It was 30 minutes past the scheduled dinner time and my parents and brother were nowhere in sight. Our invited friends were already seated and I was as anxious as any bride-to-be could be on her engagement dinner night. Ian, my ever active and supportive fiancé, was busy supervising some last minutes details such as instructing the restaurant staff, while also being a gracious host by greeting and mingling with our guests.
Like a Boss. My fiancé was doing such a superb job of supervising the staff that he might as well have been running the place.
45 minutes. My young uncle Clint wondered aloud: “Where are they?”
Exactly my question. Where are they?
Is it possible my family has decided to ditch my engagement dinner?
Were they upset enough about me marrying so quickly that they decided they didn’t want to show up?
The phone ringing disrupted the million thoughts racing through my mind.
Arjay, my brother’s close friend who had arrived earlier, picked it up.
“What? I can’t hear you. What happened?”
Reflexively, I turned my head to where the voice was coming as my heart skipped a beat.
“Is that them?”, I mouthed to Arjay.
“Yes. I’m already here”. Arjay kept talking to the caller who I assumed by now was one of my family members.
“You may go down in front of the main entrance, pass through the hotel lobby, and take the left door going to the restaurant”.
I was overhearing the one-sided conversation amidst the almost synchronized clatter of china and cutlery coming from the restaurant kitchen. It was my mother on the other end of the line asking for directions. Apparently, they had some trouble finding the place. Seriously? She helped me choose this restaurant and she can’t remember where it is!? And for the love of God, where were they?!?
“Baby, she’s asking you what drink you would like.” Ian, calm and in control, pointed to the waitress who was awaiting my order. “She will have a beer,” Ian, sensing my stress level increasing, informed her when I didn’t answer.
“Yes please, beer would be perfect!” I managed to respond after a delay. Dear Lord, it was a long night ahead of us…
It wasn’t so long ago that Ian’s path crossed with mine on that fateful day when we stumbled upon each other online, of all places. It wasn’t so long ago when he traversed the International Date Line to see me, alive and breathing, for the first time, and when we went on an adventure together, exploring The Land of Smiles’ cities, provinces, islands, rivers, seas, villages, railways, streets -every nook and cranny . It seemed only yesterday when we spontaneously fell in love…
Yet it had already been days, weeks, months since Ian and I decided we wanted to spend every day of the rest of our lives with each other.
And so there we were, all dressed and decked out on a night that could have been just any night only that it was not. It was a time that meant more to us than any night ever had.
It seemed surreal to be surrounded by a familiar crowd, some family members and close friends I would otherwise spend regular Sunday nights with. But there isn’t a minute to spare for second-guessing. We have finally arrived at the moment that Ian and I have rehearsed for several times in our heads and I’d be damned if we weren’t ready. It was the night we vowed to celebrate the promise of our unwavering commitment. It was our chance to toast to and savor our little victory: We came to claim what we have toiled for, what our hearts have desired for in the first place- validation, acceptance and joy in the arms of the person we truly cherish and adore. We came to venerate a love so sincere it can cleanse even the most impure of souls, a love so pure it undoes human errors, it forgives mistakes. It is real, unadulterated, proud, defiant, unbent. We wanted it. We willed it. We have it. We paused for a moment to marvel at our masterpiece, borne out of sacrifice, patience and lots of hope. What wonderful music we have created, he and I!
Like artists at our gala, we basked in accolades. We indulged critiques. We smiled at each other secretly. We knew only one truth. Whatever may be, nothing can change anything, for our love is unbowed. We are unyielding.
It was our night and not even my pamilya’s “Filipino time” arrival could have rained on our parade. Finally, at 7 o’clock, my mother, who was dressed to the nines and could have been mistaken for my sister, showed up with my father and brother in tow.
Ian politely greeted and thanked them for coming. Meanwhile, I motioned for the appetizers. The night was just beginning.
Our engagement dinner was somehow designed to make up for the fact that my family and friends didn’t and won’t have enough opportunity to spend time with my fiancé to get to know him better. And since I barely discuss our future plans with anybody, it was also their chance to ask questions, verify information, and clarify anything and everything they’d want. Needless to say, everyone in attendance was thrilled, curious, and participative at the same time. If it was to be their only chance, they wanted to make the most of it. Arjay, my brother’s friend, former college roommate, and our “adoptive family member” was our impromptu master of ceremonies and facilitator. My brother Karl said grace before meal, and while pasta was being served, Ian showed off the ring on my finger and retold its compelling history. Our table echoed with oohs and aahs.
Unretouched photo by RJ Protacio Photography
The Motherlode. A true Weinstein treasure, this ring previously belonged to Regina, Ian’s paternal grandmother. He explained that the center stone was the solitaire diamond on his grandmother’s original engagement ring which was given to her by his grandfather, Benjamin, in 1933. Then, in the 1950’s Benjamin had the engagement diamond re-fit as the center stone in a new ring featuring 6 smaller diamonds arranged into a bow shape; he gave this to Regina as an anniversary present. After Ian’s grandparents passed away, it was decided that this heirloom should be passed to the next Weinstein male to get engaged, and over a decade later, this beautiful ring is fulfilling its destiny.
As encouraged by Arjay, everyone took turns in wishing us well. I held my breath when it was my parents’ turn to speak. I kept waiting for signs of bombs dropping but thankfully they never came. Phew! It wasn’t until later that I found out, upon returning from the powder room, surprised like an unsuspecting mother bear who went to hunt for her children’s food only to come back to find her cub surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves, a horde had pounced on my Ian! Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.
To lighten up the mood, our Uncle Clint and Cousin Jan Jay prepared a “How Well Do You Know Each Other” game to test our couple acumen during dessert. It was supposed to be a quiz but it actually did well to soothe my nerves. After all, we had nothing to fear: we knew each other well. All too well.
Here Comes Mrs. “See? I’m Right”. What is/are Ian’s favorite book/s and who is his favorite author?
Added to my relief, the food was good, the ambiance both classy and cozy, and the restaurant staff offered their best kind of service. I’d say it was a wonderfully fun time overall.
I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You. Molten lava cake for the lovers.
However, the ambiance, the food, the service, etc. was not the heart of it all. We were happy that everyone was gastronomically satisfied and there was laughter here and there during the night. But more than ever, Ian and I were glad that when they left the restaurant that night, we knew that they felt in their hearts that Ian and I know what we were doing and that we’re doing it as fairly and rightly as we can.
It’s no secret that what we have is a less than traditional courtship. Both of our families would have wanted more than Skype meetings, virtual greetings and overseas gift-giving sessions. Ian and I want to give our parents and siblings experiences as close to the customary ones as we can. Even with the limitations, we labor to give our best. It would have been better if we could actually do more.
Heads Up! The men in my family didn’t seem impressed, LOL!
It would have been a happier occasion if Ian’s side of the family were there in attendance. Instead, they got a full report over Skype on the following day. Later this year, Ian and I will be married in a civil courthouse ceremony with his family in attendance. My family will probably be watching the ceremony via live feed. They are not happy about it.
My parents prefer that I be wed before I leave for the States. As any parent would, of course. I assume that just as Ian’s clan would want to witness a marriage of a Weinstein man after several years of not having a wedding in the family, my parents and siblings would also want to see me struggling, er, walking down the aisle in a white poufy dress. They might even have hinted so to Ian when I excused myself for a few minutes to go to the powder room (along with the many other strong hints). I personally have been dreaming of my wedding since I was a little girl.
But for those of you who are familiar with the K1 visa, you’re aware that the rule is for the fiancée to travel to the US unmarried and to then marry on American soil. Any such violation on our part could jeopardize my eligibility to marry Ian in the future. The way I look at it, my chances of being with the man I love for the rest of my life is entirely in the hands of a bureaucracy. I will not risk pissing them off.
My fiancé and I are in a challenging circumstance. Honestly, we don’t like it either. We want to please everybody but there’s only so much we can do at the moment. I can only tell you – and you must believe me – that we really try. In this crucial time, we need all of the support we can get. To all of our well-wishers, you must know that we really appreciate your kind words. We cherish your approval. We find comfort in your acquiescence. For without those, it almost feels as if it’s just us against the world. Ian and I, we make do with what we have. We can only hope it’s enough.
On the way home, I could tell that my family and friends felt better after having their queries answered. We felt better knowing that we were able to be transparent to them. People who love us have worried and will worry more for us. It’s human nature to care for one’s flock. Ian and I knew from the start that we are going to be okay. Now, they know that too. Going home, they had heavier stomachs and lighter hearts, more information and lesser worries, a better frame of mind and reduced anxiety. We couldn’t ask for more.
A Walk to Remember
Her Perfectly-Styled Hair. It took longer to style my mother’s hair than for me to put together my entire look. She went to the salon. I did mine on my own. She wanted to look parfait, and so they were late! (It doesn’t rhyme…grrr!)
Anything for Ms. Castillon? A name change is in order.
Practice Makes Perfect. I’d like this pose for our wedding pictures too. Good rehearsal!
The Couple flanked by the Board of Inquisitors
Bro Backing Us Up
MAFIAmily. Er…My Family
Compliments to the staff of Prego Trattoria Italian Restaurant @ Novotel Hotel