It is said that certain marriages are made in heaven; so are storms and earthquakes, unstoppable as they are. And this one wedding, of a favorite journalist of ours, by its determination to happen in the face of Old Testament tests, proved a heavenly match.
It was bad enough that the romance had been overtaken by the pandemic, but while it pulled them apart, to a physical extent, it brought them closer in more significant ways.
On wedding week, the Lord of Abraham sent one storm after another, which brought flood upon flood. And, on the eve of the wedding, a 6.7-magnitude quake shook the earth. Lodged in a hotel, bridegroom and best man had to take the rocking in its much compounded intensity 15 floors above ground, and both lived for best man to tell his tale and laugh off another test passed.
If any couple could weather storms and earthquakes, it was this betrothed, who, eight years ago, had met serendipitously at a wedding and knew they would one day marry, but were confident enough to focus in the meantime on their selfless careers—he a broadcast journalist, she a surgeon.
Behind the scenes
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, we seniors were going through tests of our own. As he had been asked to be a ninong several months earlier, Vergel and I had to prepare for our first formal affair in a very long while, and during the pandemic yet. We worried not so much about the pandemic; we were to have had our complete two-shot vaccinations. Our devil was in the details.
Never one to worry about what to wear and assured of the suitably prescribed black suit and tie in his closet, Vergel thought he was all set. As ninong’s wife, seated with him at a special table, I was expected to wear a long gown, too, and to blend, not clash, with the entourage’s color motif, old rose.
My ninang gowns were mostly Filipinana, and none of my modern ones came close enough to old rose.
As the day drew near, I was almost panicking—old rose was proving a difficult color to find in the usual shops. I tried the more expensive bridal shops, where the color seemed a bridesmaid’s favorite, but understandably didn’t come in my matronly size.
Time running out
With time running out, I resigned myself to wearing the draped, beige, long skirt that goes with my piña and to cheating a bit by pairing it instead with a silky pink salmon top.
Three days before the wedding, Annabel, our three-times-a-week aqua-exercise hostess, arranged a manicure-pedicure session at her place. When I got there, I realized I had my own fairy godmother—Annabel herself!—as laid out on the sofas were three of her gorgeous outfits, in different shades of pink. Annabel being a few inches taller, I thought the pinkish caramel chiffon top, by Rajo Laurel, would pass enough as mine. Additionally, she brought out the perfect dangling earrings for the outfit. Since the chiffon top had sequins sewn into a small flower in the same color, I declined the necklace, thinking it somewhat of an overkill.
On the morning of the 2:30 p.m. wedding, I was back at her home, where Angelo, her hairdresser and makeup artist, waited to do me. I was gloating amid all the compliments until I realized I would have to wear a mask. With a wave of her hand, Annabel produced a matching Rajo mask. Completely transformed, I never felt prettier, in old age.
Back home, Vergel was going through some anxieties of his own. His black suit felt a bit too snug. He changed into his charcoal gray after getting the approval of the bridegroom, who, at that point, probably could care less, so long as we appeared, a duty that called for some courage being performed in the rain and floods of Manila.
For lack of practice, we were taking longer to get ready. We also hadn’t worn our dress shoes in a while, and having experienced the nightmare of soles suddenly coming off from disuse, we decided to bring extra pairs. Through all the rush, we hardly touched our lunch.
Midway to the cathedral, I realize my skirt was turned backside front: I was sitting on my drapes! I remembered hooking my skirt on the side, instead of behind. and forgot to set it right back. Bouncing up and down and twisting in my seat, I proceeded to turn my skirt around until the now wrinkled drapes were where they ought to be.
The smartest thing we did was to have brought the extra pair of shoes. Even if most of the time I was seated by myself, comfortably, behind the sponsors, noting the absence of any politicians who usually infest journalists’ weddings, and admiring the strict protocol and social distancing imposed by the journalist-doctor couple, I’m sure, the torture suffered by my unaccustomed feet in those heeled shoes proved simply too much to bear; I didn’t mind shrinking three inches, and in the car slipped into my flats for the reception.
And it was just as well, for there we were on our feet all through the predinner cocktails, delicious enough to dine on such that dinner, surely worth the proper main course, was more picked on than devoured, to the sound of band music and amid blooms of pink.
It was well past 8, when we, possibly the oldest couple around, rose to leave, ahead of most everyone. By 10, unmasked in more ways than one, this 81-year-old Cinderella was home with her prince, glad to have made it and now comfortable back as her old self again. INQ