US

12 am. October 10, 2006.

I was trying really hard to get some sleep but my eyes won't keep shut. I glanced at Kernan who was still busy watching TV and browsing through Buy and Sell magazine at the same time. I guess he couldn't sleep too.

We couldn't possibly be having subconscious wedding jitters are we? Besides, it's just our civil wedding. No fancy ceremonies or receptions, just close friends and our immediate families gathering for lunch.

I snuggled under the covers and shut my eyes tight. I had to get some sleep so I could get up at 3.30 am. The plan was to be off by 5 am and reach Laguna by 7 am so we would have at least 2 hours lead time before the ceremony begins at 9 am.

2 am.

I woke up again. Kernan was still up but getting ready to hit the covers. After 30 minutes he finally went to bed. Just one and a half hours left for sleep. In my mind, I started humming a relaxing instrumental. Sleep. Sleep.

The alarm clock rang at exactly 3 am. I reached for my phone and texted A. She bargained for a whole day off from her show just to be with us during the ceremony.

"Haru, gising ka na? We'll pick you up at GMA by 5am."
"Yup. I'm alive! Ligo lang nang mabilis then alis na ko."

Kernan and I got ready in record time. We were out of the house by 5 and picked up A in front of the GMA gate. She gave us our first ever wedding gift, two stuffed bears locked in an embrace. The white one was wearing a gown and veil while the brown one was wearing a red suit. Squeezed in the middle was a little fuschia baby bear. And as she aptly put it, the trio would be our first family mascot.

After picking up Kernan's friend, Bonky in Cubao, we were off to the highway which miraculously had no traffic. The sun had risen when we finally reached Kernan's home in Laguna exactly at 7.

A and I went up to the guestroom for a quick nap. I guess the sleeplessness I had earlier finally took its toll because I fell asleep really quick. The next thing I knew, Kernan was calling out for both of us. It was time to leave for the municipal hall. Time to get married.

And that was when I felt a strange feeling in my stomach. Could I be having butterflies at the last minute? After all, I'm only counting minutes before I finally become Kernan's wife. Officially.

I would be changing my last name, writing a new signature, and having a new status. Sounds simple really. Nothing to be nervous about, I thought.

It was a short ride to the municipal hall. When we got there, a number of couples were lined up ready for the mass wedding. It was a good thing the Public Admin was kind enough to conduct the ceremony in the mayor's stead and he allowed us to have it privately in his office.

Kernan's mom warned us that the Public Admin is known to give lengthy talks so we prepared ourselves to sit down for a very long time. Thankfully, the seats they gave us were comfortably padded.

The talk ran for half an hour but it was time well spent. For a man who is 70 years old and married for most of it, he was a fountain of marriage wisdom. He and his wife seem to belong to those group of married couples destined to grow old together. And that's something both Kernan and I aspire to.

He quoted verses from the Bible and recounted the story of Adam and Eve. Of course, emphasis was given to the part where Eve came from Adam's ribs and how she was made to be man's companion.

I only cringed inwardly when he said, "Babae, magpasakop ka sa iyong asawa." That didn't really mean surrender, did it?

I agree that the husband would be the head of the family and the wife would be nurturer of the home. But I'd like to to look at it more as a partnership where both our decisions count and where we both serve each other. No one stands greater than the other.

But to all his other pieces of advice, I agree.

Like no matter how long we've been together, Kernan should still act as if he's courting me everyday.

We should always say "I Love You" to each other. (Something we've always done everyday, almost every moment for the past 4 years, 3 months, 1 week, 4 days and about 19 hours.)

No matter how bad our day was, I should always greet Kernan with a smile so that our home will be the place where all our troubles melt away.

We should support each other and be each other's number one fan.

Never fight in front of the kids.

Never fight, just talk about problems. And always hold each other's hand while talking.

Begin each morning with a prayer, thanking God for giving us another day and bringing us together.

After his talk, the Public Admin guided us through the standard wedding vows. I meant every word of it but I didn't feel it that much. That's why I will definitely write my own vows for our wedding next year.

And then the moment came, we were officially proclaimed as husband and wife and sealed the ceremony with a kiss.

As we were handed our contracts for signing, Kernan asked, "Sigurado ka na ba?" Once the papers were signed, definitely there was no turning back.

I signed my maiden name for the last time.

And somehow, it felt liberating.

Kernan and I had finally taken our relationship to the next level. It felt like we were starting a new life together.

It dawned on me that this is more than just changing a name, a signature or a status. It's a commitment to love each other unconditionally for the rest of our lives.

It's about loving each other so much to willingly give up the YOU and I, and becoming an US.

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