Love in the Age of Emails

Here’s a story we found at the San Francisco Chronicle. It is a good and interesting read.

Averil Pooten Watan and Mark Watan: The pull of ancestors
By Louise Rafkin/San Francisco Chronicle

In 1995 they were teenagers. Mark Watan, 18 and a native of San Francisco, and Averil Pooten, 16, a Londoner, were youth delegates to a world conference for Igorots in Los Angeles. An indigenous tribal people from the mountains of the Philippines, Igorots remained independent in the face of the Spanish colonization and, as a result, had a unique history. Both Averil and Mark, second-generation Igorots, hailed from families who convened every few years to preserve their rare cultural and spiritual traditions.

The world of second-generation Igorot expats was small. Fewer than 20 families had settled in England and not many more than that in California – and both thought of those in their local populations as siblings, or cousins. So finding each other, with a shared passion for ancestry but without sticky family ties, well, that was interesting! Averil found Mark hilarious and loud, yet sweet. As for Mark, Averil was spunky and gorgeous. At the close of the conference, Mark scrawled out his e-mail address.

Then he waited. And waited. But Averil’s attempts to e-mail Mark bounced, and kept bouncing. She eventually gave up. Mark lost hope too and both went on to other relationships.

It wasn’t until 2000 that they met again in L.A. at a wedding. They felt the same connection and correct e-mail addresses were exchanged. They developed a daily e-mail habit that stopped abruptly several months later: Averil felt as though she was cheating on her then-boyfriend. “One day passed, then a week, then a month – and nothing,” says Mark, who poured his energy into studying acupuncture. Still, by 2002, he was again hoping Averil, then working as a lawyer, would attend another Igorot conference he was going to in London.

Her family hosted him for the conference, and by the end of the long weekend, both felt a need to fess up. “I know,” said Averil, even before Mark started to tell her about his feelings. “Me, too.” A few years of back-and-forth led to a huge 2004 wedding in San Francisco, which was followed by an even larger Igorot ceremony in the Philippines.

It was the first time a second-generation Igorot couple from abroad had returned to honor their traditions. “We discovered our grandfathers had been friends,” says Mark in the couple’s Fremont condo, which is lined with native crafts. “Our lineage had been calling us together. It takes longer than e-mail, but it’s efficient in the end.”

On their shared ancestry:
Mark: The intention of being with another Igorot is what drew us. Our ancestors are watching and protecting us.

Averil: I knew the value of marrying an Igorot, but I didn’t see how it could happen. But everything I’ve ever wanted has come to me from having an intention, and I had that from the moment I first met Mark.


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