Celebrity stylist Myrrh Lao To and designer Koko Gonzales were 20 and 23 when they first dated, and nearly a year into it, they decided to live under the same roof. While many thought it was too early for them to do so, Myrrh says it turned out to be one of the best decisions he has made in life thus far.
“Our story is special because everyone close to us has witnessed our growth as a couple and as individuals,” Myrrh, who's the fashion creative behind Angelica Panganiban, Julia Montes, KZ Tandingan, Pokwang, and Mariel Rodriguez-Padilla among other star clients, tells ABS-CBN Lifestyle. “When we started dating, I was a college student and Koko was working for an events company. Now, I am heading and running a styling team and he now has a custom clothing brand.”
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Coming from a big and supportive family, Myrrh’s relatives then wanted him to go ahead with the introductions. “We took a 12-hour drive to my hometown Tuguegarao so my folks can finally meet him. I dreaded that first meeting, but that was just me thinking negatively,” he recalls. “Once my mom, dad, siblings, nieces, and nephews met Koko, they all welcomed him with open arms.”
Koko likewise got the same amount of love and support from his loved ones. “My parents were not happy at the start but found their way to acknowledge and accept my relationship with Myrrh,” he muses.
The pair has long maintained a strong and loving relationship—bonding over food, movies, and funny conversations. “We have had people inspired by our story because we’re just like any other normal couple. We have had our own share of ups and downs but we’ve managed to rise above it,” declares Myrrh.
How do they handle conflict, you ask? Myrrh stresses the importance of being true to oneself at all times. “We are always honest with our feelings, we trust each other, we make each other laugh and feel loved. Nothing can break a bond that’s forged by true, unpretentious, and forgiving love,” he says. For Koko's, it's all about the learning. "Our relationship is great because of the many experiences we had growing together and the lasting friendships we made along the way."
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Just last May 17, Myrrh and Koko took their relationship to the next level and got married in Melbourne. They tied the knot a day before their ten-and-a-half-year anniversary, along with the celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan.
To this day, however, Myrrh reveals they still encounter bigotry and prejudice against the LGBTQ+ community especially on social media. “Bigots exist everywhere... We get posts from people saying our recent marriage in Melbourne makes them ‘throw up’ and the classic ‘God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’ remarks,” he says. “But it really helps to have most of my family and a lot of close friends that you know, at the end of the day, are the only people whose opinions matter so I just learned to shrug these things off and move on with fighting for equal rights.” Koko thinks such opinions are laced by religion, law, or “just plain apathy,” stating that an example of this was when they had to tie the knot in another country as same-sex marriage is still not allowed in the Philippines. “It’s important for people to try to understand and talk about gay marriage and equality rights,” he says, expressing support for the passage of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill in the PH. “Laws should provide rights for everyone.”
“Why are we not passing this yet?” questions Myrrh. “It pains me that we live in a country that’s supposedly full of love and smiles, but we cannot give everyone fair, equal rights. The choice we are making is to be true to ourselves and not act based on how religion and the society ask us to be.”
For now, the two are looking forward to their wedding celebration in Manila this November. “That’s taking up a major chunk of our time now,” Myrrh reveals, adding that they have also been talking about starting a family. “We both come from families who never run short of love so it’s fitting that we make our own family and share this overflowing love to the future generation.”
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Photographs taken from the subjects' Facebook accounts