FIFTY years may just be a wink in eternity, but, in an era of divorces masquerading as annulments, it’s a lifetime as far as married couples in the Philippines who choose to stay together are concerned.
And unless modern medicine can find ways of further extending people’s lives, a couple’s 50th wedding anniversary will continue to remain as the ultimate milestone as well as one of their last hurrahs as man and wife until one or both of them keel over or fail to recognize each other in the coming years.
And if one week is a long time in politics, the same is probably true for marriages between bickering and/or indifferent couples. But even if you’re one of the lucky few who have practically lived through extended periods of wedded bliss, 50 years or half a century of married life is still an extremely long time and, no matter how you look at it, a monumental achievement.
If only for that, I admire and continue to be in awe of my parents Vicente and Gilda. Tomorrow, Saturday, May 3, is a red-letter day for the Vergara family, as my folks mark 50 years of wedded togetherness.
Congratulations, Mommy and Daddy! Thank you for choosing to have children. 😉
As if living together and embracing each other’s quirks, biases, sleeping habits and, more recently, health issues weren’t enough, you had to ensure that your kids, especially this writer, didn’t grow up to become con artists, sociopaths, liars, serial killers and/or Senators, Congressmen, Governors, Mayors and Presidents of the Philippine Republic. 😀
Well, a lot can still happen to us your children in the next 30 years or so, but I’m not sure if you’d still be inclined to stay long enough to find out.
Age may just be a number, but not wedding anniversaries, which, to this day, remain as benchmarks and virtual repositories of the joys as well as the pain and sacrifices not a few couples have had to go through during their respective journeys.
Marriage, including childrearing, is never for wimps! And wimps you certainly aren’t, Mom and Dad!
Had things gone according to plan, my siblings and I, including their respective families, would have been up to our necks until the last minute making sure every detail–from the menu and entertainment, to the renewal fineries, reception venue and party decor–is perfect, as my parents renew the vows they made 50 years ago one early Sunday morning in Quezon City.
Early morning wedding
Imagine, my mom was already up at 3 a.m., as she and the neighborhood hairdresser-slash-makeup artist prepped up for her 6 a.m. altar date. Despite the absence of monstrous gridlocks back in the 1960s, an early morning wedding on a lazy summer weekend was still a bit too much to impose on citified guests.
But come they did to witness Vic and Gely exchange I do’s at Lourdes Church and break bread with them later at the now-defunct D&E Restaurant on Quezon Avenue, just across the then Pantranco bus station (now site of the recently opened Fisher Mall). That was how much they loved the couple.
It would have been nice to stage the renewal ceremony either at the newly refurbished Manila Cathedral or at the still postcard-pretty Lourdes Church in the presence of my parents’ surviving friends and a select group of relatives.
My US-based sibs, especially my sister Ida, were more inclined to hold it in America, either in Virginia or Texas, so that members of the third generation as well as my mother’s only surviving sibling Nestor and his family could attend.
Exclusive family affair
It would have become an exclusive family affair, which was fine by me. Spring in the US would have been a welcome respite from the tropical heat in the Philippines. For my Mom’s renewal gown, it would probably be a tossup between two good designer friends of mine–Noel Crisostomo and Frederick Peralta.
Except for the Crisostomo-designed green terno she wore during my brother Ronnie’s wedding to Namfon in 2012, my mother never went to a couturier all her life.
Shopping for clothes meant either going to her favorite modista (seamstress) or buying off-the-rack at department stores du jour in Quiapo, Sta. Cruz and much later Cubao. For a change, it would be good to see her again in designer threads.
If I remember right, her wedding terno, which was impeccably executed by Titang, one of her go-to seamstresses in the early ’60s, set her then fiancé (a.k.a. my father) back by a mere P120.
Of course, the modest amount was already a fortune for poor families during those days, but still a fraction of what couples would have to pay to get the services of such famous names as Ramon Valera, Salvacion Higgins, Pitoy Moreno, Aureo Alonzo and Ben Farrales.
My Dad, meanwhile, stood tall in a dark gray sharkskin suit, white shirt and tie by his favorite tailor at Buckingham, not Queen Elizabeth II’s palace in London, but a tailoring and haberdashery shop on Escolta Street in downtown Manila.
Wedding planners were unheard of back then. I have no idea how my parents survived the nerve-wracking run up to their big day, but it was not uncommon for friends and family during those days to help couples iron out certain details.
Fate’s other plans
But fate had other plans. As I’ve shared with you before, my Mom is currently battling the Big C.
She seems to be responding well to the treatment and, thanks to my Dad, who, at 83, has remained surprisingly strong except for his creaking knees, has managed to remain in high spirits in spite of undergoing such harrowing procedures as a mastectomy, four rounds of chemotherapy and a visit from the barber, who had to shave her head clean, as strands of hair started to fall off due to the toxic cocktail of chemo drugs.
She bravely took everything in except perhaps the loss of her hair! Thankfully, it has started to grow back, but my Mom isn’t out of the woods yet.
To lessen the chances of those damn cancer cells from staging a comeback, her oncologist had recommended that she undergo 18 monthly infusions of an über expensive anti-cancer drug called Herceptin (she just did her sixth infusion a week ago).
I’d rather spare you the details, but I’m talking here of expenses hovering somewhere from P2 million to P2.5 million spread over a period of two years. Herceptin may be a miracle drug, but I’m pretty sure that not a few families have had to pray for a different kind of miracle every time they have to buy one. Her treatment began May of last year when she underwent a mastectomy.
My sister, the family’s resident futurist and optimist, still thought we could pull off the renewal party until those monthly Herceptin infusions started coming into the picture sometime in November.
After the first three months of treatment and despite generous assistance from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and huge discounts from Roche (makers of the drug), we knew that our parents’ 50th anniversary party would have to be postponed indefinitely in favor of something more urgent.
For now, our combined resources, including those of my kind and generous in-laws Steve and Namfon, are being channeled to something more pressing and basic: the health and survival, no matter how seemingly short, of my 77-year-old mother.
Having lived long enough to take part in a number of celebrations marking other people’s milestones, I can’t think of a better, more meaningful and lasting way for us to celebrate life and show our love for our parents.