Before their love affair, Manila girl Janice Tapang was finishing her master’s degree and at the same time, working as an English teacher in Seoul, while German national Mirko Koehler was working in Hong Kong. Their paths crossed in Boracay. They are now blissfully wed.
Janice recalls their first encounter.
“I took a vacation in 2010 to catch up with my two very good friends from the University. Both of them are based in Singapore. That particular trip was the very first trip I had in eight years since I started working. We decided to meet up in Boracay since none of us had been there. On our second night on the island, my friends and I decided to go to a bar, and we were basically laughing, drinking and dancing. One of my friends started talking to a guy, who turned out to be Mirko’s friend. So, Mirko and I had no choice but to talk as well. From then on, our stay in Boracay became not only being with my friends but also with Mirko and his friends.”
She went back to Seoul and Mirko went back to Hong Kong, but they kept in touch. “I had no idea that I gave him my email address and that he added me on Facebook. I received an FB message from him telling me he misses me a lot and that if he could visit me in Seoul the following week. From there, we never stopped seeing each other.”
Was it love at first sight? Janice and her husband both agree that it was.
“Though the idea of it sunk in a bit later, at least to me.” she reveals.
“One day, we were talking about this meeting and ended up asking each other what we remember the most from when we first met. He told me that for him, it was the morning of my flight. He sent me back to my room to pack. It was raining so we borrowed this huge umbrella from the hotel. We walked 10 to 15 minutes to look for a tricycle to take us faster to my hotel. That walk, according to him, was very romantic and at that point in time he already knew he would follow me everywhere I go.”
She continues, “As for me, I told him it was the group dinner date the day after we met. I remember telling my friends to walk slowly and be at least five minutes late, because I didn’t want to look too excited to see him. This scene keeps flashing in my head as if it just happened yesterday: It was yet another beautiful Boracay sunset. I saw him first. He looked up and gave me a nervous smile. I couldn’t forget his turquoise green eyes looking back at me. I am not sure if it was the sunset or his blondness that made him shine. I remember Mirko looking straight into my eyes, giving a shy-nervous smile and he was shining!”
The Filipino tradition of courtship does not apply, especially when one is on a time limit. Janice says their relationship took a shortcut.
“I wouldn’t say there was such a thing as a courting period in our relationship. It was like, we met in Boracay and in two weeks, we just knew that we had to be together despite the distance, because it was what we strongly felt we should do.”
She shares: “Our relationship was established as easy as this: We were in bed talking and laughing when he told me he’s going to be a good boy and I should promise that I will wait for him. He said this because at the time I was still a half year away from finishing my masters and of course, he had to go back to Hong Kong… and my reply was “OK.”
They were wed in Hong Kong, and now enjoy life together in Singapore.
“Life abroad is challenging, fun and sometimes somewhat unbearably hard. I say challenging because all the opportunities are here. Nowadays, I can confidently say that wherever I end up, I can somehow manage to keep a decent life.”
She gives her thoughts on love. “It doesn’t come with happiness alone. It is also accompanied with a lot of circumstances that will disappoint and hurt you. Love will present itself in ways that will test your limits. It will drive you to the unknown where you either get lost completely or discover the stronger you.”
Going the distance
Janice Koehler speaks from personal experience, talking about living overseas because of love:
If you think you can handle the complications of love and at the same time be thousands of miles away from the family that you know will always help you get through with every problem, then pack your things and book a flight.
Follow your heart but never ever put your personal growth aside. Love only works when the individuals involved are both being true to themselves and carefully telling each other the things that hurt them and how they want to be treated.
Go for it! Together with your heart, take your dreams with you. Make sure you know what you exactly want. Learn how to be independent. Not every love story has happy endings. Make yourself that someone you can depend on when the universe doesn’t conspire with your hopes and dreams.
I could be spoiling all the positivity you have invested in the idea of moving away from home because of love, but then again I am just being true to what I would like to share.
Do not be afraid to follow your heart because love is the very reason why our lives are worth living. If you don’t know what is waiting for you on the other side of the door, try opening it anyway. When happiness welcomes you, laugh your heart out. When challenges cross your way, be strong and beat it! Never fear trying, most especially for love.
MEET AND GREET
Here are some pointers to remember when hooking up while on tour:
Keep it casual.
While you might feel that the skies have literally opened up and dropped the man of your dreams on your lap, don’t change that Facebook status right away or make a wedding guest list. This will set out a vibe that might scare the guy off. Take baby steps and enjoy the moment!
Get to know your date.
If you are looking for something that will last for more than a summer fling, talk to him about his interests and find out what you have in common.
We cannot emphasize this enough. When you are going out on a date, let someone in your group know where you are headed. Also, pack some protection along, to prevent an unplanned pregnancy or worse, HIV.
Foreigners may not get the concept of the Filipino “hiya” (shyness). Don’t be afraid to express yourself! This may also be a tip towards keeping
you safe on a date: don’t hesitate to speak up if something makes you uncomfortable.
If you are thinking of turning a summer fling into the real thing, don’t hide your true self. Share something about your background, career, and interests. This will help both of you gauge if that chance encounter can turn into something more serious.