Why did I brave a 7-hour bus trip from Manila to Santiago, Isabela to witness this momentous wedding of our friend Cesario? Why do I believe that we must give to Cesario what is Cesario’s? How did 5 volunteer teachers from all over the country find themselves playing patintero on the rock-port of Cuyo, Palawan? Why did they do it again in Isabela, this time over a swimming pool? Let me tell you our story …
Today I attended a wedding in Santiago, Isabela. It was the wedding of Cesar our “bunso”, our youngest team mate in our batch of volunteer teachers in 1998. Cesar married Gema, a sweet lady he met through his friends and by faith.
There were a couple of things that made this wedding very special for me.
A celebration across traditions and cultures
The ceremonies were held in a wedding reception venue in Santiago, Isabela. It was called “Charina’s” and it had an indoor air-conditioned area for 300 pax and an outdoor venue for another 500 pax perhaps. The ceremonies were held ON the swimming pool. Yes, ON the swimming pool. There was a platform that extended across the pool where the entourage, sponsors, parents and bride and groom did their red carpet walk.
The ceremony was close to a western Christian wedding. It was interesting to see that their minister was a black gentleman. When Reverend Minister Michael Meille spoke, his accent sounded familiar. He was from South Africa. I learned later that he had been coming to the Philippines to setup a branch of their church here in the Philippines. When I spoke to him, I mentioned that I learned their greeting: “Bunjani!? Ngiyaphila!” (“Kumusta? Mabuti!”) . He was very pleased to meet someone who knew about his country.
It was interesting how the entire entourage was challenged by the platform above the pool. Some were walking gingerly as the platform shook just a bit with every stride. They also had to tiptoe round the altar to exit the platform.
At the reception, we welcomed the parents and sponsors and the newlyweds. We went right down to the first dance of the couple, which rolled on to a money dance. It was interesting to see how ready the ninongs were to put in their share for the newlyweds. During lunch, I was wondering why the singers were singing so loudly as if *they* had a concert. Even the wedding host chimed in with his wedding songs. Iba talaga when you sing for the couple and when you sing to perform. Iba and love na mararamdaman when the singers sing sincerely for the couple. Iba ang energy.
At one point, one of the relatives exhorted the relatives to start making their way to the newlyweds. And, like an army of volunteers, relatives made a beeline toward the couple to give their blessings and their monetary gifts. Our friend, Erik, being more familiar with the Cordilleran culture says that traditionally, this portion of the ceremony is accompaniesd by the beating of drums and gongs.
As if on cue, the gongs indeed started to beat. The elders started their traditional dances. I’m always glad to see the culture of the Cordilleras being proudly displayed. I was especially pleased to see how a young man, maybe in his mid-20’s, led in the dances, even insistently inviting the older women to partner-up with him in ta traditional courtship dance.
Cordilleran culture is very much alive.
I’m told that even after the reception, there’ll be another wedding reception at the home of the groom – a continuation of the wedding celebration, many more hours of dancing, singing, feasting and just celebrating and blessing the young newlyweds.
Re-oonnecting with friends
I could have chosen to not attend. It was a long trip just to reach the venue. A 7 hour bus ride from Manila to Santiago, Isabela.
I chose to make this trip because I wanted to reconnect with this group of friends whom I spent a year with in Cuyo Palawan.
We were volunteer teachers, the first batch in the Gurong Paninungod program of UP.
5 of us were assigned to Cuyo, Palawan. Grace, Rhea and Cesar taught in Pawa National High School, while Dexter and myself taught in an island called Bisucay.
I loved the time that we shared during this trip.
I loved the reminiscing about all that we experienced that year.
I loved catching up with what each of us were doing.
I loved to see how each of us were still very much involved in teaching.
Dex works for the Department of Education.
Rhea is a consultant for Education research projects.
Grace is teaching at the College of Education in UP.
Cesar is a lawyer in Santiago and teaches at LaSallette.
While I am a corporate trainer.
Teachers at heart are we :-)
This was our message for Cesar and Gema:
The spontaneous vows
The highlight of the day for me was setup by the South African Minister, Reverend Michael.
Bro Michael read the traditional vows out loud and Cesar repeated the vows. Gema followed as Bro Michael read the vows and Gema repeated the vows.
After the vows they read, Bro Michael explained that the formal vows had been given.
And now, Brro Michael asked the couple to say their spontaneous vows from the heart.
Obviously not expecting it, Cesar stuttered a bit at the start. I almost felt as if he was going to say a line or two from his favorite song (“My love will go on” from Titanic)
Gema too was lost for words for a moment.
And that moment was perfect, amidst the imperfection.
The spontaneity was lovely, the sincerity divine.
You know what? I told Rezza that when we get married, we’ll PLAN to have some spontaneous vows! Yes, we’ll plan for spontaneity :D .
How we will pull it off? We’ll see!
I pray for Cesar and Gema.
I bless them for the relationship they have now.
I bless them for the relationship they shall continue to build in your honor, dear Lord.
I pray for the friends and relatives, that they may support the couple with their payers and good thoughts for the couple.
I pray for Cesar and Gema that they may be blessed with abundance, love and respect for each other.
I pray that You bless them with children whom they will care for with all their love.
I pray that they both continue in their chosen vocations, as teachers and legal practitioners.
May Cesar and Gem honor You, Dear Lord, with the lives that they lead.