The Triumph of Love

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
The Triumph of Love
Victor and Linda Ley and Chet and Marge Espino.

Life begins and ends with a heartbeat, says the fictional Dr. AJ Austin in the now defunct medical drama series The Resident.

Thus, Valentine’s Day 2024 falling on Ash Wednesday was an aberration on one hand, and perfectly logical on the other. A couple.

Feb. 14, 2024, a joint celebration of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, celebrates love, which presumably leads to conception, and another human being’s first heartbeat. It also reminds us of what happens when the heart stops beating.

Valentine’s Day, commercially, is all about love between couples. But many also celebrate friendships and family on the “day of hearts.”

But since Valentine’s Day fell on Ash Wednesday this year, the start of the Lenten season among Catholics, many also chose to celebrate God’s love on Feb. 14.

A businesswoman wrote in her chat group: “I don’t remember Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday ever taking place on the same day. But come to think of it, it makes absolute sense for there is no greater love than that of our God’s love.”

Our faith teaches us that there is life everlasting and our heart hopes there is everlasting love as well.

So Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday on the same day? It’s really all about celebrating love and life, now and forever.


Here are some of my favorite love and life stories:

Victor and Linda Ley

During Linda’s milestone birthday in 2020, it was her eldest son Mark who spoke. And while speaking of his love for his mother Linda, he was professing his gratitude to his father Victor for bringing her into their lives.

Mark and his brother Michael lost their biological mother Cherry to breast cancer when they were toddlers. They grew up, according to him, in a house — “But it was only a roof over our heads.”

“It was around 18 years ago when I met ‘Linda.’ Me and my younger brother were having dinner when my dad walked in, may ka-‘HHWW.’ For those of you who don’t know what HHWW stands for, it means ‘holding hands while walking.’ My dad introduced this woman as ‘Tita Linda’,” recalled Mark.

“Tita Linda came at a time when me, my dad, and my brother only had a roof over our heads. And I say ‘only’ not to sound ungrateful but because — even if we did have a house, I didn’t know if it was truly a home.”

“Tita Linda showed me what a home was. Tita Linda showed me how it felt like to have a home-cooked meal,” Mark said.

This beautiful woman named Linda not only became Victor’s bride, she became the mother Victor’s sons longed for. She cooked special meals (which she still does today) for Victor and his sons, prepared Mark and Michael’s baon, picked them up from school and took them to the mall.

“Tita Linda showed me that someone else could love my father as much as I did. But most of all, Tita Linda showed me that someone could love me and my brother as much as my father did,” Mark continued.

He then raised his glass for a toast. “So before we start dancing the night away, I’d just like to raise a toast. Please look over there,” he gestured toward his father Victor. “Not at my mom, but at my dad instead. Thanks, Dad, for asking me all those years to stop calling her ‘Tita’ and start calling her ‘Mom.’ I understand now.”

In this month’s issue of PeopleAsia magazine, Linda shares one of the secrets to the success of their marriage. “To make a relationship work, I’d say trust between couples is really number one. When I dress up before going out with my friends, most men will probably ask, why are you so dressed up? Why are you fully made up? Who are you spending the evening with without me? Victor has never been like that.”

Linda still cooks — and how — for Victor and her family before she steps out of the house for socials.

For his part, Victor tells PeopleAsia’s Alex Vergara, “The moment you learn to appreciate each other…is the moment everything starts to fall into place.”

Chet and Marge Espino

I’ve known Chet Espino since he covered Malacañang during the presidency of Cory Aquino, and I was part of the Office of the Press Secretary. Margie I met after I started writing a column in the Philippine STAR in 1992. They were and still are a power couple — bright, beautiful and brave.

On Nov. 29, 2008. Margie, then the business features editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, flew to Faridabad, just an hour away from New Delhi, to cover a leading cement manufacturer’s corporate social responsibility awards ceremony. It would have been a quick business trip. Then while on a bus with her colleagues, Margie suffered an aneurysm.

According to the doctors in India, Margie was stricken with Grade 4 aneurysm, with only a 20 percent chance of recovery. Chet flew to her side and stayed by her side till she was well enough to fly home on Feb. 26, 2009.

Chet told PeopleAsia in 2014 that during those touch-and-go days in India, he would sing Bridge Over Troubled Waters to Margie. This was the same song Chet first sang to Margie when she walked down the aisle of the San Agustin Church in Manila almost three decades ago.

“I’ll take your part when darkness comes, and pain is all around, like a bridge over troubled water…”

Four years after India, in 2012, Margie felt a lump in her breast. Tests showed it was breast cancer. With Chet by her side, Margie fought it. But even before her cancer treatments were concluded, the family home burned down!

“That God was singling us out never crossed my mind,” Margie told PeopleAsia recently.

Unfortunately, Margie’s cancer has returned, and spread.  The couple and their children have opted for quality of life over aggressive treatments.

“My intense longing to be with God trumps everything,” Margie said.

I asked Chet what keeps him going.

“Prayer, total dependence on the Holy Spirit,” was his immediate answer, adding, “Sports to have the needed endorphins.”

“We’re in a good place,” he told me. “Hard to describe but it’s really all a blessing. Joy transcends the human perspective of this life and sees what’s beyond. We are this way because of how Margie is, and even that is all grace from above.” *

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