Wedding disasters make the best stories. When perfection is usually the goal, glitches in whatever form make up the bride’s worst nightmares. It all started when we wanted to hold our wedding in Camiguin, an idyllic island province off northern Mindanao. To get there from our hometown of Davao City, one may opt for the 50-minute plane ride or the 10-hour road trip to the port of Cagayan de Oro City from which one takes a 2-hour ferry ride to get to the island. Neither Jun nor I are from Camiguin. Ours is a tumultuous relationship replete with adventure, clashing wills, travels, betrayal, and passion. Thus, when we finally decided to take the plunge into matrimony, this island born of fire beckoned to us because it somehow represented who we are and what we have been through. Camiguin is home to several volcanoes and has remained resilient in the face of destructive eruptions. Jun and I have been to Camiguin once and we were promptly enchanted by its rugged beauty that called to our sense of adventure and love of nature. Plus, such a far-flung venue ensured that only the truly important people in our lives would make the effort to celebrate our sacramental union.
Our wedding was inspired by the movie and Broadway musical Mamma Mia. Camiguin served a perfect setting for the musical’s Grecian island wedding that I wished to approximate. I gave clear instructions that women be in Greek goddess-inspired dresses while the men be in light suits without the ties. The reception would be at a cozy resort by the sea that allowed for a breathtaking view of the sunset; the ceremony at a quaint church built in the 1800s that highlighted intriguing woodcraft chandeliers and décor made of indigenous materials. The suppliers were all set. December 27, 2011, was fast approaching. Everything was thought out.
However, six months before the wedding, a freak flood damaged our home and property in Davao. Money that could have been used for the wedding went to repairs. One month before the wedding, a devastating flood hit Cagayan de Oro City that resulted in extensive damage and thousands of deaths. It was shaping out to be a grim Christmas for the region. When guests started arriving in Cagayan de Oro to take the ferry to Camiguin for pre-wedding and Christmas celebrations, devastation and displaced families were very evident and gave pause to our supposed joyous event. A few guests backed out because of the bad roads, unpredictable weather, and fear of seeing dead bodies on the way or in the waters that connected Cagayan de Oro and Camiguin. Our cake and flower suppliers would no longer commit delivery of goods to the island. As if things were not bad enough, I discovered that my precious wedding gown had an obvious tear at the back just a few hours before our flight to Cagayan de Oro. The designer dispatched her dressmaker to the airport to mend the offending tear. But she did not make it in time. Nevertheless, our clan was all geared up for this much-awaited grand family reunion bringing relatives to Camiguin from US, UK, Oman, Manila, and Davao.
The day of the wedding dawned with fine weather. Jun and I practiced riding the motorcycle which was to be the getaway bridal car. The reception was to be at the open-air rooftop. If weather turns foul, the function room would be ready. The air was filled with the buzz of preparations. Reception numbers were being practiced; make-up of entourage members was underway; photographers were busy documenting the goings-on. Zero hour was 3 PM and it was fast creeping up on us. My father lost his temper because he could not find his dress shirt. The bridal bouquet went missing. Jun’s father left the slacks of his suit. I snapped at the makeup artist because I did not like how my eye was made up and it was already 3 PM. I arrived at the church 30 minutes late. But not before having a dizzying car ride with my cousins, Yasmin and Mithi, who were my matron of honor and bridesmaid respectively. The car radio blaring Katy Perry singing, “I wanna see your peacock-cock-cock.” We could not help but burst out laughing.
The officiating priest seemed ill at ease with the well-dressed crowd in his 5th class municipality parish. He wore rubber shoes, had trembling hands, and nervously read his sermon. One of the principal sponsors was in torn jeans, a shabby shirt with a coat thrown on, and had long scruffy hair. A jarring sight especially when paired with my aunt Flora who was gorgeously dressed. After the ceremony, Jun and I took off in a motorcycle and rode into the sunset. But suddenly the heavens decided to toy with us and let loose unwelcome rain. I thought the resort owner was armed for such eventuality. But I thought utterly wrong. Yasmin, Mithi, and Jadee, my sister-in-law had to commandeer the totally unprepared function room and mobilize members of the family to transfer the reception set-up from the rooftop to the function room. The 3-layered wedding cake decorated with fresh red roses was looking like the leaning Tower of Pisa after having survived the ferry ride with Cocoy, my only sibling. Cocoy was scheduled to arrive the previous day but inadvertently missed the last ferry to Camiguin. As if he was not hassled enough, he had to mop the floor of the function room and was ticked off to find a condom, not knowing that it was left over from the balloon-blowing contest of the bridal shower the night before. Resort manager and staff crumbled in the crisis and practically slunk away at their ineptitude. To top it all off, the food left so much to be desired. I practically wept when I tasted the soup. I refused to eat another morsel of food.
But when Yasmin started her toast and roast, we started laughing and shedding tears. She spoke of how marriage is not losing one’s identity but it is doing more, giving more, and being more because Jun and I have each other. However, she warned Jun not to expect a Martha Stewart. Tito Epie, a principal sponsor, expounded that marriage is a call to holiness. Cocoy choked back his tears as he struggled for words and stressed the importance of family. Gabriel, my eldest nephew, expressed his affirmation that Jun and I have children who love life just like the way we do. An uncle, Tito Sonny, warned Jun that in the family, men are always vice-presidents; the women are the presidents. But it was my father who brought the house down when he started speaking in rarely heard poetic Tagalog and then easily shifted to English to tell of hilarious marriage anecdotes with profound wisdom embedded in them. Our whole wedding party consisted of 60 people and this included the 12-member Sta. Cecilia Chorale that truly gave color to the event with their beautiful and spirited performance. All of us were engaged in the celebration; and riveted to the eloquent speakers who each left a heartwarming and lasting sound bite. My nephew Jacy and my niece Anika gave a wonderful reading from the Little Prince which spoke of how one is responsible for someone one has tamed. My towering teenage nephews Amani, Alfonso, and Pocholo earnestly played the guitars and provided backup to Mithi’s heartfelt rendition of “Runaway”. All my titas Flora, Ging, Vim, Lillian, and my titos Butch and Sonny enthusiastically danced to “Dancing Queen.” When Jun surprised me with his very game singing of “She’s Always a Woman,” the guests sang along with him as I alternately laughed and cried. My cousin Anto commented that it is as if the song was made for me. Enclosed in a function room that would normally make my aesthetic sense cringe, we had the time of our lives. And that is the song Jun and I gamely danced to as husband and wife, “Time of Our Lives.” We were smiling and laughing throughout the dance as the crowd cheered us on. Never mind that we were forgetting the choreographed steps. Never mind that the food was not exactly palatable. Never mind that we did not use the scenic reception venue. We were celebrating a love that nearly did not make it and is made more precious precisely because of that. We were celebrating this love with the closest people who truly matter and who braved land, sea, and air travel to be with us. We were celebrating this love with a storied and interesting wedding that breaks the mold of perfect and polished weddings. On an island made enchanting by the fire from which it has emerged, the seeming nightmare of glitches served as a small baptism of fire for us who have chosen to unconditionally love for a lifetime, for better or for worse.
Vida Mia Valverde was a fellow at the 2011 Davao Writers Workshop.