In the National Archives of the Philippines is kept a document which relates how Ilocos was divided in 1818. It was thought that by creating the provinces of Ilocos Sur and llocos Norte, two sets of administrators would be better able to watch over the native populations.
A few days ago, on a warm evening in November, I witnessed how this centuries-old split was, in a sense, reversed. In a solemn ceremony in the magnificent cathedral of Vigan, the North and the South came together again. Carlos, scion of the Fariñas clan of Ilocos Norte, wed Janina, scion of the Singsons of Ilocos Sur.
The Fariñas family has always been associated with the North, especially because of its well-known bus company. Rudy Fariñas, father of the groom, was mayor of Laoag, congressman and governor for many years. The Singsons, on the other hand, have produced congressmen, governors of Ilocos Sur as well as mayors of Vigan.
The bride’s mother, Eva Singson-Medina, is currently the chief executive of the capital city. I had met her many years before at a heritage workshop in China and found her dedicated as well as feisty. The bride’s father, Ferdie Medina, had also been mayor of Vigan. His brother is mayor of their hometown, Pateros.
During the reception, the two families confessed they had had initial misgivings about the match. I found it quite amusing to learn that even political clans have some self-awareness of the difficulties involved in becoming a member of such a powerful and complex network of relations. The young couple, however, eventually dissipated everyone’s doubts.
Janina is a vibrant young woman. I have seen how she runs her own restaurant, Leila’s Café. Its innovative food and interiors clearly indicate that there is someone dynamic and creative in charge. Janina was also among those chosen for a seminar for new leaders organized by Rina Lopez-Bautista and Raissa Hechanova-Posadas. Many of the seminar participants flew in from all over the country for the wedding.
Carlos is the eldest male of a brood of eight. Since his father had remarried only to be widowed, he has learned early in life to deal with the responsibilities of caring for his siblings. At present, he manages the family bus line, spearheading the introduction of new features such as WiFi in all the vehicles. When his would-be father-in-law asked around town as a matter of due diligence, everyone he talked to only had the best things to say about this quiet young man.
With such a promising pairing, I was certain that the wedding would be memorable. I was not disappointed. To begin with, the church setting was already quite impressive—not because it was elaborately decked out, but because the decorations were quite restrained. The main feature was the band of flowers at each side of the central nave perked up by yellow birds woven from coconut fronds by the teachers and students of the Paoa-Ayusan Elementary School. Surely the grandeur of Vigan’s Cathedral of Saint Paul did not need further embellishment.
The ceremony, officiated by Archbishop Ernesto Salgado, was quite simple. The stature of the new couple only revealed itself in the identities of the godparents. As befits the prominence of the families that were being united that evening, some of the stars of our socio-political scene were on hand to grace the occasion: Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Sen. Loren Legarda, Sen. Francis Escudero, Sen. Manuel Villar. Gov. Imee Marcos was also present along with tycoon Ramon Ang and many others.
The church doors had been closed while the sponsors walked down the aisle. Suddenly they were flung open, revealing the waiting bride. Her gown, by Veluz Reyes, was breathtaking. It featured a long train with a novel twist: It broke up into three sections. A closer look would reveal the skirt was flounced in a circular pattern that reminded me immediately of one thing and one thing only: Jacqueline Bouvier’s own wedding dress.
Janina’s parents waited halfway down the nave to accompany their child on her trip down the aisle. When Carlos met them, everyone couldn’t help but laugh when the bride’s father shook his finger jokingly in the face of his soon-to-be son-in-law. Then everyone laughed some more as the senior Medinas pretended to hold on to their young daughter, refusing to relinquish her.
In the midst of the merriment, I found myself shedding a tear or two. Yes, parents know all too well that marriage is not a simple affair.
The reception was held at Dr. Joven Cuanang’s Sitio Remedios, an hour or so away in Ilocos Norte. It was here that much more of the character of the couple was evident. The place was dramatically lit up, courtesy of theater director Sonny Cristobal.
The tables were made more splendid by bamboo candelabra from Vintar in Ilocos Norte. These were draped with garlands of the humblest cadena de amor sparkling like garnet tiaras. The place settings consisted of colorful paypays, little terra-cotta salt and pepper shakers in the shape of Vigan houses produced at the city’s own Productivity Center, and pastillas by Jocelyn Malcaba in wrappers with cutout designs spelling the name of the couple, created by Sylvia Rabbon. It was a feast for the eyes but also a reminder of what Filipino hands could so lovingly fashion.
Other reminders were in store. Janina and Carlos insisted that their wedding would also serve to better acquaint their guests with what their home provinces had to offer. It was to be a showcase not just of family but of the region as well. They came up with the idea of assigning a town for each table along with signs that explained the best features of every municipality.
‘Basi,’ the Ilocos wine which launched a revolution, was flowing generously. I insisted that I did not drink but could not resist a sip or seven. Soon I could just grin, immobilized, held in the rapture of friends, celebration, and meanings.
My stupor was only broken when the best man, the groom’s younger brother, spoke. He was articulate and funny as well as good-looking, so one was ready to tolerate anything he may have decided to foist on us. It turned out what he had to say made me sit up in my seat. With an angelic smile, he shared with us some advice for a good marriage that, young as he was, seemed sage and sound—or perhaps it was just the basi. Whatever it was, the audience turned sober as he intoned that when looking for a spouse, one should not look for the person one can live with. One should look for the person one cannot live without.
The next day, as I stopped by Sitio Remedios to pick up some friends for the ride to the airport, I found that Carlos and Janina were also there. I was quite amazed to hear that after all the demands of the previous day, the couple was already busy, still attending to the needs of their guests, making sure that everyone, photographer or chum, was comfortable and well-cared for.
Surely this was one young pair without which the entire world, itself, would not flourish.