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A Many-Splendored Thing

She missed her dream wedding but married the man of her dreams

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Weddings today have become a tedious affair. Back in the day, you could get away with a simple ceremony, only needing your entourage, some flowers, a photographer, and a venue for both the wedding rites and the reception that follows. Now, weddings are affairs that require a mountain of effort, money, and time, which is why most couples resort to hiring a wedding planner.

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Back in the early ‘90s, this kind of wedding was already what Mia del Rosario had planned for her long-time sweetheart Iñaki Villarin. Their wedding was already set for December of that year, but fate had a different plan for them.

“Our wedding was originally scheduled in December 1994,” Mia recalls. “We had the church and a reception place booked for 200 guests but because my husband’s application for a Canadian work permit was approved, we had no choice but to cancel and reschedule.” And from 200 guests, it was down to 20. “We ended up getting married in Canada, in October, in this little restaurant,” she says.

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Mia adds that it was far from the dream wedding she had originally wanted. “Our last minute invitations had typos, our cake ordered by phone from a Chinese bakery, our photographer picked out from the yellow pages—and he turned out to be a porn photographer!” she continues. “And because we had just migrated and my husband was new at his job, we spent one night at a hotel for our honeymoon. I admit I was initially heartbroken—as in bawling my eyes out!—about not having my dream wedding. But I remember that day and how I felt. I was just happy about getting married.”

Happily married for almost 25 years now, Mia and Iñaki now have a 20-year-old son named Lukas and a 17-year-old daughter named Noa. After living in Toronto, Canada for some years, the family now lives in Los Angeles.

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They’re happily ever after, however, didn’t come automatically. “Contrary to what other couples might say about being newlyweds, the most challenging time for both of us was our first year of marriage,” she says. “We were living in Toronto, in the dead of winter, without any relatives on my side. Only one of us had a job, we were car-less, and I did not even know how to cook anything. The first few months, I was following recipes to the letter. So I learned out of necessity.”

Was it difficult? Mia admits that, at the very least, it was definitely an adjustment. It’s the same for every Filipino family that decides to migrate abroad. Where they were used to living life with a modicum of comfort in the Philippines, perhaps even with helpers to cater to their needs, it wasn’t necessarily the case when they moved abroad.

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“But even through all that, we were always having fun doing things together,” Mia reveals. “It could be as silly as riding the bus until the last stop, just to see where we would end up, or a trip to the grocery store, where we couldn’t walk back because we kept laughing trying to balance our groceries in our hands.”

Through all that, Mia learned the secret to a happy marriage. “There is no secret and there is no perfect relationship,” she explains. “Start off as and stay friends with your partner because beneath all the mystery and excitement of romance, there is friendship.”

For her and Iñaki, that friendship started back in high school, when they were both 16. It’s cheesy, she admits. But, who says that true love is not cheesy? And in this almost fairytale-like love story, Mia eventually had her dream wedding.

“One of the most special times in our marriage so far was when we celebrated our 10th year. Because of how our wedding and honeymoon turned out, we decided to renew our vows on our 10th wedding anniversary,” she recalls. “We did the whole church ceremony in a gown and suit, with our kids walking down the aisle with us. We celebrated with cocktails and dancing with about 50 friends and, as a delayed honeymoon, we backpacked through Europe for two weeks. And since it was a first for both of us, that trip set the tone for the rest of our travel adventures from then on.”

It might have taken Mia 10 years before her dream wedding came true, coupled with a European backpacking honeymoon, but it was no less special. In fact, it was made more so because her kids got to be there.

Asked about love, Mia has this to say: “I don’t think there is one definition of love. Love is many different things at many different times to many different people. It could be a strength in times of weakness. It could be sacrificed in the face of success, or pride in the presence of modesty, or trust when there is doubt. It could even be something as simple as pure, unadulterated joy. But it is always directed at something—toward others, your own self, or even something inanimate.”

And yes, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Mia and Iñaki have learned what love means. “Looking back,” she adds, “all those mishaps made for a funny, unforgettable story, which we still laugh about to this day.”

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