This Valentines Day, WhatALife! features an inspiring couple whose love is not only tested by time and circumstance but even by a life-threatening disease—cancer. Amidst the challenges, the love that they have been cultivating for fourteen years remains strong.
Roel and Ellen Mae Sinadjan, both Kagay-anons, first met in high school. The two were classmates, though they didn’t interact much since they had different circles. Ellen was more of the kind of girl who sat at the front, while Roel preferred to be at the back.
Their love story then began when they became working professionals.
“Ato na time, naa mi common friend. Officemate nako siya sa accounting firm then ni transfer siya sa government—sa ilahang (Ellen’s) agency. Barkada man to namo, so sige mi ug laag sa ilang (Ellen’s) office,” Roel narrated, recalling the first time he met Ellen.
(At that time, we had a common friend. My officemate at the accounting firm, transferred at the government agency where she was working. He was one of my barkada, so together with my other friends, we frequently visit him at their (Ellen’s) office.)
Roel and his friends were then waiting one day for their former officemate by the gutter. Ellen then happened to pass by “Paglabay nila, murag naka ingon ko ato nga ‘kung mu lingi ka, ikaw na,” he gushed, “so nilingi man, hala.”
(As they passed by, I told myself ‘if she turns and looks at me, she’s the one’—and she did.)
“Strict. Kung mutanaw man gud ka sa iyaha, di siya smiling,” Ellen said, describing her first impression of him. “Pero kung maila na gyud nimo siya more, lahi ra siya.”
(At first glance, you’ll think of him as strict because he seldom smiles, but once you know him more, he is different.)
The former officemate of Roel is also Ellen’s friend and through that common friend, the two got to know each other. They eventually became textmates, and Ellen soon became the reason for his frequent visits to the agency.
With Ellen’s history of ovarian cyst, she stepped away from the limelight of dating. “Before mi nag officially mag uyab, nag lie low sa siya kadali,” Roel recalled. At that time, he had no idea yet. Nevertheless, he continued pursuing her until he discovered the reason, “Ang reason ato kay naa siya’y ovarian cyst.”
“So kato nga time ana siya murag dile niya makita among future ba, basin ang iya ato kay basin dile mi maka anak or muabot ang time nga magka ovarian cancer, which is niabot gyud,” he added.
(Before we became official, she laid low for awhile and the reason was that she had an ovarian cyst. During that time, she said she can’t see a future ahead of us. I think, probably because of her condition that she thought we might not have a child or that a time will come she’ll develop Ovarian cancer, which it did.)
But he was more than willing to take that risk, “[pero] wala rato nako gi matter kay—sa akong mind ato, siya na gyud.”
(It didn’t really matter to me because—for me, she is the one.)
Despite the heads up she gave him, Roel continued to pursue her. He decided to take whatever the future held if it meant for him to be with her. Ellen also appreciated and saw his efforts — and for the next four years, they became a couple.
Marriage came as a mutual decision for them—there were no fancy proposals nor engagements. They were both sure about each other that when Roel casually popped the question, Ellen immediately agreed.
They both agreed on a civil wedding—even considered eloping. But since Ellen’s mother worked at the City Hall, their plan of a secret wedding was unsuccessful. On their way to the mayor’s office, Ellen’s mother had seen them and questioned why they were there, to which they honestly responded to. But after seeing her mother’s upset reaction, Ellen asked to postpone the wedding and they decided to have a church wedding instead.
The couple then had a simple, steady marriage life for quite some time. But then came the day they found out about Ellen’s condition.
Eight years into their marriage, Ellen got hit by a motorcycle and was rushed to the hospital to check for injuries. When they received the result from her CT scan, it was then that a lump was detected in her ovary. Knowing this, they immediately had it removed. Unfortunately, her case had already worsened by that time, and later that day she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer stage 4.
“At first sa pagkahibalo namo ato, hilom ra kaayo mi duha. Gahelak lang mi permi, like sa sakyanan—labina kung ako ra isa,” Roel said. But when asked if her condition ever affected their relationship, he says it never did. “Kay sugod pa lang, iya na kong gi ingnan daan na basin muabot ang panahon nga magka cancer siya—wala lang gyud ko nag expect nga muabot gyud siya,” he continued.
(When we first received the news, we both fell silent. We cried a lot too, like inside the car—especially if I’m all by myself. She told me right at the start of the possibility of her developing cancer in the future—I just didn’t expect it to come true.)
Today, Roel and Ellen have been together for 14 years, 3 years as boyfriend and girlfriend and 11 years as husband and wife. They are blessed with three beautiful daughters they consider as their princesses, with eight as the eldest and three as the youngest. Moreover, with Roel, Ellen continues her fight against ovarian cancer.
Thoughts on Forever
As we close their story, we then asked the couple their thoughts about “forever“— what it means for them and what advice can they give out to those who are still looking for theirs.
Do you believe in forever?
Roel: “Naa siya’y forever if inyong center sa inyong love or relationship kay naa si God.”
(There is a forever if you have God at the center of your love.)
Ellen: “Sa amoa naa siya’y forever. Kung muingon man gud ka’g forever, dile lang man gud na instant. Kailangan gihapon nimo siya i-work.
(For us, there is forever. If you say forever, it is not instant. You have to work for it.)
Sa kadugayon, murag mu fade ang love. Pero maskin mu fade ang love, dapat committed ka. Since committed ka, ma learn na gihapon nimo nga maski naa siya’y sayop—ma love na gihapon nimo siya. And if ever na mag away mo, insakto gyud nga dile gyud maugmaan or ma pila ka days ayha mo mag uli. Dapat gyud, kung mag away mo—di man ninyo ma control pero dapat naa gyud isa mag pa ubos.
(As time passes by, love seems like it will eventually fade. However, even if it does, you must stay committed. When you are committed , you learn to accept each other’s flaws. And if ever you end up arguing, make sure not to let a day pass before you settle things. Don’t let pride overrule you.)
Ang forever dili gyud siya instant, kailangan gyud siya i-work out.”
(Forever is not instant, you need to work for it.)
Advice to those who are still searching for their forever
Roel: “Sa mga nangita ug forever, hulat lang mo sa gutter.
(For those who are looking for forever, just wait by the gutter.)
Di bitaw. Ayaw lang mo’g dali-dali, since si God naa gyud plano sa atoa. Gi tagaan gyud ta niyag partner. [But] ikaw pod, dapat sensitive pod ka sa imong palibot basin naara—imong rang officemate or something, ma labyan ra nimo sa dalan. Basin mao na na imong forever, i-grab gyud nimo ang oppurtunity.”
(Kidding aside, don’t rush it since God has plans for us. He already set each of us our partners. But on your part, you should also be sensitive—who knows, your forever might be your officemate or something, you might pass by them on the street. Make sure to grab the opportunity.)
Ellen: “Just pray. E pray nga ang guy na imong ma meet kay imo gyung forever kay responsible siya, nga dile ka biyaan—then faithful siya ug loyal siya sa imoha.
(Just pray. Pray that the guy you’ll meet is your forever, that they are responsible and will never leave you—that they are faithful and loyal.)
Kung mag sige pod kag pamili, then di nimo makita sa iyaha, wala gyud forever. So siguro acceptance lang, kung unsa ang naa sa iyaha. Learn to accept nga mao na gyud na siya.”
(If you always search for something that you know you won’t find in him, then you’ll never find your ‘forever‘. Accept him as ‘him’, as well as his flaws.)
Indeed, Roel and Ellen’s story is one we can call “forever” —for not even the fear of cancer stops them and their “forever” is continuously celebrated through the life of their children and in the many years to come, with God at the center of their lives.
Watch out for the full video interview here: