and support my father’s once dwindling enterprise. She paid for her own car, bought us a house and, with the best of her abilities, fulfilled her duties as mother and wife.
My mother was the other woman and I am not ashamed to say it.
Words Marlon Rivero
Art Alexandra Lara