Kim Dacayo and her fiancé Charles Rico, both Queens natives and medical professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, could win a fairytale wedding at the luxurious Chateau Challain in France.
Dacayo and Rico are among the 14 finalists, out of 250 worldwide, nominated for the COVID-19 Front-Liner Wedding Giveaway. If they receive the most likes on the Chateau’s Instagram post by Thursday, July 30, they could win a dream wedding at an 18th-century castle located in a French countryside — one they couldn’t even fathom for themselves after months of grueling work.
“My neighbors and close friends nominated us,” Dacayo said. “We had no idea until Cynthia [from Chateau Challain] reached out to us and let us know that five people shared our story. When we found out we were finalists, I personally screamed my head off! And of course, bless Charles’ sweet heart, he thought it was a bug! We were both jumping in joy as this was the first good thing that had happened to us since the pandemic began.”
Dacayo and Rico both reside in Long Island City, and grew up a few miles away from each other in Woodside. But the two didn’t meet until after college. Dacayo, who was raised by a single mother, wrote in their short story for the competition that she made the first move via Facebook, despite her mother’s advice.
“I love my mom dearly, but it’s 2013 [at the time], it’s time to start putting some really dated habits to bed!” she wrote.
The couple has been in love, as Dacayo said, for seven and a half years as they pursued their careers in the medical field.
Dacayo is a a nurse and has worked in a neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric units, while Rico works as an acupuncturist and is studying Naturopathic Medicine.
“He works incredibly diligently to provide relief to those that are hospitalized while also partaking in a program to provide relaxing sessions to frontliners who are dealing with the heavy burden of COVID-19,” she said.
In February, the two went on vacation to Mexico. At the top of Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán, Charles got down on one knee and proposed.
“We were engaged on the palindrome date, 02/22/20,” Dacayo said. “According to many astrologers, this palindrome date indicates ‘immense and significant change’ and is a period when major transformations occur.”
Dacayo said that was indeed the case in the months to follow.
“The day after we came back from our trip, we found out that Charles’ uncle passed away. Later, his close childhood friend passed, too. The hardest and saddest death by far, however, was his own father,” Dacayo said. “My father-in-law passed away in March from complications of COVID-19, the very same day I was to be ‘deployed’ to the COVID floors of my hospital.”
Because of their work assisting COVID-19 patients directly, they committed to quarantine protocols — they had a “sanitation section” as soon as they entered their apartment, where they had a basket for old clothes and products to wipe down all their items, and then ran to the shower.
Dacayo said they couldn’t see their loved ones — not even Rico’s father when he was hospitalized. They weren’t able to hold a funeral for him due to the lockdown.
“We have yet to grieve together as a family during this tragic time, but despite this, we both continued to work,” she said. “Even though nurses and doctors are accustomed to responding to all sorts of tragedies, rarely do we have to worry about getting sick ourselves, infecting our family and friends, or working with the patients that have the same virus that took our father away.”
Dacayo said her and her fiancé have been able to support each other along the way through complicated process of healing, while still mourning the loss.
Dacayo, who is of Filipino descent, and Rico, of Colombian descent, said they both have immigrant families who worked hard to establish themselves in New York City. She said they share in each other’s families’ legacy of pushing them to help their communities.
While they have a supportive group of family and friends who want to share their story and help them win the COVID-19 Front-Liner Wedding Giveaway, they knew they needed to reach out to more outlets — like other contestants have — in order to make it further.
But when they reached out to a “pro-Asian” Instagram account in the hopes of garnering more support, Dacayo was shocked to see that along with support came some “offensive and hateful” comments.
“I understand some of them have been hurt by racism, but it’s just so incredibly heartbreaking to see them employ the same racism against their own,” Dacayo said.
Dacayo decided to address the offensive comments they received for being an interracial couple on Instagram, being that racism and cyberbullying is “nothing new” for them.
“The microaggressions Charles and I have received as an interracial couple are sad, but not surprising,” she explained. “Individually, we get them too: I don’t look ‘Asian enough.’ Charles ‘doesn’t look Hispanic enough, he looks white.’ ‘Charles is such a white name,’ says his professor. As a couple: ‘White man, Asian woman,’ ‘White men murder Asian women so no, we’re not voting for them,’ ‘This is a self-hating Asian who probably *s—-* on Asian men.’ They were demeaning me as a woman, as if I’m not entitled to my individual taste of man.”
She said it was “just incredibly sad” to see it coming from their own communities. “They automatically just judged us on our appearance and not on our story,” she said.
Dacayo said the owner of the Instagram page apologized profusely to them. It brought up the larger conversation of cyberbullying, which has intensified as a result of the lockdown.
Dacayo notes it’s different from in-person bullying “due to the anonymity that the internet can provide.”
“This bullying causes significant emotional and psychological distress and can have devastating effects, such as suicide,” she said. “We all need to combat that problem, by encouraging ethical and kind behavior; to use technology for the good and not for the drastic situation that has become cyberbullying.”
Despite that, Dacayo and Rico continue supporting each other. They hope they’ll be able to win the giveaway and celebrate their love.
“I’ve always wondered how relationships can survive such raw and inevitably difficult times in life. Now I understand why. Even though we aren’t married yet, we have honored our commitment to each other by respecting sacred vows of ‘for better or for worse,'” Dacayo said. “Winning this contest would celebrate our love in a way that symbolizes the hope in despair. Winning this contest would honor the love our families brought with them, carried with them, and nurtured in us. Sharing our story would mean that the world would know that love blooms even during times of hardship.”