In March 2018, I relocated to San Diego from the Bay Area to work in Tijuana, Mexico (eight months). In the first few months, I struggled to define my responsibilities and navigate through my new world as a foreigner to the facility and country. My first connections were with friends in the work rotation program as well as some of the IT department members who helped me onboard. Jose Luis was not directly involved with this process, but he was a neutral support. The first time Jose Luis and I worked together happened in August when I was working on a promotional video project, since he was and still is known to be the video editor guru. We were focused on the project and did not have personal conversations, but I thought he was kind and spoke the best English I had heard in my entire experience working in Tijuana.
From this moment, there were two other times Jose Luis really stood out to me. One day, we had to attend the same meeting; he sat behind me. At some point he had to address a question and it was the first time I had listened to him speak Spanish and I really liked his voice. I decided to shoot my shot and confess this to him on FB Messenger and this was the first conversation we had over text. The other time Jose Luis stood out to me was at a gameboard night I hosted in my apartment in San Diego. He shaved his beard, so it was the first time I saw his whole face (which he previously hid behind a thick Noah’s Ark beard), and he was cute. As the night continued, I felt a level of comfort in his presence I had not before, and I could tell the experience was mutual.
My last month working in Tijuana, I had an increased number of events that resulted in multiple opportunities for personal interactions with Jose Luis. We bonded over planning friend gatherings and while attending work events (bowling event, year-end celebration) and casual events (friend’s birthday party, beach outing). Over text, we found ourselves shifting conversations to personal topics which I was surprised he was not put off by how deep the context would go or how late into the night we conversed. I knew he was genuine, sweet, and caring. I let myself think about the what-ifs and distinctively remember a conversation with a girlfriend saying, “maybe he would be nice to me”.
There was a moment of weakness during one of the sendoff outings I attended, and I confided in Jose Luis. He expressed how much he had been enjoying the last few weeks and asked if I had the time to let him take me out before leaving. Of course, I accepted.
He arrived at my apartment and I drove us to the restaurant. The day before, movers had picked up all my belongings, but I still invited him in after dinner. We awkwardly sat on a sleeping bag on my living room floor and I tried to keep conversation light. He asked if he could share something with me. Then – in one single breath – he expressed his admiration for my laugh, smile, hair, and everything about me and asked me to be his girlfriend. I commended him for his courage and expressed the same feelings. Being that I have had past long-distance relationships, I heeded warnings of the difficulties we might face. But I knew I wanted to be with him too; and accepted.
We enjoyed one more date before my move back to the Bay Area. Within hours after my leaving, he purchased his first trip to visit me. We went to the Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco and he met my parents in Sacramento. From then on, we have maintained a regularly scheduled visits to one another every 3-4 weeks. Many of the trips to me included family parties and by Christmas (a month later), he was already accepted as one of our own family.
Travel has been the gateway keeping us on this love adventure. It has taken us all over the west coast. We have faced many internal and external tribulations that have pushed us to our limits, but I will never forget Jose Luis’s parting words at the airport, that he believed God had put me in his life for a reason. I have had the incredible honor of leading and witnessing Jose Luis receive God as His Lord and Savior. And now, I have the honor of doing life with him, forever.
I met Janessa in Tijuana, Mexico, at a plant of the company that we were both working for. She started working at my plant in March of 2018 and despite initially meeting her at that time, we didn’t really interact with each other, me being part of the IT department and her being a manufacturing engineer out on the production floor. The few interactions that we had were mostly between our mutual coworkers and friends. It wasn’t until much later, towards the last months of her rotation, that I had the pleasure of supporting her in a project. Together with friends, we began occasionally going out to eat lunch and a few other activities, such as going bowling, attending a company event, celebrating our friend’s birthday, and also visiting her apartment in San Diego.
It was during this time that we started texting very frequently, staying up late at night talking and learning about each other. I knew she would leave soon; to go back to the Bay Area to work at her next rotation, and it made me regret how late we had started talking with each other. One day, after working up the courage while I was texting with her, and feeling like if I didn’t do it in that moment I wouldn’t be able to do it later, I asked her if she would like to go out for dinner. We agreed on the following Tuesday, after work, and since I knew she had certain food allergies, I told her she should choose the restaurant, and so we also decided on eating Korean BBQ.
To my dismay, I had developed a cold and my throat was so swollen that I could barely speak, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our meal. I talked as much as I could and we both learned more about each other. After coming back to her apartment, we sat on the ground and talked for a few minutes before I again worked up the courage to express my feelings and tell her how much I liked her, and I asked her if she wanted to be my girlfriend. After more minutes of just talking and her realizing what was happening, she accepted. We went on another date the following Friday, where we went to the beach in San Diego and watched our first sunset together. It was here that we had a much more personal conversation about each other, about the difficulties that would come from a long distance relationship, the contrasts between our lives and also what we both liked about each other. I liked how outgoing and full of energy she was, always smiling and in my eyes shining like a star.
She was so kind and gentle, and I just enjoyed so much speaking our minds and sharing events together. That weekend was the weekend she left and though we didn’t know when we would see each other again, we were happy to be together. During the next few days I bought my first flight to visit her, which began my routine travel every two or three weeks. Along with visiting the Bay Area, we’ve also been to places like Maui (Hawaii), Portland (Oregon), San Luis Obispo (CA), Los Angeles (CA) and Cabo San Lucas (Mexico). I met her parents the first time I visited her in November 2018, enjoying brunch together and talking about why I wanted to date their daughter. It was very nice meeting her parents and I thought it was really fun learning about the Filipino-American family culture, especially after meeting more of her family during the following visits.
Throughout our relationship we have relied on apps like Messenger to text and video call with each other. Our constant communication and our frequent visits have allowed our relationship to flourish, to the point where I enjoyed so much living my life with Janessa that I proposed to her on the night of December 24th, 2019, at her home in Sacramento while visiting to spend Christmas together. The following day we let the rest of her family know at a gathering, and eventually we shared it on social media.