Billy Yap and Lalaine Magana tied the knot in December of 1985 after a whirlwind courtship worthy of a teleserye and a book deal, but little did they know, they would soon be facing one of the most trying times of their young married life.
Lalaine had a retroverted uterus that made child-bearing difficult, if at all.
“It was 50/50. Either I had a baby or I didn’t,” she told Family Time in an interview.
The accountant from San Carlos City, Negros Occidental was deeply in love. And so was the singer from Naga City, Camarines Sur.
“I promised Lalaine I would stand by her no matter what. The [medical] results had no bearing [on my intention to marry her],” said Billy, explaining that before the marriage, they initially planned on undergoing medical check-ups but decided against it because they knew they would be pushing through with the wedding, regardless of the results.
Over the years, the Yaps sought the help of doctors, even traditional healers, and tried this and that wonder drug, hoping they would be able to raise their chances of becoming parents.
All of these to no avail.
It came to a point when Lyn, as her friends call her, seriously considered calling it quits by letting go of her husband.
“Since I can’t give you a child, I’d rather give you freedom,” she told him, implying that Billy could leave her for another woman if he wanted to.
To which he answered, reassuringly: “After all we’ve been through I’m leaving you now? Don’t you remember my promise before? … No, I will always be here for you.”
The Yaps laughingly refer to these exchanges and many others like it as their “Gabby Concepcion-Sharon Cuneta moments.” But at that time, it had the power to undo everything they had strove hard to build.
Right time, right place
Flashback to February 1985. The Visayan-speaking Chinese accountant was based in Sorsogon on one of his usual interprovincial assignments. It was R&R time so he decided to take the bus to nearby Legazpi City in Albay, which he believed had more to offer in terms of entertainment.
From where he was sitting, he saw for the first time the 20-year old Bicol belle, who was starting her first day on the job as a singer at the La Linea Restobar that night. Initially, Billy was peeved that Lalaine refused to sing his requested song, Phoebe Cates’ “Paradise”, but needless to say, he was was smitten.
“Through a friend … I asked if we could meet the next day over lunch somewhere brighter and quieter … She agreed.”
D-Day came but they never met. Uncannily, all Billy saw at the restobar was a girl who curiously looked like Lalaine but who ignored him and acted as if they had never met. The same cashier-friend broke the news that the Lalaine look-alike Billy met was actually Lalaine’s twin sister. His date-to-be had already gone back to her parents in Naga and her sister had returned to collect her things.
It turned out she was a stowaway colegiala who had to sing part-time to support her studies. But the most important thing was that he got her address. And the rest, as we say, is history.
A few months and a Mt. Everest of snail mails later, the two found themselves neck-deep in romance, their relationship “developing as quick as a Kodak film.”
And despite the protestations of his old-fashioned mom who dreamed of a Chinese daughter-in-law, and her friends who dreaded seeing her future ruined by an “overly jealous Chinese husband,” Bill and Lalaine exchanged their eternal I do’s.
“I can’t stand a day with her. I always wanted to see her, be with her,” recalled Billy.
“Same here,” added Lalaine.
Providence, not coincidence
Almost a decade after becoming man and wife, still childless, relatively happy, with occasional quarrels on the side, the Yaps finally decided to junk all the vitamins, food supplements, the treatment, and the whatnots and take a leap of faith, something they never thought of doing before.
“This time, we surrendered everything to Him,” they said.
Also around this time, a brother of Billy’s flew in from China with an expensive pasalubong for the couple, a bottleful of traditional pills he swore could turn them into parents in no time.
For several days, Billy and Lalaine were at a loss what to do with the drug. It didn’t help that the instructions were in Chinese, a language Billy never learned how to read, his shoestring eyes notwithstanding.
To cut the story short, he excitedly phoned his brother informing the latter the pills indeed “worked miracles.”
“It was so effective. …. You just stare at it and you’re cured,” he told him, jokingly.
Making sure he made his point across, he added: “Lalaine is pregnant!”
The Yaps christened the baby they waited forever to shower their love on Benedict, which is Latin for “Blessed.”
It’s also the first word Zechariah uttered in thanksgiving to the God of Israel on the circumcision of his son, John the Baptist.
The choice of name was precious as it was propitious, because it set the tone for the years to come.
“We don’t think his birth was a coincidence. It was in God’s plan. It happened when we put our trust completely in God,” Billy noted.
It could easily have been dismissed as a coincidence or sheer luck if it really stopped there. But it didn’t.
Three months later, Lalaine conceived again, and twice more years after.
“We were already beyond happy when Benedict came into our life. Honestly, we were quite open to the possibility that he could be an only child. We were wrong,” shared Billy.
In gratitude, the Yaps decided to reactivate once and for all their involvement with Couples for Christ (CFC).
They joined as early as 1991, but various other concerns prevented them from participating fully.
“God has been so kind to us. He already gave us what we wanted. There’s no reason why can’t serve Him now,” he stressed.
When their kids were still small, the couple would tag them along to wherever they happened to be sent on mission, rain or shine, hinterlands or highways, Ormoc or Toledo. Because of life on the go, the family van practically became a second home for the Yaps, equipped with all they needed.
All in all, they’re “Blessed” with four children, now grownups: Benedict, Angelyn, Marybel, and John Paul.
The names of the two middle children were a play on their parents’ as well as inspired by the Blessed Virgin and the angels.
Meanwhile, the youngest of the Yaps was named in honor of Pope John Paul II, who passed away when the former was born, and was succeeded by guess who?
“This is an affirmation [from God] that we did right in trusting Him, in not doubting what He could do if only we let Him do it,” Billy exclaimed.