It seems like yesterday that I had the honor of witnessing a very special event—a piece in time that I will forever hold dear to my heart. Not just because it had brought me back to the Philippines, but because it taught me some much needed and valuable lessons about life as I know and view it today.
It was in 2009 that I first traveled to the Philippines. I was a long way from home, but I was also closer than ever. During this time, I met many wonderful souls due to the inherent kind and caring nature of the Filipino heart that seems to come with a genuine hospitality that my own country seems to have lost along the way. Hint: That’s America. However, there was one person in particular that I bonded with more than the others.
She wasn’t a lover of mine, nor do we have a troubled past that brought us together. No, there’s no crazy story hidden behind what we share; she was “just” a friend and one whom will always hold importance. I express our friendship with the word “just” in quotations because sometimes friendship is all that you really need.
Her name was Rose, and while it was just a Facebook friend request that started our friendship, we’ve been through a lot that has helped strengthen what holds it together. We’ve traveled the country together, almost died on Mt. Maculot in Batangas, and through time taught each other about life…at least I can say that’s true for me, and I hope she could say the same about her experience.
When I travel, I like to experience the culture, to get lost within and live life alongside those that surround me on a daily basis. If this friendship taught me anything, it’s that I chose the right country to lose myself in.
In 2014, Rose got married.
Not only had I shared many meaningful moments with this woman, here she was inviting me into perhaps one of the biggest days of her life. I was across the world, but there was no way I could miss such a significant moment; I hopped on a plane and was on my way.
There were other reasons I wanted to be in the Philippines, but this took precedence. As is probably true of many Filipinos, she couldn’t afford to invite too many to her wedding, but she saw fit that I was there.
Most who travel to the Philippines may not get to witness such an event, as many just pass through. However, if you’ve never had a chance to see or be a part of a Filipino wedding, then it’s my belief that you are truly missing out.
Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself.
Truth be told, I hated American weddings, and while I had knowledge of the cultural differences between our countries, I didn’t expect this to be much different…but boy was I wrong.
Today, that wedding is still one of the most wonderful things I have ever been a part of. I had the opportunity to watch my gorgeous friend, in a beautiful dress, give herself away to the man she loved, in a stunning church amidst an awe inspiring country filled with so many amazing people.
The Filipino traditions and values are what made this so special to me. I felt something during this event that I haven’t felt in an American ceremony in a long time…if ever.
We were all connected. Together we were there as one; family and friends sharing a moment, not merely watching it pass by.
Rose had one of her teachers from before high school there at the wedding. This is nearly unheard of in America. We don’t respect our teachers and we rarely honor them. We take them for granted and practically spit on the gifts that they bestow onto us.
I’m not too manly to admit that I got a little teary eyed when I found out the lady giving the speech before me was one of her old educators.
Her name was Bedelia Alvez and she was awesome in so many ways.
While I did not understand her speech as it was in Tagalog (I’m learning!), she called me out in front of all of Rose’s family and friends because I happened to catch her eye.
Not because I was the only foreigner there. I wasn’t. It was because I was paying attention to every word she was saying and she thanked me for showing her that respect, even though I didn’t understand her words.
In this resides the kindness we should all be showing each other, especially those that have dedicated themselves to helping others through their lives.
Unfortunately, Bedelia passed away last year and my heart sank as I remembered her seeking me out to talk to me during the reception. She wanted to know more about me and maybe it wasn’t for any other reason outside the fact that I respected her enough to give her my full attention.
We’ve all been given amazing gifts by many wonderful people, like our teachers or parents, and too often we take for granted the things that we have and the people that are in our lives even if only for a short while. I barely knew her, but she will be missed, not just because of the kindness she had shown me, but because of what she offered the world.
That day I learned a lot, not just about Filipino traditions but about myself and the current state of the human condition that is love. Sometimes, all you need to do to stand out is to just pay attention. There’s a lot of people trying to speak and it does us well to listen. Whether you believe in altruism or not, being kind benefits not only those around you, but also the way we perceive ourselves.
The more you listen, the more you will see.
This is not just a story of how love still exists between a man and a woman. This is a story of how love still exists between us as human beings—something I might not have seen had I never stepped foot into this beautiful country.
The best part about this story is that it’s true, Rose and her husband Rari have since given birth to a child and named me of all people, a “ninong”. Contrary to what some have suggested, it’s not because of stereotypical ideas that I am wealthy or white, but because I am loved.
And love is beautiful.
Pass it on. There are many in need of just a little more.
Thank you Rose for including me on your journey through life as you’ve changed everything in mine just by allowing me to be part of yours.
One last thing, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t offer up at least a little embarrassment with my praises? ;)
I’ve received a lot of people inquiring about who made the video in the article, and how to get in contact with them. Details below.