Here Comes The Bride
Her first attempt, made a year and a half ago in Manila, went like this: "Mabait siya, Mom." From Hong Kong six months later, it would be "I really love him." The most successful try, however, would come from Paris days after.
"I want to marry Dodot," Mikee told her dad with great difficulty.
She had been sitting by her ninang Peachie (Prieto) when the news was relayed. At that moment, Mikee was grasping Peachie’s hand so tightly, it seemed the blood stopped flowing from her ninang’s fingertips.
The succeeding days saw our long distance bills shoot up, perhaps leaving Mikee and Dodot to wonder why they never seriously considered eloping… somewhere in Paris.
Mikee began riding at the D’ Rossa at the age of 10 and was trained by Vicki Roycroft since she was 16. Throughout the years, student and trainer would find their way to Belgium, Germany, Paris, Mongolia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Korea aboard trains, trucks and cars with their horses and horsey passports in tow. Most of the time Mikee and Vicki lived in a trailer or in a stable somewhere along the way. Mikee rode daily, bathed her horses, fed them (I helped in Belgium) and gave them medicine. Her life was centered around these elegant animals. Together they chased after victory which would eventually give Mikee self-fulfillment and laurels for the Philippines. Yet there were countless hurdles caused by animosity, incompetence and jealousy. Sometimes Mikee rode with the Australian team or even alone just to gain the riding hours to compete internationally. It was exasperating but Mikee, Vicki, Vic Barba, Toni, the Dosch sisters, Joey Lonaiz Bautista endured for pride of country. They would win medals and ribbons for the country, cheered on by Mikee’s groom Lito, who had accompanied her the past three years in international competitions.
This month, Sweden hosted the bid to qualify for the Olympics. Mikee and Vicki flew with two horses — Coalminer and Liasons — to Paris via Cathay Pacific from Australia.
Next stop was Barbizon, a village at the edge of the forest of Fontainbleau near the city of Paris. It is home to the Barbizon School of Painting, renowned for landscape studies and animals on canvas.
Horse breeder Edouard Couperie has 35 horses at his stable in Barbizon. A trainer himself, Edouard allowed Mikee to use his facilities before she proceeded to Sweden.
As luck would have it, Mikee’s Coalminer would tear a ligament in his leg as the airplane landed. This marked the beginning of actual wedding plans.
* * *
When did my baby grow up? She was but a bulge in my tummy that I had fondly called "Mikee" as I lay on my double bed for four months so as not to lose her.
Surely, it would be a boy. Those were the days when ultrasound was not yet available and we had to rely on superstition. If the mother’s tummy was pointed, the baby would be a boy. If the pregnant mother looked beautiful, it would be a girl.
A few minutes after midnight of the 26th of February, while on the delivery table, I heard Dr. Marcelo say to Peping: "Pustahan tayo, babae o lalaki?" Moments later, the doctor would be saying: "Babae na naman. Sorry, Peping." My Mikee, he was now a she — Mikaela Maria Antonia.
By coincidence, the name was that of my dear friend from Ireland and England — Mikaela Rawlinson Irwin. Mikaela was a name I liked. It connoted an angel, triumphant, who conquered all. Maria was for our Blessed Mother, and Antonia for St. Anthony whom I relied on to find lost articles. The name Antonia actually stands for strength and great responsibility. To this day, we still search for Mikee’s radical political science teacher who had explained to her the meaning of the name.
In a short while, my little baby became a teener. It was as though she was transformed into a woman with a wave of a wand. Courageous, nationalistic (the rally type, issues-oriented kid who would cry "Save Pasig" and distribute the hidden wealth to human rights victims), even-tempered and determined, that’s Mikee.
* * *
The week Mikee arrived from Paris leaving Peachie’s care behind, Fe Mangahas, a school friend, acquired a list of orchestras for the wedding. We both agreed on Deo Dipasupil’s Manila Symphony Youth Orchestra because of Mikee’s appeal with the youth. We were unanimous on the Tiples whose high-pitched voices we imagined would be like those of angels. That was one item down on the list of church preparations.
When did all these marriages begin? With a screaming match between two elder daughters: "I will marry in December, I am older so I must marry ahead of you." Since it was "unlucky" for two weddings in a family to take place in a year, my second daughter had to wait for my first daughter to marry. The first got married in December 1988 and the second in January 1989.
I am asked what it’s like to have a third wedding? Well, it’s like having your first ever wedding. After all, it’s been 11 years since my other daughter got married.
Anyway, let me tell you what it’s like. It is five minutes to midnight. All the lights in the house are on. The room is highly energized.
Six of my special friends scurry about, unmindful of the time, each with his or her own queries: "Did you put the directional map to the reception area in the envelopes? Tomorrow, someone please call Jean of Ever Press and get delivery dates. Have Rose Castes and Atty. Cely of PICC been contacted? Will Jess de Leon arrange our meeting? Tita Ging (de los Reyes) said she will put up canopies in case it rains. Ching, is the seating arrangement finalized? Omeng and Ogie, can we borrow your candelabras?
Jojo, who is in front of a computer, asks: "How do you spell Iriberi — with double r’s?" Eddie Squad reads out names to Tony to put in alphabetical order. I write down telephone numbers to match with the addresses. "No more dagdag-bawas, no more avalanche of names, pero add na lang those friends we haven’t seen in a long time."
Every person’s name is precious, so our list is endless. "Who do we add? Who do we omit?"
Mai enters the computer room eating ice cream. "Mai, you’re eating ice cream! No more after this scoop. I’ll have to lose 10 pounds."
Mikee walks in pulling one of those collapsible boxes with Chloe, her Jack Russel, sitting in it. The child in her is unconsciously revived. The woman inside her is motherly, caring for a pet who will deliver puppies in a week.
Here comes the bride, so simple and unaffected.
Our third child will be a homemaker one day adding her own offspring to the Tarlac compound that boasts of 40 grandchildren of Jose Cojuangco Sr. So many grandchildren! When I joined the family in 1962, I remember seeing children swimming, riding the mini jeep, on horseback, playfully fighting and wrestling. The Lopas — Terry and Baby — were the champion babymakers. Koyang Pedro with wife Sari Cacho Cojuangco came in second, followed by Cory and Ninoy Aquino and then by the Teopacos — Esting and Passy. The Reyeses — Ate Josephine and Noring — begot only four while Peping and I, five girls. Almost all our children are now parents themselves, blurring the age differences between aunts-uncles and nephews-nieces as they mature in their own occupations, ordeals and skills.
A week after "the jolt," we made plans seated around a long dining table where the EDSA revolution, peace treaties and elections were once plotted. Our bastonero Pete Cura is overall chairman as he has been in our two previous weddings.
"Quiet," Pete says. "For security arrangements, our friend, Col. Bodet Honrado and Col. De la Cruz will report on precautions like scanners, escorts, peace officers, traffic marshals and accreditation cards."
Diane of Via Mare, representing Mrs. Glenda Baretto, asks whether we want to serve duck or chicken, salmon or beef. Glenda has ordered elegant table cloths in beige and burgundy. Our flowers are from Tita Ging’s Flower Farm. Sketches are passed around by Abel, her assistant, and Leo, Tita Ging’s sketch master. Pete, Baby and myself could rightfully become wedding coordinators with Ching Montinola. ( Try us. We’ll call Peachie in Paris and Lupita (Aquino Kashiwahara) in San Francisco to add to the expertise!)
God bless friends who love us and share their personnel for church, reception and gift committees. Friends like Boy Saycon, Chari Bagatsing and Louie Baltazar. Without them, our staff would be nil. The Jaworski staff are around, led by Olive de Guzman. Thank heavens! Nick Locsin’s Nissan cars are available to facilitate the arrival of all of Mikee’s overseas friends.
20 July — At dawn, I kiss Mikee gently on her forehead and tuck the blanket under her chin as I’ve always done for all my children. I see a young woman who has learned to make choices and budget her earnings, to smile in defeat and cry in private. I recall the chubby little girl who marched for democracy and learned to read the Bible in Filipino.
I see on her bedside table the statue of the Infant of Prague I bought for her when she was born and the old Bible which came from her aunt Josine Elizalde. Mikee’s request is to hold this Bible on her wedding day.
22 July — I wake up with frost and icicles on my feet. Isn’t having cold feet just a saying? From my elbow to the tip of my middle finger I feel a cold surge. Three more days to Sunday.
Can time stand still? I think of my grandson who looks like a cherub. If only Pico can remain 10 months old and keep his long curly hair, his single tooth and chubby fingers. Another grandchild comes to mind wearing Daddy’s sunglasses and with a stoop just like his dad.
Alec is a "slippery" six-year-old boy whom you cannot catch, but with one call from Peping he runs to him in obedience. Alec dislikes lipstick smudges on his cheeks and brief stolen pecks on his lips. "Only Mommy can kiss me on my lips."
* * *
I am living out life’s full cycle, beginning alone and ending up alone, living my middle-aged years with my grandchildren. I hope and I pray that our children have peaceful (which is relative) and happy (as God deems it to be) lives. I wish the same for all of you reading my column and have children of your own to worry about because a mother never stops fearing for her children’s well-being. The only way to complete motherhood is to share it. I have Dodot now.
Source: Tingting Cojuangco, The Philippine Star