The guest list had two former presidents, six incumbent senators, a former first lady, an ex-vice president and other erstwhile government officials, including one just out on bail.
Also, a pair of newlyweds fresh from their Paris honeymoon. All were unfazed by the violent thunderstorm last Sunday that preceded the party which celebrated 60 years of marriage of former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile and Cristina (nee Castañer), who once served as Philippine ambassador to the Holy See.
“I thank my wife for being here tonight,” Enrile, 93, told guests just before the final blessing was given in the thanksgiving Mass celebrated in the chapel in the family residential compound in Makati.
Guffaws erupted right after.
Wasn’t it apt that the Gospel reading talked of forgiveness, some noted. (Matthew narrates how Jesus told Peter he must forgive his enemies “77 times.”)
Cristina, 80, flashed a knowing smile. Earlier that afternoon she cheekily told lifestyle journalists that in their younger years, she would hit her husband in the butt with a fly swatter whenever she learned he had another girlfriend.
Like the brilliant lawyer that he really is, Enrile made an eloquent case of his devotion to Cristina, saying, “Tonight is the fulfillment and proof of our vows,” he said.
“I had lived, protected and loved my wife for a period of more than half a century… As a married couple, we’ve had our trials and tribulations over those 60 years. We’ve had successes and failures.”
Enrile recalled how he and Cristina started life together in “a small room” in his parents’ home in Maysilo, Malabon, in 1957 until they were able to afford more comfortable residences in Phil-Am Homes in Quezon City, and later in Urdaneta Village and Dasmariñas in Makati City as he made strides in his legal career.
Enrile said son Jackie (now overseas taking up graduate studies at Columbia University) and daughter Katrina had given them four grandchildren each.
“One boy each, three girls each. That’s how well ordered is my society,” he reported with a smile.
The extended family is now capped with four great-grandsons, Enrile added to loud applause.
Imelda, Irma, Winnie
Former first lady Imelda Marcos, in a striking red embroidered tunic, was among the early guests. She sat quietly in the chapel with the groom’s sister, soprano and University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music voice pedagogue Irma Ponce Enrile Potenciano, while the celebrators gave an interview to reporters in their spacious sala before the mass.
Former elections chief Christian Monsod and columnist wife Winnie made it to the Mass while senators Greg Honasan and Tito Sotto cooled their heels outside.
Cebu’s society couple Michel and Amparito Lhuillier greeted the couple right after the Mass.
Former senator Jinggoy Estrada arrived with his father, Manila Mayor and former president Joseph Estrada, just as the Enriles stepped out of the chapel.
Enrile was visibly pleased to see Jinggoy, then on his second day out of the Camp Crame custodial center where he was detained for three years on plunder charges. The Sandiganbayan had finally allowed him to post bail.
(Jinggoy, Honasan, Sotto and Enrile once comprised the so-called “Macho Bloc” in the Senate.)
Cameras flashed soon after as the hosts greeted their guests while family friend Edna Camcam flitted from table to table to make everyone feel at home.
Within minutes, Pampanga Rep. and former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Sen. Loren Legarda, Sen. Nancy Binay and her brother Junjun, former mayor of Makati City, came in.
Following soon after were former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza, who was Estrada’s chief defender during his impeachment trial in 2000, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imee Marcos, former vice president Jejomar Binay and wife Elenita, who succeeded him for one term as Makati mayor.
Sen. Ralph Recto arrived next, trailed by Sen. Richard Gordon and wife Kate, former congresswoman of Zambales. Witnesses said former senator Bongbong Marcos later caught up, after most of the guests had left.
Among those who arrived more quietly were Enrile’s nephew, filmmaker Carlitos Siguion Reyna (son of his sister Armida), tycoon Andrew Tan, businessman Jaime Dichavez, skincare expert Aivee Teo, and actress Ruffa Gutierrez.
Guests whipped out their smartphones when newlyweds Hayden Kho and Vicki Belo arrived. Even the Enriles stood up from their dining chairs and posed for a selfie with the celebrity couple.
Daughter Katrina’s posse was in full force: fashion designers Randy Ortiz and Tonichi Nocom, hair master Henri Calayag, events director Jackie Aquino, communications specialist Toots Tolentino, and Cynthia Chuidian.
A huge white tent protected the merrymakers from the rains. Overhead were sparkling crystal chandeliers provided by Robert Blancaflor. Fiori di M’s Margarita Fores did the floral arrangements, which were dominated by hydrangeas.
Dinner was a feast provided by Fores’ Lusso: fresh fettuccine with salted eggs and asparagus, pappardelle al telefono, spaghettini with Cagayan chorizo, lobster alla griglia, Chilean seabass baked in salt crust, buttered chicken, roasted leg of lamb, grilled short ribs, organic Negros roast lechon, and desserts worthy of their own coffee-table book.
Soprano Rachelle Gerodias and tenor Lemuel de la Cruz serenaded the guests with romantic arias before the Spirit of ’67 cranked up the speakers and rendered retro-pop songs. At one point, Katrina took the mic.
“Their marriage has never been perfect,” she said. “It probably never will be, but they are committed to each other and allowed their hearts to prevail. I am the happiest person here, seeing that they are still together to celebrate their 60th.”
She cajoled her parents to kiss before the guests, but her father appeared hesitant, prompting Katrina to shout, “Dad! Kiss Mom!” several times.
Enrile smiled and acknowledged everyone. “Not smile! Kiss,” Katrina commanded. And so the couple did.
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