A heart that loves never grows old.
It has been almost 66 years since Conrado and Maria Flores first said, “I do.”
The key to their lasting bond is quite simple.
“Our secret is that from when we first met, we loved one another,” said Conrado Flores.
“That doesn’t change because we are old, our love for each other hasn’t aged.”
Flores, now 84, has been married to Maria since Aug. 19, 1947.
At age 18, Conrado had just been discharged from the army in Manila, when he first spotted 16-year-old Maria walking in the neighbourhood.
“I thought, oh, she’s cute.”
Daughter Amelia McPhee had a little detail to add to the story.
“Three girlfriends, including Mom, were his neighbours,” she said. “Dad dated all three but Mom was the lucky one,” she laughed.
Their wedding followed within a year, but was a low-key affair.
Flores said that nobody wanted to marry the youngsters, because his bride was underage.
“They (parents) forged Maria’s age and said she was 18, so we could marry,” he said.
“Maybe after all these years, our marriage is not legal,” joked Flores.
The newlyweds moved into their own house in Pasig (municipality in Manila), and within a year, the first of nine children was born.
To support the growing family, Conrado worked odd jobs as a carpenter and his wife ran her own seamstress business.
Raising a large family was a struggle during this time, when the Philippines was marred with corruption, political repression and human rights violations under the rule of President Ferdinand Marcos.
An eldest daughter, already living in Trail, offered to sponsor the family to immigrate.
On June 21, 1979, with four of their youngest children in tow, the family arrived on Canadian soil.
“I had only $36 in my pocket,” said Flores.
After beginning a job at Cominco, Flores said his wife “tightened my belt.”
He remembered an occasion when he bought her a special ring as a gift.
After accepting the gift, Maria asked for the receipt.
“She returned it, she said; it was too expensive.”
“After that, we agreed that she would buy only what she wanted,” he added.
Conrado attributed his wife’s exceptional budgeting skills to affording the house they bought in 1990, and still live in today.
“She always handled the money,” he said.
“Nobody could believe that after only 10 years of saving, Maria bought this house with cash.”
Every summer, when the family reunites to celebrate the couple’s anniversary, their home is filled with the laughter of 21 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
“The kids all want to be here, they don’t want to leave their grandma’s side,” said Flores.
“They sleep on the couch or floor and laugh all night with her, they love their grandma.”
These days, the 82-year-old matriarch has had a decline in health, and the role of husband and wife have been somewhat reversed.
“Maria always took good care of us,” he said.
“But now my kids call me Cinderella, because I do all the cooking, cleaning and shopping.”
Flores said that he made a solemn vow to his mother-in-law on her deathbed.
“She hugged me and asked me to always love and take care of her daughter.”
“I promised, and will always keep that promise.”