When Gemma and I met in Real

It was September 2018 at the Manila airport when Gemma and I met in person.

It was a long 13 hour flight from the US across the North Pacific and I was tired. I was seriously feeling the jet lag. I was also a little grumpy because I gave her the wrong terminal number at which to pick me up. It was worth all the hassle when I first saw her in the flesh.

She was beautiful; waving at me and smiling in a cute and goofy way. She wore a blue dress with flowers on it. Blue is my favorite color and she knew it. I still remember how dark her skin looked in the Manila night; contrasted with the bright lights of the terminal. I love her dark brown skin tone.

It was a long journey to this point.

We met online at CatholicMatch.com in December of 2017. We both were suffering from depression when we met. We talked every night for an hour on video call and when she told me that I’m a good man, I felt like I had just come home from ‘Nam.

Most of my friends at work we’re telling me to be careful as I was going to a foreign country; the lone American among Filipinos. My sister even questioned why I was going and I told her because I love her and I trust her with my life.

The government had just retaken the city of Marawi and her home island, Mindanao; was under martial law. But, I wasn’t worried about that. It was my first flight on an airplane and it dawned on me just as I went to bed the night before the flight that I was going to go up.

Six miles high.

My main worry was if the plane was going to have trouble and just drop out of the sky.

Back to the story.

I went over to her while I was carrying an armload of bags. As I arrived, I grabbed her to hug her, tired from the flight and jet lag and just wanting to sleep; and she told me: “ Hubby ko, there’s a change of plans. “

We had planned on going to a hotel in the city after I arrived.

We’re going to her brother’s place in Papanga near what was once Clark Air Base. Now a Philippine Air Force base named Villanor.

I wasn’t too worried. A bed is a bed.

She leaned up to me to kiss me on the cheek and I thought, okay, we’re doing this; and I kissed her on the mouth.

She was shocked.

Wow, that was a powerful moment when she became real. Not just a beautiful face on my phone screen. She felt warm and soft and it was electric. It felt natural; like I was born to do this.

I’ll never forget that first kiss and first meeting.

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