Almost three weeks have passed since Jessie proposed on our second to the last day in New York, the day before we flew back to Manila after our month-long Canada-USA trip. I’ve been meaning to write about the proposal, but so many things happened—good things—since that fateful day, so a good 18 days have passed since.
One of the things I often got asked after the proposal was whether I expected it, if I had any idea he would propose that day. I don’t quite know how to answer without saying I somehow expected it, but I had no idea it would happen that day—but I surely hoped so. Did that make sense?
We’ve been talking about getting married since a few months into the relationship. When I met him at the resort in Cebu where he then worked—and which I was writing about for work—I was instantly attracted to him, and apparently the feeling was mutual. The rest of the events that led to us hitting it off on my second night at the resort and us becoming a couple exactly a month later we can chalk up to fate.
View of Empire State Building from 230 Fifth’s rooftop bar
Two years later, to celebrate our second anniversary, we decided to travel through Vancouver, Chicago, Maryland, DC, and New Jersey/New York. Months earlier, we were even talking about getting engaged during the trip. There was even one conversation where I said I wanted to get proposed to at my favorite bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, but he said, “But that’s too cheesy. Why do you want to get engaged on a bridge? Why not Empire State Building or Central Park?” And I told him that those two options were great, too.
The day before we left for Canada, we went engagement ring hunting in Ortigas. We found a nice ring, but Jessie wanted to first ask his other jeweler contacts about it before he bought it. We left Manila without a ring.
Friends, colleagues, and family who knew about this trip all suspected he might propose, but I told them I didn’t want to be expecting that at each beautiful spot we went to, he might suddenly pop the question. I didn’t want to reach the end of the trip and be consumed with disappointment because he still hasn’t proposed. I’ve been looking forward to this trip a long time, and I just wanted to enjoy it without such huge expectations.
After I told my best friend Tina that our trip to the US was confirmed, she messaged Jessie to ask about his plans to propose. Then, she offered to ask her husband, Jorge, to accompany Jessie to New York’s Diamond District to find the ring. She asked me if it’s okay for Jessie and Jorge to have a boys’ day out the Friday we were in New York, then we would all meet in the Lower East Side for dinner and drinks. I already suspected this was a ploy to get Jorge to take Jessie to the “diamond mafia,” as Tina likes to call where Jorge got her own engagement ring, but I pretended not to suspect a thing.
And so we get to October 17, 2016, a Monday, the day before we left New York to go back home to the Philippines. The only thing on our itinerary that day was a trip to Central Park, with stops for burgers at Shake Shack and a bagel wherever we could find one, then perhaps a quick visit to the Met, and finally a drink or even dinner at a bar with a view of the Empire State Building, 230 Fifth. (We already went to the top of Empire State Building a few days ago and left without a proposal, hehe.) Jessie requested that we walk down Fifth Avenue on the way to Central Park, since he wanted to know what made Fifth Ave. so special. I reminded him that we’ve walked Fifth Ave. on our first day in New York, but he said he wanted to see it again. I obliged.
No proposal happened on the Empire State Building, but we did have that view for our post-engagement drinks. (And yes, hindi man lang ako naka-manicure!)
And so as we walked down Fifth Avenue, I reminded him of the spots we’ve seen—St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, Radio City, etc. Just as we were about to cross 47th Street, he exclaimed, “Look, Babe! The street lanterns are in the shape of diamonds. This must be New York’s Diamond District!” I looked up and said, “Hey, you’re right! Galing mo naman, nakita mo ‘yun? I never noticed this before!” “You want to walk around?” he asked. “Sure,” I said.
And as we walked down both sides of the Diamond District on 47th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, I told him, “Hmm, but we don’t know what’s good here. You can’t just walk in and buy. You don’t know who really sells good diamonds. You should have asked Jorge first.” He responded, “But we’re just looking, not buying.” We never went inside any store, however, nor did we even look long enough at any of the display windows. By this time I was getting a bit impatient because I just wanted to get to Central Park and perhaps enjoy a bagel while we lounged around. It was such a hot day, and I was weighed down by my heavy scarf and leather jacket that I was just carrying in my arms and kept dropping.
He suggested I take a break in a cafe while he went around to inquire. I agreed—who am I to stop him from potentially buying me a ring, even if I worried that he didn’t know the best place to get it? HAHA. After over half an hour, he burst into the cafe, exclaiming, “Wow, information overload! I just learned a whole lot about diamonds there,” while making gestures that his head was exploding. I just nodded, then left the cafe with him silently.
We stopped for a photo at the LOVE sign along Sixth Avenue, on the way to Central Park. By this time he had the ring with him, and I had no idea.
As we neared Central Park, I became desperate to find a bagel place. I really wanted Jessie to try a New York style bagel, and I was pretty hungry myself (I gave him my burger because he didn’t like the burger I recommended for him to try at Shake Shack). We walked around before entering the park, and I noticed that Jessie kept looking at his watch. I asked him, “Do you have other plans? Are you in a hurry?” He said he wasn’t.
It was so hot that day, but Jessie said before we took this photo that he couldn’t take off his coat because its contents might fall; he unfortunately didn’t bring his murse that day. Little did I know he meant the ring and its accompanying documents.
Finally, I just gave up my bagel cravings, went for Nathan’s hotdogs instead at a cart outside the park, and off we went into Central Park. Jessie visibly cheered up and gamely posed for selfies around the park. He said he only wanted to see two things in Central Park: the Bethesda Fountain, which has been featured in so many movies, and the John Lennon memorial (Strawberry Fields). Both were somewhere in the middle of the park, close to each other.
We first walked down The Mall, that wide, tree-lined path that’s also always featured in movies (i.e. Enchanted!), where we took lots of selfies. Eventually we got to the Bethesda Terrace (which was also featured in Enchanted as well as Gossip Girl, among others) and the Bethesda Fountain. There were a lot of tourists, so we took a few photos, then walked on to the Pond beyond the fountain. I thought Jessie wanted to get on one of the boats, but then he suggested we walk on after taking a few photos.
Behind the Bethesda Fountain, with a view of the Bethesda Terrace in the background
I asked him why he was in such a hurry, and he admitted that he needed to go back to Diamond District at 430PM for something he inquired about. I didn’t ask any further questions, and then wondered if maybe he was going to get the ring so he can propose at the restaurant with a view of Empire State Building where we will have drinks later. As we made our way to Strawberry Fields, I found a spot off the Bethesda Terrace with a sweeping view of the Bethesda Fountain and the pond beyond. I took photos until my phone’s memory ran out, and Jessie told me to delete photos to free up some memory.
View from the spot where I stopped to take photos of the Bethesda Fountain
As I was doing this, he brought out a tiny white carton box and placed it in front of me. When I saw it, I immediately burst into tears, thinking fast to myself, This is it! He’s gonna propose! But wait, it’s a white carton box. I may be wrong. They may contain earrings. Or a necklace! I must not assume! So what I ended up saying out loud was, “What’s thaaaaaat?” in this really shrill, tearful, giddy voice. He laughed nervously and asked, “What do you think?” And I answered, “I don’t know!” So he removed the lid to expose a black jewelry box, which he also opened to reveal the sparkling diamond ring inside.
I immediately hugged him, as I started crying harder, and in the middle of our hugs and kisses (and a few tears from him), he said, “Wait, I have to propose first!”
And so he nervously got down on one knee, held up the ring to me, and said the words I’ve longed to hear since we got together: “Will you marry me?”
That was it. Nothing else needed to be said, because this man tells me everyday that he loves me, that I make him happy, and that he wants nothing more than to spend the rest of his life with me. And while I know all those words are true, his proposal confirmed everything he tells me everyday and he need not repeat them for me that day. (He also told me later on that he was so nervous, everything he planned to say vanished from his mind that very moment. I asked him to just tell me later anyway, and he promised to do so on our wedding day.)
I responded with “YES! A million times, yes! Ten million even!”
More hugs and kisses later, Jessie says, “Touch up your face a bit, let me take a photo of you with the ring.” And that’s when I realized my mascara and eyeliner got smudged, and there were tear stains all over my camel turtleneck shirt. I draped my thick scarf over my shoulders to cover the wet stains. After taking a few photos of me, we waited for someone to come by and take a photo of us two. It was such a private little spot, not a lot of people pass through there. Eventually an Indian couple walked by and we asked them to take our photo. “We just got engaged!” we announced. They both looked surprised and then greeted us, “Oh wow, congratulations!” They took our photo, said more congratulations, and went on their way—our first well-wishers.
Photo taken by our first well-wishers: a couple of strangers, haha
Every time I tell people our proposal story, it always elicits laughter, especially with all our little bloopers that stem from all the stealth—and my resulting impatience and his nervousness. I’ve never seen this super confident and self-assured guy nervous until that day, when he proposed. And I also later learned why he seemed in such a hurry: He wanted us to go back to the Diamond District at 430PM after he proposed so we can have the ring resized, as per the jeweler’s recommendation, because we leave New York the next day. HAHAHAHA. Oh, Jessie.
And so we went. We tried to take a cab, but we only got from 72nd Street to 60th Street; traffic along Fifth Avenue is always bad. So we got off and just brisk-walked back to 47th Street. The jewelers (two ladies) were so happy for us, and the owner kept making me show off my ring to all her customers, telling everybody that we just got engaged.
Post-engagement drinks at 230 Fifth
Less than an hour later, my ring was resized, and we decided to treat ourselves to celebratory drinks at the bar with a view of Empire State Building, 230 Fifth. We got there after a more leisurely walk, but while the place had a marvelous view of The Building, it was teeming with tourists. “Thank God I didn’t propose here,” Jessie muttered under his breath. We were supposed to use their WiFi to video call my parents, but at that time, it was just 6AM back in Manila and they were still asleep. So we decided to just go back home to Tina’s place in Jersey to celebrate with our friends and call my parents from there.
Tina told us she was preparing kare-kare for our going away dinner tomorrow, but I told her we’ll be leaving her house after lunch since my aunt will be taking us to JFK Airport. I told her we can just have kare-kare that night. And so our engagement dinner consisted of kare-kare paired with champagne—which I even tried to stop Jessie from buying, saying the bottle of Moet & Chandon was way too expensive, but he reasoned, “We only get engaged once, Babe.” He has a point. Tina was horrified that we were having kare-kare at her place for our engagement dinner, instead of some fancy meal in a New York restaurant, and I told her that it was fine, it lends a very personal, homey touch to our engagement.
That night, they told me the story of how this proposal was two months in the making, how they pulled out all the stops because I was such a difficult person to surprise and hide things from (I am). I had to give them credit for that, and I have to say I was a very good “surprisee,” too, not letting on the little things I noticed, the little talks, the little clues that slip.
I have to say the surprise did work. This proposal was nothing like I ever imagined, but it was everything I didn’t know I wanted. There were no friends lurking in the bushes, filming everything and ready to jump out and be the first well-wishers—and hence no video to share on social media; no flowers and grand production that would make strangers stop and look; no long speech. Just a simple question, a simple answer, in one of my favorite places in the world (ever since I watched Enchanted, I secretly wanted to get engaged at Central Park, haha), and with the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen and owned. Just the two of us.
That, and I finally got to post the photo and the caption I’ve always planned, with the hashtag I’ve been reserving for our engagement and wedding: YES. #jessietrixieforever
And no matter how much you expect the proposal to happen, you would still be surprised, you would still be moved to tears, and you would still be swept off your feet. I always thought I might not cry, but who am I kidding? I’m the biggest basket case in the world.
I’m grateful to Tina and Jorge for all the effort to help Jessie. But most of all I’m thankful to Jessie—this wonderful, wonderful man who always tries his best to surprise me, no matter how difficult that is to do; who always goes out of his way to make me smile, laugh, and be giddy with happiness; who tells me and shows me everyday how much he loves me.
Writing this story still brings tears to my eyes, even after all this time, so let me end here. Thank you to all the well-wishers, especially those rooting for me with their common “Finally!” greeting. You can all stop worrying I’ll end up an old maid now, haha! Let’s get the planning started for this big
drinking wedding party, shall we?