Adding Dimensions: How The Crisologos ‘Fit, Then Intertwined’

It was pretty clear on his part how he first met her, although she claims she doesn’t remember a thing.

It was 1996 and they were third-year high school students at the Philippine Science High School — Main Campus. He recognized her as a batchmate along the pedicab lane at Quezon Avenue.

He doesn’t tell much about how it went. All he said was that he paid for her fare.

“Pero wala naman ‘yun,” Sir Leo claimed.

They weren’t even close yet, he added. They didn’t even know each other’s names.

Sir Leo was just Leo. Ma’am Dawn was just Dawn.

Who knew that, a year later, they’ll be classmates? A year after that, they’ll be hanging around the same group of friends in university. Another year later, they’ll start going out. Still many years later, there’s an ambiguous break-up, a knot tied, a mother crying as the pregnancy stick tested positive, a series of surgeries, and a happy family.

The Crisologos spent their Christmas 2016 in Japan. (Photo from Ma’am Dawn Crisologo)

How the wait is: ‘May magsasaing na!’

Sir Leo Crisologo, now 37 years old and a Mathematics teacher in his old school, confessed living without Ma’am Dawn is hard.

A few months ago, she left for a scholarship in Japan. She’s in a research program for Environmental Education. Thus, she had to take a leave from her teaching position in the same school’s Biology Unit.

But Ma’am Dawn’s here now — only for a while though.

“It’s just a one-month break. [Japan’s] spring break,” Ma’am Dawn said.

A few days before she came back to the Philippines, Sir Leo said he really looked forward to one thing: someone else is finally cooking the rice.

“When he told that to some of his colleagues in the Math Unit, they didn’t really seem to understand. ‘Di nila gets na partnership [kami] eh,” Ma’am Dawn smiled. “[It was just the] old partnership na ‘pag hindi ako gagawa, ikaw gagawa.

This partnership goes beyond the domestic. Students notice that Ma’am Dawn and Sir Leo have similar teaching styles.

On this, Sir Leo said, “Of course!”

Apparently, husband and wife often talk about what to do for their classes. If they find a particular activity interesting, they’d both try it out in their respective classes.

Sir Leo grinningly admits though, “Mas magaling siya sa’kin, sadly.”

However, Sir Leo finds it hard to be motivated teaching now that Ma’am Dawn’s away. She’s here now, but, after a month, she’ll go back to continue her studies until March next year.

He doesn’t know if his students notice it but he feels out of sorts without her.

Sir Leo said, “Partly naka-improve sa’kin ‘yung presence niyaAko napapansin ko kasi I’m not as motivated [without her]. “

How it started: Keeping Bottles as Souvenirs

More than twenty years earlier, they were in high school. He was Leo and she was Dawn.

Initially, when they first became classmates in IV-Graviton, they barely knew each other. Both recognized the other only as his friend’s girlfriend or her boyfriend’s friend.

In college, they saw each frequently. They were hanging around the “Pisay group,” they’d call it. Leo would go to the Graviton people who took up BS Biology like Dawn.

Sir Leo noted, however, that “there was nothing romantic then,” although he did add that they got closer.

“We both had our own romantic interests kasi then,” Sir Leo said.

Even when their own romances had ended, nothing happened for a while. Feelings only developed in their second year of college.

“For me very clear ‘yung moment na na-realize ko na gusto ko siya. And I guess I knew at that moment na hindi na siya friend lang for me,” Ma’am Dawn said.

As Leo and Dawn got closer, it only seemed natural that he would go fetch her from her Physical Education class. She took Basketball and, everyday, he’d bring her mineral water.

“Si Leo ‘di siya sweet na tao. ‘Di siya traditionally sweet na person. Like if you were looking for gentlemanly, flowery words or gestures, ‘di siya ganun,” Dawn said.

So when Leo brought Dawn mineral water everyday, she thought it was nice. He’d never shown that side to her before. No, she found it sweet. Yes, she wanted to keep the bottles as a souvenir.

“Hala! Oh, no!” Dawn would say to herself. “Parang may nangyayari.

How it Went: Trying Things Out

Flash forward to some years later. Dawn and Leo were not yet teachers. Leo was finishing college and Dawn took a Master’s degree in Conservation Science at Columbia University.

The school was in New York.

Both Dawn and Leo recalled this phase in their relationship as a cloudy one.

The Internet was only at its inception. Dawn and Leo only had telephones to communicate.

Dawn would save some money from her job in the library and call Leo at least once a week. But Dawn seemed like she didn’t want to maintain the relationship.

“Feeling ko ang stupid ko nung kid ako eh. I had this stupid idea na I didn’t want to do long distance relationships. I didn’t want to have that pressure on him to stay faithful. Because he was graduating from college, he was getting a new job. He might feel pressured to stay in a relationship when a lot of exciting things were happening to him,” Dawn said.

She didn’t want to burden him. She wanted him to keep his options open. Sir Leo said, however, “Why don’t we just try it?”

She didn’t finish her degree. She didn’t finish her dissertation. Ma’am Dawn said Dawn was young and had unrealistic expectations about what she wanted to do.

It was 2001 and funding for research destabilized anyway due to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. She decided to just go back home and pursue her master’s degree in the Philippines.

When she came back, only Leo greeted and fetched her from the airport. Ma’am Dawn described the initial meeting as “awkward.”

“I thought we [broke up]. But maybe it was not a “break-up break-up”. Oh my god, this is, like, 15-plus-year-old memories. Siguro, baka for him, it was not a break-up. Yeah, it was natural naman na siya magfe-fetch sa’kin kasi we were friends,” Ma’am Dawn laughed.

Ma’am Dawn added, “It was a very complicated time. Noong bumalik na ako for good. I guess there were a lot of conversations about what had happened…We didn’t talk about it at first. It was very awkward. Eventually, it would just come into — we would work our way to talk about it.”

They tried again.

Years earlier, when Dawn started wanting to keep the mineral bottles Leo brought as a souvenir and exclaimed “Hala!” at her own feelings, they only tried it, too.

Dawn had just come from a horrible relationship and her father just died from lung cancer. She described herself as “a mess.” But that didn’t stop her from falling in love.

Ma’am Dawn narrated, “Uso dati ‘yung telebabad we used to call it. He’d call. It was a thing you’d do with your friends. You’d call them and you’d talk to them. During one conversation, we watched a movie and then our friends stood us up. So kami lang natuloy doon sa movie. After that, he was calling me. Doon ko na-realize nga na gusto ko siya.

They talked about crushes and played 20 Questions. Leo suddenly asked, “Sino crush mo?”

“It was awful!” Ma’am Dawn recalled.

Leo eventually narrowed it down. “Oh my God, ako ba ‘to?”

In her head, Dawn was saying, “Ang kapal ng mukha mo!” Instead, she confirmed it.

Then, Leo replied, “Actually, ako rin.”

“Ako naman noon, I was, like, ‘No! No! No! Reciprocating! Go away!” Dawn admitted.

She was initially very hesitant because she felt like it was a bad time in her life.

But, Ma’am Dawn said, “He was very accommodating. Mabait naman siya kaya okay lang naman sa kanya. Kasi you’re used to being a certain way. Kasi nga you’re friends so you’re used to having that certain dynamic. So you just added a new dimension to it.”

How they moved forward: Growing into adults

After she returned, Dawn and Leo turned to teaching.

Sir Leo only started teaching two years after Ma’am Dawn. He got tired of the corporate lifestyle, he said.

Soon enough, Ma’am Dawn moved to Pisay. They got married and Sir Leo followed not long after.

Their daughter, Tala, came into the scene two years later.

When Ma’am Dawn left for Japan, Tala was quite emotional, both parents claimed.

“May experience na kami kay Tala na kapag si Dawn umaalis nang matagal, talagang dinidibdib niya,” Sir Leo shared. “One time, Dawn applied for a scholarship in Australia. Akala namin kapag maaga namin napag-usapan, mas magiging madali for Tala. Pero hindi ganoon ang nangyari. Antagal-tagal niyang worried, kinakabahan, naapektuhan school niya. Hindi naman natuloy scholarship ni Dawn.”

Thus, when Ma’am Dawn’s application for a scholarship in Japan was approved, no one told Tala anything until her flight was near. It didn’t make things easier for Tala though.

Ma’am Dawn said they all cried when Tala cried. But Ma’am Dawn said she thinks it is good that Tala expresses all her emotions. As a matter of fact, Ma’am Dawn finds her wonderful.

“I can’t imagine at this point not knowing Tala. I guess some people would say that if you’re a parent, you have to mold a child. For me, it was more of discovering her. She is her own person. She is a very interesting kid. She is wonderful,” Ma’am Dawn said.

Still, Ma’am Dawn had her moments of worry when she was just pregnant with Tala. Although Tala was planned, Ma’am Dawn wasn’t excused from the prenatal jitters.

“Siguro of the two of us, ako ‘yung may mas maraming apprehensions. When I found out I was pregnant, I cried. ‘Tas parang nagkaroon kami ng sobrang massive na ‘Oh no, anong gagawin ko dito!’ There is no coming back from this. I was in charge of a little life. It was [planned] but there was a reality. There was [pregnancy] in theory and actuality,” Ma’am Dawn said.

Indeed, Ma’am Dawn and Sir Leo felt that Tala was a game-changer. They used to be awake on weekends all night playing video games and spend the rest of their day eating, travelling, or going to the movies.

They couldn’t do this anymore. Tala would wake them up at four or five. Still, they never really felt like they had to adjust to something big.

“I fell in love with her naman agad-agad. I always tell her nga, ‘You make this family what it is. This family was something else before you came,” Ma’am Dawn said.

After their marriage and the birth of Tala, Sir Leo said there were many things that surprised him.

“When you buy kitchen stuff you wouldn’t think it would be fun when you were a teenager pero fun pala siya,” Sir Leo said. He added, “Parang ang boring nung nakikita ko yung mga magulang ko pero fun pala magluto. ‘Yung mga budgeting fun pala ‘yun. The experience of planning budget with Dawn, it was fun. I mean the planning isn’t fun. Mauubos pera ko, pero the looking back na ‘Uy, ginawa natin ‘to’ [was fun]. Ngayon, we’re running on routines we’ve set long ago. There is fun in that.”

Sir Leo wouldn’t call this a change in his perception of fun though. “More of nadagdagan,” he would say.

How they were sure: Going through 2014

“How do I explain to you how I see this person? I guess siguro what made me realize na we’d be able to go through life and this is not just some mababaw thing was when I got sick,” Ma’am Dawn said.

2014 was a difficult year for the Crisologos.

Early in the year, Ma’am Dawn’s appendix burst. Although the appendix was successfully removed, there were certain complications from the surgery.

“Her intestines healed too fast after surgery,” Sir Leo explained. These caused them to fuse and result in a blockage. So she had to have another operation.

That was the summer of 2014. She spent two months recovering. It doesn’t end there, however.

Come June, her hemoglobin count dropped significantly. When she she received an ultrasound, it was found that there a was a mass “the size of an avocado” in her uterus.

Sabi sa’kin it might be cancer. Mababa hemoglobin count ko because I was bleeding out. And it was just feeding blood to the mass,” Ma’am Dawn recalled. “[But] when they did a biopsy, it wasn’t cancerous. Because if it was, they would have had to remove the lymph nodes and the ovaries.”

Instead, it was her uterus that had to be removed.

Ma’am Dawn and Sir Leo didn’t take it hard though. They didn’t really plan on having a second child. It was the thought of death and separation that was difficult.

For a time, they thought Ma’am Dawn might not make it.

Their support system wasn’t that extensive. They didn’t have the traditional privilege of asking the Lolo or Lola to take care of their child. However, Ma’am Dawn had confidence in Sir Leo.

At the time, Sir Leo was a full-time post-graduate student at UP Diliman. He was also a full-time family man.

“He has a record of straight 1.00 and he just got a 1.25 because he was taking care of me and my daughter at the time,” Ma’am Dawn shared. Seeing him hold everything together, he was like the glue. I didn’t have to worry about anything sa mga moments na feeling ko this might be the end. When I thought I was going to die of cancer, I thought about what would happen to my daughter. But then I thought, ‘No, it was okay.’ I mean, Leo’s there. I have every confidence that she’ll be okay.”

Ma’am Dawn added, “We were solid and I could not have gone through that without that solidness.”

How they’ve changed: ‘It’s been so long’

When both of them were asked to describe how they’ve been changed by their relationship, both of them replied the exact same thing: “It came to a point where ‘di mo na ma-imagine paano kayo kapag di kayo naging.

Ma’am Dawn decided to study in Japan some time ago. But more than her wanting to accomplish something before getting older, it was the security and stability of her relationship with Sir Leo that motivated her.

Although Ma’am Dawn took post-graduate studies Columbia University and UP Diliman, she did not finish them. Frustrated by two incomplete master’s degrees, Ma’am Dawn admired how Sir Leo excelled in his post-graduate classes despite the situation at the time. She was inspired by his power to push through. In her own words, “‘Yung sinimulan niya, tinatapos niya.”

Ma’am Dawn shared, “I think I pursued the Japan thing because he was there. He encouraged me. Noong tinapos niya MA niya, parang ang ganda-ganda ng record niya… [Thus], I was so secure na kaya niya, ng relationship namin, ng family namin, itong short time na wala ako.”

She continued, “I guess coming from that very secure and stable place, you always have something to fall back on. In case you fail, it’s okay.”

So is Sir Leo reliable?

“If you put it that way, it seems boring,” Ma’am Dawn grinned. “He transcends that.”

On Sir Leo’s part, their marriage was never boring. He attributes this to their partnership,

“We’ve been together for too long na we know how each other thinks,” Sir Leo said. “[Kapag] diba iisipin mo, matagal nagiging boring. Pero if you think about it, every challenge with Tala, with Pisay, it’s something na since we’re approaching it together, mas kaya siyang i-deal kasi parehong perspective namin ang pinanggagalingan… Sanay na sanay na kami working together.

Sir Leo thinks what kept them strong was how they entered in the relationship when they were old enough.

“We were pretty much — kumbaga tao na kami. I was not looking for a companion. She wasn’t looking for a companion. We found each other na parang we didn’t need each other but we found each other and it fit,” Sir Leo said.

He continued, “Throughout the years, from just fitting together nagiging intertwined na rin kami so I think it’s a good thing to enter a relationship where you don’t need to depend on the person. That allows you to appreciate the other person more. Not because of whatever pagkukulang mo na kailangan mo ipuno.”

Now that Ma’am Dawn is back, they have activities lined up every day until March. From outdoors activities to simple indoor fun. What’s important is that something is accomplished.

Time is of the essence for the Crisologos.

More than ten years ago, Sir Leo was with Ma’am Dawn in her room and they were listening to “No Day But Today” from Rent.

Sir Leo breathed deeply and exhaled, “No day but today.”

He knelt down and popped out a ring.

More than ten years later, they’re in their ninth year of marriage. That’s more than twenty years after they first met.

“We’ve known each other for more than half our lives,” Sir Leo said.