As the saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun.” In that case, Rey and Nora Diego’s marriage of 51 years flew by like a blur. They both still yearn for each other’s company, treat each other as best friends, and both are grateful that they’ve spent almost every day of these 51 years together.
Yet, they are also realistic in the knowledge that although their marriage appears smooth to outsiders, they know that it was the daily compromises and ups and downs that led them to where they are today.
I had the pleasure of bonding with the couple and their daughter, Dr. Loraine Diego, while on a Mediterranean cruise last summer. I learned Rey served 22 years in the U.S. Navy, then later worked at the V.A. Hospital in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Nora was a midwife in the Philippines, then became an LVN in the U.S. After I learned of their “colorful” love story, I came up with the following three tips to a successful marriage.
Tip #1: “Don’t just fall for ‘love at first sight.’ Love beyond what the eyes can see.
On initial appearance, they are the typical “opposites attract.” She is talkative, loud, fun-loving, spontaneous; whereas he rarely smiles, rarely talks, rarely mingles, and rarely leaves the house. When Rey first met Nora that fateful day over 51 years ago, Rey was immediately smitten. But there was a small hitch: she was dating his younger brother, Roger, with whom she was “barkada” with for over 10 years. Rey had already been in the U.S. Navy for a few years, and was in Manila on vacation, looking for a possible wife.
Of course, Roger was in total objection to this, but as time went on, the attraction between Rey and Nora could not be denied. One trait that both Rey and Nora shared was they both wanted to live “abroad”, even though that was not a popular notion at that time. But if you were to ask Nora nowadays about choosing between the two brothers, she will tell you, without a doubt, that she knows that she married the right brother. She says that their love is way “beyond looks.” Nora continues, “Rey may not be as fair-skinned like me or tall and mestizo like his brother, but it was beyond his physical features that made me attracted to him. It was the way he treated me and everyone I love. He is very thoughtful, loving, and down-to-earth.”
Tip #2: Are you in a long-distance relationship? Don’t just survive it, savor it!
Soon after their wedding in November 1965, Nora joined Rey in the U.S. During Rey’s Navy career, they moved every three years to diverse locations like Nantucket Island, Massachusetts; South Carolina; Florida, Guam, Seattle, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and eventually moved back to the Philippines for a few years as well. Wherever Rey was stationed, Nora was able to find employment as a nurse or as a medical secretary. They forged a simple yet comfortable life, just the two of them, without the help of relatives, and there were hardly any kabayans around. And they witnessed world history firsthand — they met the Kennedy family while in Nantucket, lived in the deep South during Civil Rights Movement, and were in the Philippines during the turbulent last years of the Marcos era, including EDSA I.
Nora relays a story that while she was a newlywed in Nantucket, Rey insisted that she had to learn how to drive. She argued back “Why don’t you want to drive me? Don’t you love me?” Rey answered, “You need to learn how to drive, dear, because there are times when I will be away on the ship. Then you will be left behind alone with the children.” Now, she is so glad she listened to her husband because you can hardly keep her home now!
Tip #3: Learn to count the “blessings in disguise” and cherish them
As mentioned before, Nora was dating Rey’s brother, Roger. Rey asked Roger’s permission to court Nora, to which Roger sternly declined. As Rey and Nora’s friendship grew, the distance and “sama ng loob” between the brothers likewise grew. Rey and Nora soon realized that they were becoming serious with each other and started planning for marriage. Roger was totally against this, but fate would soon sadly intervene. Roger was a pilot in the Philippine Air Force. While on duty doing pilot exercises in Batangas, his plane tragically crashed. He’s currently buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
While his passing was a sad time for the family, it did finally open the way for the wedding to take place. Rey asked for Nora’s hand in marriage from her parents before he flew back to the U.S. A few months later, he returned to Manila for their wedding, and a few months after that, she joined him in the U.S. Fast forward to their 50th wedding anniversary, they had a humble celebration at Max’s Restaurant in Glendale, California. This was because they had their wedding reception at Max’s Restaurant in Quezon City 50 years prior. They then had two cruises gifted to them by their two children — their son and daughter-in-law brought them on a Mexican Riviera Cruise and their daughter brought them on a Mediterranean cruise.
I asked Tita Nora what’s their secret, she replied: “Whenever there is any disagreement, kailangan talaga isa sa inyo ang magbibigay. You take turns willing to make amends, to keep the peace. Huwag magsabay ng init ng ulo. Rey and I are very careful with our words when we are mad because we don’t want to regret that we did not mean, while we were angry. And the couple that laughs together, stays together.”
Monet Lu is a Marikina-born, award-winning celebrity beauty stylist with his own chain of Monet Salon salons across Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada. Ultimately, Monet is known as an all-around artiste who produces sold-out fashion and awards shows as well as unforgettable marketing campaigns. Monet is also the founder of the revolutionary all-natural beauty products such as Enlighten, your solution to discoloration . To contact Monet, please visit www.monetsalon.com or email him at email@example.com