Article by Valerie Fischer
Photos by Dyan Collo Photography
HMUA: Toni Paredes / Venue: Brother Island, El Nido
When Steve and I started planning for our wedding, we knew we wanted something out of the ordinary. All the gowns I tried on did not cut it. The traditional white gown was not for me. The venues and resorts did not fit our personalities. They just did not feel right. We were looking for an experience that shouted Val and Steve.
Our first trip together was a make or break for most couples. It was a 5-day expedition from Coron to El Nido, onboard the Aurora of Tao Expedition. We slept in deserted islands,shared a communal bathroom, ate with our hands, slept under the stars. This was when we realized we were meant to be together.
From then on, we were inseparable, going on hikes, traveling the world, taking the off the beaten path to exotic destinations.
These experiences made me see the world. But it also made me appreciate home even more. And i wanted his family and friends to see the country that we now call home.
We decided to go for a local theme, inspired by our first trip together and our love for everything local, we went a different route and did a pre-colonial theme, as suggested by our good friend Patis Tesoro. The problem was, this theme was not available of Pinterest nor any other wedding site. We had to look for inspiration elsewhere and create our own images. This was as non-traditional as non-traditional goes. Research and a lot of reading became very important.
We found Brother Island on Airbnb and immediately fell in love. It is also called Small Daracoton, which is one of the islands we visited during the expedition. We wanted to recreate that experience of communing with nature, reconnecting with one’s self and having wonderful conversations with people you are with. The island was a safe space for our guests to be themselves. The bond built during our stay is something that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
The goal also was to showcase the best of the Philippine islands, the famous Filipino hospitality and the freshest seafood you can find. The meals were so fresh that the wedding spread was decided on the morning of the wedding based on what was available in the market.
Our pre-colonial theme was set by the malongs given to us by Patis as gifts. Mine was a Southeast Asian one with Maranao edging, his was a combination of South African wax-resist fabric with Miag-ao patadyong. Our tops were made by Twinkle Ferraren whose love for local fabrics led her to a community in Aklan where the pina fabric is woven and dyed. We wanted them to complement our malongs so mine became a gold crop top with mother of pearl beads and capiz shells while Steve’s is a very light green polo made of Philippine silk and pina.
My hairpiece, in gold and maroon, was lovingly made by Farah Abu based on an old photo I found of pre-colonial Filipinas.
We also featured weaves from the Yakans, Tnalak, Balud, Patadyong, indigenous fabrics from Baguio, the Pis Syabit of the Tausug and the embroidery of the Itnegs. We had the Tingkep of Palawan and the banig of Basey.
The baskets used for our giveaways were sourced directly from Luisiana Laguna and made of pandan leaves.
Our giveaways included the anahaw, kapeng barako, chocnut and dried mango.
ANTHILL Fabric, an organization that promotes community enterprise development made the skirts of the entourage with name tags of the ladies from Abra who actually made them, Manang Fe and Ising.
An actual onsite weaver from Binuatan Creations of Palawan was present during the celebration to teach our guests our age-old tradition. Another type of weaving we did was puni or the art of coconut leaf weaving of Bulacan. Our guests made fish fronds which were used at the end of the ceremony.
The capiz shells used for our backdrop was made by Aling Rosing, an old lady with a stall in Dapitan. She cannot walk anymore and spends her day making capiz shells in her stall.
This whole experience of doing a DIY pre-colonial wedding has opened my eyes to my heritage and made by an advocate of our own Philippine-made products so much so that it moved me to build Pinas Sadya, an e-commerce venture marketing these beautiful items.
We aimed for a wedding that shouted Val and Steve. What we got was way more than that. We pulled off a wedding like no other, an experience that boasts of real connections, love, heritage, beauty and authenticity.