My college friend, Mimi, got married a day before the end of 2014. I RSVPed ‘yes’ to her invitation and decided to forgo going home to my province for the holidays to witness in person this milestone in her life. (Although part of that decision also has to do with a self-imposed ‘punishment’ for failing to meet my writing deadlines. Play hard only when you’ve worked hard enough, right?) Mimi and I were roommates in a boarding house we nicknamed “Pink House” and bonded there with other girls over our academic woes, future dreams, music preferences, and the endless penny-pinching to make the weekly allowance cover everything—a dwelling/circle of friends we got to calling Tahanan Ng Magaganda which we later abbreviated to TNM. (Yes, it was that kind of official.)
The wedding took place in an exclusive subdivision of sorts in Pampanga. I haven’t been to this area before and was absolutely clueless on how to get there from Manila. I googled everything and figured that from my appartment I had to take a jeepney to get to EDSA to get on a bus to Cubao to get to the bus terminal which dispatches buses going to Olongapo which are supposed to stop at SM Pampanga, the landmark that, according to the venue’s website, is “only 5 minutes away.”
So I set my alarm at 6:30 and planned to arrive there early to dress up and prepare for the ceremony with much time to spare. But let me tell you something about plans. No matter how much you organize the details or make allowances for the unexpected, they (almost) always never happen the way you imagine them unfolding in real life. Case in point: I woke up an hour late and left my appartment at 9 which made passing through EDSA a slow crawl and had me getting off the bus in Cubao at 10. The ticket queue for Olongapo-bound buses was a mile long (okay not really but it sure felt like it!) and I ended up waiting in line for an hour and a half before finally boarding the bus. I asked the bus conductor if the bus’ route will pass by SM Pampanga. (I already googled this but I was alone journeying to an unfamiliar place and had to be reassured.) His reply, ”Hindi kami dadaan ‘dun. Masyadong traffic ‘dun. Sa North Park ka na lang bumaba. Isang jeep lang nasa SM ka na.” I was beat from more than an hour of standing in line and in a great hurry so I got on anyway.
The bus to Olongapo pulled out of the terminal a little over 12. The invitation said the wedding starts from 2 pm onwards. Google said it will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Manila to SM Pampanga. As I texted Jen, also a TNM girl and one of Mimi’s secondary sponsors, that I’d probably miss the ceremony I was inconsolably sad and frustrated. I had wanted only to concentrate on happy and celebratory feelings as the event merits. (I even changed my phone’s wallpaper to jive with the day’s theme.)
I reached SM Pampanga at around 1:30 and was picked up a little later by the groom’s uncle and their driver to the venue. (Mind you, that ride did not seem like a mere 5 minutes.) We arrived there at about 2pm and thankfully the ceremony hadn’t started yet as the entourage did some pre-wedding photoshoot first. I was in a rush dressing up, scurrying, hurrying, breathing deeply in and out to do away with the anxiety of my adrenaline-filled travel schedule. I barely made it (I was still fixing my hair in the car) as we were ushered outside to our ride for the church, which was technically a tent with a whimsical ‘ceiling.’
The mass started at 3pm. One by one, pair by pair, the entourage walked down the aisle. When it was Mimi’s parents’ turn, her dad started crying which made it really hard for me to keep my eyes dry. (I had the same reaction to another friend’s wedding back in November so I can safely say that I’m beginning to understand why weddings make people emotional.) Mimi was a lovely bride. They wrote the vows they exchanged. I don’t remember all the details but I recall feeling very happy for them—their words of love and promises of taking care of each other sounded and felt genuine, like they welled-up from a place deep and true and good.
The priest, in his sermon, described two scenarios: the first, a picture of a young couple, arms around each other, enjoying the sunset with a ‘hip’ love song as their background music; the second, a snapshot of an old couple, with wrinkled faces and hands, walking hand in hand with the background music, 🎶Kung tayo’y matanda na, sana ay ‘di tayo magbago…🎶 (The priest confidently sang these background songs, too. I often wonder if singing is part of the curriculum of priesthood.) He labeled the former ‘Romance’ and the latter ‘Love.’ And you could guess, he endorsed the second scenario for the two and preached about the holy and binding promise of the marriage contract. (Although I think love and romance need not necessarily be opposing sides of a dichotomy and a balanced mix of the two seems more promising.) Then, there were the I dos, the signing, the putting on of veil and cord, and getting them off (not in this order, I’m sure), the offering, the singing, the kneeling down and standing up, the nodding and peace-be-with-yous, more singing, and so on…until finally the “You may now kiss the bride!” sealing the deal—Mimi officially became a married woman!
After the mass, the newlyweds had their photos taken with family and friends. As Jen and I exited the tent-church (church-tent?), I didn’t see the jars encasing candles along the aisle, I naturally tripped on one and broke it with an echoing crassssshhh (what kind if fabric was that tent made of anyway?)! The videographer saw what happened, widened his eyes, and teasingly remarked, “Everything was caught on camera!”, to which I could only offer an “I’m so sorry!” and a truly suppliant expression. More photos were clicked, videos recorded, involving the entourage, the greenery of the surroundings, and the nearby lake.
We arrived at the reception area at about sunset and first checked our designated seats. Since Mimi and Jen are the only two people I know there with some familiarity, I experienced a terrifying Chandler moment - “This (i.e., being seated with strangers forced to make small talk - which I neither like nor am good at) is exactly the kind of social situation I’m not comfortable with.” Fortunately for me, Jen was my seatmate and my (platonic) Monica for the rest of the night.
The entrance of the newlyweds was greeted with applause, smiles, and cheers. All the traditional wedding celebrations were observed: the couple’s first dance (which was quite fun to watch because they danced to an upbeat song), cutting and eating of the cake, toasts from the maid of honor and best man, advice from parents and family, and the (dreaded?) ‘singles games.’
Mimi and Rod requested to take a photo with each table before opening the buffet. As we posed with the couple, I offered my congratulations, well wishes, and hugs. Up close, they looked exactly how newlyweds should look - happy and all smiles. The food was great (although I was not so very into the desserts). Jen commented that the menu was “so Mimi” (she was right as Mimi later confirmed that she was the one who picked the items on the menu). There was a live band playing love songs as we ate. The girls in our table had developed a ‘crush’ on one of the singers, who does have a soulful voice perfect for such songs. They were lamenting (jokingly, I think) the fact that he already has a girlfriend, a pretty one at that.
”Pano mo nalaman na girlfriend nga?” “Hinawakan kasi ang kamay!” “Malay mo naman hinawakan lang, pwede naman friends lang.” “Hindi, iba kasi ang hawak eh.”
The feast was concluded with a thank-you speech from Rod, with Mimi whispering beside him those he forgot to thank. With the program officially over, the band started playing danceable songs (and open bar still open) signalling “Party partaay!” - a prospect I have yet to get keen at. Although, I admit when the band covered David Guetta and Sia’s Titanium, I danced, sang, drank, sang, danced, drank, and almost felt like a party girl. (Okay so this ‘drank’ is really more like ‘sipped.’) I was able to sample five different drinks (a first for me): margarita, white wine, a more nicely mixed margarita, mojito - which, to me, tasted like toothpaste (is this really the case?) - and vodka with raspberry. One of Mimi’s Singaporean friends, Esther, started a drinking game. She dared the maid of honor to drink straight from the bottle of a Jack Daniel’s, which she obliged and accidentally drank too much on accounts of a missing stopper. Esther then dared everybody to do the same, which made me turn to Jen anxiously grumbling “Jen, I don’t want to!” She replied with, “Go to the bathroom now.” So I cowardly did and escaped the dare, which effectively ended my like-a-party-girl feelings.
The evening dwindled and we eventually hitched a ride back to the villa. I decided to spend the night and go back to Manila early the next morning. As I was preparing for bed, I saw our wedding present for Mimi and Rod and remembered the quote from Katharine Hepburn I included in the dedication:
LOVE has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get - only with what you are expecting to GIVE - which is EVERYTHING.
(P.S. Akalain mo ‘yun, nasa Pilipinas pala ang Mexico! Ok fine, nagjoke ako at corny. ‘Kaythanksbye!)