Ali Khatibi and Cristine Reyes are so over the moon being parents to Amarah, all they could talk about is their daughter. And like most first-time parents, they’re discovering so many things as they go along.
“She loves painting, kahit nga sa walls eh," Ali says, laughing. "She’s like a sponge -- she absorbs everything really quickly, so you have to be careful with what you say, or what you do, kasi she’s always watching us.”
At 2 years old, Amarah is already enrolled in play school because her parents want her to develop social skills. “She doesn’t have a sibling, wala din siyang cousins [who live] nearby, so naisip namin it’s much better if she goes to school. I noticed kasi, pag [walang sibling], parang they don’t know how to share, they don’t know how to mingle with people,” says Cristine.
Though they are believers of early education, the couple still sought the school's help to gauge Amarah’s readiness before enrolling her. “We asked the school if we can test [it] first and see how Amarah will react sa classroom.”
Amarah enjoyed it. In fact, unlike most kids, she showed no signs of separation anxiety on her first day of school. “Unang pasok niya pa lang sa classroom, parang hindi na niya kami hinanap. Pagdating namin ng classroom, nag-join na sya with the other kids.” She even knows all the names of her classmates (there are 10 of them) and teachers.
Amarah is such a darling she has her mom and dad wrapped around her little finger. Ali tells us, “You know what Amarah calls me? She calls me ‘Tito Ali,’ just to tease me because her classmate calls me Tito. So when she says ‘Tito Ali,’ I correct her and say ‘Amarah, I’m not your Tito, I’m your Daddy!’ tapos tawa siya nang tawa. Nakuha niya [pagiging mapang-asar] kay Cristine."
She also likes to sing, just like her mom. “Bonding time kasi namin yun. Mahilig ako mag-play ng music sa house and syempre kasama sa playlist yung mga Disney hits, so we dance, we sing habang hawak ang pretend microphone."
Ali on Amarah: "Nakuha niya [pagiging mapang-asar] kay Cristine."
The Khatibis are known to be a fit bunch. Ali, who is Filipino-Iranian, is a mixed-martial artist specializing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Cristine had also adopted the same lifestyle even before she became pregnant. Their discipline extends to their eating habits, and they are starting to instill in Amarah at a young age.
On their staple food at home, Ali says "For breakfast, we typically have fish, eggs, champorado, oatmeal. Yung mga hotdogs and canned food, or anything with preservatives, wala kaming ganun sa bahay. We make sure there’s always something fresh to cook."
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He adds, "I don’t let Amarah eat pork. Ako I don’t eat pork, siya [Cristine] hangga't maaari hindi din. We're also trying to cut down on beef. I want her to learn to eat more vegetables." For this, Mommy has a simple solution: "Simple lang, I don’t buy pork."
Also, Cristine also does not allow her little girl to indulge too much on sweets. She also buys organic as much as possible. "Except for formula milk, Amarah only drinks almond milk, coconut milk. Mas solid food na sya."
One and a half years after their very low-key wedding in Balesin (just the way they wanted it), the couple has happily settled into married life. They've built a house in the south, are foster parents to two toy poodles, and have made it their regular morning routine to either walk the dogs or go biking with Amarah around the village. How did Cristine, who was used to being carefree and independent, adjust to such changes?
"It entails commitment. You really have to listen and talk to your husband," she explained, for which Ali teased her, "Listen talaga ha? Naka-record yan."
Both say they are still learning the ropes, but when it comes to handling conflicts, they agree that it's best to fix it as a couple, rather than involving other people, who may not have the best intentions or the best advice.
"Ganyan talaga si Ali, he's very protective, number one sa kanya yung family. It's me and Amarah first before anyone else," Cristine gushes.
In return, Ali says of Cristine, "She is very thoughtful and loving. She makes sure that Amarah and I are cared for really well, she makes the house a home."
Cristine on Ali: "It's me and Amarah first before anyone else."
But they say you never really know a person until you've lived under the same roof as him/her. What have they discovered about each other thus far?
"My discovery about Ali? He sleeps with a pillow on his face. Nung una na-offend ako, like, 'Bakit? Ayaw niya ba sa akin?'" But Ali says it's what he got used to growing up.
What about Ali? "Si Cristine bago matulog, nira-rub niya yung eye niya, maririnig mo yung 'squeak-squeak-squeak.' Tapos pag tulog na siya maririnig mo nag-ga-grind siya ng ngipin. Pinapanood ko siya dati, iniisip ko, 'Totoo ba to? Nagpapa-cute ba to or ganito talaga sya matulog?'”
He continues, "OC din sya sa lahat. Halimbawa may [damit] na iniwan ko lang dyan. Tatawagin niya ako para sabihin na 'Ano to? Di ba yan yung hamper?' tapos babantayan niya ko until malagay ko sa hamper. Pati toilet namin kasi sya naglilinis. 'Pag nalinis na sasabihin sa akin, 'O, don’t use the toilet na ha.' E pano pag na-ano ako in the middle of the night? It can be annoying, but ganun talaga. It’s also funny, I've gotten used to it."
Ali also describes his wife as a very simple woman in the way she manages the household and their budget. She also rarely splurges on branded items for herself. Says Cristine, "Hindi naman ako yung kailangan laging fashionable. Yung mga nakakakilala sa amin, they know we don't go for expensive stuff. Gusto ko yung simple lang, kasi yun ako, ganun din si Ali."
"Kahit bags yan or shoes, yung comfortability ang important sa akin. In fact, when we went to Japan, nag-vacation kaming family, ang suot ko the whole time na naglakad-lakad SM brand sya (Simply Shoes). I've always been practical about my choices at careful sa money, at gusto ko matutunan din yun ni Amarah."
Will there be a new addition to the family soon? "Ako, two [kids] pa sana. Pero we have other plans at the moment, we have to prioritize," says Cristine. Ali says, "Gusto namin baby boy naman. Maybe next year."