Jun and Leah Borja are the first to tell anyone that theirs isn’t a marriage made in heaven. Their fair share of ups and downs is the stuff hit teleseryes are made of. And maybe because they know it to be so, they’ve decided to spend the last five years in making up for lost time by being more conscious of their love for each other.
But there was nothing out of the ordinary when their paths first crossed in the years following the Edsa Revolution as two young adults with a passion for singing.
“I met Leah in 1988 when I auditioned for their choir in Zone 3. We were both from Project 4, so we initially belonged to different choirs … I found her cute,” shared Jun.
Little did the quiet Kyusi lad realize then that the admiration was mutual. While he was busy belting out his best, the normally noisy Leah was there in the audience, silently relishing every note that came out of the “cute” stranger’s mouth.
Smooth sailing then…
“I also like that he’s the quiet type … Men who talk a lot turn me off. I’ve always been intrigued by guys who are quiet. I find them mysterious,” she added.
Long story short, the two soon began going out on dates and they tied the knot on December 12, 1994 at Our Lady of EDSA – Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace after six years of going steady.
Everything seemed perfect during the first decade of their married life. Blessed with four kids who are now young adults: Jeanine Francesca, 22 ; Jeeana Fiona, 21; Jeremiah Freidrich, 18; and Jacob Francis, 15 and relatively stable financially, they had nothing more to ask God for.
Or so they thought.
In 2000, the husband and wife woke up one morning jobless. As head of the family, Jun tried to solve the problem by applying for a position overseas, but in vain. And in 2004, without consulting him, Leah accepted an offer to work as a nurse in Riyadh.
Like any Filipino man with an ounce of machismo, Jun felt insulted, but the need to feed and educate their children prevailed over his personal pride.
Victim of gossip
So for many years, Jun was a single parent by force of circumstance, silently playing the role of both mother and father to their four kids Iska, Fiona, Myong, and Coby, as they are fondly called. And as if the situation wasn’t unnatural enough, he found himself the subject of malicious gossip.
“Sometime in 2010, there was a rumor about me keeping a mistress and having a child with her. And even after I told Leah that there was no truth to what these people were saying, the rumor wouldn’t die,” said Jun.
Seldom talking to each other, the fire between husband and wife started to turn cold. “I was hurt and angry. In my deepest anger, I blurted out to Leah that I will make true those rumors,” recalled Jun.
True his words, he met another woman in 2010. In February 2011, Leah decided to come home for good to restore their relationship, but all seemed to go downhill from there. In March 2011, Jun left his family to move in with his mistress, this time a real one.
“I know I had caused my wife and children so much pain. While I was away, Leah became active in [a Catholic lay community] and in 29AD Musicionaries (a musical group). She would also often reach out to me but to no avail. Our friends in the community became Leah’s support group. They took care of my family while I was away. In all those times, Leah never faltered in prayer, trusting in God’s faithfulness,” explained Jun, looking back on those two years of pain and betrayal.
Jun would eventually find himself returning to the arms of his wife after a friend in community invited him to sing for her mom who was then hospitalized, as part of their singing group which was mainly composed of members of the Catholic community they belong to.
“After a long absence … I was overwhelmed with joy, the first time I joined them again in practice. There was no harsh words, only welcoming arms and overflowing love from my brothers and sisters in the community,” he shared, noting the crucial role his Catholic community played in their reconciliation.
Jun and Leah were eventually able to save their marriage, but it was not an easy process, especially since the children were just as affected.
The road to healing
According to Leah, Jun had to win back the trust of the kids while she struggled to find healing and forgiveness in her heart.
“This meant dying to myself every day, every time I was reminded of the pain I had been through. I can only think of one reason why we were able to bounce [back]. It’s all thanks to God’s mercy and compassion which He showed us through our brothers and sisters in the community,” she added.
If there’s one important lesson the Borjas picked up from those years of darkness, it is that life in general and marriage in particular isn’t all rainbows and glitter. Rather it’s a conscious decision of two persons wanting to grow together as one, forgiving again and again – without counting.
“We’ve been together for more than half of our lives. We’re both 47-years old now and we’ve been together since 1988. That’s 29 years, including the time we were boyfriend-girlfriend. We’ve come to realize that we never stop learning new things about each other every day, that marriage needs to be watered regularly for it to blossom, and that life does have its ups and downs. But it’s when you’re down and out when your commitment to your marriage is tested. And your bond as husband and wife gets stronger once you’re able to surpass these challenges,” said Jun.
Despite a major trial that could’ve sent other couples to Splitsville, the Borjas are a testament to the truth that every marriage is a “love triangle”, the spouses and God between them.
“Whatever a family goes through as long as the mother and father cling to the Lord, they can get through any trial or storm that comes their way,” stressed Leah in Filipino.
Indeed, the God who brings two together should be the “third party” that keeps them together.