HAPPIER THE SECOND TIME AROUND
BY GINA CONSING-MCADAM
The period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve tends to be relatively quiet, but in the case of restaurateurs Chris Joseph and Rowena Romulo, yet a new chapter was about to begin.
On 29th December, the powerhouse couple behind Kasa & Kin, the Soho restaurant, bar and bakery and Romulo Café London, their bastion of Filipino cuisine in Kensington, were married in an intimate, low-key ceremony in Kensington and Chelsea Old Town Hall. In front of 15 close friends and family, including Chris’ son Christian who had flown in from the US and Rowena’s daughter Giulia who travelled from Milan, they publicly exchanged the vows they already had, privately between them, for many years. At the reception held at the Michelin-starred Elystan Street, a message from Ali, Chris’ daughter based in the US, was read during the tributes which summed up the warmth and love all present felt for the newlyweds.
Theirs is the story of things meant to be. Chris and Rowena were first introduced by their mutual best friend nearly forty years ago. It was a time before dating apps, when people still relied on what now seem like quaint traditions such as going out on a first date arranged by people you know, and getting to know each other over a series of events. It helped that both had gone to university at De La Salle in Taft Avenue in Manila, when students were still called ‘La Sallistas’, and their parents’ houses where they both lived, were relatively close by in Makati.
Chris recalls, “Back then, it was popular to go out dancing at weekends with friends as a group. We went to discos in Manila like Where Else at Intercon or Stargazer at the Sheraton. We also liked hanging out at some well-known restaurants and bars like the Prince of Wales or San Mig pub in Makati. At the time too, there were many up and coming areas like MH del Pilar in Manila for more intimate nights out with friends.”
They would both come away with great impressions. “When I first met Rowena, I was enthralled by her beauty and personality,” says Chris.
“I thought Chris was a fun person to go out with, and I suspected we had much in common,” says Rowena. Before long, they were a couple. And then they broke up.
Chris was sent to London for work. Rowena wanted Chris to return to the Philippines as her banking career was taking off and it wouldn’t have been practical for her to consider uprooting herself to join him. On top of that, she was opening the first Thai restaurant in the Philippines.
For twenty years they would be separated by the geographical boundaries.
Rowena enjoyed an international banking career. Based in Italy, she was one of the few women to hold a leadership position for well-known global banks Citigroup and JP Morgan. Chris, while living in America (one of six countries he’s lived in), enjoyed a successful career as an international restaurant franchise executive. His area of responsibility spanned over 50 countries and he was involved in opening 22 new markets for a number of leading restaurant brands like Domino’s, and Krispy Kreme.
Then fate intervened when both travelled to Manila at the same time, Chris for work and Rowena to attend her father’s milestone birthday. Once again, their mutual best friend helped to arrange a lunch which led to their falling in love all over again. This second time around, however, things are different.
Chris says, “The benefits of maturity and our both having had international careers that allowed us to see more of the world and experience a vast array of cultures, made us appreciate what is really true and genuine. We were now more determined to pursue only those things that were truly important to us. True love, true friends and our children.
“The wedding was an intimate celebration of our love. Many thought that we were officially already wed, but circumstances prevented us from going down that route earlier. But with our kids and some relatives visiting over the holidays, we knew that this would be the perfect gift to give each other and our families. It was also just before we were due to go home to Manila together post-pandemic and we wanted to celebrate this long overdue blessing with our families there.”
Being married has made a difference. Their family has grown, with friends through the years now ‘officially related’ through the marriage of Chris and Rowena. “Like our kids and puppies who have been with us all this time, life is just a celebration of how each new day just leads to another day. We will enjoy being together always and forever!