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Love in a pandemic

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Chica Villarta

Posted on February 14, 2021

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Learn how love found someone—not the other way around—amidst the world's longest lockdown.

The adage that says "don't find love, let it find you" seemed annoyingly rote and unreliable until you hear about people finding love in a pandemic and realize that there must be some truth to it.

Pau Guevarra, a photographer (she's done some work for us here in Pasyal!) met Geormaine Castro, a pre-school teacher at the very height of the lockdown. When establishments were closed, people were required to stay at home, and everyone was so anxious for their mere life, how did two individuals find love—as the Rihanna lyric put it—in a hopeless place?

We sat down with Pau as she shares how in what seemed like the worst of times, love can do all the work for you.

When you started dating, how long was it since your last relationship?

PG: We started dating three months after I had gotten out of a long term relationship which lasted nine and a half years. To be perfectly honest, I was still grieving and overwhelmed with everything that happened to me. I was still in despair and I wasn’t sure how to start my life again. But Geormaine was there for me through the process.

How did you two meet?

PG: Geormaine and I met around the time I just graduated from college. She’s two years younger than me so she was still in college at that time—13 and a half years ago, to be specific.

She was a good friend of one of my ex-partners, but we didn’t become friends when I was dating that ex. But since we studied in the same school, we technically moved inside the same circle. Eventually, we became friends on social media.

We even tried to figure out who added who because according to Facebook, we’ve been friends since 2009. Haha!

How did the relationship develop, despite quarantine and long distance?

PG: For the past few years, we somehow stayed updated with each other’s lives, thanks to Instagram and Facebook.  Through this we started to notice that we were going through heartbreak in the midst of the lockdown. Around April 2020, we started liking each other’s Instagram stories about heartbreak. Eventually, she messaged me, curious about what happened to me and my ex.

We spoke via Facetime for three hours the first time, because we realized we had so much to catch up on, with our conversation all about misadventures during in our past relationships.

Some things Pau and Geormaine shared via Facetime: meals, movies and a comfortable silence.

I guess, misery truly loved company that night, because after that first Facetime, we didn’t speak to each other for a couple of days. Then one day, I messaged her again. After that night we just started talking everyday, and in just a few weeks she already started sending me gifts, care packages and food.

What made you officially jump into the relationship?

PG: Truth is, we really wanted to take more time for ourselves and think about our decisions carefully. We were both focused on healing and loving ourselves more, amidst the pandemic that really emphasized our distance from each other. But, we just came to a point that were so comfortable with each other, and simply felt that it was the right time to stay committed.

She came here from the US after a few months of dating. How and why did she decide to do it, despite the risk of traveling?

PG: Actually I was not the sole reason why Geormaine visited Manila. She was really going to visit this year because she hasn’t been in the Philippines for almost five years. She’s very close to her grandfather who lives alone here. Every year, they fly him to the US, but due to the pandemic he couldn't visit, and her parents, being US citizens cannot fly to Manila. So aside from me, she went home to check on her family.

Also, she got a new job and she needs to start this 2021 so her schedule won’t be as flexible as the set-up last year.

How did you feel when you saw her for the first time since you got together?

PG: I was VERY nervous and in a little disbelief. I was trying to keep it cool because I was going to drive her to the hotel for quarantine. I knew I had to stay focused. Haha!

A trip to Manila in 2020 allowed Pau and Geormaine to meet each other for the first time as a couple.

Any memorable moments from your short time physically with each other?

PG: Everything! Maybe one of my favorites was our trip to The Farm at San Benito. When she visited, everything we did was our "first." But since she hasn’t been home for quite a while, a lot of her friends and relatives wanted to see her so having a few days of alone time with her, in place that was somehow distant and isolated was so valuable to us.

Pau and her partner shared a sweet isolated retreat, alone but together.

Apart from that trip, we had a great time being on the road, listening to music and talking about everything under the sun (and rain).

How is your newfound relationship helping you get through the pandemic and all the anxieties that come with it?

PG: The pandemic turned my life in an unfamiliar direction, most especially in my career. In the “normal” that we used to know, I was already obsessed with organization and an overthinker. I get anxious if I have issues at work, so the pandemic pushed me to my limit.

Thankfully, this relationship helped me change my perspective and appreciate where and who I am today. Compared to me, Geormaine is more carefree, I guess. Not that she’s a laid back person, but I think having lived abroad for a while, she is now more secure with who she is and her mindset is very different as someone who lives here.

She knows how to choose her battles, so she has really helped me get through all my apprehensions in life. I’m actually surprised because she knows how to navigate my emotions in such a short period of time being together. She gave me a sense of security and a lot of assurance that everything will be alright. She calmed most of my storms and helped reduce my negative thoughts about the future.

Does the distance from your loved one feel difficult at times? How do you cope?

Yes. For me it’s never going to be easy but we try our best to cope with the situation. We try to do a lot of things together via Facetime like watching films, playing online games and sometimes, following just one time zone. I remember cooking breakfast food at 1 a.m. in Manila time to match her 9 a.m. breakfast in California. She also learned to operate local food delivery apps and got help from her friends in Manila—that’s why she was able to constantly send me surprise gifts and food.

One of the many daily food and gifts Geormaine—who is based in the US—would send Pau, who is half the world away.

But for me, our most important learning  is being comfortable in silence. There are days that we don’t really talk, we’re just "together"via Facetime while working, driving or doing chores.

Cases are persistent in the Philippines, and are at all time high in United States. Do you worry about each other’s safety, or do you have shared practices in how to keep safe / navigate the pandemic?

PG: All the time. I like everything being in its right place and extremely like taking control of the things I have to do, so this situation brought out the best and worst in me. Haha! We share the same anti-virus practices like having a particular sanitizing kit  for our “outside” bags. We both have a specific disinfecting tool for every situation, like what’s for clothes, for the car, for the tables when eating out, etc.

I actually sent her an anti-COVID care package to her hotel during her quarantine period. Also, while he was here in Manila, we had ourselves tested almost every other week to make sure we we’re safe.

The pandemic seems to be continuing for the rest of the year. What is your advice for individuals wanting to find love in these crazy times?

PG: I might sound like a broken record, but just be patient. Don’t look for love—it will find you. Focus on yourself first, and don’t be afraid to be alone. My mindset ever since—even before my recent breakup—is to always prepare myself for the worst. I knew that someday I might be on my own again and it happened. Despite having this mentality, I still struggled to get my life back together. But I trusted the process, and it showed me another version of myself and gave me a deeper understanding of who I am.

Now, I am became more aware of my emotions and everything that comes with it. It’s not easy but staying strong is key–the universe will give you the person meant for you, at the right time. So don’t worry and enjoy the wait.

Finally, how will you celebrate Valentines this year?

A pandemic Valentine's indeed: steak and flowers via Facetime

PG: We already did. Geormaine sent me a Valentine’s day “set-up” and we had steak dinner through facetime. She planned everything in advance because she’ll be out of town this weekend due to work, but we’ll see if she has any remaining tricks up her sleeve!

Special thanks to Pau Guevarra and Geormaine Castro for sharing their love story.

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