Passion, profession, playful bickers: The story behind a UST couple’s lasting romance

Photo by Grehmalyne Carandang/ THE FLAME

FOR CENTURIES, the University of Santo Tomas has witnessed the unfolding of countless historic events, the rise of legendary heroes and the flourishing of immortal ideas.

But the venerable walls of the University also became the setting of kindled dreams and forged friendships, some of which developed into bonds that withstood the test of time.

Some relationships blossom brightly, only to wither after some time. Others, like that of Moises Norman Garcia or “Doc Norman” and Maria Rosario Virginia Cobar-Garcia or “Doctora Bing,” defy time and continue to echo within the very walls that nurtured it.

Norman and Bing started their love story as medical technology students at the UST Faculty of Pharmacy in 1982.

They have since been inseparable and are now molding minds as professors of UST’s biological science department and Research Center for Social Sciences and Education.

From college to medical school and boards and then to the academe, Norman and Bing have  shared a strong friendship and an enduring romance, cultivating a life filled with many lessons.

From matchmaker to lover

The Garcias’ love story began with friendship – a foundation to which they attribute their enduring marriage.

During their six-month internship at Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center in 1982, Norman and Bing were part of a close-knit group of interns that bonded over late-night studying and shared meals.

With a playful nudge, Norman confessed, “I found her (Bing) very sosyal at first,” referring to how his wife carried herself.

Bing, chuckling along, shared that their initial paths diverged, each assigned to different departments.

“I was assigned to the (UST) Faculty of Medicine and Surgery,” Bing said.

“And then, during our fourth year, we were assigned to our designated hospitals.”

Friendship blossomed even if they pursued other interests. Bing fondly remembered helping Norman pursue a girl from their new batch of interns. Little did they know that the matchmaking would deepen their bond, fueled by playful bickers and a growing desire to be with one another.

“It just happened naturally,” Norman said with a chuckle.

“There was this emptiness when she was not around.”

Their romance bloomed even without grand gestures or extravagant dates. They made everyday a celebration of their love.

Bing cherished the memory of Norman’s first Valentine’s Day gift – a simple Bigbang chocolate bar. According to Norman, the snack was “local and Pinoy,” much to Bing’s preference for practicality.

“No flowers,” Bing declared as an environment advocate, explaining how picked flowers harm the environment by depleting mountain resources.

“If flowers, then in pots, something that lives and grows with us.”

The couple’s shared concern for the environment, evident in the disaster risk communication courses they teach at the Faculty of Arts and Letters, forms another pillar of their strong partnership.

As both Garcias said, “Shared interests build a partnership with solid foundations.”

Shared passions

It has been a common notion that two professionals in the same field will have difficulty facing challenges in their relationship due to overlapping career pressures.

But in the case of the Garcias, their doctoral degrees, dedication to environmental education and shared passions became the bedrock of their 37-year marriage.

“The topic does not only end with what we have at home. We could also talk about the subjects we are teaching, the problems we have in our environment,” Bing said.

This intellectual synergy extended beyond their professional lives, creating a connected home environment for their three children, all of whom are Thomasians who are interested in environmental discussions.

It is but natural for couples to have arguments and one can only imagine how intense they would be if they involve two intellectuals.

Bing emphasized resolving them quickly and effectively, while Norman added a touch of humor: “A little affection and humility went a long way for men during disagreements.”

But one of their secrets to avoid conflicts about their career and marriage is prioritizing their relationship above titles and achievements.

“Those prefixes and job titles were mere decorations,” Norman said, adding that keeping a healthy relationship is more important than any alphabet after a name.

Bing echoed his sentiments, highlighting the importance of celebrating each other’s successes – “because anyway, it’s for [the] both of you.”

Drawing from their experience, the Garcias advised young couples to build a strong friendship as a foundation and avoid financial disagreements.

“Money comes and goes,” Norman said.

“We even kid to each other that she is the central bank that keeps all the finances while I am the auditor,” he added, explaining the concept of a give-and-take relationship that practices humility.

Meant to be

Destiny danced around Norman and Bing long before their paths converged, believing their romance was meant to be.

“During our wedding, the bishop said that when we were still in heaven, we were meant to be. Since that is a theological point of view, I also now say that since we were space specks of dust, we are already destined to collide with someone,” Bing said.

“It has been written, perhaps,” Norman said.

Norman recalled a professor’s advice that fulfillment comes from building a family, writing a book, and planting a tree. According to him, these activities bring humanity and the next generation forward through symbolism and shared knowledge.

The Garcias raised a family, shared lessons with their students like a book, and planted seeds that promote interest in science and the environment. They have found fulfillment in their shared passions, friendship and romance that offer not just a symbol of a durable bond but also a shared knowledge that can bring forward a fledging romantic journey. –  with reports from Lila Victoria Reyes

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