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Back to the altar

02:44 AM May 28, 2014

Every young girl dreams of an elegant wedding. She considers her wedding to be a very significant milestone in her life because it may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I, too, dreamt of an elegant wedding.

Flashback: I was born to very strict parents who raised their children in the old-school discipline. In my teens, my parents assigned a stern mayordoma to tend to us. There was an “iron curtain” for boys.

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Until one summer day when a boy who was a stranger in our town knocked on the door. Naturally, our Gestapo-like nanny confronted him and asked, “What do you want?”

The boy courteously answered that he had been sent by Mely to borrow a book from Zeny. The name Mely worked wonders on our nanny. Mely was my close friend in school and frequently came to see me, so she was known to our bodyguard.

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I was of course aghast, as I did not know the guy. I hurriedly thrust the book at him and told him to get out before my father, a dentist, could come out from his clinic.

He returned the book a few days later, telling our nanny who met him at the door that Mely had a letter for Zeny. I later found out that the letter was not from Mely but from him; he was seeking to be a friend. Mely happened to be the boy’s cousin. He wrote that I was “the apple of [his] eyes.” I gave him credit for his guts.

Many letters of course followed even when I was an interna (boarder) in the girls’ dormitory at the Colegio de Santa Isabel in Naga City. Mely studied in the same school and was the conduit of the continuous communication with me.

The sisters managing the Colegio de Santa Isabel dorm were also ultrastrict, prohibiting even the reading of letters from boys, so we internas read these secretly. My next-bed neighbor caught me reading a letter and she threatened to squeal on me unless I allowed her to read it. She let out a big laugh when she read the part which said, “I will bring you to the altar,” deriding me that it was a hollow boast.

Fast-forward: Bring me to the altar my boyfriend did, on July 12, 1954! But without the frills, the flowers, the music and the friends I had dreamt of. It was a real wedding officiated by a priest and witnessed by two required witnesses in a dimly-lit chapel near Sta. Ana, Manila. We got married secretly because my mother had threatened to install me again as a boarder in a nuns’ dorm. We intended to keep it a secret, but the secret was exposed.

So, as a line in a Doris Day song goes, “I talked to my Ma like a good girl should/and Ma talked to Pa like I knew she would/and they both agreed on a married life for me/and now you know what that boy did to me.”

When my kids were big enough, they asked to see photographs of our wedding. I explained to them how their father and I got married, and why we did not have a single photo.

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Wedding anniversaries are labeled according to precious stones. We held our silver wedding anniversary Mass at the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, and the reception at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. We had lots of photos taken to record, for the first time, our wedding. And our children and relatives relished them.

The years kept flying fast. And the anniversaries kept coming and going. We observed our 40th anniversary in New York City. On our 45th anniversary, we were one of two Filipino couples honored by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, who said a special Mass to mark the 27th Annual Albany Diocesan Marriage Jubilee Celebration. An American couple celebrated their 67th anniversary!

And then came our 50th, or golden, wedding anniversary. The anniversary Mass was at St. Jerome Emiliani Church in Alabang, and we had the reception at The Bellevue Hotel, also in Alabang. It was a “big bang.”

Another 10 years have swiftly elapsed, and we are now on the threshold of our 60th, or diamond, wedding anniversary in July. Our children and grandchildren are planning the activities. We—my husband Mafeo R. Vibal and I—are just guests.

Wedding anniversaries define the life of a married couple. Husband and wife who live long enough to log such anniversaries must certainly be in love with each other, helping and caring for each other, living together in harmony according to God’s rules on married life. As I look back, I honestly believe that God meant us for each other. We thank God for His help as we raised our eight children to be responsible citizens. They gave us a total of 17 grandchildren who, in turn, give us a lot of happiness that compensates for the trials and tribulations we went through in rearing our big family.

In sum, the more anniversaries a couple have, the more to thank God for. Even if I did not have a grand wedding, I have had silver and golden (and soon diamond) anniversary celebrations to thank God for. Again, we will vow to love and help each other, “for better or for worse, in sickness (I have lots of them now) or in health, till death do us part.”

Zeneida Raquid-Vibal studied foreign service at the University of the Philippines. Having married after completing the course, she says, she became a “master,” not in foreign service, but in full-time home management. She once taught Spanish in a Montessori school in Baldwin Park, California. She says the principal said of her: “If she raised eight children to be good citizens, she can train our young kids.” She and her husband are active in Couples for Christ.

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TAGS: Colegio de Santa Isabel, Mafeo R. Vibal, Marriage, Naga City, National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, wedding
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