Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cacophony of Weddings, Part I


Who wants to get married?

My niece, P, sprang hers on us one December evening. We knew she had a boyfriend because one day, she brought along, unannounced, this young man to a family gathering. I should have known by then that she had a penchant for surprises.

P’s parents couldn’t afford to send her to college, so my sister, D, who was working as a nurse in the US, painstakingly sent her to ten long years of college because in the middle of her first course, she decided she wanted something else. P had a younger sister who occasionally depended on us for clothes, kikay stuff and, most recently, high school tuition money. They were living in a house that my sister bought on the condition that P’s mom (my other sister) and her husband would pay the monthly amortization. But this they weren’t able to do. As the foreclosure date came nearer, P’s family trooped to my benefactor sister during her annual balikbayan visits, cried her a river and went home happy as a family bringing with them the promise that my nurse sister would take care of it.

I thought P, who was smart enough to have passed her board exam, had by now figured out the familial equation. Hadn’t she watched enough telenovelas to feel obligated to be the breadwinner of her family before setting up one of her own? She announced her wedding that evening by giving out the already printed wedding invitations. It was very clear that she wasn’t asking our opinion—not even that of her aunt who sent her to school for ten tortuous long years. D got her invitation via DHL in the US many weeks later. If P sensed my sister’s disappointment, P never let it interfere with her plans. She went ahead with her gown fittings, making church reservations, meeting with prospective photographers. She made sure to announce that she and her husband were paying for the event from their savings.

When I had the chance to be alone with her weeks before the wedding, I let out a venomous vent. At first, I let loose a wholesale tirade of melodrama staples. Words like “ingrata”, “delicadeza”, “obligacion”--Spanish terms for old-style values I’ve heard in many a soap opera found their way deliciously peppering my soliloquy. As my anger grew, I found myself declaming in longer and more elaborate sentences reminiscent of 18th century Tagalog syntax. P started to cry at this point (from the realization of her folly or from the torture of my convoluted sentences , I couldn’t tell).

The more tears she shed, the more encouraged I became in piling one on top of the other my homily on the responsibility of family, the grace of humility and honorable subservience to obligation. I was really getting into the sweet contravida-ness of my role and relishing the souring of her wedding. The scene was building on the emotional stakes thus far established and the suspense was the kind that held an audience before the network run the commercial for feminine napkins. I couldn’t stop. I felt my face heat up as it crumpled and distorted. I did not slow down to take in air as I raced from one poetic allusion to the next running down mixed metaphors in the process. After twenty minutes, I began to sound like a robot about to disintegrate. My head started to throb, my chest started to tighten. I’ve seen this in the movies. At this point the father would now be clutching his chest and succumbing to a heart attack. Luckily, I was able to step on the emotional break before the onslaught of cardiac arrest. I dismissed her even before she could wipe her runny nose.

On the scheduled date, I drove our family to church. Stood with the rest as they posed for the church photo. I’m the guy left-most in the second row. But actually, I wasn’t there. Sporting a phony smile, I was no less angry there than when I had that talk with my niece weeks before.

It’s not as if she was required to live the life of a soltera. I pleaded that she merely find a job and help out with her family before she moved to one of her own. Three years at best, I said. But, at 28 years old, she couldn’t wait. It seems like sakripisyo is another old-term value gone falling in the wayside.

I write this many months later and thinking: “If my family expectations were different from how I wanted to live my life, would I follow my heart or be enslaved by familial obligation?”

Maybe it is the nature of love that makes us stubborn. And the pride of the young that prevents taking advice from the old. Anger has a way of creeping in otherwise happy moments, like a wedding.


Allan and Jane Lopez said...

ay bongga. welcome to the blogosphere attorney!

Dennis N. Marasigan said...

Hi Nick,

Welcome to the blogging community! IT was Gibbs Cadiz who alerted me to your blog, and after reading it I realize we still have a lot of things we can talk about other than art and law, my friend!

I am including your blogsite in my list of fave sites in my blog, for whatever it's worth.