Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Kuya's Philippine Journals: Wedding Day

Although the main purpose of our trip had been to see the extended family of my wife, it was also a charitable mission. The last time that I had visited the Philippines, my soon to be brother-in-law was dating a girl and wanted to marry her the following year. However, tradition dictates that two siblings from the same family can't get married in the same year. I haven't been able to locate the source of that tradition but I'm guessing it was made up by the parents of several sons similar in age. For another tradition requires that the groom's parents pay for the wedding unlike the bride's parents here in the states. That is why if we have a son, we will follow American traditions and if a daughter Filipino traditions, the best of both worlds... literally. But I digress.

Perhaps because a year is a long time to get married when you are in love, things happened and soon a baby was on the way. To make a long story shorter, the expectant parents elected for a civil wedding to make things official and promised parents on both sides that a church wedding would happen the following year when tradition allowed. The months came and went but the wedding was never planned. The child was born and still the wedding kept being delayed, mostly for financial reasons but I also feel there was now a lack of urgency so no desire remained to push through with it. Another long story shortened, in order to baptize the child in a Catholic church, the parents needed to be wed in a Catholic church and so my wife and I made her brother an offer. We would pay for the wedding provided they have it when we were there in December and they would do all the planning. After months with the offer on the table, they accepted a couple weeks before we flew out for Manila.

So for a week since our arrival, not only had we been making up for time lost with relatives or celebrating Christmas, but we had been planning for a wedding and today on the sunny 29th of December, it was going to happen. I had been warned repeatedly that we were to leave for the church on the military base precisely at seven in the morning but I was an old hat at these things and knew that was just wishful thinking. Nonetheless, I was up with the broken rooster and was ready to go about a quarter 'til seven with no one else even remotely close to making it out the door. An hour later we were in a taxi heading towards the base to get the church decorated before the wedding.

We made a quick stop in the center of Baguio to meet another taxi, which had been hired to bring us the wedding cake, and to combine both taxis into one for the ride out to the base. After another tense greeting between the well-armed soldiers and myself, we were let through and made it up to the chapel. I won't bore you with the details but let me say we did start only twenty minutes late, which by Filipino standards was well ahead of schedule. The only major snafu was one of the primary sponsors was a no show and because I happen to own a traditional Filipino wedding shirt called a barong tagalog and had brought it, I filled in for the missing sponsor. The only difference between that and a guest was that I got to sit in the front row and sign my name on a bunch of official looking documents.
After the ceremony however, my status as primary sponsor became, shall I say, better. The wedding reception was held in a large banquet hall that had been secured by my mother-in-law and her status on the base for free with the exception of the food. Rows of tables had been set up, decorated to the nines with fine china and table service with a head table or what they call the Presidents table up front for the married couple and primary sponsors. Now normally when I go to weddings, I am always in the section for all those folks the married couple doesn't know what to do with. I end up talking with someone's great aunt's best friend or the cousin of a coworker of the groom, which inevitably means I am always the last to eat. At one large wedding in my past, by the time we made it up to get our food, the band was already playing, the bride and groom dancing, and they had run out of the meat. I ended up with a salad, some soggy vegetables and a bowl full of dinner rolls. This wedding was different. I along with the other seven primary sponsors had personal waiters to attend to our every need including serving us with our own ornately arranged platters of food. Without a doubt, the best wedding I have ever been too.

My wife and I both were beat at this point from getting the wedding in order since we ended up doing a lot of the planning anyway. But it was over and we were relieved and it was just about one in the afternoon. So what does a Filipino do after a big wedding and a noonday reception? Why go home for another party and another feast! So tired as we were, we ate and celebrated the day away with the bride and groom until they had to leave for the bride's family with... you guessed it, another party and feast awaiting them. Some women will maybe out grow their wedding dress in a few years but in the Philippines, I'm guessing it was getting pretty snug by the end of the day. Finally after my extended belly could hold no more and my tired eyes could not fight gravity, we made our way upstairs to our room and amidst the fireworks (still warming up for New Years Eve) bursting in bright flashes of light and rolling thunderous booms all up and down the mountains of Baguio City, we fell asleep.

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