When Henry and I enter City Hall’s side entrance, Mr. “Guy” Quinto, the head of security at the American compound looks at me and greets us warmly. Then as he leads us upstairs, Henry whispers, “You know him?” I nod. “That’s some coincidence. He’s the gentleman who spoke to me at the door yesterday.” Now we step inside the Judge’s chamber, and I reach to shake Mr. Bernabe’s hand. He tells me he’ll be Henry’s witness with the Judge’s wife standing in for me. I immediately note Henry’s expression and explain that I happen to also be acquainted with this man through Lina. The Judge without preliminaries addresses Henry and leads him through brief marriage vows. Then when it’s my turn to respond, everyone present stares at me. “This is where you say, ‘I do’,” coaxes Henry. I’m unsure of all the Judge has asked of me, so I murmur, “Yes.” I
just stand overwhelmed and more concerned with what the future entails. Then as Henry turns to kiss his bride, I let out a sigh for having made it through the ceremony. We’re now escorted back downstairs to pay the required fee and collect our license. But as we set feet in the lobby, a criminal investigation agent approaches Henry. “Young man, are you here to get married?” he asks firmly. “I already am,” mumbles Henry, “and about to pick up our certificate.” The agent’s eyebrows rise while eyeing the two of us. I can’t make out what else Henry says before he whisks me off to retrieve the license and head out the door. Outside, we’re both relieved to move away from the building and catch a bus for the park. We walk the grounds and share a soft drink while Henry tells me he must dash back to Clark Field this evening to get his pay. Then he’ll return after tomorrow. Since there’s not much I can say, he drops me off at my little room--our room now. So here I sit. I suppose this is the way a married woman‘s life goes. The husband is here one day and gone the next. Well, at least he can 228
get paid and be back for New Year‘s. I realize that 1 must return to work after that time to tell the Sadlers what’s taken place. Here I am, pushing twenty-years-old, with no assurance of what we‘re doing. But God keeps caring fir me, so my life is still in His hands. Perhaps He‘s directed my life this way. I can only take one day at a time, as always, and leave it at that. > Henry’s back as promised but with his buddy, and it’s New Year’s Eve. So we all go to dinner at a nice restaurant before the guy mentions he’ll try finding a girl to stay overnight with. Stupid, I’m thinking when Henry and I finally leave for home. Then as we’re stepping off the bus, my husband spots a small jewelry store and leads me past its locked door to a small window. We both peek in at the shopkeeper. “Are you still open for business?” asks Henry, “we’d like to buy a ring.” “I’m ready to close.” “We’d just like a ring--would you mind to sell us one?” The storeowner quickly shows us several wedding bands through this narrow opening.
I’m not impressed with the big ring we look at but prefer the delicate one. “Seven pesos,” says the man. Henry nods and pays him. Little does he realize his purchase is nearly pure gold. When we get back to the room, I look to Henry. I guess I have to learn to address him properly now, as my husband. > It’s now the first morning of 1949, and Henry says he must return to Clark Field in a few days. He won’t be able to see me again until the end of the month. “Well, I’m also going to have to see if my bosses are back yet and explain why I didn’t go to the province.” “I really would like it if you quit work,” he confesses, “maybe you could do something else to stay occupied like attending school to learn to do something new.” I tell him I’ve always been interested in sewing and hairdressing. There’s a place nearby that offers classes. “Sessions are held at night, so I could still work in the daytime.” 229 “If that’s what you want, but like I said, I’d rather you go to school
than return to housekeeping.” I guess I’ve received my first order from my husband, I’m thinking, he says he doesn’t want me to stay with my job. “I’ll speak with Mrs. Sadler if it’s all right with you.” “That’s exactly what I’d like you to do.” “Maybe I could see about working until they return to the United States. Then when you come again at the end of the month, I’ll be sure to tell you what I’ve decided to do.” “That’s fine, but remember, I’d rather you no longer worked there.” > Now that we’ve packed Henry’s duffel bag, I’m struck with a crazy thought. How will the people in the compound react when I tell them I got married? Nobody--not even Hedy and the girls are aware. Then again, Rosario knows. I’m curious as to what they’ll say now that I’ve married an American serviceman. No doubt they’ll give me the whole story about servicemen marrying Filipino girls only to be forced to leave the women behind when they return to the US. Well, I suppose I’ll hear all about it tomorrow. I’m now concerned about Henry’s parents. Hopefully, they’ll understand why he married me the way he did and not hold anything against me for it.
> Henry just left for Clark Field, so I’m off to work, myself. Mrs. Sadler happily greets me at the door, “Florencia! it’s good to see you. Your closet seems to be full with letters from your American GI boyfriend.” As she mentions having heard I got married, her face reddens. “A funny thing happened yesterday, though. See, I came across Jaime in the commissary.” Apparently, she assumed I preferred to wed him because he seemed to like me, too. His frequent visits to drop off magazines had been her proof. My eyes widen, and we laugh together. “I know what you’re thinking,” she continues, “little did I realize he wasn’t even your boyfriend.” I shake my head. “Anyway, I told Jaime, ‘Congratulations’, and commended you both on the marriage. But by his expression, Jaime was as surprised as I had been. He just said he knew nothing about it and asked who it was you married.” I can’t help but snicker as she continues. 230 “I thought you were the one she married, I told Jaime, but he said, ‘No ma’am, I didn’t marry her. She isn’t my girlfriend.’ Well for
goodness sakes, exactly whom did she many? It was embarrassing, and the two of us laughed because there I was, congratulating the wrong person. What a mix-up, I’m thinking, it must have been Rosario who broke the news to everyone around here. “Well, dear, everyone seems to know you got married, but we’re all confused. So who’s the guy? It’s obviously not Jaime.” “You’ll never guess,” I say, “I married the guy who’s been sending me all those letters.” She laughs and embraces me. Now we’re both giggling together about the whole matter. “I’m sorry, Florencia, I didn’t mean to mix you up with someone who wasn’t even your boyfriend.” Now that we’ve got the right guy with the right girl, I tell her that I never made it out to the province. “Henry just showed up the day before I was to leave. He came to spend Christmas with me. And that’s why I wasn’t able to go away. Then he wanted to many me, so we did.” I shrug. “Now I’m married to a guy from a far away country.” “I’m so happy for you, honey. I know you two will be great. Perhaps you can find out where he’s from in the States, and maybe we’ll see each other when you come.”
“I hope so, I hope it’s not far from where you’re from.” “Well, even if it’s across the States, we’ll try to come to see you at least once anyway. You can be sure of it because we love you.” “I’ll ask him where his family lives the next time he’s here.” “Well, we’re finally due to go home in June,” she adds. I nod and tell her what my husband said about not working here anymore. “Oh! well, if you quit working for us before we leave, we’ll just take care of things ourselves and not bother getting someone else to help.” She appears quite disappointed. “It won’t be too long before we leave anyway. But if you can stay on, we’d be happy to have you.” I tell her I’ll see what Henry says. It would be nice to continue working for my bosses, I think, but if my husband won’t allow it then I suppose I’ll have to swallow my pride and agree. I begin gathering the dirty clothes the Sadlers brought home from Baguio. Maybe I’ll see Hedy in the laundry house today. Then I can tell her what really took place while she was away. She probably heard the mixed up news like everybody else did For now, I must think of what to do. I can attend school as Henry wishes, but I also wouldn’t mind working here until my bosses leave. I 231
do hope he lets me because I‘d feel bad to abandon them now. They’re a very nice couple and won‘t be replacing me if I quit. I set off to the laundry house, and sure enough, Hedy, Lourdes, and Mary are already inside when I arrive. The three are busy at one washtub when I come to sit beside Lourdes. “Hello, girls,” I say, “how were your holidays?” It’s odd that they completely ignore me and talk amongst themselves. I begin to think that maybe they heard the news and are somewhat floored by the idea. But they’re behaving as cold as strangers to me now. So I quickly scrub my laundry and get out as fast as I can. Then as I leave, they murmur something to the fact that I’d married someone outside my own race. I sigh and head back to the house to hang the clothes out to dry. > Henry feels content to finally have married Florencia. Now what to do? He thinks and considers extending his enlistment. It would allow time to possibly arrange for her to go the United States with him. My best bet would be to try and accomplish that, but should it fail, I can see about getting my discharge here in the Philippines. He scratches his
chin before beginning a letter to his parents to state his intentions. > It’s nearly a whole month since I last saw Henry, but I’m busy picking out souvenirs with Mrs. Sadler. We’ve been to Market many times to find knickknack and specialty items which she can easily pack to take home for her collection. I’m just happy to be distracted in helping her. I’m thinking, Mrs. Sadler is such a nice lady, like a mother to me. And as far as that goes, she seems to be the only one who truly cares for my welfare because all my friends seem to have turned their backs on me. I’m sad to hear they’re displeased that I married an American. In fact, they’ve turned it into quite a piece of gossip. Some girls are saying I’m nothing but the worst they can think of for marrying someone of a different race. Marrying an American is outside their imagination. So I’m back to the way I was long ago when I had but one friend, Carmen. She stuck by me when my mom died. It seems everything dies around me, especially with the way the girls have 232 turned on me. But I thank God for time with Mrs. Sadler to draw my thoughts away from what they all think. >
I’ve been staying with my bosses while Henry’s gone, but he’ll be coming again in a few days. So it’s time I return to our little room at Rosario’s place. Up to this point, I’ve been busy with Mrs. Sadler to pack their belongings. We did manage to fill a large crate with lots of things to be shipped back to America. I’m just so grateful for this woman who’s been so kind to me. Yes, she’s my boss but also my friend. She makes sure I’m not so lonely while my husband’s away. So again, I thank God I am disappointed, though, after having visited Aunt Mary and her family. They’re also somewhat cold since I got married. Come to think of it, Lina seems to be the only one who’s happy for me. When I tracked her down at the restaurant, we were only able to speak a few minutes. But she said she’s eager to hear all about my new life. She’s even jealous I’m married with someone to call my own. I’m happy we could laugh together about all we used to say and do when I lived in their house. We plan to visit together in the near future, so it will be something to look forward to. Lina is much older than I am but really nice. It seems each time we get together, we’re like two eager kids again. I’m happy to have a friend like her. She’s another one of those people who
seem to make life a little easier here on this earth. I just thank God that everybody isn’t alike. I do realize that Hedy and the others have good within them, regardless of what they’re thinking right now. I suppose they just can ‘t understand why I married someone different from me. But I must respect their way of thinking and get on with my life. Yes, I could have done something else, but I took this route. > Well, I’m here at home, sitting on our little bed, waiting for my husband to come back. I hope he has a good bus ride as I step from the room to get better acquainted with Mary. She and her husband share the next room, which is just as cramped as ours. I feel sorry for them after she tells me how hard he works for their living. She also mentions that he only receives a dollar a day, barely enough to pay for rent and groceries at the end of each week. 233 Anyway, we sit together on the stairs outside and spot the older woman who lives in the tiny house, which stands next to this one. As she comes along our walkway, she seems to think she’s the queen of the whole village.
Her arrogance angers me, so I push a flowerpot off the ledge above her head. The woman flinches when it crashes to pieces below. Then Mary and I peer down, and it’s difficult not to laugh. The pot barely missed her. She looks up, but we continue talking as though nothing happened. “Hey!” she cries, “what was that!? You could have hurt somebody.” We don’t pay attention but return inside. In my room, I push back the curtain to stick my head through the tiny window separating me from Mary’s room. Here, we finish speaking. I feel she’s nice but hasn’t many friends. She says she does try to say ‘hello’ to those who pass her way now and then. But she really doesn’t have anybody. In a way, it’s nice she’s treating me like a sister. She’s saying she trusts my judgment. I realize she’s the first person to say this to me. “You and your husband, Henry, are really nice. I hope you both will be happy.” We speak about Rosario and her ill husband being on the other side of the wall. There are also three other families living up here on the top
floor. Rosario tries to keep each room rented to generate income. “She works as a housekeeper, too, in the compound,” I say. I’m grateful that I have it so good compared to some of these people. In one corner of this house, there’s a faucet with a bucket to catch water to bathe with. But there’s not much we can do other than to let the used water run down and out through the bamboo floor. Of course, we have faucets outside between the two houses to draw from whenever the indoor faucet’s pressure is low. Then there’s the outhouse to be shared by inhabitants of both homes. So these are our conveniences in this place. Henry’s just arriving, and I’m glad to see him. I didn’t think I would be, but for some reason I am. We have much to talk about as far as whether I’ll keep my job, attend classes, or both. I think I’ll let him enjoy the evening and wait until tomorrow to tell him what I found out about the school. 234 > Today, I tell Henry that my bosses will leave sometime in June. “Would you mind if I work for them until then? They say they won’t try to employ anyone else if I quit.” I say I’d feel bad if they were left without help. “Also, I checked into the school for dressmaking and
hairdressing. The classes last an hour and a half each night, so I wouldn’t have to stay out late. I’d make it home before dusk.” I sense his reluctance as he agrees for me to continue working for the Sadlers. “By the way, they told me their home is in Arlington, Virginia.” Henry’s eyes widen. “My folks don’t live far from there--maybe fifty miles or so.” My bosses will be pleased to hear this if they plan to visit me there. But what am I thinking? I don’t even know whether I’ll ever get there or not. Henry hasn‘t mentioned having written to his parents or what their reaction was to our marriage. > Now that Henry’s returned to his station again for another month, I’ll enroll in the classes we spoke about. They’re due to begin soon. So it will be yet another challenge in my life. At least I’ll have something to occupy my time in the evenings. I’m thankful because I didn’t realize I’d be missing him while he’s gone. Before we were married, I wasn’t concerned about it. But now that I know I belong to him--permanently, I hope, I miss him. It’s hard to know I’m a married woman and can hardly see my husband. So this I must learn to adapt to.
I’m now speaking with my friend, Mary, and saying that I didn’t know how difficult it would be to concentrate with my mind stayed on him. “I know what you’re saying. When my husband works on the other side of the city, he often can’t come home because the bus costs money. So he just stays with a friend near his workplace.” She frowns and says, “I could go with him, but we have to keep a home here together. I can’t have this place along with another. There just isn’t enough money left after paying for groceries.” The poor thing, I think, I see what she‘s up against. I ask if she might like to work as a housekeeper at the compound. “Maybe I can ask around to see if someone needs help.” She shakes her head. “My husband doesn’t want me to work, so I can’t do anything but stay home. 235 “It’s difficult for me to do, too. I’d like to make extra money for us to save.” I’m glad she doesn’t have children yet with their situation. I feel so sorry for her. At least we’re able to cook supper together sometimes when her husband’s not home. It helps her not to have to buy the food by herself. >
Mrs. Sadler’s thinking of buying material to have a dress made. She’d like to have her initials embroidered on the left side of the front in Chinese lettering. I can take you to my dressmaker to see if she’s able to do that if you’d like.” So she readily goes with me and is happy my dressmaker can take care of it. When we return the following day, she finds the dress to be exactly the way she imagined. So she’s quite pleased. The next thing on our agenda is to purchase a special shirt for Mr. Sadler. Mrs. Sadler would like to pick out a barong tagalog, a shirt sewn from pineapple material. So I take her downtown to find one in his size. She surely has been keeping me busy which makes it difficult to believe I’ll be married nearly two months. I’m ever grateful for her friendship, though. I have much to look forward to in helping her prepare to leave. It’s kind of strange but also nice to hear her introduce me as Mrs. Miller instead of Florencia whenever we come across her friends. I suppose I am Mrs. Miller now and must get used to it. But it’s great going around with her. > This is the end of February, and Henry should be arriving anytime now. I’m back at our room and thanking God we do have this little
place to stay in when he comes to see me. Mrs. Sadler has often told me she’ll make sure to keep me from being so lonely while he’s away. And she’s doing just that. I’m so appreciative that she and Mr. Sadler act more like family than not with me. Instead of having me serve them at mealtime, they invite me to share their meal at the table. I guess they’re teaching me to live more like the American families. I thank God for helping me to realize that there are still a lot of nice people in this world. My old friends have nothing to do with me except when they’re unable to avoid seeing me. Other than that, their friendship no longer exists as it did before I got married. So I also have to get used to that. 236 Henry’s now home to spend the weekend with me. He tells me he wrote to his parents to let them know that if he’s not able to get me to the States, he’ll stay here in the Philippines with me as my husband. I tell him I feel really bad about it. “Well, they recently wrote back to ask if you’d like to go to the States to be with the family.” Now I’m happy to hear that his mother has invited me to do so. I thank God over and over that his parents are accepting me as one of the
family. So I guess we can start looking into how I might to go to America. It is God’s provision that the Red Cross gives Henry a list of instructions on how to apply for permanent residence. Henry’s thinking of hiring an attorney to help me get to the places where I’ll have to go to apply for my passport and exit papers. But in the meantime, he’ll write to his father to see if he would find someone in the States to help us out from that side. Some have suggested that I go as a student and then apply for permanent residency once I am there. But Henry wants to do it right. > Henry and I say goodbye for another month, but I know I’ll be all right. I thank God for directing what’s taking place. Although I don’t understand it, my job is to follow His leading. So I’ll trust that this is the path He wants me to take in my new life with my new husband. 237