Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Community Celebration of Love

Wedding bells were ringing at the All Saints Cathedral in Bontoc last week. As I posted yesterday, Attorney Floyd, the Provincial Secretary of ECP, invited Margaret and me to attend the wedding of an Episcopal Deacon, Kurt, and an American young lady, Crystal, All I knew, beforehand, was it was going to a wonderful cultural experience. I cannot deny that it was.

First let me say, weddings are a community affair in the Philippines. While in recent years in bigger metropolis areas like Manila, they’ve started to become modernize where you only attend if received an invitation. Up in the Mountain Province the custom is still everyone is welcome to participate in the fellowship.

All Saints Cathedral

Before the wedding ceremony began at 9:30am, Margaret and I had a chance to talk with the father of the bride who was patiently waiting outside the church. Turns out the family is from North Carolina! I don’t know why it made a difference but I felt more connected to them or felt more welcomed since our families come from the same state. I cannot explain it. They’re a lovely family. And like any father on his eldest daughter’s wedding day, he was a little nervous.

Most Precious Flower Girls Ever

We took our seats and watched as all the sponsors processed down the aisle. Sponsors are one major difference I could see. It’s a place of honor to be asked by the couple to be a sponsor. On top of receiving a financial gift from them, they will act as advisors and guides to the couple throughout their marriage. One priest said it’s become a little out of hand nowadays. People have a great number of Sponsors instead of simply six or so. I didn’t get an accurate count but Kurt and Crystal had around 25 or 30.

Sponsors walking down the aisle.
Parents of the Groom.

Maid of Honor and younger sister of Crystal.
The groomsman had to throw the flowers for her because she was so overwhelmed.
The ceremony proceeded as any other wedding service. Except Crystal was received into the Episcopal Church before the actual wedding service part began. The Episcopal Church Welcomes you, Crystal! The other difference was the signing of a contract or book of some sort by all the sponsors. That was the longest part. We were already 2 hours into the service. I turned to my neighbor and asked, “do we still have Eucharist after this?” and sadly they responded, “yes.” Overall the service was two and a half hours long.

Crystal and her father.
The Happy Couple!

This was our view during most of the ceremony. 
Then when they kissed the number of photographers increased and our view was more obstructed.
For the reception since the community is invited the food is separated between two places. There was a covered, decorated pavilion for the family, bridal party, sponsors and other special guests to eat. Then the other pavilion had food for the rest of the attendants of the community. As special guests, Margaret and I ate some delicious pork. Also, there was salad! I never thought I would see fresh salad greens served at a Filipino meal ever! Such a delightful sight.

The pavilion where special guests ate.
Everyone escaping the sun during lunch.
The pavilion where everyone else ate and reception was held.
Once food and conversation was consumed, the presentations began. The reception consisted of presentations from various groups, which varied from toasts, songs, and the playing of gongs and dancing. Margaret and I jumped into the dancing, which isn’t hard to learn. You simply follow the leader.

All the kids wanting to join in. 

How cute are these two old ladies?

The groom leading a dance. 

It's hard to dance with a long train behind you.

Toast from the groom.
Bishop Brent playing gongs.

That's the Prime Bishop playing the gong.
Also the Prime Bishop dancing.
After a couple of hours around 3pm, Margaret and I decided to take a break from the festivities. I headed to Bontoc museum as I said in my post yesterday. I returned in time to head to the Bishop’s house for fellowship with Bishop Brent, Attorney Floyd, Sir Patrick, and Margaret. The men drank whiskey, Margaret and I drank delicious red wine. It’s fun to talk with Bishop, Attorney and Sir Patrick since their friendship goes way back.

A late dinner was served, and then we headed back down to the pavilion where some young priests and deacons were still hanging out. They played gongs. We danced. One of the deacons played the guitar as we sang along to songs of the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, John Denver and many more. Around 11pm the Bishop decided to play the gongs one last time. We were graced with the presence of the Barangay captain, a town council or mayor of sorts who fortunately is a longtime member of the Episcopal Church and friend of the Bishop. She kindly but firmly told us to all disperse and go to sleep. And so we did.

I’m happy I was able to attend and experience a wedding of a different culture. However, it’s also a little strange to attend one where you don’t know the bride or groom or many of the people there. The question Margaret and I got the most was “oh so are you friends from North Carolina?” We would kindly say no and explain we are YASC missionaries. Since the wedding was held in a different diocese than either of us are assigned to we didn’t know many people.

Although, I can’t complain about getting a trip to a new city in the Philippines and getting a few days off of work. It still gives me a happy feeling to see two people confirm their love for one another and commit to a life as a couple. And in the Filipino style it was a community celebration of love, not one just celebrated in front of friends and family.

Thanks for reading!

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