Therese and Axel: Love without borders

Pia Ranada
Therese and Axel endured a long-distance relationship that led to a proposal on a hill in Sweden

LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS CAN WORK. Therese and Axel can attest to that. Photo courtesy of Therese Endriga

MANILA, Philippines – Filipina Therese Endriga and Swedish Axel Wigforss first met in 2009 at an international children’s camp where Therese worked as a staff member and Axel led the Swedish delegation.

During the camp, the two exchanged stolen glances and flirted with each other. At one point, a smiling Axel told Therese, “If only I weren’t dating anyone back home, I would ask you out.”

Throughout the camp, the attraction between the two got stronger and stronger, culminating in an intimate dance to a slow Rod Stewart song during the camp’s “Casino Night.”

But the camp came to an end and Axel had to return to Sweden with his young delegates. But he had told Therese and their friends that one day, he would be back.

Going the distance

Only a month later, it seemed Axel would fulfill his promise. He posted on his Facebook wall that he would be back for Christmas that same year (2009). Therese’s friends teased her that he was coming back for her.

Come December, Therese and their friends took Axel to the beach and to places like Rockeoke in Mag:net, High Street. One night, the friend Axel was staying with asked Therese to take Axel out because he was busy for the night.

Therese and Axel had dinner out together. After that night, Axel began calling Therese every day, asking to see her for lunch with her friends or dinner after work.

One particularly busy night, Therese found Axel waiting for her outside a coffee shop holding plastic-wrapped roses he had bought from a street kid. They walked and talked until 1 am. When Therese brought Axel home, they kissed for the first time. This was in January 2010.

The next night, Therese asked Axel what he had in mind for their relationship. Then, “He looked at me over his umbrella drink and told me he wanted us to see how we could make it work, that he didn’t care about the distance and that there was always Skype.”

They agreed to see each other exclusively. Days after, Axel had to fly back to Sweden.

Love online

Ever since, Therese would wake up at 5 am every day to Skype with Axel in Sweden where it was 10 pm. Her close friends learned to excuse her when she would leave them at 9 or 10 pm or not go with them at all because she wanted to wake up on time for their Skype session.

Maintaining a long-distance relationship changes things, admits Therese: “You no longer think about what a hassle Third World Internet is or how weird people think you are for hiding in hotel bathrooms just to Skype. All you can think of is how you need to see each other; or if the signal is bad, sometimes that’s all you get.”

“Your joys get all the more shallow,” she continues. “A twinkle-sounding Whatsapp alert; the idea of seeing each other face-to-face in real time; good signal and actually being able to talk, not shout. But you wouldn’t trade it for any other person in the world.”

In July 2011, Axel asked Therese to marry him.

Forever partner

Therese admits no one is ever ready for a long-distance relationship. But quoting from “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” she says, “There’s no such thing as ready. There’s only willing.”

Love, says Therese, “will happen in its own good time. It felt like forever for me. But waiting for what seems to be forever is worth it when you find your forever partner.”

Therese finished writing her and Axel’s story for Rappler as her plane touched down in Sweden. Minutes later, she would see her fiancé for the first time without dreading good-byes. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at