It took nothing less than ‘divine intervention’ to get creative couple Martin and Barbie Honasan together—and the blessings keep coming three years hence

He’s an artist whose roots go back to one of the most prominent political families in the country; she’s made headlines as a leading female figure in the Pinoy rock scene. With all the odds not stacked against them, one would think that, for Martin Honasan and Barbie Almabis, dating would’ve been a breeze—boy meets girl, they like each other, boy/girl asks the other out, happy ending. Such was not the case. Barbie, the former lead vocalist of the multi-awarded band “Barbie’s Cradle,” may be used to performing live in front of an audience of thousands, but when she’s not on stage rockin’ the set, she hides behind her music and keeps to her close circle of friends. Martin, a full-timer painter and a member of the Saturday Group of Artists, is the same.“Before Barbie, I was anonymous. Palagi ako nagtatago sa likod ng paintings ko!”

It should come as no surprise then that it took all of three years and what could only be divine intervention to finally get the would-be couple alone together. Both members of the Victory Christian Fellowship in Alabang, they shared plenty of mutual friends, but, says Martin, “for the longest time, we were just acquaintances and we never really talked. Alam ko lang, uy si Barbie nag-a-attend rin sa church na to!” Barbie adds, “We had the same group of friends but hindi kami friends talaga. Parang nagkakahiyaan kasi. But (at one point), we were liking each other na.

A date with fate
So who finally asked out who? The undisputed reply: “No one did!”

Fate/destiny/the universe/a higher being—call “It” whatever you like—had to do all the work. “None of our friends knew that we liked each other,” shares Barbie. “Martin and I were just becoming friends when one day, our common barkada had dinner. Tapos bigla na lang one of our friends had to go back to the church, sumama sa kanya yung iba and another one saw his family in the same restaurant, so we were the only two left with all the food that they had ordered.”

“Weird coincidence lang talaga,” relates Martin. “All of them just had to leave—there was no hidden agenda to set the two of us up. Tapos may fiesta pang naiwan.” But, Barbie admits, “we already liked each other that time so we were also like praying to God if this is from him…parang ganon. Bigla kaming nagkaroon ng unplanned date. Before, it felt awkward whenever we’d see each other, pero that night para kaming na-force na kaming dalawa lang.

Their relationship grew from then on. “I was commuting to church (from Manila to Alabang) every week,” says Barbie, “and Martin offered to pick me up so that’s how it was every Sunday. That was October 2005, and it was in December when he told me he wanted to pursue me. We were officially together after that, the following summer we got engaged, and we got married in April.”

A movie script ending
Married for three years now, Martin and Barbie cruise through life. They are part-owners of White Box, a contemporary art gallery in Cubao Ex, and with both of them in the creative field, they pretty much control their time. “I guess one good thing about us is that our schedules are very flexible,” shares Barbie, “so ang dami naming dates!” “We hang out mostly at home,” continues Martin, “but we’re also usually at her gigs. That’s one of the things na nagbago sa routine ko
—it was a welcome change.” When Barbie went on tour in the U.S. in 2007, Martin (who’s also into photography) was her personal paparazzi. “Magkasama talaga kami palagi,” says Barbie, “We go out to wherever.”

Martin and Barbie are practically inseparable, but they also know when to give each other space. “I think because we’re both artists, we automatically recognize that need,” shares Barbie, “so we know when to let each other focus on our own things. Kasi ganon eh, you [Martin] want to be alone when you’re painting; ako rin when I’m composing, kailangan wala rin akong distractions.”

Having been together for three years, everything—from secrets that go way back into the past, to their quirky everyday habits–is at full disclosure. “Wala na masyadong mystery,” admits Martin. “The sparks at the beginning of our relationship, para sa amin, it evolved [we read this somewhere] into something like an aurora borealis. I think it applies to our relationship—wala nang sparks, but it’s constant. Steady.”

Barbie adds, “We also have this view that a marriage isn’t something na you wake up from and say, ‘hey I hope it works.’ You wake up and then you say, ‘hey, I’m gonna make it work.’ There are things you can actively do, like [kami] we make it a point to go on dates—weekly dates na kaming dalawa lang—and simple things like not going to sleep when we’re angry. You resolve things. And you pray for each other.”

Little star
When you first step into the Honasans’ home in Marikina, you’ll find an assortment of paintings, metal sculptures of musicians, Barbie’s guitars, a piano, amps of all sizes, and toys—toy balls mostly, as these are two-year-old Noa Stina’s current toy of choice. Named after Martin and Barbie’s favorite artists (Israeli singer Achinoam Nini and Stina Nordenstam), Stina’s one happy baby and is the spitting image of her dad. At the age of two, she’s already quite the well-traveled toddler as her parents have taken her to Boracay, Singapore and some parts of the United States.

“We experienced a major change when Stina was born,” shares Barbie. Parenthood led them to discover something unexpected—“We’re actually strict parents,” admits Martin. “I guess we are traditional in the sense that we make it a point to correct her behavior. Hindi namin pinapalampas when she makes tantrums. Wala kaming good cop-bad cop—we show a united front. Pareho kaming…kung bad cop, bad cop.”

“But we’re also very playful with her,” asserts Barbie. “We’re just very mindful na maganda yung influences sa kanya, especially with what she sees on TV. But at the same time, we want her to be who she is, the way God created her to be. Whatever she’ll be into when she grows up, we’ll support that. In that aspect, we’re very open.” The young dad adds, “Hindi namin pipilitin na maging musician or painter. If she wants to be a nuclear physicist, okay lang!”

Indeed, Stina’s lucky to have such hands-on parents. “We’re with our daughter almost all the time,” shares Barbie. “Most of the time we’re just playing here, and we love going out on yogurt dates—Stina loves yogurt so we take her to Red Mango, her favorite. And every Sunday, we go to church. We now go to Victory Pioneer, and there’s a play area there where toddlers can just play so she’s always excited to go to church kasi church to her is a playroom!”

When it comes to religion, Martin and Barbie believe that being a Christian is a choice that a person has to make, and that extends to their daughter. “We’re just praying that we’re ‘planting the right seeds,’” shares Barbie, “so that when the time comes, she’ll make that decision for herself. Sa kanya talaga ang decision, because otherwise it would just be something that we told her to be. We want it to be real for her.”

Life’s been one big blessing after another for the Honasan family. And the coming year promises to bring even more good tidings, especially as they anticipate a new addition to their cozy threesome: as of this writing, Barbie is seven weeks pregnant. “We hope for a boy,” shares Martin, “a little brother for Stina.” Be it a boy or a girl though, one thing’s certain—that baby’s getting a whole lot of love from this cool mom and dad.

Published in HIPP Magazine, December 2009.
Photography by Joven Lorenzo