I’m a second generation Filipino Chinese. I came to Canada from a Manila when j was 16. Baptized Catholic and also went to Buddhist temples and school. Michael was born in Kiev, Ukraine but left at 2 months to live in Italy before settling in Hamilton, Ontario.
So, how did our paths cross?
It all began early on in our teaching careers. I was a supply teacher to a grade 8 class and Michael was the assigned SERT (special education resource teacher) to that class. To this day, he tells me that the moment he saw me walking down the hallway after photocopying in the office was the moment he “almost broke his neck”. It is flattering to hear that still.
We started out as friends, taking the bus home together, going for sushi dinners, and meeting at Eglinton station southbound platform to head to work together. We had a thing. The crossword puzzle from the Metro newspaper.
I was always an avid cook. Michael wanted to impress me and made Chinese fried rice. I had to make him my version after that. He says that was the day he became my sous chef. I also watched him bring in microwaveable rice for lunch. I started to share and bring him an extra portion.
Staff started to notice. Michael bragged and pitched my food to the staff. That’s how our first partnership and collaboration happened. He encouraged me to cater lunches.
And so I did. I’d print out weekly menus with vegetarian choices. All the customers had to do was take the Tupperware (which had their name on it) out of the fridge, microwave and then enjoy!
That went on for a month or so until Remembrance Day. That was the day we decided to be a couple. Shortly after we moved in together. We enjoyed hosting get togethers and cooking for friends.
Life was bliss. We travelled, ate, crafted, and lived life fully. I learned about his Jewish culture and he already knew a lot about mine. In fact, he often admits that he’s an egg – yellow inside and white outside. It’s our inside joke.
We even started a custom jewelry business together. We spent lots of weekends downtown, shopping for beads and findings. We’d read up on trends and visit other stores for inspiration.
Our first big trip was to Europe. We backpacked and stayed at hostels. It was such an adventure – Amsterdam, Paris, Cinque Terre, Florence and Berlin. It proved even more that we were meant to be together.
Our second big trip we went to the Czech Republic with a quick trip to Venice for some beads. I should’ve clued in. We were at the San Marco square after dusk Michael turned on the video camera and he popped the question. It was unexpected – as was the rose vendor who interrupted his proposal!
Instead of saying “yes”, I questioned where the real ring was. He told me it was back home in his underwear drawer. How could I have not seen the box when I put away his laundry? All this was caught on film and eventually , I agreed to marry him.
Apart from the proposal, we made arrangements to visit an authentic Venetian glass bead factory. We got to see their backroom and hand-pick Venetian glass beads. I ate squid ink pasta with actual squid ink sauce. It was delicious!!!
Within 2 years we got married. We joined a humanistic congregation that accepted me for who I was. Converting means you’re not accepted until you change. So I was glad. It was an exciting time.
Being teachers there was only one time that would work for us – the summer. I had time to plan. We shopped around for the most economical venue. We decided on a banquet hall that also provided food. Our photographs were taken in a beautiful park – Guildwood.
I made our chuppah from fabric scraps I had sewn into a quilt. We built the frame from bamboo sticks purchased down in Chinatown and Michael built the frame. I sewed a fabric cover for our money box and made spice bottle wedding favours, complete with a little description of the spice and a suggested recipe for it.
Little did I know that I was about to embark on the most interesting and unique journey in life with this man. We did everything ourselves – wedding and honeymoon, all paid for from our own pockets.
Our honeymoon was unlike any honeymoon I’d ever imagined. We did Spain and Morrocco. Tapas. Sangria. Barcelona. Zaragoza Expo. Madrid. Bilbao. Marrakech. Essaouira. Jmaa El Fnaa square. It was unforgettable. (I think this would make another post.)
A year later we had our first child. Life would never be the same. It got better. Now we have three beautiful children and is loving everything about our family of 5.