“I’d like to believe she did the wooing, and she’d like to believe I did the wooing,” Kristine S. Calleja says. “In reality, though, there wasn’t any (who did the wooing). We didn’t have to. We already liked each other, and the four years we were best friends made us realize it wasn’t enough for us to be just friends.”
In actuality, the two met in 2002 at Dome (a café) at The Podium for an eyeball meeting, having chatted online for several months.
“I was in a relationship, and Rebie was recovering from a breakup,” Kristine says – meaning, they couldn’t be together as a couple then, even if “we hit it off the first time we met, and we met up almost weekly afterwards.”
For Rebie Ramoso, Kristine was “intelligent yet mysterious. And (she) fell in love with my writing,” Kristine says, adding – with a wink: “I found her attractive in an intelligent and sexy way; plus she was an English teacher that time (a plus for a writer).”
The attraction was put on hold, though, since Kristine was still in a relationship, and Rebie, while single then, “was busy chasing other women,” Kristine says with a smile.
A noteworthy thing about Kristine and Reba’s eventual coming together is its being “by the book.” “We never really courted anyone, and, as sad as it may seem, we were never really courted by anyone. All our relationships stem from friendship or, as Rebie’s ex-partner would put it, ‘sweet surrender.’ Our falling for each other was by the book, so to speak,” Kristine says, adding that, “however, this doesn’t mean it wasn’t unique. It was, because we lived a quarter of our lives having the same circle of friends, and sharing the same interest in art, and going to the same places, and yet not meeting. It would take the invention of a certain social networking site for us to meet.”
WHY EACH OTHER
Kristine remembers how one of Rebie’s friends asked her, “Why Kristine?”
“Rebie replied she couldn’t imagine growing old with anyone else other than me. I felt the same way. When I finally, finally professed my love for her in 2006, I told her, ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you,’” Kristine says.
Funny thing was, “unfortunately for me then, she understood my declaration as ‘friends forever,’” Kristine laughs. “It took my message two days to sink in. The rest, as they say, was history.”
Kristine adds: “There were times before our relationship (when) I tried walking out of our friendship because we were getting too close for comfort. However, I knew I’d feel that there would be a lack in my life if she weren’t there, and that distressed me because I was in another relationship. I felt what Jeanette Winterson wrote in Written on the Body: ‘This hole in my heart is in the shape of you. None one else can fill it, why would I want them to?’ I’m glad I didn’t walk out because it led us into a relationship with each other. She, on the other hand, says that she knew I was the one for her because every time she would think of the future she would want to see me there.”
Kristine and Rebie’s partnership is now all-encompassing, as the couple runs a creative boutique called Tham & Manuelle, runs an LGBT apparel boutique called Radar Pridewear, offers writing and designing services, develops online and print marketing platforms, and holds the Zero Gravity streetdance theatre workshop (which culminates in a dance play – the latest was a streetdance adaptation of West Side Story, and a dance drama retrospective on the life of a Filipina hero is in preparation).
Things weren’t always as rosy, though.
“In the beginning of our relationship, before we decided to put up a business together, we kept our finances separate. I couldn’t comment on how she spent her money, even if I wanted to tell her to stop buying clothes every time she would wait for me at the mall after office, and to stop buying a new phone every six months. Neither could she comment on how I spend my money, even if she wanted to tell me to choose a less expensive cheese or coffee or to forgo butter for margarine, and to dine out less frequently,” Kristine says. “We knew we had to talk about money; we just didn’t know when.”
Money talks “came sooner than we expected when we decided to put up a business. We had to talk about money because we needed to pull our resources together.” In fact, “one of our reasons for doing so was to bring down personal expenses that could eat into our investment. That was when we decided to live together, forgo our old lifestyles, and put ourselves on allowance. I now even need to sign a voucher before I could get money, just so I could have coffee with my friends,” Kristine says.
That was but one of the challenges they faced as a couple.
“When we started living together, we discovered a lot about each other. We are both OC, but not about the same things. Rebie is so strict about time that I have learned to make an appointment with her if I want her company. And she is such a workaholic. She lugs her laptop everywhere, except to Mass, that I have learned to live with her laptop turned on most of the time. My OC-ness, on the other hand, is about order. I like everything neat and clean. Rebie has learned to squeeze the toothpaste tube at the bottom, and put used clothes and towel in the hamper, and not leave food on her plate or coffee on her mug. I also prefer to work alone in a room. Rebie has learned not to enter the room when I’m writing,” Kristine says.
As in any relationships that work, though, “over time, we have learned to manage our differences and have made adjustments to accommodate each other’s idiosyncrasies.”
Both Kristine and Rebie agree that “it is important for the adjustments to be made by both parties. To her credit, Rebie appreciates spur-of-the-moment moments; and to my credit, I let Rebie wrinkle the well made sofa bed, and let her eat snacks in the room and in the office,” Kristine smiles.
“Rebie says we are both KSPs, so we’re naturally nurturing toward each other,” Kristine says with a laugh. Then, turning serious: “Kidding aside, we do have a deep love and respect and admiration for each other. I respect the fact that she has a male crush on Adam Lambert and she respects that I have a male crush on Barack Obama.”
It helps, too, that “we complement each other. Our skills match: I write and she designs, and we share the same aesthetics, so we could always team up for a creative project. Our working styles match as well: I do things in bursts of energy, which she claims makes me better suited than her in handling crises; she, on the other hand, does things in a uniform pace, which makes her better suited than me in managing day-to-day operations.”
Both Kristine and Rebie believe that “a relationship is never perfect, but is always a work in progress. It is important for couples to allow themselves to grow together and to change through their own process, in their own pace.” In fact, “Rebie says, in time, I have learned to watch with her American Idol; and she has learned to stay awake when we watch Nat Geo, CNN or BBC,” Kristine says.
With their families supportive of their relationship (“Our families and friends are happy for us – Rebie’s family knew that eventually we would end up together, while Rebie’s friends were relieved that we did since she would often confide in them about her frustrations with me; and my family and friends were glad I am in a more stable relationship after being in several short-lived ones,” Kristine says), the couple is already looking at finding a place to call home – even while “we also want to travel again, so we’re growing the business to the point that it no longer needs us; give back to our families (I’d like to help my aging parents raise my two younger siblings, and Rebie would like to keep her promise to her mother and help raise her nieces and nephews, especially her godsons); and support the arts more, since we believe the arts provide an opportunity for people to view things from various perspectives,” Kristine says.
Lofty goals that reverberate not just for the couple.
Thankfully, Kristine and Rebie are now on the radar.