25 Years ago, I was spending my last two conference days searching out every opportunity to spend time with Luz to see if we might pursue a deeper relationship. I learned she did indeed have feelings for me, as I had for her, and our adventure together began. Before I left, we shared our first kiss - my very first kiss - and I thought I my heart could be heard pounding all across Manila Bay! I was sure I wouldn't need a plane to fly home, but Luz advised me to not waste my ticket and take the plane anyway! It was the beginning of a long and challenging journey to merge our lives together. I stepped onto the plane knowing I'd come back again - very soon. In fact, I would return in just over 4 months! When I stepped off of the plane back in the U.S. to visit my mom who was taking care of my grandmother in Mississippi, my mom's first words were, "What's her name?" Luz was having an effect on me I couldn't hide if I wanted too! I began what would be a daily ritual of writing Luz and planning, like MacArthur, for my return to the Philippines!
It is noteworthy that I thought of MacArthur even as I first beheld Manila Bay. I had read of his reaction upon seeing the Bay for the first time and snickered, thinking it an exaggeration. When I experienced it for the first time myself, I felt his words were perfect - "I was enchanted - spell-bound by it beauty!"...and I remain so even now not to mention, of course, that one of Manila's daughters has cast an unbreakable spell upon me as well!
But Luz wanted to test her spell. Part of the test was to prepare "hard core" Filipino dishes, designed to see if I would truly embrace deep Filipino culture. The first meal she prepared for me, for example, was breakfast, and consisted of fish heads, friend eggs and rice. I didn't get to the Filipino favorites that Americans tend to enjoy for a couple of weeks. Her Big Brother, Felipe, later informed me that had refused even one of the dishes, Luz would have called off the wedding! (Whew!) I'm glad my parents raised me the way they did! It was a saving grace in the most important food-related test of my life!
I should point out that Luz was very wise to put me through the ringer because marrying me was a HUGE risk for her! There were two precious children involved - our daughters Sittie Jackson-Cohodes and J Maris Bautista-Jackson Wallag! She had to do everything she could to test my character and she set up a "pass/fail" gauntlet that had I even fallen short on one issue, the whole deal was off. I didn't know that at the time. If I had, I could have "acted" my way through and she wanted to really know who I was. I did come very close to dropping the ball once when I got angry over a pair of stolen blue jeans. I apologized for my stupidity, and Luz mentally gave me a do over on that one! Luz also had very dear and faithful friends such as Robin Haines Merrill who rightfully expressed their concern and skepticism at the initial stages of our courtship. One friend, Charles Louvau, a former Navy Seal, had been praying for Luz and happened to attend the seminary I was attending when I met Luz. He very..."creatively" introduced himself an with very kind speech (and a VERY firm grip) let me know he cared for her and was lovingly watching me. That certainly got my attention! It comforted me regarding her character that so many people deeply cared for her and would even hurt me to protect her. I knew then beyond all doubt that she was very special!
Thankful for God's plan! Celebrating His Goodness,