From Manila With LoveI lived in the UK, she lived in Manila, Philippines, and we found each other through an online dating site. It was never really my intention to find someone from outside my own locale, let alone 8000-odd miles away, but when she made contact I was intrigued. She was very pretty and she'd written quite a detailed desc
As a hopeless romantic my mind immediately leapt into the future to imagine what life with this girl might be like, but I wasn't a complete fool and knew that it was best to be cautious so I was happy to take my time and get to know as much about her as I could before I did anything risky. For the first few months we communicated by email, swapping photos and information about ourselves, our families, our day-to-day lives.
It was going well so we progressed to phone calls, and that's when things really started warming up. We would chat for several hours at a time about absolutely everything and anything, and we both felt that we were establishing a real, deep connection. It felt so good. I daydreamed about her a lot and was thrilled every time I found a message from her in my inbox. After a few more months I felt certain enough to be able to tell her that I loved her. I wasn't sure what her reaction would be, but I need not have worried as she told me that she loved me too. And there it was: we were a couple!
Of course the distance between us meant that we were severely limited. Nevertheless it felt real and we did everything else we could to bring ourselves closer together. We continued to speak regularly by phone, sometimes for as long as 5 hours at a time, and we sent each other lots of photos of our day-to-day activities. I sent her texts everyday to let her know I was thinking about her, and sometimes called her at work to surprise her. We had cute nicknames for one another and sent greetings cards to each other. I also arranged to have a dozen red roses sent to her home. We spoke about the future, about getting married, how many children we would have and what their names might be.
After many months I was finally able to go to Manila to be with her in person. When she saw me at the airport she smiled and embraced me, though I think we were both a little shy about being in one another's company for the very first time. We got a taxi to my hotel and had a meal together in my room. We then started to unpack my belongings. I was still feeling a little unsure of myself when, suddenly, she stopped what she was doing, walked over to me and hugged me tightly. I hugged her back and then we kissed passionately. We held each other, looked into each others eyes and whispered how much we loved each other. Then we kissed again, even more passionately. Everthing felt so perfect and right, just as I hoped it would be. It was as if the distance had been no obstacle at all. Very soon we were undressing each other, kissing and touching each other sensuously. Before long we were making love.
For the next couple of weeks we spent as much time together as we could, but all too soon it was time for me to return to the UK. On our last night together I remember lying next to her, talking about how much we would miss each other, and seeing her eyes well-up with tears. I told her that the distance didn't matter because I belonged to her and some day soon we would be together for good.
Back in the UK we continued to phone and email whenever we could. A few weeks after I arrived back, I suddenly lost my job. It hit me hard but my girlfriend was very supportive and I was determined to find another job soon, perhaps an even better one, because I wanted to give us the best possible future. I also hoped to return to Manila sometime to see her again and help her organize a move to the UK when her current work contract had ended.
She had started working just before my first visit and it was a very demanding job, in part because she worked rotating shifts which tended to leave her very tired. Often she had little time for anything except work and sleep. As a result there was now less time for us to talk. I was disappointed about this but I understood and felt that our relationship was strong enough to bear the more frequent silences. It was her first job since leaving college and she needed the experience because it would enable her to eventually find work in the UK. This was the goal and, a few months later, she told me that she had begun the process of obtaining the necessary documents in anticipation of being able to move. I wasn't sure of the details but she said that she required some money, quite a substantial amount, to reclaim some papers that she'd previously sent to a work agency. I offered to send her the amount but she refused and said she would save-up for it, so I left it to her. Then she got back to me and said that if the offer was still open then, on reflection, it would speed the process up if she could get the money now, so I was happy to send it to her.
While this was going on, I was still trying to find a job and also get the money together for another visit to Manila. Communication between us had very gradually become less and less frequent, although we still seemed to be moving in the right direction. At around this time a massive storm hit the Philippines and caused enormous damage. My girlfriend emailed me to say that her family home had been damaged and that she was desperate to get some money for repairs. She said she didn't like to ask me but there was no one else who could help. Could I send her the cash she needed? It was another substantial amount, but luckily I'd recently been paid some money owed to me from my previous job so I was able to afford it. I was also now able to afford the airfare for another visit to Manila, provided I booked several months in advance, so I sent my girlfriend what she needed and went ahead with the booking.
After I told her about the money and the flights, my girlfriend sent me another email to thank me for my help in paying for the repairs, saying that it meant a lot to her. She didn't mention my upcoming visit at all. I sent a reply telling her how much I was looking forward to seeing her again and that it would be wonderful when we could finally be together for good. She didn't reply to this so I guessed she was distracted by her work and what was happening at home.
Over the next few weeks I sent her several emails to check in with her and ask how she was doing. She didn't reply to any of them. I also telephoned her but she was always unavailable. I knew that her work meant that she had far less free time than before, but nevertheless it was odd. The weeks turned into months. I sent her further emails asking, pleading, even begging her to get in touch just to let me know that she was OK, but there was no response. At first I couldn't believe that anything could be wrong, and then I began to feel very uneasy. Was she OK? I'd telephoned her house and spoken to her family several times, and none of them had said that anything was wrong. So what was going on? I was due to travel to Manila very soon. What should I do about that?
After a couple of months, and many unanswered emails and calls, I decided I had no choice but to cancel the flights because of my uncertainty about what was happening in Manila. Had I done something to make her angry? Was she trying to punish me for something? I had no idea. That's one of the drawbacks of conducting a relationship from 8000 miles. I waited and waited for some kind of contact, but there was none. Finally, after 4 months without hearing a single word from her, I resorted to a desperate and cynical act.
By now I had more or less come to accept that the relationship might just be over. Still, with everything that had gone before, everything we'd shared and the effort we'd put in to making the relationship work, I found it very hard indeed to believe that it could end in this fashion. I couldn't just go quietly and allow myself to be ignored, cut out of her life and treated as if I didn't exist, so I decided to send one further email.
The tone of this email was in keeping with how the relationship had been in the past, loving and warm. However, it was different to all the others because this time it was forced, lacking in the genuine feelings I'd had before. I no longer felt as loving as I once had. I just felt angry and hurt. And as well as feelings, the email contained something else that was inauthentic: an offer of money. The urgency with which she had contacted me when she needed me to pay for her house repairs contrasted sharply with the complete silence that came after. So in this email I made a fake offer to give her the money I'd been refunded when I cancelled the flights, which was another large sum.
On one level I hated myself for doing this. It seemed absolutely incredible that the relationship had come to this and that I was reduced to performing such a low trick. On the other hand, I needed to find some kind of resolution and this seemed the only route open to me. I didn't know if it would work. I didn't really know anything at all, it was just an inkling that perhaps said more about me and my own insecurities than about anything else. I went ahead and sent the email.
Afterards I refused to check my emails for about a week because I just couldn't bear it. Finally I logged on to see if she had sent a reply. During the week she hadn't sent one reply... she had sent two! I read them both a they made me feel sick. Their tone and content was just the same as of old: loving, warm, chatting about family, expressing love and hope for the future, telling me how much she missed me. She said she was sorry about not speaking for so long and making me worry, but that she was now "back in circulation" again. She didn't dwell on the money offer, she just said that if I was happy to send it then I could do so the same way as before. But I couldn't ignore the evidence. For 4 straight months I'd heard nothing, and now suddenly this. Afterwards, we exchanged a few more emails in which I attempted to ascertain what was really happening in her life, but the flow of messages soon came to another abrupt end and I went back to being "persona non grata".
That was the way it remained and the relationship was over.