Dubai: A Filipino couple renewed their vows at a mass wedding in Dubai after eight years of separation.
A love child had snuffed out whatever affection was left between Leonardo Blancio and Maria Dolores Leabres who were still minors when they had a son in 1996.
Technically, their marriage was invalid but they tried to make it work. But the pressure of raising a young family with little resources took its toll and the couple drifted away. During their lowest moments, they even contemplated committing suicide.
“I was a teenage dad. Our love was overtaken by an utter lack of preparation,” said Blancio.
To escape her misery, Leabres worked as a housemaid in Riyadh. Communication was minimal, and continued only because Blancio took care of their son Lenard. At work, she learnt to prepare Arabic food and became a head chef in a girls’ school.
However, when Leabres saw her husband with another woman she severed all ties with him. But Blancio had a change of heart and also went to Riyadh to work as an aluminium fabricator hoping to meet Leabres there — but in vain.
By then, Leabres had already moved to Dubai to work as a head chef without telling Blancio. They remained incommunicado for eight years. In Dubai, another man tried to woo Leabres and she thought she found the man of her dreams.
When Blancio found this out he pursued Leabres relentlessly and begged for forgiveness. On his way back to Riyadh in June, Blancio made a Dubai stopover and begged Leabres to take him back. She was unsure. “I didn’t want to make another life-changing mistake all over again,” she recalls.
It was a long process of rekindling. Eventually Blancio popped the question with a ring and she agreed. “The long separation made us realise each other’s shortcomings. If I had accepted another man, our son would have suffered. And I saw how serious he was in winning me back, without making any promises this time. I think that love and forgiveness won the day,” said Leabres, now 33.
On Sunday, Blancio and Leabres joined 64 other couples at St Mary’s Dubai to exchange their marriage vows in a mass wedding.
Among them were Eugenio “Jun” Leonardo Jr, 63, and Purificacion “Puring” Lam, 60, from Taytay in the Philippine province of Rizal. The couple met 38 years ago while selling textiles in Manila’s wholesale market.
The couple had earlier visited Dubai three times as their three grown-up children work here.
“We just coasted along during our 38 years together, no major problems,” said Leonardo. “A church wedding was farthest from my mind. It was our children’s idea. But we’re glad we did it.”
“I had also wished of walking down the aisle, but gave it up as I grew older. Today, this dream was realised.”
Ryan Dela Cruz, who helped organise the event, said the two are the oldest couple in the 18 years of the annual event held in the parish.
The two spent their “honeymoon” night at their children’s villa in Shorooq, in Mirdif. Their wedding wish: to have their own grandchildren.