February 16, 2014

Love, Filipino style



“What happened, it didn’t heal well,” Art said. “I extended for three months. It was during those three months I was asked to go back to Iloilo to speak to the new recruits at the training site. Norma just happened to be one of the instructors.”

It was wow at first sight.


From Dueñas, Iloilo, Norma was the fourth of five children of Domenise and Loretta Vallejo. She was a recent graduate of Central Philippine University, where she majored in social work. Her next step was to take the board exams for social workers but she could not afford to go to Manila. So, she looked for a job in Iloilo City.

As a senior, she interned at a community center and met a Peace Corps volunteer that told her about the training program for language instructors. Norma’s languages were Ilongo and Kinaray-a.

“People talk about love at first sight, maybe for Art,” Norma said. “For me, I’m practical. I enjoyed the friendship very much.”

“I was there only for four days,” Art said. “I guess I got enough interest. She mentioned she was going to Manila to visit a friend.”

Art stopped at the Peace Corps office in Manila to locate the friend’s address and made a surprise visit on Tuesday. Norma and her friend, Tessie, another language instructor, were gone hours while Tessie’s mother fed and entertained the lanky American through several brown-outs.

“When Norma came back, it was too late to have any kind of discussion,” Art said. “I had to get back for my class.”

He made plans to return Thursday. Through a Dane, a United Nations worker at the college, Art arranged for Norma and Tessie’s two sisters to tour Baguio City, the summer capital of the Philippines in northern Luzon.

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