I have always been a romantic guy. I used to fantasize a lot about the woman I was going to meet and eventually get married with. I used to conceive all kinds of imaginary plans: where I would bring her, how I would surprise her… that sort of thing.
Of course, I would also daydream about how I would propose to her. My main problem — so I thought — was choosing. There were so many good places to propose, but I would do it only once. I needed to choose.
There is a cliff in Gaia, near where I live. I used to go there a lot when studying. It has more than 180º view of the ocean. The smell of salt, the peace and tranquility (though it has become more crowded recently), everything seemed perfect. I call it “my special place”. I would like to propose here.
But then again, there is another interesting spot in Porto. The Crystal Palace Gardens. These gardens in the middle of Porto were created for the 1865 International Expo that took place in Porto, and harbored a building designed to imitate the crystal palace of London (you can see some pictures of it here). Now, that building does not exist anymore, and was replaced by a dome-shaped pavilion. The gardens remain, though.
However, as beautiful as these gardens were, I had something more specific in mind. In the 1990s, the municipality opened a new section of the Crystal Palace Gardens — the Garden of Feelings. This garden has a striking view towards the Douro River, but what makes it more striking is how it made “feelings” its main theme. The paths across these gardens are labyrinthine, as the human mind. Along the way, one finds several plants and trees, each representing one kind of feeling. I always dreamed of bringing my future wife there and proposing next to “Love”.
Unfortunately, as much as I thought my main problem would be to choose the best spot, God had another “problem” for me to solve. One I was not expecting. You see, all of these perfect places to propose were in Portugal. And I would find myself dating a woman from the other side of the world.
Visiting Portugal was cumbersome for her. The bureaucracies for a Filipina to enter the Schengen Area are quite tedious and burdensome. It was much easier for me to travel to the Philippines than for her to come to Portugal, just so I could propose. But I did not have “special places” in the Philippines, especially since my time spent together with her there was not in her home city in Metro Manila, but in other places, in Palawan and Bohol. Also, how could I surprise her, if flying from Portugal to the Philippines takes about 19 hours, and we communicated everyday?
Also, when Claire visited Portugal, I did not have the opportunity to bring her to those places or make them memorable. She did not set foot on the Garden of Feelings before we got married. And we only stayed in my special place for about 10 minutes, since her flight got delayed and the schedule of our travel did not allow for more time.
The only time Claire visited Portugal, our special places became the Fatima Sanctuary, the Imperfect Chapels at the Monastery of Batalha, and the Bridge of Lovers in Aveiro (where people in love tie a ribbon with their names to the bridge rails).
I was mulling over this dilemma, when I found what I thought would be the solution for all of the problems I mentioned — even the problem of “choosing”. I would propose not once, but seven times.
I bought the engagement ring. Then, I drove to “my special place” in Gaia. And to the Garden of Feelings in Porto. And to Fatima. And to the Imperfect Chapels. And to the Bridge of Lovers in Aveiro. In every single one of those places, I asked some helpful stranger to film me kneeling and asking towards the camera: “will you marry me?”
I compiled all of these different proposals in one single video. I also made a different videoclip of a romantic video game scene that I had shared online with her in the beginning of our relationship. In this last videoclip, I subtitled my own words over the dialogue of the main hero. But I cut the videoclip short just before the actual proposal.
One final problem remained though. How would I deliver these videos to Claire? I researched online and found a movie theater in Makati that allowed for renting. There were still lots of problems with this. The Philippine banks do not have IBANs (international bank account numbers), so any money transfer to the Philippines is cumbersome and takes a few days. Also, I had to be very insistent with the staff, who were often non-responsive — in fact, right at the last minute, I thought there would be no employees there to help with the projection.
But in the end, it all turned out okay.
So here is how it went. I did not tell anything to Claire about this until I was about to board the plane to the Philippines. Then, as we were chatting online, as we usually did, I sent her the videoclip of the romantic video game scene, implying that I was proposing to her, but cutting short just at the instant of the proposal.
Then, as she was puzzled by this, I said that I was about to fly to the Philippines to meet her — something she was not expecting.
When I arrived, I spent a day or two together with her. You know, to build anticipation. Then, the day came. We went into the movie theater — and she did not suspect why, since I told her we were just going to watch a movie. There, I met the projectionist and gave him the CD and the laptop with my video edited with all the different proposals.
Finally Claire saw me propose to her. She saw me asking her to marry me in five different places in the video. And then she turned to the seat to her side and saw me asking her to marry her once more.
Of course, I also asked for permission from her parents that very same day.
So here are the seven places where I proposed to her:
1 – Internet (where most of our relationship took place until then)
2 – “My special place” in Gaia
3 – Garden of Feelings in Porto
4 – Bridge of Lovers in Aveiro
5 – Fatima Sanctuary in Fatima
6 – Imperfect Chapels in Batalha
7 – Movie theater in Makati
And the best part of it all: She said yes!