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A modern family love story

By JOSE CARLO CONSUNJI, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 12, 2021 4:00 pm

The world remains an anxious mess. The virus has left nothing unperturbed in its wake: social connections, health, employment, income, leisure, fitness, and the freedom to travel.

We’re supposed to be living in the “new normal,” but I rarely hear that word now. Euphemisms have lost their appeal in a world where more friends and family still get sick, die or lose their livelihood.

Somewhere there are vaccines. And we’re desperate for news.

So, if I hear anyone say, “Look through the rain to see the rainbow” one more time, I’ll barf. To a certain extent, hoping is inaction with a smile.

The pandemic has caused a lot of grief. But the circumstances—the isolation and restrictions—have also brought happiness to some people. Without downplaying the hurt, I think the crisis has reshaped relationships for the better. “Love conquers all”—that’s one fine cliché. 

The pandemic has caused a lot of grief. But the circumstances–the isolation and restrictions–have also brought happiness to some people.

In Christina and Alessandro “Fantasma” Coquiero’s case, presence has also strengthened their love for each other and for their family. This is how Christina tells it: “Valentine’s Day is happening soon. I don’t think we’re celebrating it. My husband and I never did. We both have never been big on flowers. The only time he gave me flowers was on our first date. He gave me roses he randomly bought from someone peddling to motorists. Maybe that’s the most romantic he’s ever been. I don’t mind. I’m not, either.

“Yet, after 15 years, our bond has never been stronger. Strangely enough, it’s all thanks to the lockdown.

“We have fared better than most. We did not have to deal with the costs of claustrophobia, of being stuck at home, all day, for weeks, with two kids who’d demand our attention. The annoyances were the same ones we suffered even before the lockdown.

“Our arrangement is also different from most couples. I am the working spouse. I am employed full-time in a property development company, heading its retail team. Alessandro is a capoeira teacher, having learned the art in his native Brazil. He spends more time at home since his working hours aren’t as set as mine. We don’t have maids. So he’s truly a stay-at-home dad, also a more hands-on parent than I.

“Being the hands-on parent empowered Fantasma to make immediate, unilateral decisions relating to our kids and our home, in my stead. He was always there, he knew more, and I relented for good measure. I’d come home from work, tired, then hear about what transpired during the day. I trusted him so I just had to agree.

“Things changed when the lockdown happened. Time and confinement blurred our previous roles. Working from home allowed me to be as hands-on. We had become a cohesive parenting unit. I knew as much what was going home at home, and I could now make decisions with him. We had became one.

Respect. That’s my theme for Valentine’s. That’s as crucial as love itself in any relationship. It’s certainly more important than receiving a bouquet of flowers.

“We’re one with our kids, especially for our teenage daughter. Teen angst is common and normal. But it could be turbulent for kids if they’d feel all the more alone. Parental love and time are crucial in guiding them through this rocky course. Now, with us being together more frequently than usual, our teenager seeks advice for just about everything easily, un-fretfully.

“I have my own share of disquiet brought about by challenges at work. Before, I’d find myself coming home from the office in near tears, feeling stressed. Now, since my husband can witness what goes on at work when I’m on Zoom, he understands my emotional ups and downs better. He can now adequately give the support that I need.

“And it works for him, too. I did not quite fully understand how his day went as a capoeira teacher. He holds his sessions online now, and I have a fresh appreciation of his work, and his mastery of the art. He is that good, probably the best we have in the country. I’m so proud of him. I like it even more when he charms his little students into making all those acrobatic moves. 

“Being together all the time has also made us plan for our future more seriously. We had dreams that fell by the wayside because we didn’t follow through. The lines are much more open now. We are talking now, continuing to dream, and making these dreams finally happen.

Respect. That’s my theme for Valentine’s. We have a newfound respect for each other. That’s as crucial as love itself in any relationship. It’s certainly more important than receiving a bouquet of flowers.”

Banner photo: Christian and Alessandro "Fantasma" Coquiero