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Chito & Anna Sobrepeña: 40 years and counting to forever |


Chito & Anna Sobrepeña: 40 years and counting to forever

Chito Sobrepeña - The Philippine Star
Chito & Anna Sobrepeña: 40 years and counting to forever
Anna and Chito Sobrepeña

Chito and Anna Sobrepeña marked a milestone wedding anniversary celebrating not just four decades but the God who stood in the middle of all those years.

When we watched the video of our wedding anniversary celebrations, the images conveyed a story of a happily ever after. Without discounting the happiness captured in the pictures and the visual recordings of our 40 years, our marriage has been like most relationships. Anna and I have had peaks and dips, challenges through changing seasons of our life as a couple, and as a family over the last four decades. There have been emotional bruising and bristling, smarting and seething, but something we discovered in our first few months of married life has stayed with us through the rough patches: we discovered that we could live without each other but decided to choose otherwise. Every day we chose, and I believe we have chosen well because here we are, 40 years later, grateful and blessed.

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It was certainly not on our own strength. We have been privileged to be supported, guided and encouraged by other couples in a Christian community that we have been a part of since we were single professionals. Seeing other marriages up close, couples working through their own adjustments and difficulties were part of our life lessons. We all received Christian teachings that contributed to the foundation of our way of life. Christ was the bedrock on whom we built our relationships, our homes and our families. There were behavior patterns we had to unlearn, new ways of relating and speaking to one another, mindsets that had to be transformed. I unequivocally declare that it was God’s grace that helped direct and redirect us to where we are today.

The Sobrepeña family: Kay, Raf, Anna, Chito, Gen, Gab, Mica, Joash — Photos by RULE OF THIRDS

Our anniversary is not just about the length of time that we have been married. It is a celebration of God’s goodness through 40 years. His Presence with us every day, every minute, every moment, helps constantly in becoming our better selves to give as gifts of God to one another. We celebrate the family He has blessed us with, increasing our number by our children’s choices of their suitable companions who we have come to love as our own. Our firstborn child Gabriel married Gen Gabionza eight years ago. Michaela, our youngest and only daughter, became Joash Lllaneza’s wife during the pandemic. Second son Rafael took Kay Berangel in June last year. We are blessed to count them as family. We also have two grandchildren, Galilee and Luke, who bring a happiness that comes with grandparenthood, something we only heard about but now know deeply.

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Our anniversary gathering is also a celebration of those who became part of our lives in ways they may not have realized. Friendships, good times shared, passions and collaborations towards aspirations and common goals for the greater good contribute to the richness of our life. We can only be grateful to these persons whose support affirms the belief that it takes a village, a community to help build good and strong marriages.

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This anniversary is also an occasion to honor my wife publicly. I am a happily married man. When I asked Anna to marry me 40 years ago, I had a general idea of a good marriage. We would work out the details together. She had qualities I had hoped for in a life partner, a woman who deeply loved the same God I did. She was a reflective woman with a keen intelligence who enjoyed conversation and learning with me. She could hold her own in the different circles of my engagement. And she was beautiful. Anna continues to be all these but so much more, certainly more than I bargained for.  She is so out of the box, stimulating, fascinating, creative and brimming with zest for life. 

When we got engaged, some well-meaning family and close friends asked Anna to reconsider. They said we were poles apart, coming from different backgrounds and they couldn’t see how our marriage could work. One of the persons in my workplace held the same view and even placed a bet that we would separate after a year. I had been raised in the province, in San Jose City in Nueva Ecija. She was a city girl all her life who was like her urbane and beloved father. What were the chances for a country boy and a sophisticated urbanite to build a life together?

On the day of our wedding, I stood beside her prepared to walk down the aisle into the church. Her father had passed away and I stood in his place, the privileged position of becoming the man in her life. A few minutes before the church door opened, she looked calmly at me and said, “You can still change your mind.” I was astounded but knew she meant it. It was a brave remark and only deepened my admiration for the woman I was marrying that day.

It takes courage and more to commit to a lifetime together. That day we were making a promise to be there for each other all our lives without knowing the specifics of what that meant or how we would manage the daily unfolding revelations of who we were. We discovered things about ourselves and each other through the years. We changed and we adjusted, not always easily and not without cost. We constantly calibrated through the transitions from individual lives to being a couple. Then the babies came who grew into demanding, energetic children, each different from the other.

They grew into adolescents who challenged the values we were raising our family on. Anna and I had to be a team working together to consistently pass on the Christian way of life that we were building on. It was draining to raise teens, but they eventually rejoined the human race. Looking at them now can seem like it was all cut and dried, but we were really taking it a step at a time with prayer, consultation with friends and professionals, and the support of our Christian community. 

Anna and I had to work at being gentle and patient, not just with our children but with one another. There were missteps and forgiveness to be sought and given. Our relationship grew as we learned to share thoughts and feelings respectfully, listen attentively to one another and, in not a few instances, yield preferences to the other. Generosity is a good part of the formula. Loving and staying in love didn’t always come naturally, especially when we hurt, but choosing to move together through those challenges shows the authenticity of true love.

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