By Sol Vanzi
We had been living together in Hong Kong for nearly a year when Vic asked me to marry him. A devout Italian-American Catholic, he wanted a church wedding, in the church I frequented while growing up. It meant the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy: me dressed in white walking down the aisle with a tall handsome groom in a beautiful embroidered Barong Tagalog.
We set the date for his weekend off, Sunday, Feb. 12, 1977. I flew to Manila a week ahead to take care of everything. With journalist friends pitching in, everything was arranged.
A special dispensation from the church to be exempt from the required church bann was secured by Alice Villadolid of the New York Times. Marriage banns are the announcement of a couple’s intention to marry, made in church on at least three Sundays preceding a wedding. The banns should be read in the churches near where both the bride and groom live, as well as the church where they are to get married.
Invitations took the form of an announcement at the National Press Club’s Friday Celebrity Night. Two PNR air conditioned buses were made available to ferry guests from the NPC to Las Piñas and back, courtesy of Letty Magsanoc of The Manila Bulletin.
Reception was a picnic at the Aristocrat Beach Resort, then still along the clean shores of Manila Bay.
My bridal outfit was an off-the-rack white silk Mandarin coat with multicolored embroidered flowers and birds bought in Hong Kong. A car rental company donated the use of a black Ford LTD, complete with a barong-clad driver. It was not white, but it was free.
It meant the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy: me dressed in white walking down the aisle with a tall handsome groom in a beautiful embroidered Barong Tagalog.
Everything was all set, except for the groom’s outfit. Vic was flying to Manila on Saturday morning, the day before the wedding. I went around and no one could assure me that a custom-made Barong Tagalog could be finished in such a short time.
Desperate, I went to my last resort: Tesoro’s on A. Mabini, which I had always associated with touristy stuff.
ALI BABA’S CAVE
The Tesoro’s ground floor staff listened to my problem and led me to the upper floors. My jaw went slack and agape. Stacked from floor to ceiling were Barong Tagalog materials of all kinds from all parts of the Philippines. Piña, jusi, pinukpok, Batangas and Laguna embroidery, hand-painted or silk-screened cloth.
I chose multicolored floral embroidery on chiffonelle, a washable material that resembles jusi. The flowers matched my wedding coat’s design.
I described Vic and the tailors assured me his barong would be ready early Sunday morning if he gets measured Saturday.
Meeting Vic planeside Saturday, we rushed to Tesoro’s where he got measured. I showed him the material I had picked and he approved.
Looking around the store, however, he shook his head and said something was wrong. I panicked. He said the barongs on display had no pockets.
All his shirts have pockets. A journalist, Vic was never without a pen and a small notepad. The tailors calmed me down. They will add pockets, they assured us.
We woke up early the next day, worried about all the things that could go wrong. The wedding was at noon. I took the car to Plaza Miranda where it was decorated with fresh flowers. A bundle of assorted blooms held together by a white ribbon was my rustic bridal bouquet.
My heart was pounding when we drove to Tesoro’s to pick up Vic’s barong. It was all pressed and ready, pockets and all. It cost the equivalent then of $40 or P300—one of the best deals for a made-to-order wedding barong ever.
When noon came, Vic and I were exchanging vows before Father Mark Lesage at the main altar of the Las Piñas St. Joseph Church while the world famous Bamboo Organ played. Everyone commented on how handsome Vic was in his barong, and asked where we bought it.
PALACE TO WHITE HOUSE
Vic wore his wedding barong everywhere: state visits, weddings, Malacañang functions, even to the White House during the September 1982 state visit of President Ferdinand Marcos. He always stood out.
Vic left this world in 2006, but was not buried in his wedding barong as we had planned many years ago. He chose to be cremated. Our grandson Kyle has inherited Vic’s barong, which still looks as good as new 42 years after it was rushed for our wedding.