Neruda helped Tom propose to Carla

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star
Neruda helped Tom propose to Carla
The Chilean Nobel Prize winner poet plays a key role in the romance of Tom Rodriguez and Carla Abellana
Photos courtesy of Carla Abellana and Tom Rodriguez

“It’s long overdue; years overdue!”

You wonder why it took Tom Rodriguez forever to finally propose to Carla Abellana a few days ago. He has a reason.

“Oh yes, it really took time; it’s long overdue,” admitted Tom, a Waray native (from Pinabacdao, Western Samar). “I did apologize to Carla during the proposal. I said, ‘Sorry, it took this long!’ There was never any doubt in my mind. We’ve been together for several years and I knew that she’s the one person I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

Blame it on the pandemic, if you may.

“There were fears and anxieties, not about our relationship but about my capabilities as a partner... how to provide, and being able to step up to it. Those things always cut things short, the tension that comes in these times. It makes you wait for the right time na kailangan mo lakas ang loob mo, paano i-se-setup ang lahat. I thought it wasn’t the right time because of the pandemic. But then, you realize that it’s the right time na pala, so you go for it. Otherwise, the right time may never come.”

So that Sunday night, March 21, during a family dinner, Tom fell on his knees and quoted Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet-politician-diplomat who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. The whole verse actually came from Neruda’s 100 Sonnets and it reads in full: “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I nor you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”

What has Neruda got to do with Tom and Carla (whose terms of endearment are Mommy and Daddy)?

“Neruda has a key role in our romance,” revealed Tom. “It was Carla who introduced me to Neruda on our first date. So Neruda is very meaningful to us.”

Did Carla ever have an inkling that Tom was ready to propose to her?

“No,” said Carla, “wala po, wala po talaga! It was really unexpected kasi naka-lockdown tayo, di ba? But I was wondering. Sabi ko, kelan, saan, paano?

“As Daddy said,” Carla continued, “we’ve been together for more than six years. During the lockdown, our focus was keeping the household together, preparing for the day we’d go back to work, for the lock-in shoot. From time to time, we have family dinner.”

And that dinner turned out to be a big surprise, a family dinner like no other, a special Sunday night.

“There were flowers and candles, the works! There was a photographer and a videographer. It was at my mom’s house (at a village in Quezon City), near Tom and my place. So there it was!”

Unlike in other “grand” and pa-bongga style of other celebrities (complete with flash mob or executed on the set or at the airport or at a busy mall), the proposal was simple. Tom fell on his knees, asked Carla, “Will you marry me?” and Carla answered “Yesssss!!!” Then, he slipped an engagement ring into her finger and that was it!

Asked how many carats the ring was, Tom didn’t give the first figure but only the point something.

“.18. The number 18 is very significant to us, very important,” explained Tom. “Our anniversary as sweethearts is Oct. 18. When I saw the ring with 18 stones on it, Carla’s favorite stones, I told myself, ‘It’s the right ring!’ Carla’s sister Erika helped me find it.”

What have they discovered about each other during the lockdown, things that they must have overlooked in normal times?

“Not only about me and Daddy but also about other people including our families. Dami kong realization about Daddy, like how he acts and reacts in certain situations. It was a test for us. You know, magpa-panic ba kami, do we worry about the future, what do we do?

“Daddy and I developed a certain partnership. Nagtutulungan kami and we should. Kaming dalawa lang sa bahay, wala kaming ibang kasama, so we divide the tasks between us. Pag hindi ko kaya, I ask for his help, and vice-versa. We share the responsibilities. In the process, we get to know each other better.”

Carla noted that Tom is an all-around guy. He’s good in plumbing, fixing electrical connections and doing carpentry. Did Tom learn all of it during his growing-up years in Western Samar or while living in the States?

“Mabuti na lang may Internet,” laughed Tom. “At may YouTube...YouTubero, hahaha!!!”

How do they deal with mood swings?

“We respect each other’s personal space. You just don’t shake it off. You have to experience it, to feel it, and learn from it, hindi ‘yung bina-band aid mo lang. Just like when you suffer a fracture in your arm. You just don’t put a band aid on the injured part, it’s not gonna work. You have to let the whole thing heal.”

They also have somewhat different preferences in what to watch on TV.

“I watch crime stories,” said Tom, “and Mommy watches something else. But sometimes, we do agree on what shows and we watch them together.”

Bedtime is something else.

“I usually sleep earlier than Daddy,” said Carla. “Kasi si Daddy loves to spend much time sa kanyang best area, either watching shows, listening to music or painting. He wakes up early because he has to mind the dogs. Mga anak namin ‘yon...the dogs. We both love dogs.”

“They are my alarm clock,” said Tom.

And when and where do they plan to get married, in the US or in Tom’s native Western Samar?

“If in Samar,” according to Tom, “then we can do the Curacha. It’s a traditional dance, a chicken-mating dance usually held during the reception. The guests express their appreciation by pinning bills on both the newlyweds’ outfit until they are covered with bills all over.”

Carla will have enough time to learn Curacha.

“She’s Ilongga and she must be familiar with it,” noted Tom.

(For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)



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