he wake-up call came at 7 a.m. I was well-rested and decided to turn the tv on again (Emelda's house had no tv, so I was tv-happy). The same Chevy Chase film was on again. I sighed and consoled myself in the knowledge that I would soon be experiencing a nice hot shower.

I was wrong. There was no hot water. Apparently, the power failure wreaked havoc with a motor somewhere and the hotel couldn't heat the water up. I was a bit annoyed that I couldn't take a hot shower on my wedding day, but since I was used to taking cold baths at Emelda's house, it wasn't really that bad. At least I got clean.

After breakfast with my family, it was time to get into my Barong Tagalog (the traditional wedding garment for a Filipino groom) and prepare to leave for the church. The ceremony was scheduled for 10 a.m. A car was supposed to pick us up at 9:45. As I was getting dressed (around 9:30), I was surprised by my lack of nervousness. I asked myself why my nerves weren't frying. I came to the conclusion that I was so certain that I was marrying the right woman that I had no need to be nervous. There's a line in the film Broadcast News that describes how I feel about marrying a woman like Emelda. William Hurt says to Albert Brooks, "What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?" Well, in my past, I've dreamed of many women and hoped that I'd one day win the favor of a kind and beautiful one, but Emelda truly does exceed any dream I ever had. Sometimes, I can't believe that she loves me with all of my flaws. I'm honored that for some reason, she does. Albert Brooks' response to William Hurt's question is, "Keep it to yourself!" Well, I'm too proud to hide my feelings for Emelda. I want to shout it from a mountain top! On that morning, I felt like I was the luckiest man on the planet.

At 9:50 a.m., we all assembled in the lobby. The car that was to escort us to the church (only four blocks away) was late (Filipino time strikes again). I didn't want to be late for my own wedding, but I didn't get upset because I was in too good a mood. The driver arrived at 10 a.m. We all quickly headed for the car but the driver jumped out and signaled for us to stay at the top of the hotel stairway so that the videographer could get footage of us getting into the car. We paused for a bit while he shot his footage and then, my sister, my brother-in-law and I got into the car (it would have to return for my parents because the car was a compact). After the driver entered, he said, "I hope I'm not late." I fought the urge to say, "Only by fifteen minutes."
The church where we got married

We were at the church in about three minutes. The entire wedding party (except for the bride and the parents of the bride and groom) were standing at the back of the church in their positions, waiting for the tardy ones. About five minutes later, my parents arrived. Now, the driver would have to fetch Emelda and her parents from The Asian Hotel where Emelda's hair and make-up was being done. Flowers were quickly pinned on the arriving Americans' garments and we took our positions while we waited for the star of the show to arrive. Everyone looked great. The bridesmaids, flower girls and ring bearers were adorable. Everything was picture perfect. I was so happy to be a part of such a unique experience.

When I spotted Emelda's parents, I turned toward the altar (so as not to see the bride) and before I knew it, the music was playing and we were walking down the aisle. I remembered the instructions Emelda had given us and hoped that they were correct. My parents walked on either side of me and the wedding party (along with dozens of sponsors), tailed us.

When we arrived at the stairs which led to the altar, there was a church official who started telling us where to go. Since we already had instructions, we went where Emelda had told us to go. This turned out to be incorrect. The lady sent us in completely different directions. It turned out that we really had needed a rehearsal. It seemed that this practice of giving directions during the ceremony was common, so I just went with the flow. This would never have flown in America, but I reminded myself that I was not in America.

Before long, we were in our proper places and we directed our attention toward the bride who was flanked by her parents. When I spotted Emelda, I was astonished by how beautiful she looked. She always looked beautiful, but on that day, she looked like an angel sent from heaven (my angel)! As she stood next to me, our eyes met and we shared a smiling moment.

The imposing altar of the church
Emelda's parents sat in a special seating apparatus which was placed in front of the church's front pew (on Emelda's side) and were joined by Emelda's nephew Mark. My parents sat in a similar apparatus on my side. Emelda and I sat down in a pair of chairs at the bottom of the steps which led up to the altar. I was enjoying this uniquely Filipino wedding ceremony as it began to unfold.

The priest (one of the church's newest and youngest) performed a short mass. Then, my sister and Marilyn (the bad banana lady) read from the Bible. Next, Marilyn's daughter Lorilyn sang a beautiful chant. Once again, I was blown away by her wonderful voice. After that, the priest descended the steps and stood in front of us. Emelda and I had been given a script to familiarize us with the things we would have to say during the ceremony but the whole thing just left my mind at that point. I was thankful that most of the script involved repeating after the priest.

The priest asked me a series of questions. I remembered that I was supposed to answer, "Yes, Father" to each one. Next, he asked Emelda several questions which she answered in the same manner. During the exchanging of the rings, Emelda was supposed to answer additional questions with, "I do, father," but she mistakenly said, "Yes, Father." When it came time for me to answer, "I do, Father," I decided to answer, "Yes, Father," so that Emelda and I would have the same responses. I could see the priest's script littered with, "I do, Father" responses, but I forged my own path. I detected a blink of recognition at our mistakes, but he didn't seem to mind. In The Philippines, the rings are placed on the right hand instead of the left hand. Our rings had been sized for the left hand, so they didn't go on as smoothly as we had expected, but we managed.

Next, came a Filipino custom in which the groom drops coins into the bride's outstretched hands. It is supposed to symbolize the groom's concern for the bride's welfare. Later, when Emelda and I were seated (at various times, we stood, kneeled or sat) and the priest was far away, Emelda asked me if I was okay. I said that I was. She next asked me if I was happy. I said yes, turned my head toward the altar and was suddenly battling tears. The journey that had started a year and five months before was culminating in the happiest moment of my life. My emotions swelled. I felt blessed beyond belief.

You may kiss the bride!
Another Filipino wedding tradition involves wrapping a golden chord around the bride and groom during part of the ceremony. Later, it is removed. It is supposed to symbolize the intertwining of the two people into one. Before I knew it, the priest pronounced us husband and wife. We signed the marriage license right there at the bottom of the altar steps and I got to kiss the bride. The photographer started snapping photos and our sponsors began congratulating us one by one as Lorilyn sang "I Will Always Love You." I was disappointed that Lorilyn's song was relegated to background music, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

We spent the next thirty or so minutes posing for photos, trying to keep our mouths frozen into smiles. Emelda's feet were beginning to ache, but I could feel no pain. I was too happy! The morning seemed to be flying by and I was only too happy for it to get drawn out for as long as possible (of course, I wasn't wearing heels).

Eventually, we headed for the church entrance where our car was waiting. Emelda's sister Arlyn joined us in the car (which I thought was weird, but it didn't bother me) as we headed for the reception at The Asian Hotel. I stole a few kisses from Emelda as we giddily sped toward our destination. Emelda and I beamed with pride and asked each other if we could believe what we had just done.

At The Asian Hotel, we were instructed to be seated outside of the reception hall. We would have to wait for all of the guests to enter before the wedding party could. After a few minutes, the lady who was organizing the reception came over and started giving Emelda and I instructions as to the many different traditional tasks we would be performing at the reception. After the third or fourth quick description, my brain was saturated and I said, "There's no way I'll be able to remember all of these things." It seemed as though we needed another rehearsal. Thankfully, the lady said that she would be describing each custom before we performed them. I sighed with relief.

When all of the guests were inside, the wedding party entered. Our first task came in less than a minute. A small plate with two cherries on it was handed to us. I fed a cherry to Emelda while she fed one to me. We discarded the stems and continued walking toward the head table. The reception hall was packed with about 200 people. The atmosphere was festive as we took our seats and began to eat. The cuisine was Filipino (surprise) and consisted of roasted pork, fish, soup, fruit and of course; rice.

After eating, Emelda and I were summoned to cut the cake. The lady's instructions for cutting the cake properly were extremely confusing, so I fumbled through it, trying to do it her way until I gave up and cut it my way. That went smoothly. We each got a taste of the delicious cake before our next task came up. We were each handed a glass of wine. I was to hold my glass up to Emelda's mouth and pour a little into her mouth and she was to reciprocate. Again, the lady's on-the-fly instructions had been confusing. I poured a little wine into Emelda's mouth as the lady corrected my technique (apparently, I was doing it improperly). I couldn't figure her instructions out, so I just did it my way. When Emelda poured her wine into my mouth, she must've been following the lady's instructions precisely because it was extremely difficult for me to get a drop into my mouth. Eventually, we had performed the trick to the lady's semi-satisfaction and we moved on.

I toasted the bride and we downed our own glasses of wine (we needed no instructions for that). I'm not a wine drinker mainly because I don't really care for wine, but the wine we drank that day was absolutely delicious. Next, I wrapped up my glass in a cloth napkin and placed it on the floor as the lady instructed. When she gave me my cue, I broke the glass with my foot. Since the glass was particularly large, I made sure to jam my foot down with a lot of force. As a result, I hurt my leg, but the pain didn't last long. I eviscerated the glass!

Our next task involved a hanging cage with two doves inside. A golden chord hung down from the cage. Emelda grabbed one side of the chord and I grabbed the other. When cued, we jerked the chord. Nothing happened, so we jerked harder. My side of the chord broke. The doves were supposed to be released when we pulled down on the chord, but someone had forgotten to untie a pair of metal twist-ties which prevented the chord from doing its job. I quickly untied the two metal twist-ties and the doves proceeded to fly around the reception hall, to the delight of the audience.

I may be forgetting the order of the events, but I believe the tossing of the bouquet was next. Much to our delight, Emelda's best friend Hansel caught it. When it came time for me to toss the garter, I was surprised when Emelda's newly-married brother Ernie joined the men vying for the prize. I was even more surprised when he caught the garter. He really leapt for it! He wasn't even single, so his zeal perplexed me, but it was also kind of fun. He placed the garter on a blushing Hansel and the festivities continued.

The next tradition was called 'the money dance.' I liked the sound of that! As Emelda and I waltzed (neither of us had a clue as to how one waltzes), people would come up to us and pin money to our garments. Every time a person approached, we'd slow down to make the donation easier to perform. After a few songs, we were called upon to participate in the most difficult custom of the day. Emelda and I were to dance while several streamers were held by several people around us. As we danced, we were to become enveloped by and entangled with the streamers. One of the streamers quickly broke and the event didn't proceed with dynamic precision. The lady ran over and tried to fix the broken streamer and we settled for a scaled down version of that tradition. I think I was just too big for the thing to work!

After that semi-debacle, Emelda and I were directed to sit in front of a large pile of our wedding gifts. I was worried that we would be expected to open all of them. There were so many that I feared that it would take all afternoon! Instead, we opened two or three gifts (presumably for the cameras). The first gift was from the mayor of Ozamiz and his wife (both sponsors). I felt like an honored guest to receive a present from the mayor of Emelda's town. My head was spinning from the many activities which were now completed. Soon, we exited the reception hall to head for the second reception which would be held for family members only at Emelda's house.
Alex and "The Dancer" boogie

Reception number two was a more raucous affair. After some general visiting, the stereo was taken outside and the dancing began. We Americans led the way, making fools of ourselves, while the 50 or so relatives looked on in amazement. Dad and I must've looked like aliens (the kind from another planet) as we shook our large frames across the dance floor (Emelda's front lawn). We quickly started recruiting members of Emelda's family to join us and the party really started. While many people simply sat and watched the whole time, others got up and boogied. Dad became the center of attention for most of the afternoon. Emelda and I rested for a good portion of the time, but we danced a bit too.
The throng of people who watched

At one point, some big band music began playing and a few Filipino couples began ballroom dancing. When a tango broke out, I dragged Emelda back out onto the lawn and began doing an extremely exaggerated tango with her. Everyone started laughing while I hammed it up. When I dipped Emelda, they went crazy. Dad was dancing with one of Emelda's aunts when he dipped her. Someone nearby pointed out that the aunt's husband was sitting very close by. Dad jokingly began acting as if he was suddenly afraid of the husband. As everyone started cracking up, Dad paid the man several mock-humble apologies. The man was thoroughly enjoying dad's display and when dad resumed dancing with her, he laughed even harder.
Mom with Emelda's Lolo

The afternoon progressed with smiles on everyone's faces and laughter in everyone's hearts. I marveled at the camaraderie of Emelda's family and I was glad that my family was present to bear witness. It was one of the most enjoyable afternoons of my life. When Emelda and I started to fade, we announced our departure. I was sad to leave the party, but I was looking forward to a nice shower (I hoped that the hot water had been restored in the hotel) and a lovely nap. Emelda changed her clothes and we began walking toward the paved road. The car was no longer at our disposal, so we took a motor back to the hotel.

When we entered the hotel lobby, we were greeted by a few congratulatory wishes and some big smiles. In our room, Emelda and I plopped down on the bed, happy to relax after an energetic day. Later, the hot water in the shower was a welcome surprise. We watched a little television and had a leisurely dinner that evening. We then prepared for our honeymoon which would begin on the following day. Falling asleep in the arms of the woman I could now call my wife, was a dream come true.

To see additional wedding photos, click here.