Moralists, said Cheryl Salvador, 33, may not really understand what love is. “They don’t have enough joy and love in their lives.”
Kace Cabali, 32, agreed. “They don’t have enough love… for them to contradict other people.” Addressing these haters directly, she added: “You’re not the one in the relationship, so why infringe on the happiness of others? And as long as we don’t do you harm, we don’t get involved in your life, and we don’t diminish your right being in a heterosexual relationship, why do you hinder the rights that we should also have?”
The two actually moved in the same circles – e.g. poetry readings, art circles. But even if “we met in 2015, we just became familiar faces (to each other),” said Cheryl. “We didn’t really talk.”
In 2018, Kace interviewed Cheryl’s former housemate for work; and she asked this common friend to bring Cheryl along during the interview. “That’s when we started seeing each other not just as acquaintances, but as friends already.”
“She asked me to join them,” Cheryl laughed. “I wondered why.”
That initial meeting led to other similar meetings – e.g. viewing films in a festival in Quezon City.
Looking back, “it was very natural,” Cheryl said. Since then, “we never stopped talking anymore.” Until it came to a point where “something was going on already.”
For Kace, if there’s a turning point that she realized they should level up was when she wanted to, say, persevere. For her, “there’s an expiration date (to dating)”, like seeing each other only thrice, and that’s it. But “with Cheryl, I could’t stop it.”
Kace – BTW – was at that point serially dating; while Cheryl didn’t just date for the heck of dating.
But Kace said that she – for the lack of a better word – “compromised” her practice of dating around to get serious with Cheryl.
“Everything,” said Cheryl, “was just go-with-the flow. Until one day I realized that, hey, there’s a possibility that this could evolve into something more than what was just happening.”
So on Feb. 24, 2018, things became official for them.
MAKING A HOME
In hindsight, Kace said that her last relationship (with a man) was for a while (seven to eight years). And yet “I never wanted to commit… for us to live together. I never imagined that.” But with Cheryl, she added, “in less than a year, we already moved in together. You’re comfortable; and there’s joy in everything. So for me, I became more free; everything was just easier, there wasn’t anything toxic.”
“As I always say, everything just (flowed) naturally,” added Cheryl. “That’s the feeling. It was like everything was falling into place.”
Cheryl added: “Before, you had issues with yourself, in your life in general… but when it came to us, things were lighter.”
It helps, both said, that they have the same way of looking at relationships.
“Even when you say you’r win a relationship, it should feel freeing; you’re not tied,” Cheryl said.
Kace aded: “It became clear to both of us that even if we’re in a relationship, we don’t lose our individuality.”
So that – for example – if Kace wanted to watch a movie on her own, she could; Cheryl won’t hold this against her. “We still enjoy being individuals even if we’re in a relationship,” Kace said.
Perhaps a challenge is dealing with opposite traits – e.g. Kace is hot tempered, and Cheryl can be easily triggered (symptoms of mental health issues of both). For example, when Kace gets angry at “small things” (like slow internet connection), she may throw her phone, and this aggravates Cheryl “even though I know the anger is not directed at me.”
THE BEST THINGS
Kace’s openness to many things is one of the best things Cheryl said she appreciates in her partner. “It’s hard to find someone you have a connection with. When what you say is really weird, when what you say or think are really twisted, other people may immediately judge you. But with her, it starts a conversation. You end up discussing things you can’t openly discuss with others,” Cheryl said.
For Kace: “The best thing I saw in Cheryl is her patience. And I think that balances things between us.”
Of course, seconding Cheryl, it also matters that they’r eon the same wavelength.
“You don’t run out of things to talk about,” Kace said. “You don’t run out of things to do.”
Cheryl has always been out as a lesbian, so her family has been accepting. “This isn’t new to them,” she said. “So when I told my family, they were welcoming (of what we have).”
Kace, meanwhile, didn’t really spell things out to her family. “It just became obvious,” she said, particularly since there was a point in time when (before they lived together) Cheryl also lived with Kace in her family’s place for a some time. “They’re accepting in a way (but you don’t really discuss it).”
There are times when the two joke with each other about getting married. They recognize, though, that this can’t be done in the Philippines, where the law prohibits LGBTQIA marriage. And so the conversation almost always leads to choosing which country to move to; to be in a place where their relationship is legally recognized (e.g. Canada).
All the same, “it makes you sad thinking that you have to leave everything behind; that you have to leave your home country,” said Cheryl, “just to marry the person that you love and build a life together – one that’s recognized by the State.”
Kace stressed that she’s not into “marriage itself”, the ceremonies “and all those fancy things”. Instead, “I just want the civil rights (that come with recognizing LGBTQIA relationships),” she said. For Cheryl to be “my dependent” and be recognized as beneficiary of her insurance; and for them to have properties together, among others. Nonetheless, “we don’t rely too much on the Philippine government to give us these rights… for now.”
WORTH OF LOVING
Despite the challenges still faced by LGBTQIA relationships, “it’s worth it to be in a relationship with anyone you love,” said Cheryl, even if “society tells you it’s not right, or you know people judge you for having a relationship that is out of the norm. It changes you; being in a right relationship changes you. Other people do not have a say on this. They may judge you from outside the relationship, but they’re not the one experiencing the joy you’re experiencing while in a relationship with someone you love.”
For Kace: “It’s you who will experience the joys of the relationship, not the other people who are judging you.”
Besides – she added – it also highlights to other LGBTQIA people who can’t come out yet, who can’t express themselves and their love yet that “it’s worth fighting for your love. For them to see that, ‘They’re fighting for their love. There’s nothing wrong with it!’.”
In the end, Cheryl added, people ought to know that when one loves, “it’s liberating. Many things may have held you back before because of what people in society say to you/about you, but when you let yourself love… and you show that love, it’s like you world expands. You realize that you have a lot of love to give not just to yourself and to your partner, but also to other people.”