Lawson was not a name I was born with. My last name used to be the middle name of the National Hero of the Philippines. I was born in the bustling city of Quezon in Metro Manila, Philippines. My father was originally from the province of Kalibo, Aklan (near the world-famous island of Boracay), but my mother was born in Manila. I have one brother (also “MJ”) who is 6 years younger than me.
Ironically, I disliked writing as a child. I absolutely loved learning, but I hated so-called “study”—you know, when the teacher just plasters a number of manila sheets on the blackboard for us students to copy onto our notebooks while she hums away on her chair filing her fingernails. At the end of each school year, I would always get in trouble for having almost empty notebooks and would be labeled as “lazy”. The school faculty was always surprised that I get good grades and high quiz or exam scores despite not writing down any of the lessons in class. They thought I was simply a “smart” kid, but a lazy smart kid.
I actually have a pretty good photographic memory. I only need to read something once or twice and I will remember it for years. I would be able to tell you on which page and which section of that page a certain passage came from. This was what sustained me through numerous quizzes and exams and what helped me to get high scores. However, this was in no way a measure of my intelligence nor diligence. I simply had no need to write said lessons as they were already etched in my brain; and I simply cannot be called intelligent just because I can remember well.
It was merely a simple demonstration of the flaw in our school systems. For one to succeed in school, one must have enough capacity of memory to be able to answer the questions in quizzes and exams.
So how did “MJ Lawson” even became a possibility? Everything started when PK Lawson decided to leave his home in Australia to make a vow to share his life (yes, including his last name) with me.
At first, the idea of marrying someone from another culture and language did not appeal to me. I reasoned that if it was hard enough to communicate with someone who shares your culture and language, how much more so a foreigner? In addition, the Philippines carries the stigma that if one marries a foreigner, that person is usually just in it for financial gain. Nevertheless, I gave PK Lawson a fair chance and really got to know “the hidden man of the heart”. (1 Peter 3:4)
As it turned out, we share the most important things in common. We both value honesty and openness, loyalty and perseverance, love for the simple things in life, and most importantly, we both love and are dedicated to our Great God, Jehovah. We share the same goals and are heading in the same direction. That’s good enough for me.
Thus, during the rain-infested month of July, we exchanged vows to love and respect each other, both in good times and in bad, in a secluded electricity-free beach in the Philippines.
Our wedding was a literal “labour” of love. I sewed my own wedding dress, the bridesmaids’ dresses, and the tablecloths. PK built the grass-roofed structure for our “wedding hall” with the help of the locals. He also made my wedding bouquet using seashells our friends collected from the beach. Our friends and family cooked and served the buffet meals during reception. Our Best Man was also our official wedding photographer. We both wore thongs (a.k.a. flip-flops) and I did my own makeup.
For weeks prior to the wedding day, it had been raining nonstop, much to our dismay. We couldn’t move our date as PK’s family have flown all the way from Australia for our wedding. We were worried for our guests as a beach wedding would be an unpleasant experience when you have soggy sand underfoot and equally soggy clothes from the rain. The dirt tracks were also muddy and impassable and there was no alternative way to the beach. We would somehow need to shelter the diesel generator we borrowed to power the sound system as there was no electricity supplying the area.
Thankfully, for a whole day before our wedding day, the sun came out shining brightly and dried off most of the muddied tracks and the sand on the beach. We were overjoyed and everything continued as planned. We held the marriage ceremony at 11:00 AM, then afterwards, took official wedding photos while everybody had lunch and enjoyed themselves during the reception. At about 3:00 PM, after most of the guests have left, the sky gave way to rain once again as we thanked Jehovah for the success of our D.I.Y. beach wedding.
Three beautiful children and another one on the way later, we’re still as deeply in love as the day we said, “I do,” and I proudly carry my new identity as MJ Lawson.