There are many ways you can cross paths with your special someone. It can go from old-fashioned acts like bumping into them at a certain place or getting set up by a mutual friend down to modern dating trends. For instance, you can be forging a romantic connection on a reality TV show like TLC’s Travel for Love or simply meeting them online. And when you say online dating these days, it’s easy to think about Tinder and Bumble. True, it's a trend many are currently engaging with especially amid the coronavirus crisis, when you are highly encouraged to practice social distancing and stay at home if you can. It's almost a similar onset of a love story that ABS-CBN Lifestyle chanced upon recently.
The social media platform that played cupid? Go way back—it was Twitter.
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Six years ago, French history professor Alexandre "Alex" Maxant was looking for a photo that could go with Charles Baudelaire's poem Le Léthé (Lethe) for a post. He would find himself upon the Twitter account of Filipino fashion writer Renee Ultado, whose tweet then included a line from the same piece in an attempt to master his French lessons at Alliance Française.
Alex then offered to help Renee with his French even just online, leading to a bond between the two that later grew into something more intimate day by day. (Read: Exchanging sweet nothings and long letters.) And as for most relationships that started online, the two finally decided to see each other for the first time with Alex flying to Manila for Renee.
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Right off the bat, Alex and Renee realized it was love. And for them to sustain this full-blown relationship, the two—who hail from different continents—had to commit to long-distance measures. They would go on Skype "dates," and on special occasions, would gift each other only to wait until their actual meet-up to open these presents. Once together, they would do what normal couples do together—going on lunch dates and traveling all while learning about each other’s culture.
And, again, like couples do, Alex and Renee had their fair share of fights, too—with issues swinging from difference in time zones to cultural differences and language barrier.
"When we first met, I was 18 and he was 24. We fought a lot. I was so frustrated because I felt like I couldn’t express myself properly and I ended up losing all the time despite my points being valid," Renee revealed. "But now, I’m 24 and he’s 30. We grew up together, we got better at talking, we got better at arguing. We’re both maturing, but now it’s calmed down."
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The two even revealed some instances of calling it quits, only to let their mutual longing and love make them pull through.
“For me, that was really hard. You can say that I was really sad and lonely and the other person couldn’t do anything about it,” Renee recalled.
A change in perspective and sense of maturity also helped them manage the struggle, they said.
“In my head, it helped me a lot. I’m not waiting around for nothing because there’s a countdown for the next meeting," Renee explained.
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Alex and Renee finally got engaged in November last year. The interracial couple—whose story began online courtesy of a poem, yes, nothing less romantic than that—tied the knot on a boat at the picturesque River Seine in Paris.
"Choose him, choose her, choose them every time,” Renee could only turn mushy when asked how any love story so riddled with hurdles can ever succeed.
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When you met me, I had mild to moderate acne and little to no self-esteem. I remember waiting at the airport in Manila, holding a warm bottle of calamansi juice. Nervous. Partly because my mom didn’t know I was bringing a foreign man into our house, but mainly because it would be the first time you would ever see me. But when I saw you walking out of the arrival area, all my fears vanished. I was sure. Sure that someone this handsome, this tall, this white would never love a brown boy catfish who looked like me. Sure that you would take one good look at my face, pry the juice from my hand, turn around, and book the next flight out. Yet 6 years later, here we are. After an avalanche of love letters, long hours waiting for connecting flights, longer hours at the immigration office, scratchy Skype calls, sandy kisses, all the flower petals against your wool sweater, here we are. On a boat in the river Seine, making a promise to each other. A promise I could have made with an onion ring in my pyjamas in our apartment. Because anywhere with you in it is a place I can call home. That day on the airport, you did look at me, grab the juice, and take a sip. Then enveloped me in a bear hug and for the first time I felt what it’s like to be seen, to be held, and to be loved. My husband, you are the warm cup of Sunday morning tea, and the cookie that goes with it, a lingering hug after a long day, the silent complicity of a love that has matured, a hand squeeze in a crowded train, a slice of cake on a tight month, the smile that says I will never, never be alone in the world again, until death do us part. My husband, I love you.
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Banner image and interview courtesy of TLC