The invite was so last minute, but I agreed to go anyway. It was in two days, and I would have to travel nearly eight hours from Baguio City to Tagaytay City – in a body aching from lumbar strain – but I couldn’t pass on Tito and Tita’s 25th wedding anniversary celebration.
Standing on the garden steps of Caleruega Church in my hastily picked blue dress, I checked the festive atmosphere around the couple, who were a few meters away doing their sweet mini-pictorial. I had always thought they were couple goals, but more so now that I see them blissfully renewing a marriage vow they had never once broken and likely never will.
As I did not have any role in the ceremony, I observed from the sidelines as the attendees entered one-by-one according to their wedding designations. The beaming flower girl in her vibrant violet dress. The charming bridesmaids. The two couples assigned to the cord and veil – one couple already happily tied to each other, the other couple to get tied next year.
This renewal of vows ceremony was a new sight for me, one I’m only likely to see on my boyfriend’s side of the family, never mine. Many of the married couples in my family did not uphold their vows in the first place. There was nothing to renew.
My parents’ marriage failed, and so did my grandparents’ from my mother’s side. One of my aunts tried to run away from my uncle, while another aunt wasn’t faithful. But “failed marriage” didn’t even mean separation. These couples did not split.
They kept up with appearances, continued to stay under the same roof, and were still involved in each other’s lives. The yearly Christmas season was spent in each other’s company but was never merry. The New Year celebrations did not signal a brighter year ahead, but just started another cycle of a lamentable life at home. 15th, 20th, and 25th anniversaries came and went but were never celebrated.
They stayed because of the children and that piece of paper called a Marriage Certificate. They stayed because they claimed to be fueled enough by all those happy years together before the love drought. But in a house about to crumble, unhappiness effortlessly slipped through the cracks, no matter how hard they tried to deny its entry.
And continue to deny it they did. They maintained their longing for years past, and how they did not want to waste what they’d gone through, not realizing that staying meant squandering more years that could have otherwise been more joyful. That staying meant meaningless suffering and fighting for a miserable life.
If only they looked to the future rather than the past. If only their decision to marry or stay was based on how much they wanted to renew their vows with this person on their 25th wedding anniversary, rather than on how much they’d invested in the past 25 or so years.
If only divorce was possible in the Philippines. If only our society learned to accept that people fall in love and out of it, and that no vow should keep them imprisoned in an unhappy relationship for the rest of their lives. If only people readily accepted that second chances in marriage were a thing to celebrate and not ridicule. Then perhaps many couples in unhappy marriages would have had more courage to leave and start again.
Then perhaps I could have attended happy 5th and 10th wedding anniversary celebrations between my relatives and their new spouses, not depressing 25ths with their old ones.
I looked around as the celebration was about to end, anticipating the part where playful looks and mischievous giggles are shared before the couple seal their recommitment with a kiss. The crowd did not disappoint. Bashfully, the couple shared their long-awaited kiss, before gazing upon each other like flowers adoring the sun.
It was a beautiful sunset when the ceremony started and early moonlight when it ended. Fitting, I thought, as I smiled at the couple and the beautiful family they had surrounding them. May Tito and Tita spend their peaceful sunset years together as lovingly as they do now, I prayed. And may more people find the courage to choose the same for themselves. – Rappler.com
Jadegia Tacwigan, 26, is the Philippine country manager of a small tech start-up based in the US. When she’s not working, she’s writing personal essays and poems centered on the younger generations’ power to break generational curses in the family.