By Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes

The story isn’t new. I’ve regaled friends and those interested to know several times before. Without doubt, I will continue telling the tale of how my wife and I took several turns in life to bring us to 20 years of marriage. I cannot pinpoint exactly where it all began but perhaps I can begin with the day when I finally decided to call it quits with career plans with SGV (for the benefit of those unaware, SGV is an accounting and management consulting firm then thought of as The Place to be after college.) Though just to set the record straight, I am extremely proud to have been a part of that family and everything about SGV is possibly the most rewarding as far having a career path that was to be the envy of all was concerned. It was crystal clear to me though that I was never going to be happy staying there, this strong urge to leave and set off to the unknown, away from what I had been educated to do and what I had been training for, tugging my soul.

Nebulous as to what I had hoped to be and where to take my education to, with a great leap of faith, I packed my bags and went to Baguio, my birthplace and where most of relatives including my grandparents lived. That was November of 1991, a few months after the great earthquake that struck the city. Just as the city was reeling from destruction and painstakingly trying to rebuild itself, there I was similarly trying to find out exactly what place under the sun I wanted to claim, an endeavor I was starting out of nowhere. And as unplanned as my decision to leave Manila was, I took another great leap and went on to try my luck as an artist/performer, this time as a pop/jazz vocalist, a departure from my classical vocal orientation in college.

I began with ballads and light pop rock even folk and jazz music, diving into musical genres then unknown to me or to vocal styles that were alien to me. Slowly though, I must have chosen my songs right and pretty soon, there were quite a few who followed my nightly sets — which either stretched from an early 730pm piano set or to the primetime 1030pm or to a late night capper at 1230am. One of those who often listened to my sets was a prominent, young optometrist, whose network of friends was undeniably wide and expansive, she carrying the family name of one of the city’s most respected politico-socio-civic brands and herself being a genuinely likeable and endearing personality.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t your proverbial love at first sight. We became friends, unearthing discoveries that bound our families together. Her father was a great friend of my father in their bachelor days, her mother and my mother knew each other as well, the Baguio circle of the 60s apparently small and tight. My family knew hers, our grandparents were from the same province, their towns close by each other, and most surprisingly, her dad was my baptismal godfather or ninong, in Filipino parlance. There was just too much of a web that linked us but we didn’t think of it as anything deeper than it was. This lady optometrist had become sort of a critic and fan (I see rolling eyeballs), who told me straight on whether my set or song choice was outright dead-on or lamentably horrible and substandard. She had become a confidant as well and we seemed to agree that being great friends was what we were destined to be…..until….we decided to try out something deeper and beyond infatuation as the connection was undeniably bringing us closer together.

We became an item, happily so. At some point in our relationship, however, as I was pushing my luck in singing a tad further in Manila, having signed on with a recording company my group and I snatched through the auspices of our business manager, she and I figured our paths were bifurcating, like trees whose branches were slowly drifting apart until the expanse was just too great to reconcile. Admittedly, the decision to let go was one of the most difficult and most bewailing moments in my life albeit some eight months after, we decided to give it another push and maybe see whether we were really destined to be. (Short of being film fiction, it was my grandmother, dad, and even my brother who paved the way toward reconciliation, like they knew where it all should have headed to.)

Well, as I always said in the past, stars seem to have a mind of their own and align exactly at the most perfect time. It was the serendipity and randomness of my career decision that led me to Baguio that year, the blind embrace of the obvious absurdity of leaving a promising and lucrative career in management consulting and information systems, the senseless desire to sing professionally, a career I was definitely unprepared for. And in those hours of joyful performing and nightly soul searching, I met her, fell in love, and eventually married her, to which I am crediting all that I bask myself in today.

I look back to where I was some 20 years ago, thinking about how my and my wife’s timelines diverge to where we are right now. These snippets of yesteryears collided to figure in a cosmic display of fate, resulting in some magical formation who knows it was intended for. Maybe our love story isn’t the end of it all – maybe it was the foundation of stories of the future, or maybe a logical precursor to something even greater. In the scheme of things, we will never know. I do know though that what is most certain is that at some point in this eternal line of forking events, Yasmin and I fell in love. Luckily, we still are!





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