My barong Tagalog was the main focus of my opening July weekend adventure.

It all started when I was chatting two months ago with Monica, a common friend of mine and my ex, and I had told her the story of all that had occurred between us in the intervening years. She was upset upon finding this out, and after doing her best to comfort me, she told me that I deserved a better partner than her close friend from their high school days and wished me luck with my future encounters with Cupid.

She then shifted the focus to her upcoming wedding, and as her best friend was not around to attend the wedding, she invited me to take her place instead. I gladly took her up on her invitation, which was initially planned for early September.

But with just weeks to go, she informed me that they had decided to advance the wedding date to July 4th at 10:00 AM, the 234th anniversary of American independence (and the original date of Philippine independence until the late President Diosdado Macapagal’s historical change in the 1960s). While she worried I would not be able to make it, I stuck to my word that I would there for the big day.

This now led back to my barong Tagalog, which had suffered some tough stains at the last event I wore it, which was my cousin’s wedding three years ago. The local laundromat failed to remove some odd stains on the arm, as I had not had the barong washed right after the last event. To boot, I knew that the barong was notoriously prone to wrinkling and creasing, so I was in a mental mess trying to figure out how to keep it in pristine shape.

On Saturday night (July 3), I took a bus from the Victory Liner Kamias terminal that left past 10:00 PM. Just before departure, I met up with my friend Madz (yes, the girl who took me along to Potipot Island) who asked me to haul a few items along with me to her mother’s place nearby.

Despite my known difficulties with sleeping on the bus, the drafty air-conditioning system and my lack of sleep wore me down and I was soon catching some serious shut-eye in between stopovers. I nearly failed to get off the bus at my stop in Santiago City, Isabela about eight hours later, but the alert bus conductor spotted me and informed me that I was at my destination. Groggy yet hyped up, I hopped off the bus and grabbed my things in a mad dash.

As I had time to spare (having arrived at Santiago City at 6:00 AM), I hopped on the next tricycle to the only McDonald’s outlet in town for a quick breakfast. After that, I hopped on a quick tricycle ride and headed to the jeepney terminal to her hometown of Alfonso Lista, Ifugao.

However, I arrived at a different terminal than my last journey, where the driver told me that the next jeep would be available only at 9:00 AM. This alarmed me greatly since I would late for the wedding, and I called my ex’s mom to ask for clarifications. She demanded to speak with the tricycle driver, and after a bit of a discussion, I ended up at the correct terminal where a jeep was getting ready to leave.

The slow jeep ride was even worse than the air-conditioned bus, for it forced me to hang my barong Tagalog on the handlebar and the open-air design buffeted my formal wear with gusts from the windows. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got off the jeep near my destination and I set off to my ex’s home to get ready.

My ex's sister gave birth to this healthy baby boy (named AJ) shortly before I arrived at their place to prepare for the wedding.

I arrived at the house of my ex-girlfriend to get ready for the wedding of our common friend. Little did I realize that my ex’s younger sister had just given birth to a baby boy named AJ earlier that morning with the help of a midwife. Upon being told this by their mother, I wished the mother and her firstborn well, then I got dressed for the wedding and was off to the event shortly.

I arrived at my friend’s house for the wedding, where I finally got to meet up with my friend Monica and her American fiancé Sean. Soon, I ended up entertaining the bridegroom (as nearly all the bride’s relatives were struggling to keep up any conversation with him in English) and also became the impromptu best man (as he had no relatives or friends representing his side).

Despite the sweltering temperatures, the wedding went off without a hitch and they were soon declared husband and wife by the town mayor after a simple ceremony. As the family lacked time to plan a proper church wedding due to upcoming commitments, the mayor served as the presiding official in a civil wedding instead. While this would normally draw a lot of negative attention in a largely Catholic nation of 80 million people, ongoing economic difficulties and the convenience of such a ceremony have made the civil wedding a favorable alternative to the much more expensive traditional church wedding for most couples and their respective families.

After a hearty lunch consisting of flavorful pork dishes made from five (yes, indeed) freshly slaughtered locally bred pigs, the people got to the usual festivities. In a highly rural setup where folk traditions were in danger of dying out, many of the adults strutted their stuff by performing traditional folk dances to the tune of real native gongs. In the midst of all this, I managed to chat with the mayor, where we shared all and sundry from the local culture to politics and even the sad state of the famed rice terraces.

The wedding of my friend Monica to her husband Sean went well despite sweltering temperatures and culture shock.

I did get odd stares from many in attendance, as I was not seen in such a public event by the townsfolk in their area until then. Most had assumed that I was directly related to Sean on account of my fair complexion and conversational English skills. This led to me having to explain that I only knew him through the bride, and that I knew the bride through my girlfriend. Yes, I ended up having to tell a handful of folks that we were “still” a couple. At least I counted on my lack of presence in their town to keeping any rumors within manageable limits.

After downing several beers with the bride and groom, I headed back to my ex’s house for an overnight spell. As usual, I shared all and sundry with the family and enjoyed a hearty dinner before heading off to sleep. Despite a generous mosquito net covering me, I still ended up having a few bloodsuckers get the best of me and leave me itching all night.

Early the next morning, I headed off to the city to get a ride back to Manila. Along the way to the terminal, I picked up a few things intended for my friend in Manila, and I was on a bus heading home by 9:30 AM. Surprisingly, what was an eight-hour trip by night turned out as an eleven-hour marathon marked by traffic jams due to busy intersections in towns along the way, as well as the ongoing road works projects along much of the Pan-Philippine Highway.

I arrived in Manila past 8:00 PM, and I rendezvoused with my friend at the terminal and handed the things to her. As it had rained during the latter half of the trip, I requested my sister to pick me up at the terminal. After a quick dinner and lightening my load of items from my ever-dependable knapsack, I was at the office reporting for work despite a nagging lack of sleep and some soreness in my rump.

At least this time on the home bound trip, I did not care if my barong Tagalog got crumpled. If my finances let me, I plan to get a new one and take better care of it the next time. For now, my three-year old embroidered garment is still the high-brow hero of this past epic weekend.

Oh, and welcome to the world, little AJ. Thanks for giving my weekend the epic upgrade. Looks like I’ll have a side of onion rings with that.

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