Why would anyone who had never been anywhere in the orient before, decide in late December to spend a week in Manila? Of course the answer had to be a woman. Or in this case, two women.
I came to The Philippines was to find out if this FilipinoCupid I had met on-line was for real. But I knew I also wanted to discover something of Emily’s homeland, and prove her wrong. I knew she was lost to me and after all her apparent ruthless self-preservation I can never have her back in my life. I just wanted to understand. Emily’s parting words to me were, in a text no less, ‘I think it would be better for me if I were not part of your life.’ Cold comfort that. But there was more, and so much less: ‘I won’t take the time to tell you all the reasons for my decision.’ I could think of a dozen or more reasons, but without her saying what her view of our relationship was, I could never know. I know I never will unless she tells me, and that is very unlikely. And then, why should I believe her?
The journey to The Philippines was nevertheless a journey of investigation. I did think that one of Emily’s concerns was that I could never comprehend the world she had come from, rural Philippines, and that the cultural gap was too profound for me. It troubled me that she should conclude this without ever testing it with me. So I determined I should test it myself.
But more than the perpetual mystery of Emily, there was also the quest to find another woman, the search for a companion in my remaining days; to ‘replace’ my deceased wife of 50 years, who herself was such an abiding mystery to me; to try again after the Emily rejection, and many false starts on various dating sites. I had met another woman online (FilipinoCupid!); Carmen is beautiful, provocative, and age appropriate, in many ways a Filipina version of Marlene: a princess. And probably mysterious too. Despite the evident gaps in our economic, educational and cultural experience, I had to discover if she could fill this huge void in my life.
It seemed to me from the outset pretty unlikely that she can. Was I going to end up breaking her heart and relegating her back to the impoverished place she comes from?
After a week of texting back and forth on the dating site, and then a switch to Skype (live images don’t lie) I had increasingly strong views this was a genuine article, not a charlatan, nor huckster. I also knew the only way I could tell with any confidence if she was could be ‘the one’ or not, was to go there and find out in person. Seizing my new-found motto in life, carpe diem, I called Air Canada and booked my ticket, Business Class of course – I couldn’t really afford it but I refused to travel 18 hours over land and sea in coach; and besides, I rationalized, I would be able to wrestle with my manuscript (R2 of my latest novel) with the benefit of the extra space. Still, this was going to be a lot of money just to find out if Carmen was my solution. Was it worth it? Obviously yes if she turned out to be the one; if, not, an expensive experiment. But I figured I had been cautious and conscientious all my life, time to live on the edge, as there was very little time left.
I told Carmen the next day I was coming to see her and could she stay with me at the Discovery Suites Hotel in Manila. She later told me she couldn’t believe I was so daring (and little did she know, I couldn’t believe it either); she said she knew she was in love with me at that moment. I guess I needed more convincing.