*That at some point you have to let go and it would be all worth it*
MANILA, Philippines — Neil Ronard Que saw a beautiful vision on a plane ride bound for Manila. While he was buckling his seatbelt, a few seats away, he saw her – a pretty Chinita girl wearing a purple Winnie the Pooh shirt. She was busy looking for her designated seat on the plane and trying to stow her luggage in the overhead bin.
Amidst the chaos inside the aircraft, with all the passengers trying to cram their way to their seats and trying to find a place for their bags, he only had his eyes on her beautiful face. He was so focused that he was so oblivious to the chaos around him.
But Neil didn’t have the guts to approach her and introduce himself. He could only admire her from afar, try to have a glimpse of her through the gaps between the seats.
One hour later, he went looking for her at the conveyor. Then he saw was her, pushing the cart where her luggage was neatly arranged and walking towards the exit.
It was certainly a lost chance. He was full of regrets for not having the courage to speak to her, or just to get her name. He knew it was a missed opportunity because he would never see her again. For what were the odds that he would meet her in this big city, filled with millions of people?
With a heavy heart, Neil picked up his luggage and headed to the waiting car that would drop him to the dormitory, his home for the next four years. He would be taking his tertiary education at the Ateneo de Manila University. He had just graduated from one of the prestigious high schools in Zamboanga City, and he decided to venture out and try his luck in the big city.
He went straight to his room and tried to sleep through his disappointment.
The following day, he went to the freshmen orientation at the university while still trying to shake off the overcast shadows looming over him. While trying to squeeze himself in the front row, he glanced up and… there she was. Standing a few feet away from him was the girl in the purple shirt on the plane.
Maybe it was fate, or God’s intervention, but heaven was on to something. Neil approached the girl and introduced himself. Her name was Melissa Tipoe.
But it wasn’t a start of a beautiful love story just yet, well, not for Melissa anyway. She didn’t like him and found him too arrogant. “Kapag nag-uusap kami, it was all about him and his experiences. So ‘di ko siya masyadong pinapansin,” shares Melissa.
She was trying to avoid him. But by a twist of fate, they ended up in one class. Although they had different courses, (Neil was taking up management economics while Melissa studied legal management), they both had a minor in marketing.
The good thing about being in the same class was that Melissa got to know Neil beyond the “I, Me, and Myself” stories he was sharing. Several conversations later, they discovered their unusual connection. They both grew up in Zamboanga City, but their paths never crossed. Melissa’s mother later told them that they were actually classmates in nursery, but they were too young to remember.
They studied in different schools and have different circles of friends. She was the Math Wizard in the school-based competitions in the province, while he would often join the Physics events. He joined the basketball league and competed with her school, but she wasn’t into sports.
Neil’s parents had rented one of the apartments owned by Melissa’s grandparents. And still, they didn’t meet each other back then. It was quite ironic that they met thousands of miles away from their small hometown in a big city where millions of people live.
Soon, romance blossomed. They went through college together as a couple. They were each other’s confidante for the next eight years, long after they had graduated and had established their own careers.
But some time in 2008, they came to a point in their lives when they didn’t know where to go and what to do with their relationship. “Eight years of getting to know each other is just too long. I felt like we were just dragging on. Aside from marketing and our Christian faith (both attend Victory Church), we didn’t have that much in common,” shares Neil.
Being a serious Christian, Neil asked for guidance from his pastor who told him that they had two options: to step up with their faith and get married or to shake hands and part ways. After much deliberation, Neil knew that it was time to part. “I wanted to fight for it, give it another try in a different aspect. Neil was adamant to end things,” says Melissa.
That time, Neil was in Palawan for work. After he got back, they decided to end their relationship. “Although it was painful, I did understand why things had to end. God has a purpose,” shares Melissa.
After a month, Neil realized that he wanted Melissa back in his life, but Melissa didn’t want him anymore. “I tried my best to win her back. She didn’t even want to see me. I asked her if she’s at peace, and she said yes. That’s when I conceded,” says Neil.
Months later, while they were attending church, Neil saw how Melissa had grown and transformed into a much better person and realized that Melissa was really The One.
“For the eight years that we were together, I saw many potentials but I was so limiting then. After a year of separation, I would see her in the church, and she was so blooming. I saw how she had matured. I noticed how she became so responsible with the way she handled the family and the responsibilities. I realized that I was the one limiting Melissa to reach her full potential. She couldn’t do what she wanted to do and accomplish things with her abilities because I was her cap,” says Neil.
From then on, Neil set his heart on marrying Melissa. “Every morning, every day for the next two years after we broke up, I would ask the Lord to give Melissa to me. The more I courted her, the more she was pushing me away. So, I told the Lord, ‘I’ll go after you. You told me that if I give my heart to you, you’ll give me everything. If I go after you, please give your daughter to me. I would pray, ‘Lord, I love Melissa. Please give her back to me,” every single day,” shares Neil.
In December of 2010, Neil wanted to surprise her. He brought her to a lunch buffet located in a hotel. All throughout the lunch, Neil had a hard time swallowing the food. He was even breaking into a sweat. From time to time, his phone would beep. She found it bastos.
But little did she know that all the texts he was receiving were words of encouragement from different people who were privy to his plan. That time, Neil meant to propose to her, despite the fact that they weren’t a couple anymore.
Then, it was time. Neil brought the ring out and told Melissa: “God called me to embark on a journey. Would you join me?”
Surprised, Melissa answered: “Thank you. But please, give me time to think about it.
January came. The church where they were part of has a tradition where everyone has to fast and contemplate about their life and faith. During that fasting time, Melissa had a dream. In that dream, God spoke to her about what her response would be to Neil’s proposal. After the fasting, Melissa said yes. They were married on July 16, 2011, at the Marriott Hotel. Today, they are busy with establishing their business, Jinbei Auto, in Cagayan de Oro where they decided to raise their future children.
ON THEIR RELATIONSHIP
He said: I realized that I don’t want someone who resembles me. It would be a boring life. Someone who complements me is all I need. Melissa complements me. All this time, I wanted her to think like me, act like me and be like me. But that’s not someone I want to marry. If I didn’t marry her, I wouldn’t know what I would do now, or where I would be. In marriage, you have to throw away the Hollywood notion of romance. Marriage is a partnership. Once, you work around that and put partnership into good use, you’ll have so much joy that romance simply can’t give.
She said: When we got married, Neil told me that he couldn’t offer me a luxurious life. I told him that I didn’t care. It would be nice to build our lives together. All the sacrifices we will do and the challenges we will overcome, they will all enrich our bond. Going through the ups and downs together will make our relationship much stronger, our lives more meaningful.
ON DISAGREEMENT AND MISUNDERSTANDING
He said: Enjoy the fights. It would make any couple stronger. But fight with respect. Hold your thoughts captive. If you let all the bad and disrespectful words, they would tumble down and snowball into something big and irreparable.
She said: We are always reminded that we have to work together and fight the battles together, not each other. Your partner is not your enemy.
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