“It’s super amazing! It all started way back on June 26, 2013, when I randomly posted something on my Google+ wall. I was trying to create a blog about it too to tell everyone how fascinating my story was. It looks like it just came out of a love story book,” Jheq recalled.
Michael then visited the Philippines from Chicago after that first chat.
“After that chance encounter, we got engaged and busy planning our future dreams. Primarily, finding a way to live here in South Luzon as a married couple,” Mike said.
Jheq admits to immediately starting to like Michael and love him since that first day they chatted.
“We talked about a lot of personal stuff and really got to know each other. It’s not really hard to love a man like him. He’s so accepting, understanding and loving. All my flaws were invisible in his eyes. As we always say, ‘blinded by love’,” Jheq said.
For Michael, his first visit not only made him realize his love for Jheq, but as well as for the Philippines in general.
“After staying with my fiance, and being treated like a member of a loving family, not to mention the attitude and hospitality of the Filipino people, I know this is my place in the world and plan to move here permanently before the end of this year, perhaps working towards a small business with Jheq,” he said.
Michael admitted that “many challenges face us, but its truly an exciting time. Our love gives us faith, and somehow we’ll make it.”
After being engaged, Jheq and Michael now acknowledge the real struggles of being a same-sex couple in the Philippines.
“The biggest challenge that we are facing right now is the fact that gay marriage is not legal here in the Philippines. Yes there are priest or lawyers who conduct LGBT marriages, but it won’t be recognized anywhere legally. We are already engaged and have the blessings from our parents, but we must still live with the fear of not being recognized by the place we want to live in. Gay marriage is making breakthroughs all over the world, including the US,” Jheq said, adding that “the Filipino people are one of the most accepting of LGBT people in the world. It’s only natural to make it legally recognized here.”
For Michael, “Jheq and I wish to become active in the fight for LGBT legal recognition in the Philippines. Marriage was made for people like us. Something truly out of a story book. We so much deserve to make our own fairy tale, as anyone who falls in love.”
Despite the current challenges faced by their loving relationship, Jheq and Michael both mutually see the mutual growth that they have shared since they met.
Michael has struggled through two heterosexual marriages before finding Jheq. “Not understanding my sexuality due to lack of education and ignorance from the loved ones who raised me. This is often the case with people such as me who remain closeted for so long. With God’s help and Jheq’s love, I finally feel comfortable, open and proud of who I am,” he said.
Aside from being able to practice his English, Jheq added that “the best thing is that I am not afraid of what other people think about us. I learned to accept myself, not hesitate and became a more positive person. Both of us are really proud of what we have right now that makes me more confident to tell everyone about my story. Having him in my life made me take care of myself more. I quit smoking and drink less alcohol like my partner. Living healthy is what we both look forward to so we can grow old together. The most important thing though is that I am happy everyday and treat everyday as a blessing from God.”
Jheq and Michael plan to get married soon and establish a business in the Philippines like a photo booth since Michael is a photographer and has the basic starting equipment, and also maintain a US based business.
“We like to have a business here in Philippines so he can have his working visa. If not, he will look for a job here in Philippines so he can stay here with me. He wants to live in the Philippines, and that is something that we need help with. He likes it here more than the US. He had a wonderful time here and do not want to live as a tourist anymore. Yes we can earn more money in US, but he would like to stay in an environment where everyone is happy and live with my family. He is actually staying at our house and it was my Dad who initiated it, instead of him looking for an apartment,” Jheq said.
Jheq and Michael now want to be a part of the LGBT advocacy in the Philippines and be a good example to highlight that gender and distance are never issues to find true love.
“Love really is just love. It has nothing to do with shape, size, or gender. We are all part of the human condition, sharing ups and downs. And not least of which, looking for that special someone,” Michael ended.