The Ultimate Road to Forever

The day was the 2nd of January, the day after New Year’s Day, the day when people were about to end the annual holiday season festivities and return to their busy lives. But for two young souls, January 2 was something else. It’s an embodiment of love and unification that fleetly transcends beyond words and actions. Two individuals became one with God. Two celebrations filled with gushing jubilancy and fondness painted the path to eternity. January 2, 2016 was the ultimate day. Yes, that’s our day.

I tied the knot with my long time best friend, Ana-Liza Ani, that day. Actually, that’s the second time around. The first one, in 2015, was a civil wedding. As such, January 2, 2016 was a two fold special day, our church wedding and 1st anniversary. The ceremony was held at the historic Barasoain Church located in Malolos City, Philippines.

The Foundation

I have known Ana since high schoolas we were schoolmates. I was one-year level ahead, and we both at times represented our year levels in different academic competitions, both intra and interschool. That gave us the opportunity to form a special bond and become good friends down the road. We stayed in touch when I went to college, and we even traded letters for one year. I wrote her about what college feels like, my challenges and funny moments; she wrote me back and recounted her high school senior year experiences and consistently asked me a lot of questions. The year-long connection made us collect a thick pile of letters, all considered priceless now. Yes, social media wasn’t a hit yet during that time.

We continued to stay in touch while we were both in college, then we started drifting apart since we’re seriously taking our studies. Ana graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, with a degree in education, magna cum laude. She eventually took and easily passed the board exams, and ranked 2nd nationwide. Damn, an extremely brilliant head. I was so proud of her achievements (and I still am presently), and my admiration and utmost respect for her grew exponentially. Her brother, who was also my school competition buddy back in high school, graduated from UP Diliman too with a degree in engineering, summa cum laude. Monster! Both of them become my inspiration in working hard and being the best that I can be. I studied hard, got my own share of recognition upon graduation, passed the Philippine CPA board exams and landed a career at my dream company, SGV & Co. We started dating when we became professionals,and traveled the Philippines together. I eventually moved to the US in December 2011 to explore the world, the same time when our relationship turned into a deeper, romantic one. Technology and social media played an important role in our day-to-day communications. We have been constantly in touch and connected through Skype, Facebook, Between, among others. Since we’re both extremely busy in our own fields, long-distance relationship worked well for us and gave us the reasons to become even more excited with each other. Also, sending love letters from time to time has been a common place for us. Years from now, reading those letters would surely bring back timeless memories and continually evoke the burning flames of love.

The Proposal Adventure

Ana and I were together for three years when I decided to pop the question. I was still in the US when I planned for the proposal, bought the engagement ring (and the wedding rings) and braced myself for the outcome. I was really determined to level up our relationship, and since I felt that she’s also ready. It was on December 14, 2014, the same day I arrived in Manila, when I proposed. The original plot was to do it at the National Museum in Manila, since Ana is a history buff and professor. Juan Luna’s Spoliarium was the main attraction at the museum, so my game plan was simple: to hire some friend-actors, give the wedding ring box to her, kneel a little bit in front of the colossal painting, expect some drama, go home and take a good and long rest. However, things don’t usually go the way we planned them. When we entered the museum, we were informed that the museum had been temporarily closed due to a blackout. The entire Padre Burgos Avenue was down! As such, they had to stop the museum operations until the power goes up and running. Oh no, abort the mission! Abort the mission!

Well, since it’s me, I don’t usually easily give up. I told her that we should try to go to a nearby historic place and enjoy our moments together. Today is our first day of being together again, you know. So we took a sidecar trip to Intramuros, Manila. I can’t exactly remember how many times we’ve been to that historic and oldest district center of Manila before, but giving it another try won’t be too much. While we’re touring, my mind was already unstoppably thinking of Plan B. Well, it didn’t take that much longer before I was able to determine my next course of action. Brace yourself, bebeko. The best is yet to come!

I told the driver to make sure we stop by Fort Santiago, one of the famous sites in Intramuros. I told Ana that we should try the horse carriage ride (karitela in Tagalog) together and tour around the Fort for a few minutes. The coach we rented is typically used for wedding pictorials. Okay, so we’re inside now, sitting in front of each other, and enjoying the ride of our life. I then took something out of my camera bag, and asked her to open it; I told her it’s a gift. She opened it and found a pocket-sized, hardbound book. She looked at me obviously bewildered, especially when I told her to read the book right away. Her thinking, of all places, you really want me to read it now, as in now?! Since I was very persistent, I kept insisting that she open the book, while she kept fighting back and trying to make sense of the situation. After a few more tries, she gave up and opened the book to the very first page—the page where you’d put your name as the owner, or the name of the person you’d like to give the book to, the date and any dedication. But what made her even more puzzled and that will make her teary-eyed in the next few seconds was the message I wrote down there, something like, “I’d like to ask you a certain question, and I won’t take no for an answer”. And then I instantaneously took another thing out of my bag, this time, something familiar to most people. I opened the small jewelry box and have her stare at the engagement ring waiting for its new owner. We had our own time after that, capturing her reactions using my DSLR camera, the contagious tears of delight (or shock), while people around us (who may have started to assimilate what’s happening) began to cheer for us while the carriage is still going around. Meanwhile, our unsuspecting coachman still doesn’t have an idea that the two young adults he’s touring around just become the happiest couple in the world.

                                                                       

The Weddings

Oh, the fun part. As I said, we were married twice. Twice the fun, eh? The first one was a civil wedding. We decided to hold that on January 2, 2015, as it’s the most feasible timeto schedule itafter all the holidays, and since we also had our vacation trip in Palawan late December, and then I was leaving for the US first Sunday of January 2015. Moreover, being lawfully wed can help Ana start with her papers for the planned move to the US to be with me later on.Ultimately, my grand plan happened the way I carefully crafted it— from the proposal, the seemingly haphazard and hastily organized civil wedding, to the US petition papers. Well, it takes two to tango, remember?

We had one whole year to spare and prepare for the second wedding, i.e., the church wedding. Before I left, we worked on identifying and booking our target church. We learned that booking popular wedding churches, such as Barasoain Church, requires several months to a year or so in advance to reserve a slot. We started contacting our relatives, friends, colleagues, etc. and invited them to our special day after securing the church. We also started searching and reaching out to potential suppliers, as they usually need to be booked way ahead as well. I have had experience in organizing social events in the past, but planning and coordinatingmy own wedding proved to be a stressful and time-consuming endeavor.

Admittedly, Ana handled thehuge chunk of the preparations, by virtue of her being physically available to everyone and everything! I handled some of the tasks of course, and we even set up an online worksheet, where we collaborated and documented the wedding timeline, to-do lists, ideas and everything related to the celebration.

Filipiniana-themed wedding was easily agreed upon, given the connection with the proposal venue, the historic church and Ana’s field. Besides, we can never go wrong with our traditional attire! Ana’s gown and my suit were made by different suppliers. Ana’s Maria Clara is absolutely stunning and beyond compare. It took her designer and team excessive amount of time putting together the beads and embellishments through hand embroidery. It’s weighty, and includes an alampay (shawl), bead- and embroidery-heavy as well. The outfit of the entourage, our family members and relatives was also made by Ana’s designer.

My suit is another story. With the goal of wearing a unique barong for my wedding, I did an extensive research for over a year. Sherwani of South Asia got my attention even before due to its elegance, regality and elaborateness of the traditional designs. Since our wedding theme is Filipiniana, I decided a fusion between our traditional barong and sherwani would be a perfect combination. Another challenge was the willing and skilled designer who can create the wedding barong. Finally, after contacting multiple suppliers, one braved and accepted the challenge. The ultimate masterpiece: Sherwani-inspired, fully hand embroidered piña fiber over satin fabric, trench coat barong. My suit designer, who’s usually being frequented by well-known Filipino fashion designers for his fabrics, was excited about our project. He said that he hasn’t seen and worked on such an elaborate wedding suit before. We had multiple calls and traded emails day and night to make sure he understood my detailed specifications and requirements.

We did not hire a wedding coordinator and an event stylist. Beingpractical and cautious, Ana wanted to personally manage everything, from the design of the cake, the wedding invitation, the souvenir items, the table centerpiece, and to the smallest of details. We both wanted to make our wedding very personalized. A lot of Ana’s friends helped us, including her current and former students. Everybody had a part, which helped us save a lot of resources down the road. The entire wedding preparation was a product of love, friendship and utmost creativity.

Our marriage was celebrated by Fr. Roger Cruz, a local parish priest in Marilao, Bulacan, our hometown. His homily was pure, enjoyable and full of godly messages. The entire wedding ceremony was filled with joyful tears, genuine laughter and priceless moments. Barasoain Church’s aura was also festive in nature with all the traditional decorations that matched with our theme. Its historic significance added an insurmountable value to the memories that we had collected on that day.

We spent the night with our guests and loved ones in a hotel in Malolos City, not far from the church. It also became a sort of reunion, as we had the chance to meet anew our relatives and friends from different stages of our lives. A short program was prepared to brighten and liven the night, which was led by two enthusiastic hosts, both of which are Ana’s friends and esteemed historians in the Philippines. We did all the traditional wedding activities, such as the toasting, cake slicing, releasing of doves, as well as games!  The 4-ft tall cake towered and dulcified our night. Its design, overall ornamentation and artsy aura was cultural and highly personalized.

Ana and I also danced our hearts out! We subjected ourselves to a series of rehearsals with our dance teacher (Ana’s high school classmate), who taught us basic dance steps, both traditional and modern. Yes, for the sake of our wedding and in hopes of entertaining the crowd. And we promised that we’re doing it once, never again.And wedding is supposed to happen once unless you’re celebrating a milestone, you know. Some of our closest friends and relatives gave us wonderful and inspiring messages. Video presentations, endless photo shooting and other entertainment-related gigs capped off our night.

We went to South Korea two days later for our honeymoon, and before I head back to the US. The weather was bitter cold but we were ready with our winter clothes and accessories. We stayed a couple of days in a suburb area near Seoul, and explored the city and other spots through its uberly sophisticated and efficient subway system. We visited historic sites and other popular tourist destinations, such as the Seoul Tower, National Museum of Korea (the sixth largest museum in the world), Myeongdong and Gangnam District.Cleanliness and orderliness was enviously conspicuous. Trendy youths and young adults showcasing modern winter clothes flooded the streets and shopping centers. Seoul is such a wonderful and iconic city. We also had the chance to try the traditional Korean attire while roaming around the airport. We were ecstatic with gusto upon learning this perk, and it’s all for free (make sure you try thison your next Incheon airport visit)! Ana and I tried the attire befitting a king and a queen. We promised ourselves that we will go back to South Korea and further explore this wonderful gem. 

What’s next? We are excited. Soon, Ana will be joining me for good. We will continue to write our love story together, and take the ultimate road to forever. Yes, there’s forever. No? Well, we have a lifetime to prove it, so stay tuned. We will love each other forever and a day.

By: ​Mark John L. Bojocan

List of suppliers

Church: Barasoain Church (Malolos City)

Reception: Malolos Club Royale Hotel and Restaurant

Wedding Gown: Joan Aquino

Wedding Suit: Andrew Badiola of Irene’s Embroidery Barong deCalado

Photographer: Mara and Mike Photography and Rain Pangindian

Videographer: Mara and Mike Photography

Cake: Punky Porca (Box of Sweets)

Flowers: Saccharine Shoppe

Hair and makeup: Ian Villafranca Artistry