Situated on a hill, the Church of the Nuestra Senora dela Asuncion, or the Santa Maria Church, overlooks most of the town of Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur. Through its several centuries of existence, it has bore witness to the ebb and flow of lives of the people of the town and those that passed through it on the way to Vigan and other parts of the Ilocos provinces. The church’s centuries old walls and structures were a vital part in celebrating life and love of the people who entered it, since it was built in the 18th century.
In this beautiful Saturday afternoon, the church came alive again to unite two people who were fated, destined to cross paths, and fell in love with each other, with a love that will last a lifetime. Now, in front of their families and friends, within these old, majestic walls, they will ask God to bless their union. They will stand before God and promise to commit, love and cherish one another.
The church was bedecked with an overabundance of sunflowers, Malaysian mums, and roses of all colors. The groom wearing a powder blue suit, waited at the altar with his parents and his best man, John, his best friend in the States. Finally, Richard thought to himself. He and Maya are about to be joined in marriage. He feels nervous and emotional.
Richard never thought he would still find a love like this, but here he is, with the one and only love of his life, his Honeybun, the lady who streaked into his life like a beautiful, colorful comet, and made life richer and full of colors. In such a short time, they have experienced a lot together and managed to meld into each other’s lives. Sometimes, he thought, love is not really how long you know a person, but on how you get to really know a person, the ease you felt towards each other, and how deeply you care for each other.
He looked around at his and Maya’s families and friends present here who will witness their union. From Manang Fe, who is one of their sponsors to their bridesmaids and groomsmen – from Emman and Eleonor, to Luke and Patty, Tristan and Phailin, and Cristina Rose, Maya’s matron of honor. To their other guests, aunts, uncles, cousins, colleagues, and the people who have been part of their love story in one way or the other.
Surprisingly, Phailin ended up with Jeremy Sanderson. When Maya found out that they are now in a relationship, she invited Jeremy to their wedding too. So, that was my ‘almost competition’, Richard thought. He seemed like a nice guy, when he met him the other day. He is doubly happy that of all the guys that courted her, Maya chose him. His thoughts was interrupted by the opening strains of the wedding march, which signaled the moment he has been waiting for – the first glimpse of his lovely bride in her wedding gown. He has not seen her in almost two days!
The door of the old church slowly opened, to a radiant Maya, so very beautiful in her vintage lace gown that hugged her upper body tightly and flared from the hips down, with a long train. Her face was partially covered with the unstructured veil she chose, carrying a big bouquet of sunflowers.
Maya felt like she was floating, everything felt surreal. She took a deep breath, clutched her beautiful bouquet tightly and prepared to take the steps that would lead her to the man she loves with all her heart. Her Babe! In the sea of people who came to celebrate their marriage, she sought him, only him. She caught her breath, seeing him so handsome, with eyes only for her. Maya though at that moment that, that’s the look she will never get tired of seeing. She felt as breathless as the first time she found out she loves him. She started gliding down the long aisle of the church, feeling a kinship to all the brides who have done this through the centuries. Do they also felt like a thousand butterflies are dancing in their stomachs as they walked down to the man they will share their lives with and vowed to love forever?
Halfway through, Maya was joined by a very teary-eyed Mommy Tessie, and her uncle whom she had asked to give her away. Tito Gabriel was touched at her gesture, with both of them smiling and getting a bit emotional, remembering her dad. Before she traveled to Ilocos for her wedding, she visited her dad alone, and laid white and red roses on his grave. She told him of the wonderful man she will marry. Maya momentarily looked up and made a silent conversation with her Dad, ‘I know you are here in spirit to witness me getting married’. She had done that in the past with the milestones in her life. She wanted to share it with her father, the person who dreamt those with her. Then she continued walking, with eyes only for her Babe.
Richard was wiping the corner of his eye, with a handkerchief that his best man handed to him, when Tito Gabriel, Mommy Tessie and his Maya reached him. John had a pretty good idea this will happen. He met Maya when the two of them were in New York, and he knew his friend has found true love. Richard only had eyes for Maya. He was also honored that Richard asked him to be his best man. So, here he is, his first trip to the Philippines. Richard shook Tito Gabriel’s hand, then he hugged Mommy Tessie after kissing her hand, and promising to take good care of Maya for always. Finally, he joined his hand with Maya’s as they faced the priest who would solemnize their marriage.
Father Oscar, a family friend of the Lim family agreed to marry Richard and Maya despite his many responsibilities at the Vatican. He flew home for the wedding. In his homily, he spoke of finding love at the right place, at the right moment, and in God’s perfect time, like what happened to Richard and Maya. He said that not all people are lucky to do so. But if you do, you have to nurture it for it to thrive and grow. He said, parang halaman din ang relationship at ang marriage, hindi basta na lang itatanim at pababayaan na lang mabuhay na mag-isa. You have to care for it, diligan para mag-grow and magbunga. He said, he is sure that Richard and Maya will do that. He told the couple to love and cherish one another, that marriage is a two-way street and they have to meet halfway for a smooth travel to their forever, and that they must always love and trust one another.
Throughout the beautiful ceremony, Richard and Maya held hands, as if they just have to connect to feel that this is it, their moment has finally arrived. They kept giving each other loving glances also, that didn’t escape the eyes of their guests, who just sighed and felt so happy with the love they can see between these two.
Father Oscar, towards the end of the ceremony asked them if they have personal vows and the two nodded.
Richard held Maya’s hand tightly, looked deeply into Maya’s eyes with all the love he is feeling and told her of his innermost feelings, with his voice getting hoarse with emotions, at some point.
Maya, my love, my Honeybun, the love of my life. I promised to love and cherish you for always. I never knew I would find love when I accidentally shared a taxi ride with you, kahit sinupladahan mo ako sa simula. But I was so glad and forever thankful that I did. I’m so glad and ever so thankful that we crossed paths that day. For me, that ride was the start of my wonderful and unparalleled journey with you. Before I met you, I never thought that the kind of love I found with you, existed. All my past, my experiences, faded in comparison to what we have, what you have shown me. I was just existing before you. Now I am living life to the fullest, with you. You are my life now, and the children I pray God will bless us with. I love you and I will love you until the end of our days. It will be my goal in life to make you happy for always.
Maya sniffled, touched by Richard’s vows. They have known each other a short time, but it felt like they have known each other very long, not only in this lifetime.
Ricky, my Babe, my love, before I took that taxi ride, I was lost in my romance novels world and my last thought before I boarded that taxi was that someday, a guy especially-designed by God for me will come along. I never thought that a couple of minutes later, I will met that guy. Ganoon kabilis nag-reply si God. Life was never the same since that fateful day. As if the whole universe was aligned for our meeting. Destiny kita. I know that. I found the perfect guy for me, yes, I know, you will tell me you are not, but you are the closest to perfection I could find. I love you with everything in me, in everything I can give. I will be your partner in our wonderful journey together. I will love and cherish you. You and the children we will have will be my priority. My restless lonely traveling is over, as I have found home. You and I, and the kids, will travel together, exploring places and storing memories and experiences that will last us a lifetime. Mahal na mahal kita my Babe.
They looked at each other, then Richard lifted Maya’s veil and kissed her thoroughly. They were so at it they forgot where they are.
“Ehemmmm, Maya, Richard.” A smiling Father Oscar interrupted them amid the laughter of those who were present, “Errrr, hindi pa ‘you may kiss the bride’ portion ng inyong pag-iisang dibdib.”
Maya and Richard looked at each other sheepishly, then Maya blushed, and hid her face on Richard’s chest upon realizing what they really did.
“Sorry po, Father.” Richard said, smiling. “Ito kasing Honeybun ko.” He said teasingly.
“Ha, bakit ako.” Maya protested, smiling. “Tayong dalawa kaya iyon.”
“Hmmm, eh kasi naman sobra akong nadala ng wedding vows mo.” Richard said as they were the only people there. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Maya replied, touching Richard’s face.
The smiling priest teased the couple, “O, bago mauwi sa pangalawang kiss, ituloy na natin ang ceremony.”
Richard helped Maya put back her veil and they faced the priest again, still smiling at each other.
Father Oscar said the final blessing to their union and announced to the guests that he is presenting to them, Mr. Richard and Mrs. Maya Lim.
“Now, you may kiss the bride na talaga.” Father Oscar teased the newly-weds, amid the laughter and teasing of their families and friends.
Richard smiled, then proceeded to remove Maya’s veil again, gently, cupped her face, lowered his head, then gave her a tender kiss. Then they smiled and whispered ‘I love you’ to each other before facing their families and friends. The kiss was followed by another as they were egged by the guests, with matching teasing from Cris na ngayon ba pa sila mahihiya matapos ang unscheduled kiss nila. Everyone laughed, happy.
The picture-taking that followed was still marked by Richard and Maya getting teased a lot about their impromptu kissing. The last photos the photographer took became Maya’s favorites. One of them was with Richard and her, and all their guests posing at the steps that leads to the church, and the majestic church and the bell tower in the background. She particularly like the wacky shot. Her most favorite, however was her and Richard standing in front of the church, sideways, with the facade of the church, the path that lead to the fortress-like side and the bell-tower in the background. They were looking at each other, candidly as they thought the photographer was already finished with the shots. It was the best photo they had as it was clearly visible the love they felt for each other, also the bump in Maya’s stomach that they were unaware of, at that time.
The wedding party, boarded the deluxe tourist buses that Don Roberto rented for the occasion. These were the same ones that took the guests to this beautiful church from the airport. Don Roberto asked the head of Time Airways, which the family owns, to make a special flight to Laoag for his son and daughter-in-law’s wedding. For the wedding reception, Maya and Richard decided to hold it at the courtyard of the house turned into a hotel they have stayed before. They just asked the inn, where they ate most of their stay before, to do the catering for for their reception. The owner agreed, happily so, having heard from Evelyn their story. Evelyn, who was so happy to know about their marriage, promised to take care of everything from that end. It turned out, she is the daughter of the owner of the hotel.
When the wedding party arrived at the reception. They were amazed. The place was transformed. They all felt like they were transported back to the 19th century Philippines and was about to attend a lavish party being held in that era.
“Happy, my honeybun?” Richard whispered to Maya as they danced their first dance as a husband and wife
“Sobra-sobra, Babe.” She whispered back, then caressed Richard’s nape. “Thank you. I’m the happiest girl in the world at this moment.”
“Then I am the happiest guy naman. I have been like than since we met.” Richard said, gazing at Maya lovingly, as they continued dancing without a space between them, lost in their own world.
When the music ended, the host called them back in front for the traditional reception ceremonies, marked by calls for them to kiss. Jeremy caught the garter that Richard lovingly removed from Maya’s thigh, with matching naughty grins on his face and unseen loving pinch from his Honeybun. Now, Maya knew where to aim the bouquet like Cris did, though she didn’t know if Cris really deliberately have thrown it in her direction. She threw it on the direction where Phailin was. Luckily, her Thai friend caught it.
“Playing cupid, my Honeybun.” Richard whispered to his bride, before he stole a kiss, while their guests were busy watching Jeremy put the garter on a laughing, blushing Phailin.
“Slight lang, my Babe.” Maya smiled at her husband. “Malay mo di ba? Bagay naman sila. Pareho pa sila ng job so it will be easier. Minsan mahirap maging husband or wife ang isang journalist, lalo na ang isang international correspondent, palipat-lipat.”
Jeremy and Phailin approached Maya and Richard after they gave it to the teasing of the crowd and shared a gentle kiss. They were teased to kiss, like Maya and Richard after Jeremy did a victory dance as soon as he managed to put the garter on Phailin’s thigh.
“Maya, Richard, lovely wedding! Thank you for making me a part of it.” Jeremy said, still smiling. ” Now, I know why wouldn’t even give me a glimmer of hope. I didn’t really a stand a chance with Richard here. Richard, you are lucky to have Maya.”
Richard smiled at the tall British guy. One can just help, but like him. “I know. Thank you for coming to our wedding.”
“Maya, see, I’m right that I might be going to the Philippines, for your wedding, and not your birthday. Be happy, my dear friend.” Phailin said, as she embraced her dear Filipina friend. “You too, Richard. I’m so happy for both of you. Take care of Maya, of each other.”
“Thank you, Phailin. You know that you are like a sister to me too.” Then whispered to her friend. “So, invite me also to you and Jeremy’s wedding, ha.”
Phailin laughed. “Maybe, if we end up together. We are still enjoying and getting used to our relationship. But I am thankful to you. We have gotten closer after you returned to the Philippines. I think, he also sort of, saw me in a new light. Though, he needed to recover from your rejection first.” She teased.
Maya laughed, “I doubt if he really was in love with me.”
They hugged. Phailin and Jeremy went back to dancing with the rest of the guests. Maya was happy to see Emman and Eleonor having fun, so were the other staff from their cafe. They too, were invited to the wedding. Eleanor shed a tear and thanked Maya profusely when Maya asked her to be one of her bridesmaids. Maya teased her, that siya pa ba ang mawawala sa wedding, eh presidente siya ng Team Richard. There was also John, having a merry time, making Mommy Tessie and Mama Esme laughed, also the aunts with his antics. He went solo to the wedding as his current girlfriend was busy with work. Don Roberto and the uncles were on another table, inspecting cigars and comparing them.
“May isa pang love team in the making, Honeybun.” Richard remarked, while hugging Maya from behind, as they stood at the base of the azotea watching everyone having fun. Then he pointed to a chatting couple in a corner.
Maya smiled. “I will be happy if they end up together.” She said, looking at Tristan and a very lovely Evelyn this evening. Then she turned and faced her husband.
“I love you Babe. I wish everyone will be as happy as we are. That they also find love like we have.” Maya said as she intertwined her hands on Richard’s nape.
“I love you too, Honeybun. My wish also. But for me, nag-iisa ka lang talaga.” Then he was about to whisper something more, with a naughty smile on his face, when his cousin and her husband interrupted them.
“Kumusta naman ang mga langgam ngayong gabi, parang present lahat ah?” Cris teased, while Stephen looked on. “Loyal na loyal sa inyong dalawa ah. Hindi kayo iniiwan, kahit saan kayo magpunta.”
Maya and Richard laughed. “Bessie, maraming salamat ulit, also, thank you Stephen. It meant a lot to me that you were my matron of honor. That the two of you are in our wedding.”
“Basta for you, ano ka pa. What are best friends for, tapos we are cousin na rin. Di ba, Kuya Ricky?” Cris replied, hugging Maya and then Richard. “Bessie, Kuya Ricky, Stephen and I will go ahead. Medyo kulang pa kami sa tulog.”
The cousins embraced, then said goodbye for now. They promised to have dinner before Cris and Stephen return to New York.
“Sa tingin mo puwede na tayo tumakas, Honeybun, my dearest wife? I think everyone would understand na….” Richard started saying as soon as Cris and Stephen left.
“….na what, Babe.” Maya asked, smiling. She knew what her husband wanted.
“….na kailangan nating ma-inspect iyong old room natin.”
“Hahahahaha, Babe, ikaw and your para-paraan.” Maya said, riding along with Richard’s teasing.
They smiled at each other, looking forward at their first night together as husband and wife. But despite their intention to escape, they stayed a bit more and partied with their guests.
“Maya, anak, I’m really so happy for you.” Mommy Tessie said, when she and Richard approached her, Mama Esme and Papa Roberto to say good night. Most of the guests have left for the night. “I’m sure, your dad is happy too, wherever he is.”
“I know, Mom. Thank you very much also for everything. I love you.” Maya said as she hugged her mother tight and kissed her in the forehead. “Thank you rin po sa inyo Mama, Papa.” Maya then hugged and kissed Don Roberto and Donya Esmeralda.
“Maya, hija, welcome to our family, again. Paulit-ulit namin iyang sasabihin ng Papa mo.” Mama Esme said. “Ikaw naman son, you take good care of Maya ha, saka bilisan na ang unang apo namin, di ba, balae.”
The elder Lims and Mommy Tessie laughed and teased the couple that they can go up na and work on their apo. Maya blushed and Richard grinned. They thanked the parents again.
Richard and Maya waved to the remaining guests, mostly their immediate families, and amid their teasing, entered the house, climbed up the stairs, to the room where they stayed before and where they first made love, to celebrate their first night as husband and wife.