Love blooms in the unlikeliest of places. For Corporal Denemar Albani, 27, and Private Christine Porcadilla, 26, it was the battlefield in Mindanao.
The two met when Christine was still a student in 2014. She had joined the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) at her hometown in Sultan Kudarat to support her studies and as well as her mother, since her father had died in 2011.
Denemar was already a soldier by then, and was assigned in Tacurong City.
He was caring and kind, and would often wait for her by the gate of her school, then they would go out and eat together.
But, by 2015, with a faraway assignment looming for Denemar and his lack of faith that she would remain steadfast in her affections, Christine decided to cut off communication between them.
She entered the army in 2016, and, though afraid of the sight of blood, overcame her aversion when she became a combat medic and tended to wounded soldiers and enemies alike.
In February last year, she was assigned to the 33rd Infantry (Makabayan) Battalion, to which Denemar, a radioman, belonged, as well. Neither of them expected that they would cross paths again.
“Inis na inis ako nung time kasi mula nang magkalabuan kami, hindi na kami nagkita ulit (I was really annoyed at the time because since things got weird between us, we never got to see each other again),” Christine recalled in a phone interview with InterAksyon. She was conscious that she had gotten darker and her hair had been cut shorter.
Because it had become a tradition for soldiers to hold a reception for newcomers to the unit, Denemar presented her with a Snickers chocolate bar and told her to eat it.
“Tapos, parang may something na ano (And then it was like there was something there),” Christine said, the glee audible in her voice.
But she refused to believe … until they saw each other again and started talking and texting regularly again. They sorted out the confusion of parting ways the first time, until… “Nagtanungan kami ulit kung may feelings pa ba daw siya (We asked each other if the old feelings were still there),” she said.
Christine didn’t expect that the romance would be rekindled because she believed that exes should remain just that.
“Hindi na nga nag-work eh, ganun ang sabi ko (It didn’t work the first time is what I would tell myself),” she said.
But Denemar would send her chocolates and other gifts, something only he had ever done for her.
“Sa kanya ko lang talaga na-experience ‘yung ganun kasi nga boyish po ako sa tingin ng iba, tapos makulit lang (I had experienced that only with him because other people saw me as boyish and playful),” Christine admitted. “Hindi ko inaasahan na ganun ‘yung pagsusuyong gagawin niya (I didn’t expect him to woo me like that).”
In August, after four days of non-stop walking in pursuit of the New People’s Army in Sultan Kudarat, which ended in a firefight between the two sides, the soldiers paused to rest in the mountains of Bagumbayan Municipality.
“Pagod, puyat, walang tulog. ‘Yun ‘yung mga na-experience namin doon (We were tired, had been up for hours, and lacked sleep. That’s what we experienced there),” Christine shared.
She was having breakfast with her peers when Denemar called out to her in the middle of the vegetation.
“Bigla siyang lumuhod sa harapan ko, sabay kinuha niya ‘yung singsing dun sa M203 na rifle, tapos nagulat ako, sabay tanong na, binanggit nga niya ‘yung pangalan ko, tapos sinabi niya na, ‘Will you marry me’ daw (He suddenly knelt in front of me, plucked the ring from the M203 rifle, which surprised me, then he asked, after saying my name, ‘Will you marry me?’)”
She said yes, of course, and the troop whooped and cheered, their exhaustion forgotten momentarily.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the 33rd, gladly gave his blessings and signed off on the permit to marry after ascertaining that they have met all requirements.
“Dun ko nakita na ganun pala kiligin ang sundalong lalaki (That’s when I saw how giddy male soldiers can get),” Christine recalled. “Tapos sumigaw pa sila na, ‘O, dapat umiyak ka!’ (Then they even shouted, ‘You’re supposed to cry now!’).”
Christine and Denemar’s wedding is set for April this year, and the bride-to-be hasn’t even chosen her gown yet.
“Duty first before everything else,” she explained.
Instead, Christine regularly calls her mother, who is in charge of arrangements for the church ceremony and the reception.
Through all this, Christine has come to believe in destiny.
“Dati hindi, bitter na bitter ako sa buhay eh… ‘Maghihiwalay din kayo!’, ganun din ako mag-isip. Kasi para sa akin, kailangan kong maging matatag kasi self-supporting ako, breadwinner, mga ganun. Parang ‘di ako naniniwala sa love. Pero nung dumating siya sa buhay ko, parang, wow… Totoo nga rin pala (I didn’t believe in it before, because I was terribly bitter about life… ‘You’ll break up eventually!’, that was how I used to think. Because for me, I needed to be strong because I was self-supporting, the breadwinner, things like that. I didn’t really believe in love. But when he came to my life, it was like, wow… It’s real after all),” she said.